I came to the Sloan Consortium – Emerging Technologies for Online Learning (#et4online) conference hoping to find some clarity in where I might go with my career after I complete my PhD. Being a little disillusioned about tenure track faculty positions (seeing an Ed Tech Assistant Professor job listed for $50,000 per year did not encourage me to go that route), I had thought that Ed Tech Startup might be the way I wanted to go with my career. However, the Ed Tech Startup session and panel did not encourage me.
I have a very mixed background. I have a degree in Computer Science. I worked for 8 years at a telecom equipment company doing everything from Quality Assurance to Product Management. I transition into Instructional Design and worked as a training manager for a high tech company. I’ve worked as an eLearning consultant doing eLearning instructional design, and more recently I’ve moved into eLearning programming (e.g. Articulate Storyline) and web development. I’m doing a PhD in Education and I teach professionals how to use technology – but more than that – how to become literate in a digital world. This is really what I want to do – I want to help professionals (teachers, physicians, etc) become digitally literate. I also want to do things that help convince more girls to take up technology related professions. I am not impressed with the continuing lack of women in computer science programs. I want to help change that trend.
So, that is what I want, and I was hoping that this conference in some way would help me connect with people that might help me figure out how to get there – or help me figure out where “there” is!
I attended the career roundtable on Ed Tech Academics. This was a round-table session that promised to provide career advice for aspiring Ed Tech Academics. The panelists introduced themselves and I was immediately struck by a pattern. Everyone did something else first! They all had some other speciality and came to Educational Technology through some round-about path (more haphazardly – rather than through a passion for Ed Tech itself). One of the ideas that was brought up was that serendipity played a big role in how people got to where they were. It wasn’t planned – it was pure chance.
As an aspiring Ed Tech Academic, this is not encouraging. What I heard from the room (and even on Twitter) is that Ed Tech does not stand alone. Ugh. Is this truly the case? Is this just another example of what is wrong with higher education? You need to be “in” the academy before you can part of an emerging field (or not so emerging really)? How is Ed Tech not a field in and of itself?
What is interesting is that the arguments didn’t hold up. The argument that you need to understand another field before you can do Ed Tech doesn’t hold water. What if my field IS Ed Tech? In my PhD program (in Education), there was an emphasis in appreciation of epistemological diversity. With my PhD, I will be prepared with collaborate with people in many different fields and be successful – because I have studied what knowledge means in fields that are different than mine. My thesis is in medical education – I have zero background in medical education, but that isn’t what I bring to the table for my research. I am the Ed Tech Researcher, not the Med Ed Specialist. I may not be an expert in any other field – but I am an expert in Ed Tech! For me, Ed Tech is not an “add on”.
I also wonder if this is also, in part, an example of academics that have never worked outside of the academy. Perhaps the argument that you need something else first is acceptable if your a lifer in academy. But, alas, I’m too old for that path. I spend 15-years in the private sector. I know what Ed Tech looks like in the world outside of Higher Ed. In many ways, I think that makes me a better teacher and a better researcher (or at least a better pragmatic researcher – as I do understand what it means to apply research in a real-world context).
So, I think I shall take the one piece of advice from that session that did resonate with me, from Jesse Stommel (@jessifer) “know when not to take advice”. In this case, I think I’ll just try to move on and make my own path. After all, I am a real Ed Tech Academic!
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