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--Originally published at My Life at Harvard

Fall Schedule

I was finally able to narrow down my choices and decide on which courses to take. 

Pretty much all my courses are project based, and that was intentional. The last masters program I completed at LMU gave me a great theoretical and foundational background in education, but it was a very traditional program. All I wrote were academic papers, and I didn’t get as much hands-on experience in the areas I was interested in pursuing. Now that I’m in the TIE (Technology, Innovation, and Education) program, I feel it’s the perfect opportunity to get that hands-on experience. I will still be building and learning various pedagogies, but I will also have the opportunity to apply those to my class projects and internships. 

I also made a conscious effort to choose classes that will help me reach my overall career goals. In the long term future, I can see myself working as an instructional technology consultant. I would like to help school districts or other organizations implement the technology they have in the most effective way. I am also contemplating finding a career in educational media. Regardless of what path I decide to go on, these courses will help me build the background and skills I need. 

The first course I am taking is a module – it’s only 2 credits. This means it will last 6 weeks and end in October. Data science is an area I don’t have much experience or skills in, and I really feel it is important to be able to generate and understand data regardless of whatever job I end up in. In this course I will learn how to evaluate data and learn about various applications of statistics and computer science in relation to education. I will have the opportunity to work with various tools and learn how to generate my own data, which I feel will be extremely helpful for some projects in the other courses I am taking. Since it’s a module, I will do much of the work in class which gives me more time outside of class to complete other course readings and projects.

The next course I am taking – Massive – is all about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). This course is designed to be an in-depth, collaborative investigation of learning environments where there are many users with few experts. Working collectively with both the instructor and my peers, we will explore what makes these environments successful or unsuccessful, and discuss their place in education. The course project parameters are fairly flexible, and we are encouraged to pursue a project in an area that we are passionate about, either individually or as a group. In our project, we explore some facet of large-scale online learning in depth. 

I am also taking Innovation by Design, which I am extremely excited about! It is taught by David Dockterman, who has led the development of many award winning educational technology programs. He also works at Scholastic Education, where he leads teams in creating products and programs. In this course, I’m going to learn about the process of creating educational technology products. In group teams, we decide on an education related problem we would like to solve. After researching possible solutions to that problem, we come up with an idea that uses technology to address the issue. Over the course of the semester, we test and revise our idea based on feedback. What’s great is that the focus isn’t so much on the final project but rather the entire process. I think this is great because it really allows us to take risks without worrying so much about our grade being based on a final product. He made it very clear that in the real world, it usually takes years to develop a successful product, and it would be unfair to expect us to do the same in 3 months. 

The last course I am taking is Karen Brennan‘s Designing for Learning by Creating. She has done a lot of work with Scratch, which is a free learning community where young people can program their own games, animations, and stories. I am absolutely stoked about this course and working with this professor. Karen is so engaging, and it is very clear she is passionate about what she does. This course is based around constructionism, which is a learning theory developed by Seymour Papert

“Constructionism builds on the constructivist theories of Jean Piaget,
asserting that knowledge is not simply transmitted from teacher to
student, but actively constructed by the mind of the learner.

Moreover, constructionism suggests that learners are particularly
likely to make new ideas when they are actively engaged in making
some type of external artifact, … which they can reflect upon and
share with others.” – Yasmin Kafai and Mitch Resnick (1996).

I think this is absolutely amazing and makes perfect sense in the context of education. I remember some instances where I was expected to lecture, and my students were expected to remember what I said. Of course, they didn’t. The real learning happened when my students were able to explore and create projects based around what we were learning. I remember learning about constructivism and Jean Piaget in one of my courses from my last Masters program. Now, I can take it a step further.  

In this course we will build a foundation of theories around learning, designing, and creating. Then, we will start making and creating in order to build a further understanding of these theories. Each week we will work on a mini project where we explore a tool and design a learning experience around it. Over the course of the semester, we also work on either an individual or group project that is related to the theme of the course – designing for learning by creating. 

I haven’t decided whether I will work on various aspects of one project in my courses, or work on multiple projects. I think I will be able to handle it either way, and I will be building my team and project management skills. 

I am also planning on finding a work study job/internship that I can petition for course credit. My current course schedule will be MWF, so I will have Tuesday and Thursday free for that. I was initially worried about this being too much to take on. However, with one of my courses being a module, the majority of work is done in class. Once that module is over in October, I will also have Monday completely free. 

