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My Next Guest: Using my professional network as guest speakers tied to course competencies

In Fall 2022, I was offered a course within SUNY Oneonta’s Ed Tech Masters Program. EDUC-5088 Instructional Technology Management and Evaluation is a course that asks students to think about the career of an educational technologist, including the mindset of a technology leader, how technology can be used to support teaching and learning, what kind of data a team/school/or district should gather to evaluate effectiveness. The course is an opportunity to think about the why of technology, and then gather data to evaluate if the technology can make the impact that we hope for. Along the way we also have to teach the students about all of those other considerations when selecting technology, including data security of cloud tools, accessibility and VPATs, and the usability and adaptability for use by multiple instructors.

When reviewing the department’s syllabus, the very first objective caught my eye.

Use data from model teachers to design professional development and highlight technology “superstars.”

I felt as if this course played directly into my strenghts as an adjunct professor. While I admit to there being a lot of differences between my role in higher education and what these students might experience at the K-12 level, at it’s core, evaluating and implementing educational technology has been my primary job duty for the past 7-8 years. The key difference between my role in higher ed and the role of the K-12 technology specialist comes down to just funding. At SUNY Oneonta we have a dedicated IT department, with different members focused on IT Security, Client Technology Support, Classroom Audio/Visual, Instructional Technology, and backend Server Maintenence. A K-12 technologist is much more likely to have a wider portfolio of responsibilities.

The Course

I divided the class into five modules, each being 2-3 weeks long:

1. Ed Tech LeadershipIn this module we read Educause’s The Horizon Report and as a counterpoint read Audrey Watter’s criticism of The Horizon Report “The Horizon Never Moves.”

Our discussions centered around the shifts in the classroom over the last decade, and as a class activity we read profiles of 14 Educational Technologists and compared their backgrounds, responsibilities, goals and reporting structures.
2. Teaching and Learning with TechnologyIn this module, we introduce a few frameworks to think about technology implementation, including the Rigor/Relevance Framework and SAMR.

To start the students thinking about purposeful technology integration, we read Benjamen Bloom’s “The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-to-One Tutoring.”

We finished the module with a group project where students start from a technology integration standard and design lessons to teach a digital competency to students.
3. Evaluating TechnologyIn this module, we introduced the idea of an RFP Process, and the regulations for k-12 around data and privacy, including the implementation fo NYS’ 2-D Data and Security law. We also look into accessibility and tools to evaluate accessibility of a tool, including the VPAT.
4. Data and AssessmentIn this module, we looked at what kinds of quantitative and qualitative evidence we could gather to illustrate the impact of technology on the classroom.

This module we also start the final project, building an evidenced based case for a particular technological intervention. Based on their own defined goals, students begin to develop data collection templates.
5. Collaboration and Final ProjectStudents work collaboratively to complete the RFP Assignment. They must include a empirically based justification for a technology intervention, outlined goals, an implementation plan that includes a data collection plan, and an evaluation of the tools considered using common questions.

Students also also interview an Educational Technologist at their school and submit their final reflections.
Course Overview

The backbone of the course was the Final Project, the RFP that was built collaboratively in groups. I gave students the option of working alone or in groups, and tried to build the project in a way that the work scaled according to how large the groups were. The students were expected to evaluate (n+1) tools. A solo project had to evaluate at least 2 tools. A group of 3 would have to evaluate at least 4 tools.

For their topics, students had to select a theme. They had a lot of leeway here, for example they could pick:

  • Tools that support a particular pedagogy
    • Ex) Tools that support Project Based Learning.
  • Tools that support a national standard or technology competency
    • Ex) Tools that support ISTE’s Innovative Designer Standard
  • Tools that support a content area competency
    • Ex) Technology Interactives for 7-12 STEM Education

My Next Guest

One of my goals for my speaker series was to keep “the ask” of my friends and colleagues quite small, while at the same time making sure that the class engaged with them deeply and related their expertise to the content area. So even though I was only asking for 45 minute to an hour of the speakers time, the students would have been preparing for the visit and then doing post visit reflection and followup for multiple weeks.

