SDSU Reflection

I have embedded this paper on my blog as it serves as a fitting milestone on my personal learning journey. The blog's logo at the top represented my frustration with systems and my own learning issues. My hope is you will see how much my perspective on this has changed throughout the course of my masters program.

EDTEC has turned out to be one of the best decisions ever for my career and personal learning. I was initially against the idea of getting a Masters Degree, but my friend Patrick told me, "You don't get a Masters to learn something, you get a Masters to learn how to learn."

Some of the most impactful takeaways were:
  • the ability to ask questions that get to the root of the matter
  • evaluating systems and performance issues
  • learning how to learn new things and break out of my "infinite loop" 

I am so happy that the SDSU EDTEC program takes a more holistic approach, teaching not just the tools of today but the mindset and skills that are applicable in any setting and time. Below is a chart reflecting my personal opinion of the amount of growth I have made in each of the competencies.

  • Data-based Decision Making
  • Technical
  • Cognitive
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal
  • Character
  • Principles, theories, and models
  • Professional and Career
  • Processes
  • Systems

Asking The Right Questions

In my former career as an educator, I was often annoyed that refinement and improvement could only happen once a year. I looked forward to working in the private sector where I would be able to take the time necessary to refine a project to perfection. While I do feel I have more opportunities to develop and refine, I learned that all this is worthless without a strong front-end analysis and intake.

In EDTEC 544, Instructional Design, I was amazed at the level of detail that was expected of our design and analysis. This turned out to be incredibly useful for some of my first projects as an Instructional Designer. In one project, I was working on a very technical training with subject matter experts who needed help translating their project into teachable content. I have found the content key on the right invaluable when I needed to break down the content and determine what the best next steps were.

With a detail oriented mindset, I was able to successfully analyze both groups’ content. The content breakdown that Professor Schutt shared with us in the class (see abbreviated example, right) is incredibly useful in my work. I found Preparing Instructional Objectives (Mager 1997) indispensable in helping me understand how to ask the right questions and craft strong objectives. In each project I have developed at work so far, strong measurable objectives like the ones seen below were essential to the success of the project.

Breaking Out of an Infinite Loop

An infinite loop is a programming term where you want the program to repeat a task over and over again forever. There are some times where it’s useful, but when used incorrectly you will likely freeze as all of your computer’s resources are used up. For the last decade of my life, an infinite loop described my difficulties with learning new things.

I love to read and learn new things, but for some reason I was afraid to push myself. No matter what topic I was studying I would only read introductory books and shut down when the opportunity came to try something more difficult. While I would read every book and tutorial I could get my hands on, I was never really gaining any mastery or depth.

I started to see changes immediately upon entering the EDTEC program. The project-based nature of the program forced me to try new things and deepen my knowledge. While I could have stuck with what I knew and created something that was well within my current knowledge, in 561 Advanced Multimedia Design, Professor Hoffman held individual consultations. Although he didn’t know my abilities, the close attention he was paying to my progress clearly indicated that I could not pass with minimal effort.

What works for me is to be surrounded by brilliant people doing inspiring things, and to “dangerously overcommit”. Without a lot of spare time in my life I’ve realized I can learn new things by building it into the project requirements. Then I have no choice but to learn.

Since starting the EDTEC program, I have greatly increased my skills and knowledge. Some examples of this are:
  • Oppia Opera, an environment where learners can practice and improve their ability to recognize a note. This tool, developed for 671 Learning Environments, was a stretch for me as I learned how to develop shapes in HTML and how to improve the quality of the code I write.
  • Physics Gizmo (see right), an Android app that I created out of a need for my colleagues and because I really wanted to learn how to program Android apps. This app was the first real large-scale software I have ever written (over 1000 lines of code) and it showed me that I was capable of learning how to program.

I no longer feel like I am forced to remain a novice. I am able to create what I design and that is a very empowering feeling. It is thanks to the consulting, feedback, and support of the EDTEC program, that I am actually learning and improving my skills as opposed to being forever stuck in a loop.

In my opinion, one of the best example of the new skills and mindset I have gained from this program can be found in the 795B Seminar project Joe Totherow and I worked on. This assessment tool for SDSU's Technology for Professional Competency program (see screenshots below), exceeded the expectations of our stakeholders, and may enable new opportunities for students to demonstrate their proficiency in technology.


Learning to Listen and Becoming a Global Communicator

I love feedback, I’ve always welcomed it from students, colleagues, and anyone else willing to do it in a constructive way. A little after entering the EDTEC program, I received some advice from a manager who said I needed to listen more and become a better collaborator.

I admit I was not used to working with others on projects. Educators often work in isolation and even as a curriculum developer I was not able to collaborate as much as I might have liked. Now that I was on team projects both in EDTEC and at work, this was something I would need to quickly improve on. I came to appreciate the online nature of the EDTEC program because it enabled me to listen and collaborate in a way that I might not have done as well if we were in person.

In a Hangout like the one pictured below (from a 596 Mobile Learning project), which spanned the globe, we had to come up with a plan and a project breakdown. I’d like to think it was the online environment, but I’ve seen it in each of my EDTECH projects, the personality traits that typically would frustrate a project did not surface. Things like, interrupting each other, forcing your opinions, and failing to complete your portion of the work rarely came up.

