My Background (Autobiographical Statement)
I have always known that I was going to work in education. The challenge has been figuring out what exactly I would do within the education space. For a long time, I planned on becoming a high school band director. I studied piano and trombone in high school and attended the University of Georgia's Hugh Hodgson School of Music for my undergraduate degree in Music Education. After graduating, I pursued full time positions as a band director, but ended up working in a highly unusual but versatile teaching position at Morgan County Charter High School in Madison, Georgia.View Resume
While I did work as a band director for the school, I was primarily hired to write and develop a new class for 9th grade students called Freshman Seminar. This course was meant to cover a wide variety of topics including business, technology, personal finance, health, driver's education, soft skills, and school success skills. I had unknowingly signed on to work as an instructional designer, just by a different name. While working at MCHS, I wrote and developed this curriculum along with a few other projects. I worked with a colleague to completely rewrite the district wide PBIS lessons. This involved creating more than 30 lessons with activities and assessments, all of which needed to be hosted in an online platform so that students and teachers across the district could access and use the materials in their classes. I also served as a teacher leader by working with our "High Performance Professional Learning Community" to develop, implement, monitor, and evaluate school improvement initiatives each year.
I found that the most rewarding aspects of my job involved creating educational resources for students and teachers to use, and supporting other teachers by improving systems and processes that were used daily. As I began looking for potential graduate degrees and programs to continue my education, I found the field of Instructional Design. I quickly realized that over the past 3 years as a teacher, I had been doing instructional design tasks and was intrigued by the possibility of doing this kind of work full time. Instructional Design is a field that would let me leverage and apply my wide skill set in a way that traditional classroom teaching did not. I applied and was accepted to the University of Georgia's Learning, Design, and Technology program in the Summer of 2021 and left my teaching job to pursue the degree.
In this degree program, I hoped to increase my experience with a variety of technology tools and resources commonly used in the ID industry which I had not experienced in K12 teaching. I was also looking to learn more about standard ID approaches and strategies to improve my design processes and abilities. I was excited about engaging with more theories about learning, knowing, and teaching, especially because I felt that my music education background had not covered philosophy and pedagogy extensively. I have been impressed by the breadth of tasks and experiences the program has provided for me as I worked to meet these personal goals. I've created eLearning modules using Articulate Storyline, instructional videos using Premiere Pro, wireframes using XD, microlearning units using PowerPoint; print-based training manuals, needs assessment write-ups, data analysis papers, literature reviews...the list is nearly endless. I've been very pleased by the variety of tasks we've completed in the program as I feel that it sets me up well to tackle any kind of instructional design task in the field. As part of these many different tasks and projects, we've explored a variety of approaches and methods. Of course the typical ADDIE framework was used, but we also used design thinking, systems thinking, human-centered and learner-centered design, and more. We explored using project management frameworks as well. Most importantly, significant emphasis has been placed on exploring learning theory, pedagogy, and andragogy as an essential and fundamental basis for design approaches and decisions. Learning more about the various theories of knowledge and learning has enabled me to make deeper and more informed decisions when engaging in design which, in turn, leads to better outcomes for clients and learners.
While pursuing this degree, I've also been able to work as a freelance instructional designer. These professional experiences have enriched my learning in the classroom as they've given me additional opportunities to apply my knowledge and skills as a practitioner while also expanding my professional network. As a freelancer, I've served clients in public schools, higher education institutions, emergency response, real estate, and healthcare. Some notable projects and tasks include leading the accreditation process for a UI/UX start up in Atlanta, conducting high level planning and organizing for a UI/UX bootcamp, conducting a needs assessment and performance improvement project for a dental clinic, organizing and developing a digital content strategy for a real estate client, and web design for a first responder consultant. These professional projects have increased my knowledge and given me a wider set of experiences, making me a more versatile designer.
Looking ahead, I plan to pursue a PhD to conduct research and add to the Instructional Design body of knowledge while increasing my skills and experiences. While my options are extensive, I'd like to conduct research into areas like pedagogy for software learning and training, the potential applications of VR to learning and training situations, connectivism as a modern learning theory, and pedagogical trends in video game tutorial designs. While pursuing this PhD, I hope to gain experiences working in higher education to determine if academia will be my final destination, or if I'll want to pursue a career as a practitioner. I've always known that I wanted to work in education, but figuring out exactly where has been the challenge.