My first guest was Jim Groom, from Reclaim Hosting. In preparation for his visit, the class did some reading about Domain of One’s Own and watched a TED talk that Jim had done previously. The students created lists of questions that they wanted to ask him, and submitted those. So when I met with Jim via zoom, I already knew what the students wanted to know.

After the class visit, the students had to keep going with the discussion that Jim had started them on. Since Domain of One’s Own’s fundemental idea is around digital citizenship, they had to keep going with the theme of digital citizenship. We explored ISTE’s standard on Digital Citizenship more deeply, and the students were tasked with created an grade appropriate digital citizenship lesson based on ISTE’s Digital Citizenship standard which they break into 4 sub-categories a) Digital Footprint, b) Online Behavior, c) Intellectual Property, and d) Digital Privacy. No it’s true that in a k-12 setting, we probably aren’t setting our students up with their own domain and public facing website to teach digital citizenship, but there are plenty of grade level lessons that can incorporate aspects of the core competency.

After Jim, I had two more colleagues come visit my class. Chilton Reynolds, Director of SUNY Oneonta’s Teaching, Learning and Technology Center joined the class as we were discussion collecting data and using it to tell our story and continue to advocate for programs and funding. At this point, students had already begun working on their final projects, and his insights were very beneficial to them, especially in the discussion that developed about what makes good data for a research study, and what makes good data for assessment. Chilton was able to share a couple worked examples, our own departmental annual report, and give good perspective on what it means to be an advocate in the field of instructional technology.

Charlie Edwards, CUNY City Tech OpenLab Co-Director and Co-Director of the overall OpenLab Project was our final visitor to class. Charlie’s talk came at a wonderful time for the students, just as we finished up our discussion on data security. Charlie’s enthusiasm for open-source solutions as a strategic alternative to cloud services that constantly want your data was a welcome alternative perspective, reminding the students that there are options beyond the corporate learning vendors.


The guest speaker series was a huge hit with the students. One of my goals for doing a guest speaker series was partly just to break up the monotony of a fully online course. Having repeated discussion forums in the traditional intial post plus three replies format is a tried and true online learning structure, but it can get repetitive by mid semester.

Weeks where we had a guest, we had no discussion board for the week. Instead of an initial post, students needed to do their background research on the person, do a few readings or watch a video or two, and construct thier questions. After the visit, they were expected to do a reflection, given the opportunity to ask additional questions, and some kind of project or activity to continue the themes brought up by the speakers. As I did the post mortem on the class, it was not lost on me that having the guest speakers was more work on the students than the discussion board I was replacing.

However, nearly every student brought up the guest speaker series in their final reflections and anonymous course feedback forms. Their appreciation from hearing timely advice from real professionals in the field was really appreciated, and they also enjoyed hearing about the personal journeys of the educator.

Some anonymous feedback:

When watching any of the interviews with current technology leaders that was posted during this class, the first question always had to do with their path to where they are today. The first time this question was asked in an interview, I didn’t fully understand its importance. Now, after watching multiple interviews and preparing questions for my own interview, I see how important that question is. Something I learned from this class is that everyone’s path to being a technology specialist, or working with technology is different. For some, they started teaching, for others they started in a completely different field and found their way to technology.

I really enjoyed being able to take a step outside of the classroom world and seeing the directions that educational technology could potentially take me in my professional career. It opened my eyes to new positions in districts and different kinds of future possibilities. So many of the classes that I have taken thus far have shown me how to incorporate technology in my own classroom and how to share my ideas with other teachers. This class allowed me to see an option for a different career path outside of the classroom but still in the world of education. I really enjoyed learning about how digital privacy, accessibility and data affect the way schools can and will use technology.

The ability to ask questions and witness exchanges from real technology professionals from so many different backgrounds was one of the class’s more exciting parts, and I don’t exaggerate when I say that many times while I watched the interviews I would have to pause and pace, wrapped upin thoughts about something I heard and liked or some minor realization. When I had the opportunity recently to interview my district’s own technology director, I felt like the department had something to offer me, and I know if a door opens, I will truthfully consider a career in the field. It was easily one of my most memorable and beneficial experiences in the class, and I hope you can keep it for future classes.

The fact that students responded so positively from our guests means that I will continue to incorporate this assignment in future classes.

One response to “My Next Guest: Using my professional network as guest speakers tied to course competencies”

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