My goals upon entering my Master of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET) program at Michigan State University were both personal and professional. For the 9 years prior (and continually since), I have taught at a small school that highly values student-teacher interactions and relationships. Experiencing first-hand the richness of this style of education had led me to regret the way that I often approached my own formal education. I was always heavily involved with extracurricular pursuits, and my schoolwork “got done”, but in some courses, I treated the schoolwork and course content as auxiliary to the greater experience. In my youthful naïveté, I didn’t realize that conversations with teachers and peers were a way of engaging not only with people, but with the content. I saw the boys at my school sinking their teeth deeply into the material at hand, tossing ideas back and forth, and leaning on the teacher’s expertise to enliven and deepen the discussion, and I was envious of their academic experience. I had been considering master’s degree programs that would allow me to maintain my employment, but I had been reluctant to pursue a degree with part-time or online-only classes, because I wanted an opportunity to engage formal education in the way that I had learned it to be the most powerful and meaningful.
Professionally, I have been incredibly fortunate and have been trusted to take charge of several courses, a lab (MakerSpace), and over time the Information Services department. My training, however, has been primarily informal and experiential. As the hurdles that slowed me down earlier in my career become smaller and easier to manage, I was increasingly interested in the exploration of educational technology theory in order to improve my teaching and leadership within the school. Through the MAET program, I hoped to gain a knowledge of best practices and current research and to form new professional learning network relationships to supplement my personal experience and intuition, which largely guided my current practice.
The hybrid online option for the MAET program allowed me to complete 6 of the 10 requisite courses over two intensive summers: each summer spending 2 weeks face-to-face with a small cohort on campus and 6 weeks subsequently completing online work from home. The four remaining courses I took online. I have taken the opportunity to engage deeply with my colleagues, instructors, and the material, and have enjoyed a wonderfully rich educational experience. Particularly in the 2 week intensive face-to-face weeks each summer, I was completely immersed in the program nearly every waking hour. I only wish that there was a third year hybrid option that would have allowed me one more opportunity to join my peers and instructors in this outstanding program.
In my professional life, I have often been able to confirm my prior experiences and intuition with leading research, but I’ve also been challenged to evolve or grow my thinking in new directions. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve developed what I anticipate will be long-term relationships with wonderfully talented and devoted educators from around the country. Looking forward, I hope to bring these experiences “back home.” I want to strive for immersive and meaningful learning opportunities for my students, and to be available to my students for deeper engagement. I also hope to proactively grow my local network of like-minded technology educators, so that this isn’t just a snapshot of life to look back on, but rather my new normal.