My journey as a graduate student in the Masters of Education in Digital Learning and Leading program at Lamar University has been a distinctive, impressive, and impactful one. As I researched other graduate programs, I kept going back to Lamar and finally settled. But now, I realized that I hadn’t settled, I was more than lucky to have enrolled in such a distinctive program that defined its objectives and goals based on the COVA (Choice, Ownership, Voice, and Authentic) learning model. It sounds impressive, right? It was, but actually participating in such a flexible and unpredictable program was disconcerting. Not only did Lamar say it would give its students choice, ownership, voice, and authenticity, they also enforced it. Coming from a public K-12 school system that laid the law with each and every assignment with explicit details, requirements, and expectations, I was not used to being handed over the reins of my own learning. I felt most comfortable when I was told what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, sort of like how my undergraduate program trained me to do so as well. My first professor at Lamar was not having that, and neither were the others I would soon meet in later courses. Ironically, I had no choice but to continue this journey. I was no quitter.
I saw the COVA model first come to life during my first assignment in the first course of the program. I was to assess and reflect on my past, present, and future as a digital learner and leader. What did this mean? Well, the only direction I had was to take a technology literacy self-assessment. Which one? I didn’t know. I ended up self-assessing and reflecting based on ISTE’s Standards for Educators. As I finish this program, I’ll have to go back and self-assess and reflect based on their Standards for Coaches. As the initial weeks went by, I got a better glimpse of how the COVA model worked. I understood I had the freedom and responsibility to choose to take ownership of my learning, but that didn’t stop me from asking my professors a million questions about the assignments. They, of course, were completely understanding and had the patience to answer them all.
One of the most difficult aspects of this program was completing my assignments with my organization as my focus audience. This was perplexing to me because my professors were the ones grading my assignments, not my colleagues at work. Plus, why would they want to be involved in another thing when their daily whirlwind was enough to drive them crazy. Well, I did what I was told, and focused on them during the entire process. I even shared my work on my PLN on Twitter. The easiest and most engaging aspect of this program was finding my voice. As you read these very words, you can tell that my voice is very casual and inviting (hopefully) versus it being dry and boring.
Another one of the program’s objectives and goals for us, students, was to learn how to lead change, or influence, within our organizations. My first thought was, who am I, a second-year teacher, to try to change the way things were done at the school I worked at? Who would even want to listen to what I had to say? Little by little, I volunteered for our bi-weekly “Sneak Peeks” where staff could share new digital tools that they had discovered and implemented within their own classrooms. By the end of the academic school year, I led an 8-hour professional development session on creating significant learning environments through Schoology, an online learning management system. Although my confidence has grown, I still have a lot to learn about my organization and about the kind of change I want to influence around my colleagues and I.
During the entirety of the program, I worked on an innovation project that started out as a blended learning initiative which slowly transitioned into a project based learning initiative enhanced by the use of technology, Project Based eLearning (PBeL). Although it started out as an assignment and I had the choice of picking from different kinds of innovative learning initiatives or create one myself, my PBeL plan became a passion of mine. Through this program I defined myself as a social constructivist and my project reflected those ideals. My project also reflected the COVA model and Creating Significant Learning Environments (CSLE) approach which not only aligned with my learning philosophy, but I also wanted to promote within PBeL.
Although I’m putting the implementation of my project within my organization on hold, I still intend on promoting the three main ideals that create the roots of my learning philosophy: social constructivism, the COVA model, and CSLE approach. This year I will be implementing a reader’s and writer’s workshop where students have choices in what they read and write, are responsible for owning their learning through their choices, express their voices through many opportunities, and finally, be able to connect their experiences in the classroom with the rest of the world. All the while, their learning environment will be significant. As of right now, my colleagues and I are introducing these workshops, and although they do not involve technology, these workshops were created to give students choice, ownership, and voice through authentic assignments. What are these ‘authentic assignments’ you ask? I have yet to find out, but I’ll let you know as the year progresses. After all, this will be the first time I will be implementing something so new and exciting. Wish me luck!