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Fall2017 Part 1: Kicking Butt in LDT

Well hello there, friends and followers. It’s nice to see you all again.

This semester has been a challenge, to say the least. Between starting a new job with very different hours and taking three graduate classes, I’ve been a bit stressed out and just a smidge busy. I am looking forward to reviving my ailing social life and adding some material to this blog. However, it has also been one of the most rewarding semesters. I’ve learned and accomplished a lot and I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned. I have a lot I want to post regarding the new job and my current classroom shenanigans, but before I do that, I want to reflect on my graduate classes.

Like I said, I took three classes this semester for the first time: a Learning, Design, and Technology Seminar, a Professional Seminar, and a class on Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling. Today’s post will focus on the LDT seminar.

By far, the LDT seminar was the most work, but also the most rewarding. When I first started my graduate journey, I was a little surprised by how much of the work I was doing was project and discussion based. I was honestly expecting 10-page papers due every other week. This class wasn’t quite that heavy on writing (praise the M.Ed gods), but it was pretty intimidating to look at the syllabus and see two reading critiques and the… *dundunduuuuu*… Literature Review. I consider myself to be a very good writer (not as good as my husband, but still pretty darn good), but I’ve never done this kind of writing before, and I’m not as familiar with APA format as I am with MLA.

In addition to all the writing, each week held one or two student-led presentations and discussions based on the chapters in our technology textbook. You can see my presentation here and read about my Twitter discussion here.

It was a lot.

The student-led discussions were awesome because I felt that I really was able to engage with and get to know my classmates even better. I liked the variety of discussion formats that we were able to use because each student chose their own discussion method.

In addition to the Twitter chat discussion I and one other student chose, some students used Padlet, which is a great digital sticky-note board. This is a tool that I think works really well with adults, but I don’t think I would use it with my students because it would require too much monitoring to ensure no one posts anything inappropriate.

Most students chose to use the group message app GroupMe to make discussions easier. I’ve used this in previous classes, so I was already familiar with it and even used it as the topic of a case study I wrote in that class (which you can find on my Portfolio page if you’re interested). I like this method of discussion because it’s almost exactly the same as texting and I could shoot my responses out in between classes or during my lunch break at work. With the workload I’ve had this year, being able to get a few things done through multitasking is always a bonus.

These discussions were great for engaging with the material in the textbook, and I especially enjoyed the discussions in which there was more than one competing opinion to discuss. However, I’m always looking at my class discussions to find new tools to engage my own students in meaningful discussions, and I just don’t think I can use any of these tools with my kiddos. Twitter chats are simply not going to happen with 8th graders, especially when public schools seem to be very nervous of social media. Like I said earlier, Padlet makes me nervous about students posting inappropriate sticky-notes, and a group texting app wouldn’t work for a combination of both reasons.

And that brings us to the actual writing insanity of this course. I freaked myself out a lot over the first Reading Critique. I’m very much a perfectionist when it comes to my work in all of my classes, especially when it’s something written. I don’t know if it’s just that I feel an added pressure to write well because I’m an English teacher or if it’s just my own perfectionism with writing, but I tend to obsess over sentence structure and word choice in addition to the content of the assignment.

I chose to critique Lev Vygotsky’s “Interaction Between Learning and Development” because I was already familiar with Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, but I had never actually read the original essay. I thought it would be fun. I forgot about having to critique it. I read the paper over and over, making notes, highlighting key ideas, and covering it in flower-shaped sticky-notes before I even began writing.

Writing that paper was a great experience. I’m a person who stresses out over large assignments and then feels immense satisfaction at the end product. I’m pretty proud of the paper I turned out in the end. I also learned a lot from the process that helped me with writing the second reading critique and the literature review later in the semester. I figured out the best ways for me to mark up the text and how to critically evaluate the essay. It was also great practice in APA formatting (huge thanks to my husband and the Purdue OWL webpage for helping with that).

I enjoyed writing the second paper a lot more. I chose a more recent article that turned out to be a bit easier to critique. When I received my perfect grade on the first paper, I was feeling a bit more confident. On the other hand, I knew that this one was going to be peer-reviewed by some of my classmates. Hello, motivating pressure.

As with the first paper, I’m proud of what I wrote. I put a lot of effort and sticky-notes into my writing, and I believe that it all paid off with both reading critique papers. If you’re interested, both of those papers are over on my Portfolio page. Feel free to leave  comments.

And finally, the crowing jewel of my time in CUIN 7347 Seminar in Learning, Design, and Technology: The Literature Review.

I’m going to be honest, I rode the struggle bus all the way through this paper. I didn’t plan well enough in advance. I didn’t begin actually looking for sources early enough in the planning stages. I didn’t begin writing soon enough.

I had a vague idea of what I wanted to research: educational technology for English teachers, but I wasn’t sure how to split that out into smaller chunks in a mindmap or an outline. I know now that if I’d done some research first in that planning stage, I would’ve had a better idea of what I was trying to find and what was missing in the research. If I’d started writing sooner, it would have helped me understand the sources and maybe go back and research more or better sources.

As a masters student, my paper was required to have a minimum of 10 sources and be a minimum of 10 pages long. Mine ended up around 14 pages with 18 sources. Honestly, I still feel as though it’s light for the topic of educational technology in English. If I’d planned better and started working earlier, I may have realized that early enough in the process and narrowed my topic down to just classroom engagement in discussions in English, instead of all technology uses in English.

This will certainly not be the last paper I write, and I honestly don’t even think I’m finished with it, even though I’ve already turned it in. I’ve put a lot of thought into revising and expanding it into a bigger piece or narrow it down and focus in on the use of educational technology in classroom discussions. Either way, I do want to eventually try to get it published somewhere. While I feel as though there’s a lot more I could’ve done with it given two (or six) more months to work, I do feel that it is a good paper. I like the way I structured it and I think it’s well-written. And if nothing else, I learned a lot through the process of writing it that I can take into my next writing project.

Finally, this class has opened a lot of opportunities for me. In addition to feeling 100 times more capable of writing publishable academic writing, I’m incredibly honored to have been invited by my professor to join her and a colleague in presenting a breakout session at Innovative Teaching and Learning at a Distance, a one-day conference at the University of Houston next week. Even more exciting is that we’ve also discussed collaborating on an article for a reputable educational journal. I’ve even been invited to moderate a few days of a #EdTechCoaches slow Twitter chat book study this winter! I can’t wait to apply what I’ve learned in all of these endeavors.

Through everything I’ve done in this class, and this entire semester, I’m discovering more and more that this is the career path I want to take. When I started this masters program, I wasn’t sure if I was going to try to use the degree for an educational coach or specialist position, or if it would just be a chance for me to learn about better ways to incorporate educational technology into my own classroom where I would stay. The connections I’ve made and the opportunities I’ve had are making it crystal clear to me that I do want to be an instructional designer or an edtech coach or a specialist one day. And more than just wanting to do it, I’m really starting to believe I would be good at it.

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