Just over a year ago, I applied to Michigan State University (MSU) to begin the Masters of Arts in Education Technology (MAET) program. This process forced me to consider my goals not only for the degree but in my profession. I had spent the last three years coordinating an outreach program for northern Michigan schools that used an integrated approach to teaching art and science. I chose to attend MSU in large part because of its rich history in exploring transdisciplinary learning and its relationship to developing creativity skills in K-12 students, which closely matched what I was trying to achieve through our programs, so many of my goals related to further developing an understanding of these topics.
I also felt our museum’s approach to using technology within our programs was lagging behind many school districts, so a more immediate goal was to find innovative uses of new tools within our programs. I was also interested in further finding ways to take inspiration from Maker Ed within my programs, since we had some experience presenting at the Detroit Maker’s Faire already, but I had only recently realized the renewed interest of using this within a classroom setting. In other programs, I had begun to use Minecraft as a way to develop programming skills, so wanted to find other ways that games and meaningful play could be used in education.
As would be expected over the course of a year, my interests and goals began to change as I found new topics of interest. The most significant goal that came out of the MAET program was developing computational thinking skills in the students and teachers I serve. When I consider transdiciplinary learning, I often begin by thinking about the core cognitive skills that help define a discipline and how they cross and even transcend disciplines. With the increasing use of computers within education and our lives, as well as an emphasis as students as creators, not just consumers, it found it useful to consider what the core skills of computer science are and how to develop them across the K-12 curriculum.
I also began to consider approaches to teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and the role that the arts might serve within that context. My goal was to better position my employer as a STEM provider and increase my knowledge of the arts in spurring innovative thinking within our culture and economy. My views changed considerably over the year, due to research on integrated STEM approaches, debate over adding the arts to STEM teaching, and Seymour Papert’s view of using technology to allow students to express their own ideas.
By broadening my horizons, other goals received less attention through formal coursework, since there is only time (and money) for so many courses within the MAET program. I still wish to develop a greater understanding of the importance of developing general thinkers and how play is vital to developing new ideas.This experience has also altered my professional goals, since I intended to seek employment within a school district as a technology integration specialist. I now realize that I am more interested in how informal education can develop skills often neglected within a rigid curriculum, so have recommitted myself to being a museum-based educator. My greatest current goal is what many educators wish for their students: to maintain a passion for learning and never become too comfortable in my ways of thinking.