“The river is everywhere” Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
Have you ever felt completely uprooted and swept away? Has something seeped into your life and transformed your entire world? I have. For me, that disruptive force is educational technology. This is my EDTECH story.
I was officially accepted into Boise State University’s Master of Educational Technology (M.E.T.) program in December of 2013. However, this story begins a few years earlier. In the fall of 2008, my only child went away to college. Then, in the spring of 2009, I turned 50. These two major life events left me seeking new meaning and led to the first leg of my journey.
My search for meaning led me to the Adult and Organizational Learning and Leadership program in the University of Idaho’s Department of Education. The program had a broad focus, with adult learning at its heart. My desire was for an open, personal voyage within an educational structure. The AOLL program felt like the right place.
The program was a significant change from my educational and professional background. As an undergraduate, I majored in Accounting. I’m a licensed Certified Public Accountant, a Chartered Global Management Accountant, and I had a rewarding career as an accounting and financial manager. However, the program intrigued me with a new perspective on individual and organizational learning and development, which connected to my personal and professional interests.
In the fall of 2009, my first course challenged me with the assignment to embark on new learning experiences for the purpose of analysis and reflection. In response to that challenge, I did two things that set the course for my future.
First, while visiting my son at his college’s Family Weekend, I attended one of the scheduled lectures. Dr. Richard Baraniuk spoke about changes happening in education – changes driven by technology and a new culture of openness. He described his experiences with open educational resources through Rice University’s Connexions (now OpenStax CNX). He shared his vision of the future of education in the age of the Internet, and he introduced some of the many possibilities that the web, technology, openness, and sharing of knowledge were creating for education. My head swam with the ideas, and I still have the notes I took during his presentation – madly scribbled on the back of a campus map.
My second important new learning endeavor was to train as a volunteer tutor for Learning Lab, a local nonprofit focused on family literacy. My work there has been very important to me. I’ve gained valuable insights into the personal challenges faced by many adult learners. My time with these hard working students has led to deeper understandings and enhanced my own learning.
I spent three years in the AOLL program and cherished every moment. Throughout that time, I continued to think about the potential of the Internet and new technologies for education. I was also interested in the possibilities being created for less formal individual learning and growth, as well as organizational and global development. I used every possible assignment and project as an opportunity to further explore the impact of the digital age. And my work with the Learning Lab provided the opportunity for me to experience practical applications of many of these ideas. This all created a wonderful space for exploration, discovery, learning, and growth.
In December of 2012, I graduated with a Master of Science in Adult and Organizational Learning and Leadership with an emphasis in Human Resource Development. At that time, I thought my adventures in higher education were complete. I intended to apply my new knowledge and understanding in my professional and volunteer work, and continue learning through the many open resources that I had discovered.
“Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War
I thought I was finished with my formal education, but formal education wasn’t finished with me. I couldn’t shake my obsession with the new developments I was witnessing. I wanted to find a way to deepen my understanding, build my skills, and earn credentials that could facilitate my contributions in this exciting new area. I soon began investigating ways that I could join the revolution. In the fall of 2013, I took a course in the BSU EDTECH program and the second leg of my journey began.
My first class, EDTECH 502 – The Internet for Educators – integrated the creation of small instructional episodes in the design of web pages and full websites. The work was personally satisfying. With each project, I reached that elusive state of flow through the combination of challenge, creativity, and focused concentration towards my goal. The work also helped me to begin to grasp the full meaning and power of educational technology. Each assignment allowed me to question and explore different elements that influence the field. As the semester progressed, I grew increasingly enthused. Before the course ended, I applied for admission to the program.
Each new EDTECH course revealed a deeper layer, and I gained an appreciation for my own connection to the complex concepts. I knew that I had found my place, and then an unexpected opportunity came along and helped to affirm that belief. During the autumn of 2013, Dr. Michael Kroth, my major professor in the M.S. AOLL program, invited me to submit a personal story of transformation for possible inclusion in a book he was co-authoring with Dr. Patricia Cranton. To write that story, I spent quite a bit of time reflecting about the past few years. In the story, I wrote the words “I feel the urge to speed up my progress towards my new career”. These words encouraged me to take a plunge and to make a serious personal commitment. In the summer of 2014, I resigned from my position with Southwest Hide Company and moved my M.E.T. completion date to August of 2015. Michael and Patricia accepted my story and it is published in their book, Stories of Transformative Learning.
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” Alan Watts
The past few years have been simultaneously turbulent and calming; turbulent because my life path has been completely disrupted, and calming because of the peaceful feeling that has come with knowing I’m moving in the right direction. Each course has filled in a missing piece and brought enhanced personal clarity. And with each passing semester, I’ve gained valuable new skills and become increasingly sure of my decision.
I don’t know exactly where this will lead me. There are many general areas, such as e-learning, mobile learning, game-based learning, and the many facets of openness in education that intrigue me. And within each of these areas, I continue to find exciting new developments. I’ve recently discovered interesting work, such as microlearning, being done in the area of e-learning. And the use of games for assessment is a fascinating topic that I researched for EDTECH 532. I’ve learned that innovations are happening in countless ways. Each day brings information about someone, somewhere studying, discussing, or implementing a new, promising application of educational technology.
I also believe that the work being done to identify and overcome the barriers is incredibly important. While the dream is that these changes in education promise increased access and engagement, the reality is that issues related to the digital divide may increase, rather than close, the gap. There are also cultural and institutional issues to overcome. And the challenge of finding sustainable models for all of these changes is another impediment to expansion. These obstacles create a true conundrum – one worthy of a life committed to solving.