The valley. Education often feels like a valley of doubt that we, as teachers, need to navigate. We are often in the darkness of uncertainty, financial constraints, program changes and challenging interpersonal relationships. Educational technology and design sounds like a program about gadgets and flashing things, thats actually what I thought it was to begin with. It is really about the structures needed to construct the best educational experiences possible. Curriculum studies focus on the what, ETAD focuses on how we get there.
The shepherd leader, while in the valley, is focused on how to emerge from the valley safe, but changed. The shepherd leader needs to recognize the lessons learned in the valley, and must use the lessons to make improvements.
As I said before, I don’t know if other professions experience the doubt and re-imagining that educators do. Teachers definitely travel the valleys and peaks regularly. I held a position for 2 years where I worked in various schools to achieve goals set by the schools, often relating to technology and pedagogy. Working with over fifty teachers and hundreds of students, I heard their concerns and expectations, their challenges and their achievements. I had to respond and do my best to lead them to a better understanding of educational technology and a more confidence practice using the technology. It was the biggest valley in my career so far, but as the deepest valley, it is also the greatest peak in terms of what I know about myself and teaching and learning. As an aspiring shepherd leader, I will always carry this experience with me.
Again, my ETAD experience would have greatly benefitted me at the time. I have taken comfort in the planning and structures outlined in the practices of Foundations of Educational Technology, Instructional Design, Distance Education, Program Evaluation and Research in Education. I recognized the instructional need in these schools, and I muddled my way though creating sessions to build competence and confidence. If only I had already taken the Instructional Design course. My session would have been better organized and structured to ensure maximum success. You can’t change the past, but I will carry that knowledge with me forever. The learning from my ETAD program will help guide me ( and my flock) out of the inevitable valleys we encounter in the future.
Another characteristic of a shepherd leader according to McCormick & Davenport is being present in the valley AND to be proactive with the flock in navigating the valley. I’ve said it already and I will reiterate it again. My path through the ETAD program illuminated valleys in education, through course readings and with the experience sharing of my colleagues. Each one of the courses I took showed both tangible and abstract strategies to negotiate the challenges in education. The program has filled my tool box with diverse strategies and ideas.