Synthesis Paper My Learning Experiences at MSU’s MAET Program “What we learn with pleasure, we never forget” Alfred Mercier Nevin kamal CEP 807When I applied to the MAET program at Michigan State University, I knew that I would beaccommodating different goals. I knew that education is changing as there is a huge shift towardstechnology, and I wanted to be prepared for that change. I chose the MAET program because Ifelt that it would be a way to stand out among my colleagues. Additionally, my choice to pursuea Master’s in Educational Technology is directly related to my interest in technology andteaching.My goals throughout the program focused on increasing my understanding of technology andfind new ways to integrate it into my ESL classroom. The MAET program was very pleasing tome because of the variety of options I could choose from for my degree. I am grateful to the factthat the elective courses covered areas and skills and I was able to choose the ones that suited myteaching needs. Yet, I was not sure of the rigidity of the courses and the academic standards thatI was putting on myself while taking a full-time teaching job as well as taking care of my family.When I look back at the past years, I realize that I had a wonderful learning experience that haveenhanced my knowledge of using technology in class and how to become a better technologyleader. Although the entire course was informative and beneficial, I would like to reflect on someof them that have affected me the most.In the spring of 2010, I was enrolled in CEP 820: Teaching K-12 students online taught by Dr. L.Wolf where I learned strategies for creating and implementing online curricula for K-12 students.At the beginning, I was really worried about this course as I had to develop an online unit on myown using different technologies. The most confusing part was choosing a suitable coursemanagement system to develop and deliver the content. After doing some web search, I choseBlackboard (CMS), as it was provided by the university where I teach. I decided to use what isavailable to save time and focus more on the content to be delivered. After taking a deep breath, Istarted working on the course. Once I started, I found that it was not as hard as I thought it wouldbe.The weekly assignments focused on specific tasks that I had to complete for the online courseand the notebook entry. This course offered a very productive way to use Google docs. Byuploading the notebook entries on Google docs, I was able to express my vision andcommunicate my plan for the course. Receiving feedback on my entries was a very helpfullearning experience and I am using this method with my students now. As I worked more and
more on the online unit that I was creating, I became more comfortable with Blackboard andincluded several technologies each week to introduce students to new and innovative learningexperiences. I asked students to create screencasts, audio projects, create brochures andPowerPoint presentations, and join discussion forums. This course was a challenge for me as itwas my first time to create an online course using different technologies that would last for 5weeks on persuasive and argumentative essays. Not only this, but this course helped me to learnabout different course management systems, introduce different intriguing technologies for eachassignment, and most importantly, how to make technology serve and foster a specific teachingobjective. In brief, the Developer’s Notebook was a challenging and a rewarding task that helpedme develop my knowledge of web publishing.In spring 2011, I took CEP 822: Approaches to Educational Research taught by Dr. Roeber. Itoffered me a chance to search for and review studies related to my teaching area. In this course, Iwas introduced to how to conduct action research, plan and implement my own researchmethods, and analyze its effect on my educational setting. I had to learn how to research andcritique published educational studies. This practice helped me to develop my teaching approachand pedagogy. After learning about educational research, I began my own process of developingan action research by learning how to formulate valid research questions, develop an appropriatehypothesis, and design ways of collecting and analyzing data. My action research was about theeffect of using technology to enhance ESL grammar. The research discussed in detail the rationalfor conducting the study and reviewed in depth related literature. I realized from this experiencethat educational research is a necessary process when making important pedagogical decisions.I was not very enthusiastic about this course, but as I began to read more published studies andwas introduced to how I should analyze and critique them, I started to understand many aspectsof educational research. These readings helped me to change the way I teach and encouraged meto try new technologies in the classroom. The readings in this course made me understand thatthere are many technologies that can be used in teaching but not all technologies work for allstudents all the time. This course emphasized that students learn better when they are introducedto a combination of strategies as not all students learn in the same way. Bearing this in mind, Ibecame aware that new technologies are great but they will not work all the time for all students;therefore, teachers have to show a kind of flexibility and adaptability to students’ levels,interests, and needs. The culmination of this course resulted in an action research project thatincluded a rationale for performing the research, a detailed description of the research design,and a literature review of some related topics.Another thought-provoking course was in fall 2011, CEP 815: Technology and Leadershiptaught by N. Sheltrown. This course focused and different leadership ideas, styles, and principlesapplied to education with regard to technology. The major part of the course involved
