Embracing the Change


To synthesize what I have learned in the Master of Arts in Educational Technology wouldn’t be doing justice to the knowledge that I’ve acquired in the last eighteen months over the course of the program. It would be taking something away from a major learning experience that not only I, but ALL of my classmates, have experienced in their own unique way. Throughout the program, I have had several revelations that have and will continue to influence the way I teach and learn. These range from achieving my goals to changing the way teachers think about technology and education. All are important, and all have influenced my life and my future as an educator. 

As a future educator, I was always taught to “roll with change”. Boy, I didn’t know what was in store for me when I started teaching. It seems as though everything we do today in the world of teaching requires one to “roll with change”. It’s not difficult to explain - just do it and don’t complain. Education today can be summed up in one sound quote by Heraclitus (which should tell you how long it’s been around!) “There is nothing permanent except change.” Heraclitus couldn’t have been more right, especially with education. However, there’s one thing that wasn’t ever really clear to me: that to be an effective teacher I needed to have a sound pedagogical background while still embracing the change that is needed. 

During my time in the MAET East Lansing Summer Cohort, I met many inspiring people. Dr. Punya Mishra, a force to be reckoned with along with a genius mind (if you’re shaking your head side-to-side you must not know him!). Sara Beauchamp-Hicks, an inspiration as an educator and leader in Google Apps for Education. Jessica Knott, an MAET graduate and a constant buzz of energy and encouragement during even the darkest of days. 

But I also met educators. Educators who were changing the lives of their students because they believed that even though they needed to embrace change, more importantly they understood that they had to be sound in their pedagogical beliefs in order to even start embracing the change we needed to see in the classroom. It was this belief that made me start thinking about my own pedagogy, and how I could enhance it with the technology that I was learning about. 

It’s important to note that this particular summer cohort consisted of three courses: CEP 800 - Learning in School and Other Settings, CEP 815 - Technology and Leadership and CEP 822 - Approaches to Educational Research and was a two week intensive on-site class with four weeks online and a final culminating day to show our work. These three classes were taught simultaneously, with each adding important insight into technology and teaching. 

In my final paper for the summer hybrid courses, I stated, “I understand now (as I didn’t before), how important knowing why I teach the way I teach and the reasons in which I use the methods I use.” My instructors over the summer pushed me into this way of thinking, this way of teaching, this way of believing that I can always be a better educator while continuing to stay true to my educational beliefs and research-driven pedagogy. 

But still, there was something missing. Even after I took three technology-intensive certificate classes and became more confident in my technology use with the pedagogy I now had a strong-hold on, I still couldn’t identify a sound way of thinking when it came to combining the three most important things to me now: pedagogy, technology, and of course, my Spanish language and culture. 

But alas, Dr. Punya Mishra had the answer to my prayers, and is additionally one of the most exciting persons I’ve ever met through the program. He brought to me a new way to think about the three different, yet so important, things that make up education (or should) in today’s society. He brought to me the belief that is known as TPACK - Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. It is sound in research and theory. TPACK combines everything I was looking for in utilizing engaging technologies within my own teaching. It’s structure allows for me to pick and choose those technologies that will enhance my own teaching theories and practices and provides me with research to engage others - both students and teachers alike. As I stated in my final reflection paper for the Cohort, “To me, TPACK is one of the most important ideas that I will take back to my district and share, and share and share and share.” 

As Mishra, Koehler and Henrikson state, “For effective integration, teachers must know more than the technical aspects of technology, and must understand its affordances and constraints both for representing content and identifying pertinent teaching approaches” (Henrikson 2). As someone who considers herself to be tech-savvy, this model of teaching and learning has given me the opportunity to take my classroom to the next level. Even my superintendent has identified me as someone who “utilizes technology effectively and responsibly to enhance the learning that takes place within my classroom.” TPACK has officially put me over the edge and will continue to do so. 

The MAET program has built upon the idea that it’s not enough to know the technology, but to also know how to and when to effectively integrate said technologies into the content area and pedagogy of the classroom. But it’s also taught me how to identify very specific positive and negative aspects of technology that I use or investigate, and to teach others to do the same.

Throughout the summer cohort I constantly learned to take myself to another level of learning. That is to say to “figure it out on my own”. I know - many people do just that everyday, but it has been consistently instilled in me that I can figure out just about anything using the knowledge that I have and more importantly, that I am capable of doing whatever needs to be done. The program has created in me the mantra, “If I want it, I need to figure a way to achieve it.” And achieve I have in my professional life as well as my personal life - including installing a garbage disposal using the search feature in Google. 

