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Reflection

Page history last edited by Dawn Quinn 12 years, 11 months ago

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For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.

~ Aristole

Reflection Letter Guideline

 

April 3, 2011

Dear Educational Technology Faculty,

 

My information technology (IT) career started in 1979. I saw the first PC, the first Windows, the first Macintosh, the first laptop (Grid Systems Corporation), the first portable (Compaq 'luggable'), and many more firsts since then.  My primary focus as the IT director at a Texas college has been enterprise computing, providing technology and services on a large scale.  Most recently, my efforts have been on building the college's enterprise (nine campus locations) cloud environment.

 

Beginning 2000, the college began offering online courses.  Managing the enterprise online environment was new but easily incorporated into the existing enterprise infrastructure.  However, the human services required to support online learning was not so easy to manage.  My staff and I had no experience with online learning.  I embarked on professional development planning by encouraged IT staff to enroll in online courses.  I enrolled in Virtual College of Texas (VCT) developmental and undergraduate English and math courses to learn how other colleges delivered online learning; I completed 18 college hours online.  Further, I taught developmental English courses at night for six semesters using WebCT/Blackboard/Moodle.  This learning-by-doing helped IT staff and me provide effective online support services to students.

 

During the start-up, faculty was required to navigate many technology challenges.  My support interaction with faculty often concerned methodology and instructional principles when designing online learning content.  This very basic engagement with faculty leads me to the Master of Education in Educational Technology (Master) at University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB). In EDTC 6320, I was introduced to educational technology:

 

"Educational technology involves the applications of systems, techniques, and aids to improve the process of human learning...It is characterized by four features in particular: the definition of objectives to be achieved by the learner; the application of principles of learning to the analysis and structuring of the subject matter to be learned; the selection and use of appropriate media for presenting material; and the use of the appropriate methods of assessing student performance to evaluate the effectiveness of courses and materials" (Collier et al., 1971).

 

This course presented me with basic understanding of educational technology and piqued my interest to learn more through scholarly endeavor.  The Master program courses instilled practices that helped me engage with subject-matter-experts.  As I learned to communicate effectively with faculty at the subject matter level, I was able to translate content into appropriate methodology using various media platforms and tools.  Significantly, the Master program introduced me to methodology and media platforms and tools, including:

 

Course management and delivery: The Master program introduced me to Blackboard, an integrated set of web-based tools for course management and delivery. My technology experience was with WebCT.  Shortly after I started the master program, the college moved to Blackboard.  Now, the college is using Moodle, an open-source course management platform.

 

Collaborative solutions: Wimba was my first introduction to a live, virtual classroom environment.  From this experience, I began to engage faculty in ideas for collaborative solutions.  They expressed the need for communication components such as voice and body language, which are important to effective teaching and learning.  We piloted Wimba, Elluminate and DimDim, an open-source collaborative solution acquired by Salesforce. Faculty selected and deployed Wimba.

 

Web development:  While I consider myself proficient in HTML, I did not practice web development for personal enrichment. However, with each course, I realized the importance of capturing and archiving learned knowledge.  As I developed for each course, I gained proficiency in various development tools, such as Cpanel, Java, CSS, ASPX, and PHP.

 

Blogging:  The Master program introduced me to blogs.  Up to this time, my Day Timer was my blog.  I soon learned the benefit of blogging:  knowledge was captured real-time for myself and others.  I tried several blog platforms:  Blogger, WordPress, and TypePad.  I eventually settled on WordPress as my primary blog for my courses.  Further, at the college, we deployed Cpanel for faculty and student web sites.  We used Fantastico, which allowed users to deploy local installations of WordPress.  I developed an example WordPress site template using Cpanel.

 

Wiki:  The Master program introduced me to wikis. I learned that the benefit of a wiki is not just collaboration of a group but coordination of group input. My first major work using Pbworks was for EDTC 6336 Disruptive Technologies K-16 The Grid.  I was impressed with the pedagogical application of Pbworks and began to encourage college faculty to use the free PBworks as part of their Moodle course content.  Soon after introduction to faculty, the college purchased and deployed PBworks For Education.   I also use Mediawiki to create and delivery FAQ support.

 

In addition to the strategies that address the specific technology tools described above, I observed over time several characteristics of the college's online program to be crucial to overall success and also supported my learning in the Master program.

 

Engage stakeholders:  The college online program matured as stakeholders, including administrators, faculty, staff, students and experts, were engaged in adaptation processes.  They helped formulate adaption strategies and assisted with the adoption of educational technology platforms and tools for target groups to ensure strong collaborative online learning environments.  Communication and decision-making are more than intellectual processes.  Recognizing stakeholder attitudes and feelings helped raise awareness and build trust among groups with opposing views.

 

Time for process: Lack of time is the most common constraint voiced my faculty.  Faculty were more likely to contribute to discussions regarding the development of online learning for their specific academic areas as expert online and just-in-time training resources were made available.  Students were more willing to participate in online activities if access to online support resources could be accessed quickly.  This usually required embedding support resources directly in course content using tools like FAQs, discussion forums and wikis.

 

Use multidisciplinary teams:  Faculty from diverse disciplines were encouraged to come together to provide comprehensive assessment and consultation.  Success stories and lessons learned were shared.  Faculty proved to be the best at peer support and capacity development.

 

Promote best practices:  Identifying and using best practices is ongoing.  Faculty tended to implement technology tools they had already mastered.  However, funding and expert training for multiple, similar resources was usually not feasible. Documented course design strategies including selected, supported technology platforms and tools assisted faculty willing to participate in developing effective online content first time around.

 

My focus today and subsequent tomorrows is on IT governance, accepting from the start there is no “sacred-cow” decision-making structure. Gartner defines IT governance as "the set of processes that ensure the effective and efficient use of IT in enabling an organization to achieve its goals (Gerrard, 2010)."  More and more higher education institutions have been transforming their information technology departments into self-sustaining business units, providing services to internal users as if they are external clients and managing IT as a business within a business.  I subscribe to this approach to IT governance since IT is a strategic asset.  IT must be aligned with higher education business goals, deliver value to educational clients, insure that correct resources are deployed, meet defined metrics and mitigate risk at all levels of business operations.

I am grateful to faculty for delivering expert knowledge and providing interactive engagement and collaboration.  As a professional, I'm towards the end of my hands-on IT applications.  However, I intent to be involved in scholarly pursuits, using knowledge I learned in Master of Education in Educational Technology.

 

Sincerely,

 

Dawn Quinn

 


References

 

Collier, K.G. et al. Colleges of Education Learning Programmes:  A Proposal (working paper No. 5). Washington, D.C.: National Council for Educational Technology, 1971.

Gerrard, M. (2010). It governance (Key Initiative Overview), Retrieved from http://www.gartner.com/technology/initiatives/it-governance.jsp

 

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