investigating and identifying instrumental and missional thinking. Instrumental thinking focuseson using technology heavily in the classroom for the sake of using it. On the other hand,missional thinking focuses on enhancing student’s learning by using technology. In this sense,technology is used in education as a tool to serve different teaching and learning needs whenappropriate, and solve educational problems. The course focused on the shift from instrumentalto missional thinking. This shift occurs through the view point of the teacher in the classroom.Using technology does not result in deeper understanding. Instead of using many technologies,the teacher needs to re-prioritize the lesson goals and use specific technologies to support theobjectives introduced in the lesson. Also, another concept that was emphasized in this course and throughout the program in generalwas TPAK- Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. The TPAK indentifies theknowledge teachers need to acquire to develop effective teaching and learning objectives. TPAKhas three overlapping and interesting types of knowledge: technology, pedagogy, and content.Through this course, I understood that learning and teaching is not all black or white and thatteachers need to be aware of the grey areas that they might face while teaching.The final assignment for this course-Technology Proposal- was a great learning experience forme. This assignment made me think missionally about technology, about the needs of myschools, and what needs to be done to meet those needs bearing in mind the cost andeffectiveness of different technologies. In this assignment, I reflected on the concept of TPAKand tried to use it to meet my students ‘needs and at the same time took into consideration howtechnology should be used for effective learning outcomes. Taking my teaching context intoconsideration and trying to move from instrumental to missional thinking, I thought of using freetechnology and tailor it to meet my students’ needs. After all, technology is not the aim but howwe can make the utmost use of the available technology to meet our teaching and learning goalsand needs. Throughout the project, students would work in collaborative teams to producedifferent piece of writing for different genres. Students would use Google Sites to present theirprojects. Google Sites could work as an e-portfolio to showcase students’ progress anddevelopment throughout the course.Towards the end of my experience in the MAET program, I completed a course titled CEP 816,Teaching and Learning Across the Curriculum, taught by R. Spiro. This course emphasized andencouraged online interaction. Dr. Spiro did not provide a rigid structure or framework forexploring different online technologies and how they could be used in the classroom. I had toexplore the technologies individually and then post reflections of my experience on theasynchronous discussion board on Angel. The discussions on different technologies such asblogs, wikis, Delicious, Edmodo, Wordpress, and Google Sites were beneficial and practical.Students posted examples from their own teaching experiences on to how to use thesetechnologies to better accommodate students’ needs. Another interesting discussion was on howto use Wikipedia in the classroom, bearing in mind its validity. The online discussions werechallenging, effective, and stimulating. The Dream IT proposal was the final assignment for thiscourse. I had to develop a lesson plan that would incorporate some of the technologies that werediscussed during the course. This was a great learning experience for me as I had to reflect on thetechnologies that were discussed and tried to include them in my teaching to suit the teaching
objectives and the learning outcomes. Students had to visit the class website to download theinstructions and worksheets.The most interesting course for me was CEP 813, Electronic Portfolios for Teaching andLearning, taught by Dr. W. Dickson. This course gave me the opportunity to create my firstonline portfolio to showcase my accomplishment and ensure my web presence. The weeklyassignments guided me and structured my work on the portfolio as I had to add a weekly elementit. Though the weekly assignments would seem easy but they took a long time to reflect on andproduce. I have to say that I am very proud that I was able to create a personalized portfolio.Throughout the course, I added several elements to the portfolio such as my resume, my teachingphilosophy, and my class.The most rewarding element that I added to this portfolio was a page to showcase my students’work. At that time, I taught reading to ESL students to help them pass the university languageentrance exam- IELTS or TOEFL. I used different technologies to engage my student more inreading. They had to work individually, in pairs, and in groups to do online projects and quizzes.For these projects, students used PowerPoint presentations, YouTube, Podcasts, and Googledocs. I published on my page samples of my students’ work to share with my colleagues, otherstudents, and parents.As I approach to the finish of my master’s degree, I am thankful to the time I spent to bring mythoughts together about what I have learnt during this program for the past three and a half years.The MAET program has made me realize that flexibility and adaptability play major roles in oursocial and professional lives in the 21st century. Therefore, I would encourage teachers to try outand challenge themselves with new ideas and technologies. As teachers, we need to learn fromour students and embrace their enthusiasm for their digital life and act accordingly.I am grateful to all the experiences I have had within the MAET program at Michigan StateUniversity, and look forward to applying the knowledge I have gained to my teaching. What ismore, I have gained the tools that would allow me to maintain my goals of lifelong learning andgrowing.