Student Educational Background

I returned to college to continue my education in 2010. With about 15 years of graphic design and print experience, I entered the Visual Communication degree program at Chattahoochee Tech where I earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Design and Media Production Technology in 2012. In summer of 2013, I entered the English, Technical Communication and Media Arts (ETCMA) degree program at Southern Polytechnic State University (later KSU), where I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Professional Communication in 2016. Having done extensive research on mathematics education for my undergraduate honors college thesis, and drawing from my own instructional experience teaching music, I decided the M.Ed. Learning, Design, and Technology degree program at the University of Georgia matched perfectly my desire to coalesce my skills and experience in a direction I was passionate about. 

Goals and Objectives

I am blessed to be able to do something I love every day, teaching music and opening the musical world to new learners. The opportunity to bring my love of teaching and my love of design together has been a very fulfilling professional transition. Using design to solve problems and to optimize human potential is the highest calling for me as a designer and as an artist. I do have specific projects in mind for the development of math education products based on my undergraduate research as well as a number of professional development products. My most immediate objective is to continue with my studies in a doctoral program for psychology to better understand motivation and engagement as my primary areas of interest. Research on the cognitive and social aspects of human performance is a goal I have set for my doctoral studies, and it rounds out a very strong academic foundation for identifying and solving performance problems. 

Unique, Interesting, or Unusual Characteristics

There are some unique characteristics I possess as a student in this program. For instance, I come in with an extensive design and communication background. Also, professionally, while I do come from a more recent music instruction background, I am also making the unique vocational transition from entertainment to instruction and instructional design. Disparate as these may be, I am often drawing from experiences in the entertainment world, as well as my experiences in design and communication in my instructional design work. I believe I have a strong and diverse skill set. I also possess an earnest and healthy intellectual curiosity and regard for professional practice in education and instruction.

Work and Projects

So much of the work we have done in this program has advanced my overall skill and proficiency as a designer. From the first project to the last I have had the opportunity to develop and/or participate in the development of educational projects for K-12 students as well as instructional products for the professional development of adult learners. I had the chance to design and develop artifacts and multimodal assets that improved the quality of the work with which I was involved. Most importantly, as in my undergraduate experience, I had the opportunity in this program to make best of use of my design experience by sharing knowledge with fellow students who sought my help. That is probably the most gratifying part of any learning experience for me, the opportunity to collaborate and make available to others whatever skills and talents that might be useful. 

I found the PSA-related products I worked on in my individual products particularly enriching and profoundly personal. The childhood cancer DIPG module I created, as difficult as it was to produce, did aid in the personal struggle, and presented the opportunity for me to use what I am learning here to create instructional products that can really make a difference on such an important topic. The PSA video I produced for the DIPG module in summer of 2017 has nearly 44,000 views and still gets about 1,000 views a month.

Professional Objectives for the Future

After completing my doctoral studies, I would like to teach at the university level in addition to continuing to develop and design instructional solutions for education and professional development. I have a strong desire to travel and do research on a variety of topics, which I have continued to curate since the time of my original undergraduate research project, and I would like to dedicate as much time as possible to study and writing. Whenever possible, I will look forward to the opportunity to collaborate with others in a variety of fields to develop innovative approaches to solving problems and optimizing human potential. In my primary areas of interest going forward, motivation and engagement, I would like to conduct studies to support the premises upon which effective instructional solutions can be based. I want to know more about what drives people to perform well, and, more importantly, what prevents them from performing at their best.

Our Program

I was very fortunate to discover this program at UGA. At the time I was finishing up my undergraduate work and making decisions about graduate programs, and I knew what I wanted was to somehow continue the migration of my growth as a communicator and designer in the direction of the instruction set by my work as a music instructor and my research on mathematics education. It was very exciting to recognize how I could pivot my design skill set and experience in a new direction, instruction/education, about which I was becoming increasingly passionate. I found here at UGA exactly the kind of education I was looking for — one in which I could establish a foundation in learning theory and instructional principles and one that afforded many opportunities to develop products to hone my existing skills in a new space. On my way to doctoral studies, I wanted an applied practice degree program upon which I could base the development of future products for instruction and professional development that also gave provenance for working in the instructional design field should I decide to do so. I found all of this in the LDT/IDD graduate program here at UGA.

One recommendation I can think of would be to develop a nimble foundational course in basic graphic design and digital media. While I did not require such a course, I found that many in my cohort struggled greatly with a performance gap in this area. When I could I offered help with software like Adobe, spending many hours with panicked classmates who were desperate for help. Many found the extensive body of materials overwhelming. I found I could direct them to some basic and essential functions and skills that were attainable and practical to their immediate needs. I felt then, and feel now, that a basic graphics and digital media course could be designed to help to more efficiently and succinctly bridge this gap for students with limited graphic design and digital media experience, freeing them to focus more efficiently on their graduate studies. 

Personal Vision and Philosophy

Despite having spent the better part of the past two decades making good use of the profound and powerful affordances of digital media tools for communication, art, design, instruction, and music, my personal vision and philosophy are decidedly conservative where the application of technology is concerned. I am very leery of presumptive techno-centrism. The Clark and Mayer text and other materials in our courses do somewhat address this topic. However, my experience is that excitement over new technology too often becomes reflexive, disrupting the critical process necessary for the appropriate application of new technological tools. I believe in the humanity of teachers and humanity of learners. These interpersonal connections are essential to effective communication and thereby to teaching and learning. 

Technology offers so many powerful options for instructional designers. However, there seems a pernicious compulsion to position technology as a replacement for human teachers and instructors. I believe such a compulsion at critical mass is fatal to the intellectual future of society. You cannot develop an effective and enduring community of practice from a bundle of online modules. However, in the right hands, a good human-led instructional experience can make more thoughtful use of technology, with, I believe, better overall results for students and professional practice. My goals align always with this philosophy, and my belief in the in the sanctity of the human ethos is hopefully evident in my style as a designer and instructor.