Expanding the frame…
How MAET has helped change how I view technology and learning

By Jeff Gerlach

Image by robayre

When I began the MAET program in January of 2010, it was the middle of the school year that never was.

In the spring of 2009 I had been pink-slipped and began hunting for my next career opportunity. I’m so thankful that I was recalled to my position after a year but I might be even more thankful for the year off itself. The MAET program filled the void of being out of the classroom, but it also fundamentally reshaped my thinking once I returned.

In reading my personal growth plans (PGP) that I wrote during CEP 810, something of note is that I hoped to become more adept with the educational application of both familiar and newly learned technologies. I think that the MAET program has definitely helped me to take more of a pedagogical approach to technology integration. In fact, this has been the driving mantra of the program. Yet I believe this goal has evolved even further as the program has continued on. While I have been introduced to quite a few tools, I’ve developed a mindset of how to be discerning of the educational possibilities of technology for myself. This way of thinking is now central to my instruction. Thinking about how to make learning more accessible and engaging involves careful design; keeping in mind people’s natural habits, wants, and needs. Effective technology-integrated learning therefore is as much about the people who interact with the technology, as it is the technology itself. Learning does not exist within a vacuum, so we must keep in mind the push-pull factors that arise from specific integrations.

Historically, as humans we have utilized innovations to make our lives better… that is the purpose of innovation. In my PGP, I mentioned that I was troubled by the lag between real world technology innovation and the implementation of these innovations in the classroom. As I look back now, this was instrumental thinking that newness equated to “better-ness”. I no longer feel that classroom application of technology needs to mirror the non-academic use of our students completely. Sometimes technologies are powerful yet distracting, popular yet not as effective as others. In the end it all comes down to using mediums to create powerful learning opportunities with minimal irritability. Smartboards, Facebook, and markers are all good learning tools with specific affordances and limitations. I’ve found myself to be much better at identifying these affordances and limitations while minimizing my holistic infatuation with shiny new technologies and discontent for “old” learning tools.

I think more than anything else in my PGP, I’m impressed with my intentions to become a greater advocate for educational technology. I specifically wrote about wanting to help on a macro-level by participating in integration plans for newly adopted technologies, while also helping at the micro-level; helping teachers with individual integrations. I’ve taken great pride in being an intermediary between the technology department and fellow classroom teachers, leading professional development sessions and working one-on-one with colleagues to integrate technologies that enhance existing pedagogy and subsequently student learning.

Though my goals have evolved, I wouldn’t say they’ve strayed from intent. My frame of reference has expanded and from this wider vantage point I’ve been able to see that educational technology goes beyond knowing tools themselves. In addition, it is knowing how users will interact with the tools and using this knowledge to create powerful learning experiences.