Colin's Sandbox

Goal Four: Content Knowledge

Connecting the dots of content and skills

My work prior to starting my journey through the Masters of Education, Education Technology program at the University of Alaska Southeast was entitled “Technology Specialist”, meaning in practice: able to research and work just about any digital tool that comes across your plate or at least be able to be able to find the person that did know and translate the needs to that person.  The point is, I considered myself strong in “tools”, but relatively weak on “education”, so I kept that in mind I approached every class.  Yes, improve constantly our abilities to use the tools available to us to our work, but look primarily to what it is we’re trying to do with those tools and we become more flexible in the future.  Here I list some of those areas and how they relate to connecting with the learner and improving education.


A recurring theme of the journey focused on understanding and performing action research to improve your own practice and the performance of those who depend on your support.  As a technology specialist during my employ at SERRC, a private non-profit educational resource center based in Alaska, I performed two studies: the first study was concerned with assessing the informal learning characteristics of the TechOps program when faced with a new challenge and recommending ways for introducing new initiatives to the team and for encouraging the growth of team members’ personal learning networks.  The second study focused on training methods for an iPad roll out to a small school district in Alaska.

Outside of the two explicit research projects my experience within the course taught me that true learning can happen when the entire group of learners is pushing the edge, exploring new ways to connect with students and peers, to always be researching ways of improving communication.  Engaging in innovative projects such as the #gamifi-ED program between the University and Vicki Davis’ classroom at Westwood Schools in Camilla Georgia has brought my work up to a new level, and I have been constantly challenged to do my best because such a wide audience and such great groups of students are involved and are directly impacted.

Technical Planning and Digital Citizenship

I place these two topics together for the simple fact that, two years ago I never would have thought of breathing those two phrases in the same sentence.  The more I’ve studied them, however, the more I realize that they are inextricably linked.  To engage in a proper course of technical planning for your organization is not just accounting for how technology is to be purchased or its use encouraged, monitored, or restricted, it is much more than that.  To do it right is to also bring in all the stakeholders and attempt to define a school culture and shared goals, highlighting its members’ rights and expectations online.  Breaking down the traditional barriers between the different groups and allowing open dialog and input from all sides is a key facet of today’s digital culture and can be thought of as a modern day civics lesson.  Digital citizenship, what I previously thought of having mainly to do with matters of intellectual property (IP), encompasses a much broader mission.  After examining digital citizenship in greater detail, at the K-12 level I’m seeing it more as the approach to engaging with your students, administration, staff, and parents to come up with the technology plan and ways to implement it and help guide it along it’s evolution as technology and our relationship with it changes.

Sometimes it Helps to Tell a Story

One of the courses that impacted me greatly was the digital storytelling course taught by Jason Ohler.  The course was originally entitled “Multimedia in the Classroom”, and brought to mind a set of workshops showcasing various tools to bring audio and video production into the everyday classroom.  What I walked away with though was completely different: very little technical information, which is good since it ages so poorly.  Rather, a laser-beam like focus on the elements of a good story, and the process by which you can bring students along from project ideas to finished product.  In addition, I gained an appreciation for the “go ahead and put it up there!” ethos of Web 2.0 and went ahead and published a video no matter if I wasn’t an expert: I wanted to tell a story and the medium is there.

In our coursework we are reminded often about the importance of differentiation, and no where is it more apparent and powerful to me than in the potential available in the process of creating and telling a story.  Every single day students are using technology to create, tell, and share stories and this is a great opportunity for educators to use when looking to differentiate the education experience for all learners alike, young and old.
topics of educational technology leadership
instructional design (UbD)

Concerning the Educator’s Toolbag

In the course of study we of course utilized a wide variety of tools in order to connect and collaborate with others in the program as well as other educators, professionals, and even entire classes students through a variety of means.  It would be impossible to list all of their names, but I’ll try: Twitter, Tweetdeck, Wiki-spaces, Email, WordPress, Blogger, Weebly, Blackboard, WebEx, Google Hangouts, Google Plus, Google Docs, Evernote, Dropbox, Livetext, YouTube, and that’s not even considering some example presentation tools such as Pixton, Glogster, or even Prezi.  The important takeaway from this examination and use of many of these tools is the functionality they provide and what they enable you to do in your practice.  How do you work with the tools out there to tell the story to get the message across?  How do you allow for the different learning styles or passions of students?  How do you communicate with others in your group?  How do you publish to others at large?  The platform or application is not nearly so important as what it allows for us to do within a learning collective.  After working with such a wide variety of mediums in just the past two years I feel that I understand the underlying methods that each of them provide and I well prepared to adapt to the next generation in the ongoing evolution of communication.

Goals and Standards

University of Alaska Southeast School of Education Standards, Education Technology, Goal 4

a. demonstrate knowledge of their content area, including structure of the curriculum, the tools of inquiry, central concepts, and connections to other areas of knowledge (K)
b. connect the content area to other content areas and to practical situations encountered outside of the school. (S)
c. demonstrate commitment to professional discourse about content knowledge and student learning of content. (D)

ISTE Standards for Coaches (2011)

2c. Coach teachers in and model engagement of students in local and global interdisciplinary units in which technology helps students assume professional roles, research real-world problems, collaborate with others, and produce products that are meaningful and useful to a wide audience
2f. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences
6a. Engage in continual learning to deepen content and pedagogical knowledge in technology integration and current and emerging technologies necessary to effectively implement the NETS-S and NETS-T

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