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Comprehensive Reflection

 

Before my enrollment in EDTEC, I had recognized that distance learning could be a promising form of future education rather than just a substitute for classroom instruction. This recognition evolved a passion for knowing how well technology could serve for teaching and learning at a distance and how we could avoid the potential negative or even harmful impact of technology on education.

During the years of working in the field of instructional software, I did my work based on best practices that could be accessed. I expected the EDTEC program would provide me structured knowledge and system thinking that would support or argue against my practices in the domain and inject new spirit into my passion for technology-mediated distance education.

Ideas Shine Through

Theory

I am not a very organized person thus I would rather learn by doing than study a theory and apply the principles. However, maybe it’s because I have done the “learning by doing” for too long and the pendulum swung back to the opposite extreme. When I stepped back from the pressure of daily work to refresh my knowledge at SDSU, I realized that I have become a believer of theoretical thinking. Subconsciously, I had begun for macro ideas such as a framework or a model that would put together and explain the trivial concepts, rules, and processes for a particular topic. Whenever a project came to me, I cannot help starting with a review of literature or I would not feel comfortable.

My first course taken from the program was EDTEC 540. The instructor introduced essential learning philosophies: behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism in the class. Theories from Thorndike, Dewey, Piaget, Gagne, Merrill, and Mager were discussed. Although I have recognized the names, EDTEC 540 summarized their work briefly and showed me how to apply the theories to educational design. Through the course, I gained better understanding of the evolution of ideas on learning.

My understanding of distance education theories was further broadened during my enrollment in EDTEC 650: Distance Education. I had opportunities to study prominent articles from four influential thinkers - Otto Peters, Borje Holmberg, Randy Garrison, and Michael Moore. Theories I read included the industrialized form of education from Peters (1967), empathic teacher-student conversation from Holmberg (1960, 1985), transactional distance from Moore (1980), and community of inquiry from Garrison (2000). Each theory described the essential characteristics of distance education from a unique perspective. While I was reading the articles, I found myself began to connect one theory with the other. Each theory was not a piece of isolated doctrinal puzzle any more. Puzzles in my mind began to shape into a clearer mind map.

Another inspiring learning experience was to learn about motivation theories in EDTEC 670. I have a long working history in designing instructional software. Thus, I have lots of tips and tricks for inviting learning motivation. However, when I read the taxonomy of intrinsic motivations for learning from Malone & Lepper (1987), I was so inspired. The taxonomy helped me put together my tips and tricks, and fit them into a structured framework. I felt more capable of penetrating the causal relation between a particular design element and its effect.

Methodology

One of the main reasons for my registration in a master degree program was that I believed in the potential power of research and I liked to learn more about research methods. ED 690 introduced me to both qualitative and quantitative research methods. I learned concepts, strategies and the common approaches of research starting from problem selection and ending at research report writing. Frankly speaking, some of the research methods were discussed so briefly that I learned only the literal meaning of the terms. Nevertheless, the fluent writing of the text opened a door to academic research for me. I tried the methodologies to complete research projects at ED 690 and EDTEC 650. The experiences have sparked my interest in further engagement in academic research for my future career.

Another methodology I have spent a considerable amount of time study in was the performance technology. Performance improvement is the main task for each managerial staff. I wished my teams would do things better and faster when I was a manager. What made performance technology I learned from EDTEC 540, 544, and 685 different was that the methodology made performance improvement a business. Companies would be interested in improving employees’ performance but they would not pay you if you could not provide a clear structured methodology. Methodology makes people feel that you know what you are doing. Methodology also serves as guidance for professionals to conduct their tasks based on theoretical framework and thus ensure positive outcomes. I think I have been doing the performance improvement tasks in a similar way subconsciously, but I did not describe my thoughts and acts, or organize the metadata and shape it into a methodology so that they can be repeated and followed by newcomers. Therefore, mine remains an experience not a methodology. This is a great lesson for me.

