Ariel Fleurimond is an instructional designer at Columbia University. She has an M.A. in Educational Technology and an M.A. in Art Education, both from Adelphi University. She also has a B.A. in Psychology, and minors in Computer Applications and Web Programming and General Education from NYU. She graduated with her degree in Educational Technology in 2014. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at Teachers College, Columbia University.
What led you to pursue a masters in educational technology?
As an undergraduate, I pursued a degree in psychology with minors in both computer programming and general education. After I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I became a vector illustrator because of my love of drawing and the growing market for that type of artwork. Because of the advancements in technology, it was a natural progression to begin working in digital art programs, like Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and Jasc PaintShop Pro. When I decided to pursue graduate education, I wanted to incorporate all of my past and current passions, which led to my first master’s degree in art education.
My art education degree was a great fit because it provided me with a lot of hands on experience in teaching, but eventually I wanted more. After I graduated, I was able to acquire a position as a teacher at a local elementary school. A master’s in educational technology was a logical progression and I feel that it is a natural next step for all teachers, especially since there is a greater emphasis for schools to incorporate computer science education.
In my research, I am noticing a trend: educational technologists, instructional designers, and programmers generally look at the world differently in comparison to other educators. For example, in my previous program, I felt that our best practices were mostly based on tried-and-true methods of instruction, with little room for ground-breaking theories. However, in educational technology, I saw that people were encouraged to question the status quo. At Adelphi’s EdTech program, we were asked to consider questions such as: Can we make open/free education sustainable? Do MOOCs work? Is Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences valid? I love that we can question some of the classic theories and ask if they are still valid today. In today’s heterogeneous communities, we should ask questions like: How do we change our approach to teaching to assist learners in today’s world? This is the type of inquiry I feel all teachers should adopt, since this can lead to formulating ways to provide students with the best learning experiences possible.
“Quality EdTech programs, like the one at Adelphi, can change how we solve problems in education.”
This type of degree also helps educators and stakeholders make decisions about technology, such as figuring out if we should invest in SMART Board technology or whether we should subscribe to a learning management system to provide a platform for online students. This degree assists graduates with developing meaningful contributions at various stages of the decision-making process. Quality EdTech programs, like the one at Adelphi, can change how we solve problems in education.
What was your experience like in the Adelphi EdTech Program?
It was great! The cohort for EdTech was small and very personal. The program provided me with different skills that I didn’t necessarily obtain in the art education certification track. My EdTech degree provided me the ability to have a wider range of job prospects too. Right now, I’m an administrator (instructional designer) in Curriculum and Instruction at Columbia University. The degree prepared me to use educational technology in a typical education field or tech center, but also applies to other career tracks that use technologies.
At Adelphi, we focused on past, present, and future student population and the ways in which educational technology has, is, and will facilitate learning for all students. For example, universities and colleges today are looking to see if tools like MOOCs are a worthwhile investment. My exposure to these kinds of discussions in the EdTech program provided me with a great deal of insight to my current position.
The program provided each and every student the ability to grow and learn, regardless of their educational or professional background. For example, in my cohort, there were teachers, instructional technologists, and people from other professions. However, with the help of the collective faculty expertise, each student was met wherever they were in order to support community learning.
How did the program help with your job search?
I think those who evaluated me felt my degree served an important role in my initial screening for the job. To have the degree on your resume shows that you have done the necessary research, worked in the field, and have been exposed to the relevant tools and topics. Some of the other skills I use everyday come from my past experience as a teacher, but a majority of my skills come from my previous technology experience. This turned out to be valuable in any educational setting.
What classes did you find the most valuable within the program?
The classes I found the most valuable were the computer programming courses, the system administration/networking course, and the open education course. The programming and networking courses were challenging for me because they helped me think about the learning environments that we work in, and how we can create spaces for students so that they can properly interact with their content. The open education and instructional design courses both discussed current theories regarding instruction and were very helpful.
Can you briefly describe what you do now?
I currently work at Columbia University as an instructional designer on a team focused on different aspects of course, program, and curriculum design. Within our team, we also have divisions specializing in educational media, technologies and online support, and delivery. We manage the project from beginning to end. As a result, we are able to provide the faculty and students with end-to-end support. Additionally, I am also a doctoral student and researcher at Columbia University’s Teachers College. My doctoral research is in instructional technology and media, with a focus on faculty development and teacher education. Other themes and topics that appear in my work include learning sciences, learning development, and instructional design.
Do you help the faculty at Columbia incorporate technology into their curriculum or do you recommend ways to make the curriculum more engaging by using different types of technology?
It is often a mix of both. For example, to assist in faculty development, the instructional designer may decide to push the course design process along by adjusting to faculty and student needs, and building the course experience out from there. This may or may not include technology, depending on the specific needs.
At the early stages of course design or program development, we’ve done the market research—we know the target audience and we are pulling that data together to make informed decisions about which direction to take for our students. As an instructional designer, I work with administrators, faculty, and stakeholders to write program proposals, write and develop courses, identify necessary content for syllabi, incorporate technology, adjust pedagogy, and move courses through the approval process.
What is your process for course development?
If the course already exists, I may focus on how to adjust the pedagogy or educational technology to leverage instruction. Perhaps there is a different teaching strategy or delivery method that we can use that differs from the course’s previous iteration?
If we are developing a course from scratch, then I typically start with certain clarifying questions like: How do you envision your course developing and unfolding? How would you tell the story of your course? How do we make this learning experience the best for the students?
For instance, some professors would like to find ways to incorporate group work into their curriculum but don’t how to do this effectively and with less stress on students. This would require me to design the course based on the pedagogical needs of the instructor and account for their experiences with their former students. I might start with some educational technology tools supported by our department and demonstrate some of the group environments available to successfully execute this activity. We may review video conferencing tools like Adobe Connect, Big Blue Button, and Zoom conference rooms. Then I would discuss the best teaching practices and share the pedagogical benefits or drawbacks of the specific design of the activity.
I’m also able to bring in my own experience with teaching, my doctoral studies, and any conclusions from my work in the Adelphi EdTech program.
What is the most exciting thing for you about working in educational technology?
I want to expand the understanding that educational technology isn’t just about installing a SMART Board in the classroom but a way of thinking of how technology can facilitate learning. For instance, one topic I find really interesting is free education. I feel that educational technology is at the heart of this topic, since it allows us to bring quality education to a group of people who couldn’t access quality education before. It allows us to see how these environments interact, or what is needed in order to facilitate an effective learning experience.
Is there any advice you would give to me or someone like me in order to maximize my experience within Adelphi’s EdTech program?
Bring every bit of experience you’ve ever had because it all links together in surprising ways. Having a close cohort provides great networking opportunities, where people can help you develop and grow within the field. This can seem daunting at first but rest assured: it can be customized to your specific interests. However with the resources and tools of the professors, you will find that it does. I also encourage you to work with faculty and department administrators to get internships, graduate assistantships, or EdTech jobs. Basically, don’t feel like you can’t customize or make the process your own to fit your needs.
Interview conducted by current EdTech Graduate Assistant, Ameenat Kadree, in May, 2016.
If you’re a prospective student and would like to know more about Ariel’s experience about the program, you may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out her website.