composite_Japan-SparkIn 1997 I spent a year teaching English as a second language in Japan. Throughout the first semester my students would ask me, “How can I improve my English quickly?” As a young teacher, my response was vague and revolved around working hard and practicing everyday. I was trying to learn Japanese myself and I had the same question. I practiced and studied, but didn’t see much improvement. During the summer break, I spent three weeks traveling alone around Japan. I immersed myself in the language, needing it to survive. Soon I found myself having short conversations with Japanese people and I had an aha-moment. Immersing myself in the language, discovering it on my own through real life experiences equaled enduring gains in knowledge. The most effective instruction is when students construct their own knowledge. In my practice as an educator, I facilitate this process, allowing for students to discover the knowledge and relate it to their own lives.

Constructing and discovering knowledge has persisted throughout my career as an educator. In my role as an instructional designer, I consult and partner with faculty to create effective instruction. Recently, I worked with a professor teaching a nursing management course. She was unhappy with an assignment to report on a hospital’s management 763px-Woman_using_computerprocesses. In our consultation, I suggested that she have students create their own hospital using an eportfolio management software. Together we designed a simple template for her students to customize and develop. It was vital that the software was unobtrusive and instructions did not overwhelm. Meeting the learning outcome was paramount and the technology a smooth facilitator to the end result. My philosophy has been to always put the learning outcome first and have media and technology as simple and efficient facilitators of that learning.

Photo Credits:
Sparkler, CC by Gabriel Pollard
View of Shinjuku skyscrapers and Mount Fuji, CC by Morio
(Composite made by Matt Lewis)
Woman working on a computer, CC-by Brian Kerrigan,

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