A brief look to the future: My ever changing learning goals
I’ve spent the last year and a half earning my Master of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET) at Michigan State University. I’m currently in the capstone course and will graduate next spring. Since I’ve been at MSU deciding where to take my professional learning has been fairly straightforward. I simply chose the courses that fit my professional interests the best. Once I graduate my professional learning will have to be more focused. If I don’t have clear goals in mind for how I plan to grow as an educator there’s a real possibility that I’ll stagnate. Learning, practice, and developing as a professional should be done with a purpose in mind and in this essay I’ll attempt to lay out three main areas that I’d like to explore in the next few years of my career.
Before I get too far I think it’s important to explain where I’m at now. A lot of the courses I took gave me a window into major topics in education. For instance, we spent some time talking about the maker’s movement and how it fits with formal education and constructivism. Although we did some work with this, including putting on a Maker’s Faire, it wasn’t enough time to really dig deep into the topic. I’ve chosen three areas in education that I learned about in my master’s program and are important and interesting enough that I’d like them to drive my learning over the next several years. These areas of education are design thinking, developing motivation in students, and educational leadership.
I took a course in the MAET program called Design Thinking in Education. I also took a course called Creativity in Teaching and Learning. Both of these courses changed how I viewed my profession. I learned that creativity, coupled with the design thinking process, is an incredibly powerful tool for solving difficult problems. While I was able to learn about these topics and do a bit of application, I want to apply [design thinking] (http://dschool.stanford.edu/dgift/) frequently to difficult problems. A school is full of problems that seem impossible to overcome. I’ve noticed in my few years in education that many times conventional solutions don’t yield the results we want. This is where design thinking can be useful. If these problems could be solved by conventional solutions then we’d just solve them. Many educators, schools, or districts give up or continuously try to rework fundamentally flawed solutions. I think the design thinking process can lead to more effective solutions at all levels of education.
This is the kind of thing that fires me up. I find excitement in the creative process and in solving problems that don’t seem to have a clear solution. It motivates me to spend time reading more about the design process as well as observing and talking with other, creative educators. Ultimately I hope to share my work at conferences to spread the creative/design process to other educators.
The problem of motivating students to learn is persistent and increasingly challenging in a world in which there are ever increasing ways to entertain oneself. Information is a free commodity and I think this means we have to think hard about why students should be in our classes and what they gain by being there. In addition, a motivated student is more likely to engage, and in turn more likely to engage than an unmotivated student. In each of my classes at MSU we at least touched on motivation and in several classes we had full discussions about it. I feel like I continue to get incrementally better at finding ways to motivate my students, but I know that I can do better. Also, as the world changes and students change with it I will have to ensure that I continue to understand what drives my students. As mentioned above in regards to creative thinking, I hope to share what I learn with other educators.
A part of sharing my knowledge with fellow educators means that I need to continue to learn about what it means to be a leader in education and how to foster positive change through leadership. This is my final focus of learning and one that will require reading about, connecting with, and observing the best leaders in education. As it is now, many school leaders are not putting on PD that is relevant or beneficial to teachers, creating a culture of learning and trust, or a sense of innovation amongst their staff. I want to be a part of positive change in education. I think I’ve learned a lot that’s worth sharing and I hope to continuing learning about best practices for driving lasting change in education.
To prevent a slow down in learning, my goals after graduating need to be intentional and focused. I think the three goals I’ve outlined are not only useful and interesting to me but they are also connected. I’m more likely to accomplish three connected goals than three unrelated goals.