Before beginning the Masters of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET) program at Michigan State University (MSU), I had a sense of what my interests in informal education were, but little idea on how to move forward. I had spent over five years as a museum outreach educator, but felt my mental wheels spinning a bit as I tried to break out of familiar ways of thinking. After spending just over a year working on my masters degree, the path has become clearer, not just due to guidance from my instructors, but by taking inspiration from the amazing work that my fellow classmates have exposed me to. My attitudes towards the use of technology in the museum or classroom has also changed by taking a more grounded view in connecting the use of tools to pedagogy and content being taught. As I reflect on my experience, I find that the largest changes in how I work to provide compelling experiences to learners of all ages has taken place in three key areas: maker education, transdisciplinary learning, and computational thinking.
Summer provides a natural opportunity to reflect and regroup for many educators. Within a museum, the time is often filled with camps, teacher workshops, and special public events, but time must still be set aside for planning. Over the next couple months, I will be transitioning to a new position at work as well as finishing my Master’s degree, so considering the future is particularly relevant at the moment. In order to continue to grow personally and professionally, my current learning goals include gaining experience in hobbyist programming, learning more about how non-profits are managed, and finding new ways to engage the public within a museum.
These goals are chosen based on the idea that I want to continue to do well in a museum environment, but may also wish to explore my own interests in another non-profit setting where much of my experience will transfer over. Of particular interest to me is how to engage a wide variety of ages in learning new technologies, including developing programming and computational thinking skills. I also want these goals to be achievable in the next year and have concrete end products that show evidence of growth.
During a recent session of our Art and Science Teacher Workshops, I engaged in action research by implementing and reflecting on a lesson on the use of computers for creative means, namely creating visual art. The participants explored the work of Sol LeWitt, who created instruction based works intended to be carried out in a variety of contexts. Brain Pickings has provided an overview that shows how various artists have approached this idea. LeWitt’s instructions can be implemented using traditional technology, but in this lesson I chose to use two newer tools, Scratch and Processing, to introduce how computers can be tools of creative expression through programming and play.