At the heart of the ILT program at UC denver are six competencies; six concepts that support graduates in their professional practice after graduation. Each competency, for me, has a particular experience that epitomizes what that concept means to me and for my development as a technology enhanced educator.
- Reflective practice – Reflection is critical in authentic learning. Being able to look at an experience and find the areas of strength and areas that need improving keeps learning from being static. The areas of strength build confidence in future work and identifying areas of need fend off complacency. My Final Portfolio and Reflection for my Games and Learning course shows how I currently approach reflection. In it, I reflect on my reactions to course reading, interactions I had with classmates and interest-based peers, and about the work I created. Each of these activities or interactions create the ideas that became the building blocks for the overall structure of my understanding of the relationship between games and learning. Without reflection the overall structure of my learning remains. Reflection, however, is the tool that lets the learner examine how the idea building blocks interact and a better understanding of how the overall structure of knowledge was constructed.
- Technology – Often times being competent with tools means being able to make adjustments when the tool you are using is not working. This is true with with learning technologies, each touted as the next best thing but users regularly have to learn to maneuver in order to fit their needs. Because every learning technology is going to have limitations and unexpected consequences, the educator using learning technology needs to be able to adapt to or will run into problems that seem insurmountable. I created a mobile-friendly digital picture search game featuring Colorado flora and fauna. The idea for my game came from a digital comic I had seem, housed on Instagram, that lets the viewer make choices to affect the plot line of the story. It was the most innovative way I had seen Instagram used! I imagined using Instagram for my picture hunt game, I found the Creative Commons images both for the backgrounds and for hidden objects and I used photo manipulation software to hide the hidden objects in the backgrounds. I was ready to upload to Instagram but I quickly ran afoul of the user agreement and created too many new accounts with too many tags between them and my IP address was banned from Instagram. My time to complete the project was almost up and I need to be flexible or fail. I had the vision in my head of what the final product would be, and the content I needed to make it happen was completed, I just needed a digital space. I decided to just make what I had envisioned just not on Instagram, I had been working with Wix to make websites and used the drag and drop tool to make a high quality substitute product in a time efficient manner. I was even able include the feature I most liked about housing on Instagram – the ability to interact with the content through a touch screen, by optimizing the Wix website for mobile devices.
- Learning and instruction – Coming from a background as an elementary school teacher I highly value backward design and alignment with adopted standards. When designing a online unit for the creation and production of media, I focused on aligning to not only CCSS anchor standards for language, reading, and speaking & listening but also harnessed technology to ensure content was accessible to the audience. The unit was designed for elementary students, at many different stages in the development of reading comprehension. For the unit to be effective, students needed ways to access content beyond reading. I included video walkthroughs for to guide students through graphic organizers and assessments, I recorded audio files of written texts so students could read and listen to instructions, and included video provocations, employing sound effects, music and a zany pirate character, to introduce concepts and launch discussions. This was all done to ensure that the engaging content and activities were not lost on students because of access inequality.
- Creative and social media – I became very interested in networked books, where a digital story links to/from other media and provide the opportunity to for creators and audience to connect digitally. For my Learning with Digital Stories final assignment I wanted to create a networked book for a very specific passion of mine, graphic novels checked out from the library. I created a twitter profile for the Graphic Novel Librarian and started to make 4-tweet recommendations for the graphic novels I had checked out. I also solicited lists of interests from visitors to create customized recommendations for my followers. The Twitter platform provided the interactivity between creator and consumer I wanted but it was too fluid for my other goals. So I created a companion website to share the Graphic Novel Librarian’s mission, house archived 4-tweet recommendations, and information about obtaining a library card. To make the whole networked book cohesive I embed the live @G_N_Librarian twitter feed onto the home page, so that the static and fluid media components could share a digital space.
- Inquiry and change – In a project for the Leadership for Technology Innovation course I had an option to read a book and design an accompanying professional learning course. I saw it as an occasion for change. I had enrolled in a graduate program to expand my professional opportunities to include learners outside of the classroom but had done most of my course projects focused on an audience of elementary students. Designing a course for teachers was a chance to step out of my comfort zone. I was also intrigued by the tile of the book that the professional learning would be based on: “The Laws of Simplicity”. How could instructional design be enhanced by simplicity? Much of the book resonated with me and by the time I was ready to design the online professional learning unit, I did so with the guidance from the laws of simplicity outlined in John Maeda’s book.
- Professional learning and leadership – As mentioned above I wanted to expand my horizon with the learners I could reach with information and learning technology. The ILT internship provided another challenging opportunity to gain teaching experience with adult learners. It started as a chance encounter, a colleague was complaining about how in her speech pathology practice she was wasting time commuting to and from off-site observations of speech and language pathologist assistants. We discussed ways to introduce distance observations and an internship idea was born. This internship has made me take what I learned in my graduate studies and from my experience in education and apply it as a project manager to design a functioning system for scheduling and conducting distance observations. I am also creating the the training tutorials that will empower end users to implement the system successfully.
The course work and discussions I have had in the Information and Learning Technology program have been engaging and challenging; ingredients for authentic learning. The next formative assessment of my success in meeting the program’s core competences will lie in how well I apply what I have learned to the new professional opportunities I am pursuing.