I am also fairly used to taking on a lot of things at once and managing my time well. In my undergrad years, I took a full-course load and worked three part-time jobs. I have also been a teacher and taken night classes for my credential and Masters program. Basically, I am used to this sort of insanity. 

There really aren’t enough words to express how excited I am. This year is going to be amazing. 


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--Originally published at My Life at Harvard

Many times while here I’ve heard the analogy that being at Harvard is a lot like trying to drink water out of a fire hydrant. There are so many things to do and so many opportunities to choose from, and there is no way you can do everything. You just can’t. 

There are so many courses I would like to take, yet I can only fit 4, maybe 5, into my schedule each semester. Some of those courses overlap, so I will have to decide which ones I would like to take the most. One thing that has been extremely helpful is course shopping, something that seems to be unique to HGSE. During orientation week, professors will have a 45 minute session where you can preview their course, ask questions, and get a feel for their teaching style. I find these so valuable because it gives you a clearer picture of what you can expect. I know in my undergrad career I have taken some courses ended up being completely different from what was presented in the course catalog. 

The other great thing about being here is that you can also cross register at other schools within Harvard, as well as schools like MIT. The downside is that not all the other schools have a shopping schedule. Still, it’s great that we have that opportunity to explore interests and courses outside of our programs. 

The other area I’m having a hard time with is internships. There are so many opportunities here – each day I am getting new emails or being told by professors that they need help with their projects, and everything is amazing. I know that I would like to find an internship in an area outside of what I’ve already done (teaching) so that I can expand my growth and learn new skills. Then the question I run into is what do I decide to do? Educational media? Educational game design? Consulting and research? Start ups? Non-profits? There are literally a million different opportunities, and I really hope that tomorrow at the internship expo I can narrow it down.

I also found out that since I have work study, I can actually get paid for internships, which is awesome! It also seems that many internships here offer course credit in addition to some sort of financial compensation. 

Honestly, I’m overwhelmed in a sense. I’m not used to saying no to great opportunities, and here I have an abundance! I have to remind myself that I am only here for one year, and I can only do so much. 


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--Originally published at My Life at Harvard

Prior to beginning my studies at Harvard, I was an elementary school teacher for three years. I had taught kindergarten, fourth, and fifth grade in the SF Bay Area.

Before becoming a teacher, I was pursuing journalism. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast and Digital Journalism at USC. I thought I would be some kind of multimedia journalist, but by the end of my senior year, I discovered I wasn’t as passionate about that field anymore. Luckily, I had been part of the Honors in Multimedia Scholarship at the Institute for Multimedia Literacy (now called Media Arts and Practice), where I was exposed to new ways of thinking about media and its consumption. I ended up double minoring in Digital Studies and Interactive Media and the Culture of New Technologies. I was trying to think of a way I could combine this background and find my dream career. That’s when I was presented with an opportunity to facilitate multimedia workshops for high school students. I loved it, and decided to pursue teaching through Teach for America.

I started as a highly idealistic teacher. In my mind, I envisioned a classroom where students were highly engaged with technology and creating new things. In actuality, I struggled. I didn’t have the practical teaching experience or the resources to do that. Most of my first year was spent just trying to survive and teach what I could with what I had. As the years went on, I gained more experience and was bumped to various schools within the district. Then, I finally had access to technology and the opportunity to integrate it into the classroom. It was both exhilarating and frustrating.

On one hand, I was finally able to create authentic and engaging learning experiences for my students. On the other, it took a while to really figure out how to create those experiences while still assessing student learning, and conforming to the myriad of testing standards. Additionally, there was so much bureaucracy to deal with in terms of getting technology approved in time.

It was these experiences that led me to the Harvard Graduate School of Education

I want to deepen my impact. As someone who grew up in a low-income household, I can empathize with a large percentage of public school students. I really believe all students should be digitally literate and have access to technology. It is the 21st century, yet there are so many that do not have access to the basics. Even then, schools that do have access don’t always have the resources to adequately prepare their teachers to use it effectively. When I found out about the Technology, Innovation, and Education program, I knew I had to take a chance and apply. When I found out I was accepted, there was no question – I had to go.

So, my fiance and I took a cross country road trip with two dogs and one cat, and here we are in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I know this is going to be incredibly hard work. I know this will be intense. I know this will probably be one of the most challenging tasks I’ve ever undertaken.

I’m ready for you, Harvard. Bring it.