Working on group projects resulted in some very high quality collaborations and end results. My colleagues and I brought our various talents and skills as working professionals to each project which enabled new possibilities. In the aforementioned 596 Mobile Learning Project we collaborated to build a mobile friendly site for reinforcing physics concepts. Collaboration was key in getting other projects, impossible for one person to complete, accomplished.

I've gained a tremendous appreciation for the skills and talents that others bring to the table and learned the importance of listening. I like what one of my colleagues says in her signature of each email, “It’s not about being right, it’s about getting it right”.

Learning to Juggle

If I gained nothing else from this program, it was becoming an expert at time management. Since beginning the EDTEC program, I have changed jobs, relocated, had another child, and so much more. For various reasons, I decided to take a full course load each semester.

I could not have finished without the support of my wife who would keep quoting Dory from Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming” (Unkrich & Stanton 2003). It really was exhausting, but through all of it I continued to refine my task/time management skills. Working with Greg Snow on 684 Management of EdTech, the multiple refinement cycles needed to complete the work breakdown structure and the timeline (click link or see below) really helped me to see how important planning can be to a project. I’ve called upon these skills countless times in my work to develop and implement quarterly and yearly Objective Key Results. While OKRs are meant to be very lofty goals, without the ability to plan and implement, it would be impossible for me to even know where to start.

While developing a job aid for 684 Management of EdTech, my original idea was to represent time management with a juggler. I took this metaphor from a conversation with my manager who once asked me to describe each of my projects and the time I was devoting to them. My colleagues often measure their time commitments as slices of a pie chart. I prefer to use a Gantt Chart like the one above, which enables me to work on multiple projects in different stages.

Principles, theories, and models

Theory is great, but it is important for me that I test what I am learning against my own experience and transform or adapt it into practice.

Transactional distance, the idea that distance learners have more than just a physical separation from their instructors and peers is often on my mind. My colleagues and I are working to scale our training and make it available to all distributed offices. When the live classes are simply replaced with documentation and videos, something is lost. Transactional distance, reminds me to ensure there is community and connections for learners to learners and learners to facilitators.

The delivery truck analogy (Clark 2001), has made me reflect more than anything else I have learned in the program. While I am a technologist, before I joined EDTEC, I had a note posted on this blog that said I would only recommend technology that “enhances or encourages learning”. After hearing Clark’s view point, I was forced to reconsider whether any technology would meet that criteria.

I disagree with the Delivery truck analogy, but not completely. When I am brainstorming solutions for a project, I recall this analogy and ensure that the technology is adding to the experience or at least not subtracting from it. Technology has its benefits, but it can also get in the way (think installing proprietary software or plugins), my goal is to remove those barriers and let the content be the main focus.

Processes and Systems

Before I entered the EDTEC program, I would have said that processes and systems were my strength. Now looking back, I can say that it was probably one of my greatest weaknesses. I realized that while I enjoyed the idea, I had never really implemented an end to end system and my processes were “fuzzy”, without a strong root in data based analysis.

That was no longer an option in my current role. It was essential that I be able to determine how effectively the training I was developing had impacted knowledge and behavior. By implementing a analytics into my training I had a feedback loop which informed me of how engineers were using the training and which resources they found most useful. I was able to determine if and where people were getting stuck or confused and these experiments have provided us with the ability to improve and refine our content and training.

In one specific training, I wanted to see if it was possible to create a self study version of the training. The current training is not always available and we wanted to see if we could scale it so anyone could get the content at anytime from anywhere. By video taping a session and evaluating the types of interactions the facilitator was having with the students, I was able to develop ways in which people could access the content online as well as in a blended environment. (Confidentiality prevents me from providing a link/visual evidence).

When I first heard about the Successive Approximation Model which was supplanting ADDIE, I was not surprised because I had seen how effective this was for engineers developing software. It made perfect sense and makes it easier to refine a project at earlier stages. In 596 Mobile Learning we were often told to test our products and get feedback on both the layout and usability. Using the guidelines from those lectures, I was able to conduct successful usability feedback sessions on multiple occasions for multiple projects.

Professional and career

While it has been an exhausting experience, I have never once regretted my decision to enter the EDTEC program. Since I was learning while on the job, I can confidently say that much of what I have learned directly applied to my work. The assignments were almost always practical and hands-on which works well for my learning style as well as ensures that we graduate knowing how to create, make, and do.

While I was initially concerned that the distance program would result in an experience that paled in comparison to a live one, I can happily say that was not the case. Between the email, forum conversations, and live Hangouts with colleagues, I have had more discussions and collaborated more often than I ever did for my Bachelors degree. I feel confident in my ability to continue to learn and grow in my job and I am grateful to the EDTEC faculty for their efforts and flexibility.


  • Mager, R. F. (1997). Preparing Instructional Objectives: A Critical Tool in the Development of Effective Instruction.
  • Moore M.G. (1973). Toward a Theory of Independent Learning and Teaching. The Journal of Higher Education Vol. 44, No. 9, pp. 661-679
  • Clark R. E. (2001). Learning from Media: Arguments, Analysis, and Evaluation.