The program has also enabled me to build my confidence to pass my knowledge along to others who want to learn about technology in the classroom. Over the last (and only) two years that I’ve been teaching, it’s been a constant battle to give in to negativity that comes with any teaching position - during lunch breaks, out with co-workers, even at pep assemblies. The MAET program, in conjunction and more specifically with the summer cohort, gave me the ability to look past the negativity that comes with my current position and look into how I could help others using what I’ve learned and have been teaching myself over the last eighteen months. Now, instead of negative outlooks, I’m getting bombarded with technology questions - a happy change of genre, if you ask me. 

Last year, if you would’ve asked me who in my building of 16 general education teachers would rather be sitting on a beach than be at work, I could have spouted off more names than can fit on one handful of fingers. This past week, I hosted a video-streaming how-to course after school and those same teachers I would’ve named to you were the ones who sat there on their own time learning how to video-stream from Discovery Education. I’ve learned that you have to give fellow teachers the opportunity to learn these new things. They want to learn, some are even eager, but they’re too busy to ask or don’t know who to turn to. I’ve made it my goal to help the teachers enhance their way of teaching through simple but highly-effective and easy to use technologies. 

I’ve learned, even in my short lifetime, that not everyone is going to want to learn. And to that, I say, “Well, okay.” But I’ve also learned that most people do have the drive to improve themselves, especially as teachers, but not all at once and in small, precise and calculated steps. The program has helped me identify these steps with my fellow teachers, and continuously add to them to help share the knowledge that I’ve gained with them to help them improve their teaching, learning, and content. And, most definitely and importantly: improve their students’ knowledge-base through the use of the TPACK model. 

I’ve come to the conclusion with the help of the program, the professors from ALL of the courses, and from my fellow students within the program that, at least with my own life, it’s more important to teach the teachers. I now understand what teachers need in this new and uncharted technological territory within the classroom. However, not many other educators are on the same page with me. Unless they enhance their education in a formal way, these molders of young minds are teaching themselves technology - and who has time to do that these days? With my own life, I’ve formed a new calling, one that I never thought I’d ever want to do but one I can’t imagine NOT doing now: It’s most important to teach the teachers. Let me say it one more time: It’s most important to teach the teachers. If I don’t, who will? Districts who’d rather discuss MEAP scores then technology. ISDs who want to talk about RTI, DRA, STAR Reading and Math? No. Me. And others like me. 

I wouldn’t be here, in this position to ready to hand out my knowledge to others, if it weren’t for the MAET program and the tireless work of the instructors who are striving to change the way we view education today. Even from my most recent essay in my final portfolio course I wrote, “I want to influence those who are just starting out in their teaching career, those who have been teaching for 30 years but understand the need to change, and those who are in the middle who just may need someone like me to revitalize their career and motivation for teaching in this era of budget cuts and lack of support systems.” It’s about taking TPACK (with Mishra & Koehler permissions, of course) and spreading it wide within the K-12 education system. Not talking about or telling about it, but showing it. And showing it effectively, responsibly, and easily enough so that all teachers can use it’s principles to expand their thought process and technology use within their own classrooms in the same way. Thanks to the MAET program, I am confident in my ability to help others improve their own teaching. 

In culmination, the combination of my master’s degree, my teacher education program and my own work within the classroom have helped me become a better educator, person, and have influenced my career in instructional technology. The experience I have had in the program has been mind-blowing to say the least, and one of the best I could have ever asked for when it came to this degree. It has not only taught me about technological use within the classroom, but it has given me the confidence to continue my own adventures with technological pedagogical content knowledge. 

Before I began this program I was looking at the different courses that I was required to take and thinking to myself, “Gosh, technology changes all the time. When I’m done with this degree, how am I ever going to learn the new technologies that are coming out? I’ll need to take a refresher course every year just to stay up-to-date.” But now, as my program comes to an end, I see that the program has given me something much more than technology knowledge. It’s planted in me the idea that I can learn on my own through my own avenues, to continue to stay above the rest of the world, when it comes to technology in education. And I’m ready. 

by Kerry Guiliano

Mishra, Koehler & Henricksen. (2010). The 7 trans-disciplinary habits of mind: Extending the TPACK
framework towards 21st Century Learning. In press.