Learning occurs through ongoing active communicative discourses, through inquiry, critical thinking, and through application of learning. Therefore, I want to start this professional overview, my story of growth during my residency in the UNT Department of Learning Technologies (LT), by thanking in particular my advisory committee members Dr. Scott Warren (Major Professor), Dr. Lin, Lin, and Dr. Gerald Knezek for facilitating my learning and development. Becoming a scholar has been an amazing journey.
Professional Growth and Goal
As I started the doctoral program in summer 2010, I had been working within academia for many years, first as a continuing education instructor, then in various administrative roles. While working I had also been studying, determined to achieve the degree which would lead me to the job I was aiming for. That job, however, kept morphing as my knowledge, skills, and interests increased. I got ever more ambitious and more engaged in learning.
Looking back at my last semesters in the Master’s program, I knew I wanted to continue with a PhD within Learning Technologies. I now readily admit my reason was that I felt I did not know enough to be successful with the Instructional Design career I had set as a goal. I needed to learn make connections between theory and practice and the PhD program would help me towards this. Meanwhile, my new goal became, and is, that of becoming a Professor of Instructional Design, continuing the research agenda I have set for research, and myself, facilitating student learning and collaborating with faculty on research and grant writing.
Scholarly Growth, Publications, and Conferences
My first course was in Statistics for Dr. Gerald Knezek. I knew that if I could succeed in this course, which I felt would challenge me; I would succeed also with my other coursework. My strategy turned out to be one that has worked. The course taught me what I needed to know to get started analyzing quantitative data, and further landed me the first of three consecutive year presentations I did together with my major professor, Dr. Scott Warren, at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting.
My scholarly writing began with this first AERA proposal submitted in my first semester. This was soon followed by a book chapter Dr. Warren and I wrote in my second semester as I took an independent study learning qualitative research methods through computer-mediated discourse analysis. Our chapter was one about learning in virtual worlds. The book chapter was published in 2011 and was followed by five more book chapters that Dr. Warren and I have written and published during my residency. These chapters cover instructional design, social media, mobile learning, games, simulations, and virtual worlds. Some of the chapters were written in collaboration with other researchers. Further, Dr. Warren and I have published three journal articles and I have presented numerous times with both LT professors and peers at conferences such as AACE, AERA, ALISE, CELDA, iConference, and AECT.
By taking coursework and working closely with professors, I have grown scholarly. One of the most rewarding learning experiences that have contributed to my growth is working together with Dr. Warren to develop the theory of learning and teaching as communicative actions (LTCA). Knowing very little about philosophy to start with, the theory piqued my interest and made me want to learn more so that I could contribute. We have seen the theory evolve and take shape over several years, now also seeing how this theory works in practice as it is used in the Koan School curriculum. We have further tested this theory in our research designs and published findings in journal articles; one finding supported learning with Twitter and one supported role play in a virtual realm.
When I look back at my letter of intent for the doctoral program and my first AERA paper and compare these to my more recent writing, I see how my writing has become more scholarly. I have found my academic voice. I can also see how my thinking has become ever more critical. This has come from my readings of other scholars’ work. I make connections in ways I earlier could not. Working with Dr. Warren on instructional design, development of theory, and on writing, as well as being a reviewer for several journals (KM&EL, JARHE), book Chapters (Emerald and IGI), and conference presentation reviewer for ISTE, AECT, and AERA have prepared me to write my dissertation.
Honors, Awards, and Professional Service
In the spring of 2012, I was honored to be invited by the department of Learning Technologies to attend the Professors of Instructional Design Technology (PIDT) conference in Colorado as a student representative along with my committee member Dr. Lin. This was an opportunity for me to learn not only from Dr. Lin’s broad experience but also to meet with and connect with many of the leading scholars within our field, learn first-hand about issues and possibilities, and about where our field is heading. I valued this opportunity as my focus throughout my residency has primarily been on instructional design, philosophy of learning, and the research agenda I have set centered on ID. Having had the opportunity to teach a course on instructional design in the spring of 2013 for the department, will further help me towards my goal of becoming a PIDT professor myself.
Two other major recognitions I am proud to have received are The Department of Learning Technologies Outstanding Technology PhD Student Award in 2011 and the National Alpha Chi Joseph E. Pryor Fellowship in 2013. Since 2010, I have been the LT Forum Moderator for LT posting pertinent news, updates, and information. In 2013, I was elected AECT GSA ITFORUM representative assisting the ITFORUM Moderator with the listserv maintenance and programming. On a more volunteer basis, I also take photographs at LT events, share department news with COI External Affairs, and post notices on the LT Facebook group and the College of Information LinkedIn groups.
Philosophy of Teaching and Learning
I approach philosophy of learning from a pragmatic and a LTCA view. I note that ‘what is’ can never be fully known because ‘what is’ changes over time as we change as individuals and as others around us change. This occurs through shared experiences and through discourse. As an educator and instructional designer, my purpose is to discern, through research, practice, and communicative means, what works, and explore pioneering ways for us to improve student learning. While teaching the instructional design course, to further my personal understanding and develop, I attended workshop sessions with Dr. Ronald Carriveau on creating goals, objectives, student learning outcomes, and test items that tie to the goals making objectives measurable and thereby also allowing for reporting on the outcomes. I aspire to implement the new learning and the methods of evaluating students, as I teach for the department as a Teaching Fellow and after graduation as I take a position as a Professor of Instructional Design.
Working as a Teaching Fellow with undergraduate students and as a Mentor for LT’s Accelerated Online Master’s Program has been a very rewarding experience. It has contributed to my understanding of issues students may have that I am not aware of and my finding means of facilitating students in their academic growth; ways individual to each student. I have also helped peers within the doctoral program with their writing, advising, and supporting them as they have moved through the program.
Before I complete my story, I want to reflect briefly on my current research interests that will lead up to my dissertation writing. I have been much engaged in research and writing about social media, games, and virtual environments. The natural intersection between these milieus is Transmedia, an area now rapidly gaining interest by educators. Transmedia includes traversing various platforms, hunting, gathering, and sharing information. Taking a pragmatic approach, I will seek to find how Transmedia experiences have been and best may be incorporated in formal higher education learning. My method of inquiry will be Transcendental Phenomenology.