I have just completed one of the most profound journeys of my life. I have completed my Master’s of Education: Educational Practice through (SFU) Simon Fraser University’s Field Studies program. There were a total of 17 teachers in this program and not one of us left profoundly unchanged by the experience. We were a group of teachers of widely ranging years of experience, coming from both elementary and high schools, ranging from elementary generalists, French Immersion teachers, and high school English, Math and Science teachers. What we all discovered was ourselves and our passions in education.
I have read that both Dan Meyer and Errin are both embarking on this graduate journey. Errin, who I’ve met face-to-face, will be engaged in the same program I just finished. Her excitement makes me smile a large smile. I wish you, Errin, the most incredible journey. You are about to meet an amazingly wonderful professor whom I rate as the one of the top post-secondary educators of my career to-date. I am expecting regular up-dates from you! I so wish I could be a fly on the wall on your first weekend classes and at your final comp exam presentation!
To Dan, who will be heading to Stanford, wow, I might add, the very best in your up-coming foray into the world of academia. In response to your concerns about: “(the) uncertainty that I’ll have any time or energy to write anything here during my doctoral studies, much less anything of any insight into the classrooms I’ve abandoned; concern that I’ve now become the sort of egghead I found it so easy to ignore when I was a teacher. NOT a prayer that you will not have any insights into your former classroom or that you will become the ‘egghead’. I have quietly watched you transform from a beginning teacher more worried about math curriculum than his students, to understanding ‘caring’ to combining both math curriculum and caring about students in a manner that many of your significant number of followers only dream of. Parker Palmer states in his book (2007) The Courage to Teach, “(w)e teach who we are.” (p1) and you are not that which you are worried about. Keep blogging about what you discover in your studies for the crystallization of learning. My prof kept encouraging me to keep up my blog through my studies and I deeply regret not listening to her.
So what in fact was this journey all about? Well, the Hokulea image is the metaphor I wove through my Master’s paper. It came from a Wade Davis lecture on the CBC’s Massey Lecture series where Davis discusses how the Hokulea has allowed the Polynesian people to reclaim their cultural heritage. I went on a journey to allow my students to claim their culture; their digital culture. I investigated how digital media affected student writing. My project, digital storytelling was, after 14 years of teaching, the most fun I’ve ever had as a teacher and the most nail-biting project I’ve ever done. I pushed the envelop pretty hard and my paper was called ‘provocative’. Hmm, fits me for those who know me.
The project was a qualitative arts-based teacher inquiry. I chose to write my paper in a narrative format as ‘story’ plays a strong role in both my personal life and my professional life. I shared the lived experience of the project in a rather ethnographic manner. Even though an arts-based qualitative study may have some inclined to think that it would lack academic rigor, it did not. The project had to conform to all the academic rigor involved in a more quantitative study as well as to the standards of SFU. Ethical issues were addressed both through the University and through our local School District as the projects involved students that we were actively teaching.
A theoretical stance and initial proposal were submitted to the University. Distant mentors were found. Data collection involved the collection of student story maps, scripts, final digital story presentations, (parental permission being obtained) field journals and personal journals. The journey began.