As a scientist and STEM educator, the “T for Technology” in STEM is crucial for a holistic approach to learning. We live in a technological age and I have an obligation to educate others about how technology can be leveraged in education, but I also have an obligation to remain current in methodology and best practice. My role has transitioned from classroom teacher to partnership coordinator within the last three years. I am a sort of bridge between the formal and informal education worlds. In order for me to continue growing as an educator, I need to focus on: maintaining a close connection to classroom environments in and out of school, keeping a strong network of STEM educators, and developing leadership skills necessary to work with the next generation of educators. As this Master of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET) journey comes to a close, I need to prioritize what will keep pushing me professionally and pedagogically.
Learning from others is something that is always a current and future goal. I love mentoring students and teachers in their STEM journey, but there are always peers and mentors I can look to for knowledge in areas I need to improve in. Having been out of the classroom for almost three years now, I feel like I’m still growing in my current role. Given that I work with teachers for a large part of my work, I also understand the credibility that comes along with classroom experience. Lately, I have been reflecting on the importance of remembering what the classroom environment is like and how teachers evolve with their classrooms as education evolves - especially educational technology! I’m looking for ways I can collaborate with teachers whether it be through observations, co-teaching, or going back into the classroom. The district STEM website was created for part of this purpose. This helps me frame my partnership work through the lens of empathy and collaboration. By actively creating and maintaining the website, this becomes one component of understanding the classroom environments I work with. I have also taken on a role as a professional development leader and STEM coach which increases opportunities to get back into the classroom.
A Strong Network
Throughout the MAET program, I have had a network of educators to tap into throughout my classes. I recognize the need to continue and maintain a healthy network of colleagues that will push my thinking. Understanding the teachers I collaborate with and the needs of the school district is crucial to success in my role. I attend various planning meetings to learn about and shape the scope of STEM in the district. Many educators attend the annual Illinois Computing Educators (ICE) Conference and love how it ignites ideas to pursue further. By identifying areas of growth and resources to increase my professional network it will help keep my thinking current. The MAET program also provided access to educators all over the country. Although locally relevant experiences are important, conferences are a great way to see what’s happening across the country. I am also a part of an ongoing cohort of school districts from across the nation supporting use of the NextGen TIME Toolkit created by Achieve, BSCS Science Learning, and WestEd.
As my career progresses, leadership is a facet of my professional development I need to consider much as scientists should disseminate their research to the public. I believe in reciprocal education where I am learner and teacher at the same time. Another area of my work is to mentor university students and prepare/support them in their work with school age youth. Northwestern University is recognizing this shared community vision of leading by doing. The Northwestern Leadership Framework is rooted in social justice, stewardship, partnership & collaboration, innovation, and integrity. I am currently trying to learn from others in the university to see what aspects of the Framework are already in place and how I can support and increase opportunities.
Theory in Action
In education, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of learning that can be done and the seemingly endless information that’s out in the world right now. I try to prioritize my learning goals so that two to three larger goals percolate to the surface. I can then focus to take a deeper dive and target my energy towards growth in those areas. In order to be a leader, I must adapt as STEM education evolves. This means I must constantly learn and research while surrounding myself with other educators that will push my thinking.