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Independent Study Proposal: Edtech Boogaloo




So if you’re interested in what the Big Scary Research Project is (more or less) going to be about, read on! The short version is that I’m going to be picking apart what makes ds106 such a unique educational experience, connect and juxtapose it to larger trends within edtech and online education, and from there wax poetic (or wax critical, I guess?) on where I see edtech/online ed heading as the field continues to evolve. I’ll be framing my critique and discussion from the perspective of a student participant, and using the University of Mary Washington’s edtech initiatives as a starting point.

Once a week I’ll also be writing a 500-1,000 word commentary on what I’m currently reading here on Hopefully I’ll solicit at least a little feedback from people actually working in these fields, so if you’re at all interested in a highly passionate and equally ignorant undergrad trying to teach herself The Meaning of Edtech, stay tuned!

Independent Study Proposal: Edtech Boogaloo…

Emerging Pedagogies in Edtech

During the Spring 2013 semester, I would like to complete an individual study on the emerging landscape of educational technology and online education as exemplified by the University of Mary Washington’s Digital Storytelling class (CPSC 106). My objectives for completing this research project include the production of a series of blog posts which will add the perspective of a student to the ongoing conversation about online education; completing a final paper which could serve as a writing sample appropriate for submission with applications to graduate programs in new media and educational technology; and to explore how the University of Mary Washington is engaging in this rapidly growing field. In preparation for this course I have taken several classes which focus specifically on digital media, a key component of educational technology, such as ENGL 376MM: World Building, ENGL 251Y: Adaptation Literature and ENGL 251AA: Games and Culture, in which I am currently enrolled. Through these courses I have learned strategies of critique specific to digital media. I have also completed numerous courses across several disciplines which required online coursework, as well as Digital Storytelling itself (CPSC 106).

The focus of this independent study is appropriate for ELC sponsorship because educational technology is often heavily invested in the concept of teaching through narrative, hence “digital storytelling,” which is in many ways the unique purview of the English discipline. Online education is also a broad and highly interdisciplinary field, and English is uniquely equipped to provide similarly broad methods of analysis. The department itself is also practically engaged with these fields on a daily basis: numerous courses require blogging as a way to communicate and share course work; classes are offered which focus specifically on digital media such as those mentioned above; and all student-run literary journals produced in ENGL 314 are hosted online. Currently the University of Mary Washington does not offer any courses focused on educational technology or online education, making this independent study a unique opportunity to focus on this subject matter.

The scope of my work will culminate in a research paper of no less than ten pages which will be supplemented by weekly blog posts of 500-1,000 words. Each post will articulate an analysis or commentary about the material I am currently reading and will help to form the basis of my final paper. This aspect of my work is particularly essential because online education and educational technology are relatively new fields of study, and much of the most pertinent critique and scholarship within those fields is occurring on blogging platforms instead of, or significantly prior to, appearing in scholarly journals. Through these weekly blog posts, I will demonstrate my own ongoing critical analysis of relevant texts and articles, and hope to solicit feedback from educators, experts, scholars and other students who are working with similar material. I will also have weekly meetings with my advisor, Professor Zach Whalen, to discuss my progress and identify additional readings for my research.

Within my final paper I will first briefly summarize the history and structure of the Digital Storytelling class and how it integrates with Mary Washington’s Department of Teaching and Learning Technologies. I will focus on the unique aspects of this course as compared to other open online classes, such as its small size, student-driven assignment creation and flexible interdisciplinary curriculum. I will then connect the elements I’ve identified to larger trends within the field of online education, which will constitute the bulk of my research. I will use the analysis I have outlined in my blog posts and throughout my paper to speculate on the future of online education and educational technology as framed by my experiences in Digital Storytelling.

All of my work will be graded on timely completion, appropriate length, and overall quality of analysis. While blog posts will have the latitude to be speculative, each one should provide a clear and developed commentary on a text, framed by the overarching themes of my research. The final paper should synthesize the material I have read and analyzed throughout the semester, should be critically rigorous, well-organized and formally sound, and will be highly professional in tone.


“Open Education in the Liberal Arts: A NITLE Working Paper” by Lisa Spiro and Bryan Alexander
The New Digital Storytelling: Creative Narratives with New Media by Bryan Alexander
“Technology and Pedagogy: Designing for the Future” compiled by The Sextant Group
The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice by Martin Weller

Aaaannnd numerous other articles, blog posts and possibly another book or two TBD as I keep researching

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