Technology

I am happy to be getting more and more familiar with web page and video creation using Adobe Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Flash. These tools are complicated. I would never have begun to use them if there had not been a structured learning opportunity, thanks to EDTEC 541 and 561! Even more exciting, I have learned a long list of tools that made the complicated web-based multimedia development much easier and less expensive. It will take hours to introduce the long list of tools archived in my bookmarks. Here are some of my favorites and how they have and will enhance my work.

Color matching has always been a challenge and a frustrating experience for me. Dr. Hoffman introduced the Color Scheme Designer to us in his course. With this tool, all I need to do is to select the color to set the base tone of the page; the tool would automatically generate the complement or analog color scheme. Now color is not a problem for me.

As an e-coach for online courses video is a media I will use often especially when I need to visualize a complicated procedure to learners. Windows Movie Maker, I learned in EDTEC 541, is a friendly, small tool. I used Windows Movie Maker to create video for my assignments. I found it is so easy to create videos while giving them a professional appearance.

Other than the proprietary software, I have used much open source software and Web 2.0 technologies such as blog, wiki, bookmark management tool, RSS aggregator, bibliography tool, and instant communication tool when doing my EDTEC assignments. I also tried to leverage open content such as Google Scholar, Google Books, and YouTube. When I managed to use open source software or web 2.0 technologies, I found that many of these technologies required only the least technical background from users. This strength shortened my learning curve for new technologies and that allowed me more time to work on the learning content.

I had a different understanding of learning environment while studying at EDTEC. The learning management system, Moodle, which we used in more than one course; WebQuest and TappedIn we used in EDTEC 570; as well as the educational Blogs and Ning we used in EDTEC 670, 795A and 795B all linked with each other in forming the newly defined learning environment that was community-based, socially-constructed, and demanding of contributions from each participant.

Change

Returning to school after years away from academic study was a critical step for me. Upon my graduation from the master degree program, I reflect on my primary goal which I had defined before I started this program: “To find high quality education solutions for working adults so that they can advance professional knowledge without leaving their jobs. In particular, I want to help the low-income working or non working population to learn with less geographic and financial constraints”. Yes, I have completed my goal.

I am getting used to systematical thinking, and the use of theories. I am now more comfortable with doing things with plans in advance and goals in mind. When I teach or consult, I like the role of a facilitator rather than a provider of knowledge or solution. When I design a new course, I will keep the intrinsic motivation, transactional distance, and empathic conversation theories in mind.

The structure of education will change. The advancements of technology have begun to blur the differences between physical and virtual world in areas like education and gaming. As I am wrapping up my studies at EDTEC, I am fully aware that I need to be a life-long learner in order to prepare myself for the rapid changes of educational technology and learning environment. I am glad that I begin to see my goals more clearly.  I believe that my endeavors during the master degree program have given me great potential to perform well in my domain and sufficient support to continue future exploration.

References

Garrison, D. Randy; Anderson, Terry; Archer, Walter. (2000). Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105. Retrieved February 19, 2008, from http://communitiesofinquiry.com/files/Critical_Inquiry_model.pdf

Holmberg, B., & FernUniversitat, H. (. G. Z. I. F. F. A. (1985). The Feasibility of a Theory of Teaching for Distance Education and a Proposed Theory. ZIFF Papiere 60. (p. 26).

Malone, T. W., & Lepper, M. R. (1987). Making learning fun: A taxonomy of intrinsic motivations for learning. In R. E. Snow & M. J. Farr (Eds.). Aptitude, learning and instruction. Volume 3: Conative and affective process analysis. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Moore, M. G. (1980). Independent Study. In Redefining the Discipline of Adult Education, In R. Boyd and J. Apps, eds. (pp. 16-31). Jossey-Bass. Retrieved February 21, 2008, from http://www.ajde.com/Documents/independent_study.pdf  

Peters, O. (1967). Distance Education and Industrial production: A Comparative Interpretation in Outline. monograph, Central Institute for Distance Education Research, Fern University. Retrieved April 26, 2008, from http://www.fernuni-hagen.de/ZIFF/PETERS.HTM#mass%20production.  

Find more about the books, journal articles as well as web sites that I have studied during EDTEC program, please refer to my personal knowledge management system.

 

Su-Tuan Lulee

February 2009