Snow Days and Spring Courses

I’m experiencing my very first snow day and blizzard! Coming from California, this seems like a whole different world. It was incredibly shocking to look outside my window and see everything covered in snow.

Spring semester started yesterday. I was going to start my second class today, but classes were cancelled due to the weather.

This semester I’m taking:

I am also probably going to add T581: Advanced Design Studio. 

So far, I’ve only been to T561, which I am absolutely excited about! I love that we can choose which assignments we do, and that we can propose our own. I am hoping to work on one of the research teams and get some hands-on experience with augmented reality. I’m also looking forward to gaining a deeper understanding of emerging technologies, and how they can be implemented to create better learning experiences.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would like to do after I graduate HGSE. I would love to pursue a career in instructional design or educational media. Regardless of what I end up pursuing, I think the skills and experience I’m gaining in my courses will benefit me tremendously.

In T560, I will be gaining a better understanding of the UDL framework and how to design learning experiences that are accessible to all types of learners. In T565, I will be learning how to create a business plan and do market research. This is a perfect follow up to the T522 course I took last semester, which was all about coming up with ideas for educational technology. In T565, I’ll be learning how to take those ideas and actually make them something real. I will gain a better understanding of the business side of ed tech, which is something I am not too familiar with.

T581 should be a great followup to T522 as well. It focuses on project development, analysis, design, and implementation. I also like that there’s a workshop/lab component where I would be able to further my design skills and learn HTML, CSS, and jQuery more in depth. These would be really useful skills to have, especially since I’m interested in digital media.

I’m hoping this snow storm doesn’t cancel any more classes, as I’m really excited to dive in. I can’t believe it’s the spring semester already! I don’t know if I will have time to pursue an internship this semester, as on top of taking more project-based courses, I will also be looking for a job. But, I suppose I’ll figure it out as I get a feel for how the work load will be.

In the mean time, here are some pictures of my snowy adventures.

I crocheted myself a fox hat! =)

The tennis courts are completely covered in snow!

Our doggies love the snow


The Odin Project

After hearing much buzz about The Odin Project, I decided to check it out. Part of my personal learning while I’m here at Harvard is to build skills that will make me more hirable. I’m still exploring possible career paths but generally, most of the things I’m interested require a better understanding and familiarity with the technical side of things.

The Odin Project is a free self-paced course on web development. This is from their site and explains their project:

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I think that’s a pretty cool concept. I don’t know exactly how many people are using this site, but I think it has the potential to be a massive space.

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While not all the lesson pages have user discussions, I think it’s great that on the ones that do, there’s interactions and exchanges between users. I also think it’s great that the site has a section on forming in-person study groups and providing resources to connect with other learners. I think it helps address the issue of isolation when learning something on your own. It’s nice to be able to interact with others.

I’ve only explored the first section, but here’s what I like:

  • Simple design – everything flows really well
  • The information is categorized in a logical manner with learning goals for each section
  • Built in user comments/discussions
  • Validation on progress

I really love this progress bar. As you go through each page, the circles fill up and you see the percentage of content you’ve finished looking at.

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I also really like that you get to “check” each lesson as you complete it.

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I’m a huge fan of the design and overall information layout.

Has anyone else tried this out?

Technology, Access, and Equity

Lindsey’s post on the digital divide and media literacy touched on some issues that I have been thinking about since I was a teacher. These are issues that pushed me out of the classroom, and drove my decision to come to HGSE.

Like Lindsey, I am also a huge proponent of media literacy. I think it’s very important for people to be critical consumers of media instead of passively consuming everything that’s being thrown at them. I think it’s also important for students to develop the skills to craft their own messages, and to be able to participate in our digital culture as creators.

I think this isn’t really an issue for schools that have the proper resources and support. However, for schools like the ones I have taught in, it’s a huge challenge. Access is a huge issue. The schools I worked in, for the most part, didn’t always have the infrastructures in place to run more updated software. There was also a lot of disconnect between the IT department and schools. Teachers didn’t really have any autonomy over the software that could be installed and used on classroom computers, but then the process for getting technology approved could take months.

(I remember how if I wanted to show a YouTube video in class, I would need to email it to a specific department that would review it, and if they found it acceptable, they would upload it to a server and email me the link. This process sometimes took weeks, which wasn’t really efficient. And this was the process for something that is ideally simple – the process for getting software/programs approved could take months. It took a whole year to get the Oregon Trail app approved.)

Then, even if schools have access, the technology itself isn’t enough. Most of the time, what ends up happening is thousands of dollars in technology sits unused in a warehouse for months because there wasn’t much consideration or thought put into how it was going to be implemented. Or, the technology is rolled out, but teachers don’t receive much support in integrating it effectively.

Technology often ends up being re-appropriated into what’s already being done. If we’re to look at the SAMR model developed by Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura, we can see the various levels technology can be used. From my experience in low-income districts, much of the use was still in the substitution and augmentation levels. While that’s a start, I wonder how we can push technology integration toward the redefinition stage.

I recall going to various edtech conferences, such as CUE, and being both inspired and frustrated by the things I saw. There are some novel and innovative things being done in this space, but what is frustrating is that it isn’t always accessible or scalable in urban schooling environments or areas where access is an issue. Sometimes this lack of access was due to cost, and other times because of the bureaucracy of school districts.

I often wonder how MOOCs could be a game changer in this. It seems that MOOCs want to increase access to quality education, but I wonder – access for whom? From most of the readings and things discussed this semester in T509, it seems most MOOC participants are usually already educated and looking to advance their careers. So MOOCs enable them to do this, and that’s awesome for them. However, I wonder how we help those who don’t fit that description? Whose responsibility is that?

I also wonder how I can play a role in this. I often struggle with this and what career I would like to pursue. I want to create awesome edtech products for low-income schools, but how can I do that if they don’t have access to it? How do we increase access? How do we help school districts build themselves?

Officially registered and enrolled!

Fall Schedule

I was finally able to narrow down my choices and decide on which courses to take. 

Pretty much all my courses are project based, and that was intentional. The last masters program I completed at LMU gave me a great theoretical and foundational background in education, but it was a very traditional program. All I wrote were academic papers, and I didn’t get as much hands-on experience in the areas I was interested in pursuing. Now that I’m in the TIE (Technology, Innovation, and Education) program, I feel it’s the perfect opportunity to get that hands-on experience. I will still be building and learning various pedagogies, but I will also have the opportunity to apply those to my class projects and internships. 

I also made a conscious effort to choose classes that will help me reach my overall career goals. In the long term future, I can see myself working as an instructional technology consultant. I would like to help school districts or other organizations implement the technology they have in the most effective way. I am also contemplating finding a career in educational media. Regardless of what path I decide to go on, these courses will help me build the background and skills I need. 

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