First you must understand that I am a Tree-hugging, Sy-Fy, Gaming, Tech Geek that has a passion for the education of young children in an environment that is nurturing to mind, body, and soul. My Second Half of Life goal is to earn my Doctorate in Early Childhood. I want to focus on the impact of nature and technology on children’s growth and development.

My journey into the eLearning degree started with a friend, Wendy, whom I was teaching with at CCConline in the Early Childhood Department. We were both regularly pushing the college and our students to try out new ways of using technology both for their own learning and in their early childhood classrooms. Wendy was taking an Information and Learning Technologies (INTE) course and sharing all of the new concepts and websites with me over the semester. By the end of the semester I really wanted to take a class or two. I had no intention of completing another Masters because as much as I love the advantages of technology I wanted to focus on learning more about nature’s impact on learning. Yet, here I am today reflecting on my degree in INTE.

From each course over the past few years I have been able to take at least 1 idea/concept/program/website and successfully integrate it into my current courses at CMU.  Part of the reason that I stuck with the program was that I was able to tweak the information to make it fit my needs and interest regarding young children and nature. Sometimes my students would challenge me regarding being so different from their other instructors/departments, I remind them that they will be teachers in their own classroom one day. Do they want to be that History teacher reading the same lecture notes from 1970 or do they want a classroom that encourages children to think, challenge the status quo, be independent, and foremost look forward to the effort of trying and not afraid to fail? So far all of my students have chosen the later.

Another important fact to understand about me is that I view every course that I take, whether it is college or a local workshop, though the lens of what did this instructor do that was successful for me as a learner and what did they fail at presenting. Note: failure is not a bad word in my vocabulary unless the instructor does not make future changes. This helps me to remember how my students feel as they are progressing through their college career and more importantly through my department’s courses. I expect my faculty to take workshops/courses that are outside of their comfort zone and occasionally in an area outside of early education. Most topics can be related back to early education and I feel it makes their classes more dynamic. I have seen stagnation in other departments and even in my own experiences as a student where instructors may be knowledgeable and a leader in their field but they do not fully understand the scope of adult learning (well they think they do).

Instructors teach from a point of mastery. But sometimes forget all of the different scaffolding levels that students need to experience or even worse the length of time that it takes to be able to successfully navigate a new website/software program in order to feel successful. This is why I feel it is so important for myself as an instructor to experience these struggles so that I can accurately reflect on my own courses in order to evaluate if I am giving appropriate scaffolding and experience time. To that note a couple of my activities I have changed from a solo experience to a long term group exploration for my students because I reflected on my own struggles within the INTE course I was taking at the time. I have also changed up the ways that I present information in class and have student share in a more dynamic fashion compared to an all text discussion board. Almost all of my faculty now use Google Plus, VoiceThread, and Vialogues to enrich student interaction compared to just using the standard format of Desire 2 Learn.

A few of the other ideas from my INTE courses that I am either currently using or plan to use are:

  • EDEC 122 Ethics – In one assignment students spend all semester learning about Twitter. How it can be used to find professional information, the ethical challenges, and then how to use it to support families
  • EDEC 241 Human Relations – A couple of different assignments where student create a message for staff regarding a sensitive issue using Voki or GoAnimate.
  • EDEC 238 Growth and Development  – Next semester students will be using Hypothesis for a few of the articles that the need to read. I am hoping this will help the concepts to stick better.

Overall my INTE coursework experiences have been supportive and helped me grow as an instructor. I am proud to add degree in INTE to my resume. Plus with this economy who knows I may have to fall back on it to find a job someday.