Connecting the Dots….Learning and Leading in Ed Tech
By Kimberly Powell Oct. 2012

One of my favorite quotes comes from Steve Jobs, that states, “ You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.  You have to trust in something- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”  My gut was telling me to pursue a Master’s in Educational Technology to prepare myself as well as my students for the future.  As I look back on my experience in the MAET program since I first walked back on the MSU campus in June 2011, I begin to connect the dots.

It was only a year and a half ago that I stepped back into campus to start my Master’s program in Educational Technology at Michigan State University.  Anxious and excited to jump back into school myself (it had been 15 years since I had graduated from MSU), I was looking forward to becoming more tech- savvy in my classroom.  I saw how fast the world was changing, and it was so important  that I understand how to best prepare my students for the future using technology.  The first week of class we were asked to write a personal growth plan as to how we would like to see ourselves growing and progressing in the program.   My first thoughts were to finally understand what TPACK stood for and why it is so important. I wanted to provide students and share with teachers how to initiate that  “sweet spot” in learning!  I also wanted to be a role model for my students and others on how to incorporate 21st century learning opportunities. Learning about digital citizenship and online learning were skills that I hoped to establish and model in my own classroom, as well as our district. Lastly, I wanted to demonstrate leadership and initiate trainings and professional development on best practices of educational technology over the next five years.

As I became inspired and motivated with each class, my goals were progressing at high speed as I wanted to model and share all that I had learned with my students and colleagues. I was blogging, tweeting, and collaborating with my PLN on  all that I was learning in the program.  Sharing ideas and connecting them to new ideas brought out many opportunities professionally. Now I was able to share many things that I have learned in my classes through presentations at conferences and school improvement meetings in my district. This enthusiasm also inspired me to initiate the opportunity to demonstrate leadership in my new position as an Educational Technology Consultant for an Intermediate School District.  I now work with teachers in seventeen school districts and provide one- to one assistance, as well as large group trainings on the integration of technology into the classroom.  Sharing TPACK, Universal Design for Learning, collaborative learning tools, as well as using social media in the classroom to many educators have  allowed me the opportunity to grow as a leader and demonstrate the knowledge that I have learned through the MAET program. Modeling digital citizenship and support for teachers and students are essential skills in my position.  When I began my writing my goals a year and a half ago, I never thought that I would have advanced professionally in my career in such a short time.  Yet, the skills that I have received in this program have prepared me to take challenges and share my knowledge with others in ways that I had never known prior.   I have connected the dots from starting out as a beginning learner to growing as an educational technology leader, and I am anxious to see where the dots will lead me to next..

The Joy is in the Journey:
Developing, Discovering, and Driving Along My Path into Ed Tech
By Kimberly Powell   Oct. 2012

It is amazing to think that I am at the end of my coursework for the Masters in Educational Technology at Michigan State University.  How can it possibly be coming to an end, when I feel like my journey in ed tech is only beginning?  I have been inspired, encouraged, and opened to an abundance of knowledge and experiences that have shaped my vision and passion for integrating technology into the classroom.  Sharing ideas and concepts with other teachers in districts as well as modeling the TPACK framework to provide best learning practices for students has only increased my desire to discover tools and concepts to prepare students for the future.  As I look into the future, I am filled with excitement of unknown possibilities and opportunities.

As an educator, it is important I keep growing as a learner, and will continue to stay current in my field with the help of my PLN, or professional learning network, on Twitter, Facebook, and various other social media outlets that present themselves along the way. The great thing about my PLN, is that they are available to me at any time of the day, night, or weekends.  It is a give and take relationship, and it is so important that I also fulfill my part in that professional development as well.  Participating in conversations about new tools and trends in educational technology, along with the opportunity to collaborate with others to help other educators understand those tools are critical in my role.  Connecting with new visions and professionals through educational Twitter chats or Google hangouts will extend my perspective as an educator with the chance to bounce ideas off of others.

We all must have time to play and explore with the latest technology to see its impact and its opportunities with students. Today we are leading the way for our students to innovate and create change. It is about the questions, and not just finding the answers.  The fundamental goal is to provide a TPACK model, and to do this we must not isolate technology from education.  Therefore, learning from students, peers, and colleagues on educational movements and advancements are integral in my role as an educator and a leader.  Tools will come and go, and new advancements are made each day.  Providing access through social communities for teachers and students, as well as through websites to help them stay current with educational technology is very important. With each website I have created over the past two years, I hope that these resources will continually be valuable to other educators, as I help them find a digital presence and comfortable in a blended learning environment.  I look forward to helping teachers use websites as an open door to their classroom to see the learning that takes place,and the learning doesn’t have to stop when the bell rings. It is important to enjoy the ride and take in all that we can along the way!

One of the things that I have most discovered in this journey is the power of collaboration.   The idea of providing multiple perspectives to a single idea makes the concept so much richer than one simply making the journey alone.  In the past two years, I have really learned about the power of collaboration through not only graduate projects, but also through technology associations, such as MACUL, and ISTE that promote collaborative learning in the digital age. This can be accomplished in online and blended learning environments.  Connecting with other educators globally to accomplish a common goal is what I hope every educator has the opportunity to achieve.  Technology has made the impossible possible… It allows us to flatten our classroom walls and have productive conversations about concepts and real life applications.  My hope is that global learning continues to grow and my children will not only learn from books, and their teachers, but through students.  I hope that more teachers start to empower their students to be digital citizens and navigate their own learning.  I plan to assist in this by connecting teachers with other educators and experts throughout the world that I have encountered along the way.  Learning and sharing are essential to building relationships in the digital world.

My journey in educational technology is still moving, and I am sure there will be curves and roadblocks along the way.  However, I will look to my PLN  and my colleagues for inspiration, encouragement, as well as assistance in furthering my skills as an educator and a leader. I hope to reciprocate that relationship by offering knowledge that I have learned through conferences, webinars, colleagues, as well as students. I plan to continue growing with technology, and learn more about the back end of implementation of technology into the classroom.  Understanding infrastructure, development, and deployment of devices, as well as management of those devices is the next step in my path.   I am excited to see where the future brings, and what comes up around the bend.  I also plan to continue to seek out leadership opportunities to initiate change in classrooms, as well to provide  to prepare students for tomorrow.  Students are the future, and it is important to provide them chances for leadership and discovery!   I began this path with excitement and passion, and look forward to igniting the fire in others,  as MAET and my PLN have done for me.

Photo by Krissy Venosdale

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