I can't believe my time in the ITEC program at Georgia Southern is coming to an end; we have just a few short weeks left until the portfolio defense and graduation. In some ways I feel like I've been working towards this degree for a long time, but in other ways the courses have flown by. We'll see how I adjust to "normal" life again after December 9. I'm already thinking about where I'd like to go from here professionally, and that direction may or may not lead me towards another degree. I guess we'll see.
One thing that really made graduation seem more real was an on-site visit from Dr. Jones at my school this past Monday. We sat down in the presentation lab just off the upper school media center and talked about my portfolio, some victories and struggles I've encountered in my current position as director of media services, and Georgia Southern's ITEC program. One thing I mentioned to her that I've discussed with other people over the last few years is the focus on practical application in our coursework. For me this aspect of the M.Ed. degree has been extremely helpful. Since I was already working full time as a media specialist when I began classes, I needed to be able to use what I was learning immediately--and my work toward this degree has definitely afforded me that opportunity. I really enjoyed my visit with Dr. Jones and wished we could have had more time together, or that I would have been able to get to know her better throughout the program. I love the flexibility of online coursework, but I've also really missed that personal connection with my professors. I guess in a perfect world, learners would get the blended experience of both. We had such a nice time that we forgot to take a photo together! But in the end, I felt confident about my portfolio and ready to head into the defense.
I was actually out of the media center for most of the week, as I attended GaETC 2016 in Atlanta on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wow, what a whirlwind! I knew heading in to expect information overload, since my one-day trip last year left me reeling for weeks afterward. As with most conferences, I tried to focus on a few things that I could take away and apply immediately.
It was great to see so many sessions focused on collaboration between the media specialist and classroom teachers. I truly believe that we are most effective when we get embedded into classroom instruction--working alongside teachers, having meaningful interactions with students, and modeling those skills in which we specialize (information literacy and digital citizenship). More and more people are talking about collaboration, and I'm hoping that this will become a common practice in schools. I also attended a few sessions on leadership, which were kind of like a pep talk for me. Sometimes, when you're in the trenches at your school, butting up against naysayers and those who are fine with "they way we've always done things," it can be easy to forget that what you're doing is worth the struggle. We should focus on the victories, not the setbacks, and stay steadfast in our mission. Educating kids and preparing them for what they'll encounter in the world beyond our classrooms in always worth it!
Jeff Utecht was probably my favorite speaker overall. I attended several of his sessions and had my mind blown every single time. I especially loved his session titled "My Wikipedia Is Better Than Your Textbook," in which he showed us how Wikipedia ranks the quality of its articles, verifies their accuracy and presentation, and categorizes their importance. SO COOL! Since I'm extremely interested in OER and other ways to supplant the traditional textbook in digital curriculums, I found this topic beyond amazing.
Another great experience for me at GaETC was getting to present in my own session (see slides above). I had an enthusiastic group of attendees who seemed really interested in my topic, which was based on how educators should approach digital vs. print texts in the classroom and why this issue isn't as black and white as some may think. It was definitely a "big idea" talk that wasn't focused on any particular practice, but it's something I'm really passionate about and hope to explore further.
Until next year, GaETC!