At the beginning of 2016, when my husband and I first started talking (seriously) about starting graduate school together, I never dreamed we would actually start, and finish by the end of 2017! With 3 jobs between the two of us, four kids, and some crazy, busy schedules, my journey has been very trying and tiring, but most importantly, extremely rewarding!
Back then I was the newest instructor in the Instrumentation program at Lamar Institute of Technology. I was an Instructor I, which is the lowest, full-time, entry-level teaching position we have. I do not have an educational background. I actually went to school for instrumentation and worked at Chevron Pipeline for 5 years before returning to LIT to teach. I love my job now, and want to be the best that I can be so that our students can all surpass their biggest dreams! When I started the DLL program at Lamar University I dove in ready to learn, and eager to make a difference.
Thinking back to my first course in this program, I recall so much fear, confusion, and frustration! I remember thinking to myself and having MANY conversations with my husband trying to figure out “what in the heck do they want?!?”. It seems like yesterday that we were tasked with creating a self-reflection of our past, present, and future leadership. The reflection itself seemed easy enough, but what did they want me to turn in? What was I supposed to submit? Dr. T told us that she would prefer us not to simply write a paper. But what did they want? I have always been so wrapped up and concerned about the grade I was receiving, that many times I missed out on the major part of the true learning experience!
I ended up creating a PowerPoint presentation with voice-over. I was familiar with PowerPoint already, so I started in my comfort zone, but I had never used the voice-over feature. It was easy enough to figure out, but then came my next task. How do I submit this? How do I get this PowerPoint presentation from my computer to theirs? In that very first assignment of our first class I also learned how to use YouTube and convert PowerPoint presentations to movies, and upload them to my channel to obtain a simple link to my presentation. I was able to copy and paste that link into my assignment document, as well as upload my presentation on my e-portfolio. Looking back, I now realize that this assignment was a very juvenile submission compared to my work later in the program, but this also shows how much I have grown and how far I have come!
It wasn’t long before all of my confused feelings were put to rest. We learned all about the COVA model, and experienced its true meaning through creating our own personalized assignments which were unique and relative to our individual situations and working environments. We soon realized that we, as students, really did have a voice, and in this program our voice actually matters!
I can make a difference!
I think I truly started to realize that I really can make a difference in EDLD 5305. This is where we were introduced to Disruptive Innovation. We analyzed the change taking place in the world around us, and identified the advantages of being proactive and using the change to help become intentionally disruptive in our organizations, rather than being reactive and trying to stay above water when we were forced to adopt new teaching technologies and techniques.
After realizing that if I can make a difference in just one student’s life, it will be worth it, I began thinking about problems within our organization… My own story kept coming to mind. I had graduated from the same program I am now teaching, I had a 4.0 GPA, yet I had struggled through countless interviews with no job offers in sight. I knew the material, I had the degree, but I was lacking the experience- Or was I? I had graduated from a nationally recognized technical school with a 4.0, clearly I had learned something. We put our hands on equipment every single day in lab, isn’t that experience?
I, like many others, had a terribly difficult time expressing my classroom learning experiences to potential employers as hands on training that would qualify me for a job.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed to help our students document their learning experiences as they occur, tie their learning experiences together to form cross-curriculum connections, organize their information in a way they will be able to share with prospective employers, and maintain access to a common location of all activities where they can review and reflect as often as they would like.
Once I realized that implementing an e-Portfolio platform in our program could help solve our problems, I began researching, documenting, and planning. I knew it would not be an easy task, especially if I wanted all of the instrumentation students to utilize it. We have several instructors who have been employed at LIT for numerous years, and have already retired from at least one other job. Needless to say, some of our guys are fairly set in their ways!
In EDLD 5304, we were warned about the negative attitudes and resistant coworkers we are sure to face at some point in time. We were given the tools and techniques to set ourselves apart as leaders in an environment predominantly resistant to change. Lucky for us, we completed several sections in this program preparing us for how to deal with this type of scenario and the importance of Leading Through Crucial Conversations. In order to convince everyone that my plan will work, it will benefit our students, and will not be much of a load change for them as teachers, I knew I needed to develop some form of professional development to help introduce e-Portfolios to the other instrumentation instructors. EDLD 5388 quickly became one of my favorite classes as I gained insight on how to actively engage my coworkers while learning new technology and techniques. We have a new Teaching and Learning Center at LIT, and I will be offering my Enhancing With ePorts PD sessions in the near future!
As children, we are always told to learn from our mistakes, but what if we could eliminate some of the trial and error, and learn from other’s mistakes? It only makes sense to research other people and organizations who have already implemented programs similar to my own, identify what worked well, what didn’t work, and what we can change to make improvements. I was able to compile a few best practices from other groups and organizations where e-Portfolios are already being utilized in the classrooms. Because I have taken the time to do my “homework” before I begin, I have learned some invaluable information to help me along my implementation journey.
I have learned that there will always be lose ends, there will always be room for improvement and growth, and there will always be at least one negative attitude. The more research I do, the more benefits I find for e-portfolio use in the classroom. I am currently experimenting with my first cohort of student e-portfolio users, and I am beyond excited to see the results and hopefully begin full implementation next semester!
Although I have yet to fully implement my innovation plan at work, I have started talking about it to administration, testing it with small student groups, and introducing it to coworkers. I was recently promoted to Program Director for the Instrumentation Technology program, and praised for bringing new, fresh ideas to our organization! I feel like the Digital Learning and Leading program has paved the way, helped grow my confidence, and guide my ideas. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for me and my career!