This portfolio represents my creative and intellectual growth over the course of my career as and educator and as a scholar. Titled Living in the Renaissance, my journey has been characterized by creativity, a thirst for knowledge and a blending of many disciplines allowing me to cross many traditional barriers across intellectual domains. The work presented here has been shaped and molded by life’s experiences and my interactions with people and ideas from contemporaries as well as the past.
As a young child, I had tremendous interest in both the arts and the sciences. While for many, a path is chosen between these two worlds, I managed to walk a line that represented the intersection of these domains creating a life a creative intellectual curiosity. As you explore my vitae, note that I entered the world of education as a science teacher but rapidly found myself back at that place between science and art. Teaching both science, instrumental music and eventually computer programming and applications simultaneously was strange to many but felt quite natural to me.
The Making of a Social Constructivist
I would classify these early years of teaching as my behaviorist period. Teaching was characterized by my telling of facts and my student’s learning was facilitated by their listening to my lectures. I cannot be certain, but I believe there was always an internal conflict with this methodology. At the time, this was all I knew as that was how I was taught. It was many years later as I went through my master’s program at Pepperdine University that I discovered this conflict was real.
The reflective process is a powerful lens that can illuminate and articulate what I like to call “ah ha” moments. The OMAET program at Pepperdine was the catalyst that did this for me. It was during that time that I experienced a tremendous growth in and for knowledge, which characterized my renaissance. This was also the start of my transition from a behaviorist paradigm to one of social constructivism. Influenced greatly by the works of Vygotsky, Bruner and Piaget as well as Papert and Dewey, I found myself experimenting with new ideas for how learning takes place and what teaching should look like. This was first reflected in my personal practice but then flowed naturally to my scholarly work. Today, my epistemological perspective is that of a constructivist but I like to refer to myself as a recovering behaviorist. This helps to remind me of my roots and that the journey is one of constant and continuing change and practice.
Development of a Research Agenda
This epistemic metamorphosis is also evident in my writing and my desire to enter deeper into the world of knowledge discovery and creation. The more I engaged with learning theories, the more I wanted to know what really worked and how I could improve my practice. This started with action research surrounding my practice. Now however, I find myself asking questions with the desire to improve education for others. The learning theories provided a natural path to studies in cognition and my and my curious nature has always had me exploring emerging technologies.
The desire to dig deeper into these domains opened the door to intellectual studies as an academic. Entering the program at the University of North Texas allowed me to further develop my knowledge of learning theories. At the same time, I discovered a new curiosity surrounding the creation of learning environments as alternate reality games as a form of instructional design. Working with Scott Warren from UNT, I have found this to be a fascinating locus of study and one that fit well with my still evolving stance as a constructivist teacher and learner.
Today, my research interest in education and technology fall broadly into four tracks each with roots from my journey. These can be characterized as explorations in (a) Emerging technologies in learning environments, (b) Cognitive aspects of technology in learning environments, (c) Narrative based alternate reality games as learning environments, and (d) Teacher professional development through action research. Additionally, work in these four areas has led me to preliminary questions concerning: self-regulated learning, synergistic knowledge, and student efficacies and attitudes towards learning with technology.
Artifacts within this portfolio reflect this journey and many different aspects of my current pursuit. The papers I have selected are representative of my work in cognition, theory, instructional design and learning environments as well as helping practitioners improve their practice. They also reflect influences from my mentors: Greg Jones (Virtual world orientation environment), Scott Warren (Theory development and instructional design) and Lin Lin (Cognition and teacher efficacy) from UNT and Margaret Riel (Teacher efficacy and transformation through action research) from Pepperdine.
Additionally, I am working with Scott Warren in the area of alternate reality games for learning and have an active IRB where I am looking at teacher’s reflective practices as it informs their use and implementation of interactive whiteboards. These samples of academic writing are reflective of my research interests and agenda. I have also included samples of less formal writing as I have found this reflective process to be a well of inspiration for my academic work.
Working in this field has provided me with many opportunities to present at state, national and international venues. With over 50 presentations delivered within the past 5 years, I have chosen to highlight four that again represent aspects of my research agenda. Cognitive Considerations represents the beginning of my formal inquiry into cognitive aspects of learning technologies while Learning through Alternate Reality Gaming is my first attempt at designing a game for learning that could be used as a presentation. Four Games for Learning is joint authorship demonstrating scholarly collaboration reflecting on our work with narrative games for learning. My focus here was on experiences gained through teaching two of these courses and where we are taking this project in the future. Finally, Telling Stories with Digital Threads represents a moment of serendipity and my interest in emerging technology. In this case, using Twitter and other social media to capture and retell a story from the Iranian elections.
Finally, the selected examples of creative works represent different areas of my current and past practice. The audiences for these projects range from broader members of a community (creative video collection documenting events at Greenhill) to teachers within a small community (Bits and Bytes) to an international audience (Classrooms of the Future). The picture of ZPD represents a creative metaphor for Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development which was very influential in my transformation from behaviorism to constructivism. These works also represent tremendous depth of development. The Bits and Bytes was in response to some earlier work I was doing at the school and the need to make a stronger connection with the teachers surrounding pedagogical practices that make sense when teaching with technology. An unintended consequence of this project was that it reached far beyond the intended audience. This was realized when I started to receive requests for notification of new issue publications. The Classrooms of the Future project was greatly informed by my work with emerging technologies, instructional design and learning theories. This project has enjoyed an international audience.
With over 20 years as a practitioner, I will always have a love for the classroom and the work we do as teachers. This is truly the noblest of professions. That being said, I also want make the greatest positive impact on education possible. At first, this goal was only local. However, with successes over the past 5 years reaching larger audiences, I realized that I can reach beyond the school and state to affect positive change in teaching and learning on a national and international level. I also desire to add rigorous research to my practice. As a long time practitioner, I am positioned to help accelerate findings from my research and the wealth of research journals, to the classroom where the teaching and learning takes place. It is not enough to do the research or read the journals. To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, I must become the change I would like to see in education.