Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What Does it Take to Get Into Instructional Technology?

I got an interesting question from a teacher this morning, basically, the question is:

What does it take to get a job in Instructional Technology? Do you think I should do that?

Here is my answer. What is yours? Please reply in the comments.

There seem to be quite a few jobs emerging in Instructional Technology/Innovation. The issue I see most often is that people get a degree, but they don't keep up with it. If someone got a Master's Degree in Literature 17 years ago, that degree still means the same thing, but if you got one 5 years ago in Educational/Instructional Technology and never did anything with it, it is virtually meaningless. Even 5 years ago, you probably made hyperlinked Powerpoint presentation games. Nobody is doing that now . . . it's old school. Now we know it's not really about what the teacher is doing; it's about what the students are doing that matters, and playing a game the teacher made is NOT technology integration.

As a person who has hired three Instructional Technology Specialists in my career, not a lot, but enough to make me think, I am extra cautious of employees who have a degree (even a new one) in this field. Do they really understand technology integration or do they just want to "make things" themselves? Do they know how to keep their skills current for years to come? Do they have a passion or did they get the degree in order to get "out of the classroom"?

Meanwhile, my analysis of "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" still works. I could literally turn it in TODAY and get the same grade. So there.

You have to have a passion for instructional technology and keep doing it ALL the time, you have to keep learning and growing your skills ALL the time, you have to develop a philosophy that is makes it truly a part of everything you do and even a part of who you are. The degree might get you in the door, but what will get you hired and keep you is a passion for education and technology integration. You also usually have to be good at providing staff development and communicating in a great variety of ways. I don't think most universities are doing a very good job of teaching the skills and habits actually needed to succeed, but then maybe it's more about the kind of person you are.

I hope that helps. Please let me know your thoughts.

P.S. I have a Master's Degree in Literature; I got it in 1996. No kidding.


drphil said...

I have a masters degree in literature as well, and library media specialist certification that required another 22 graduate hours.
You're right that technologies change and advance at a frightening rate. And here's another important detail--unless your college/graduate experience was very different from mine, you learn very little about the actual use of technology in the classroom or about learning and teaching, in college.
I find myself constantly observing the way assignments and projects work and thinking through how to make them work better. I'm always looking for a more effective way to do the work and for ways to use the students' own devices.
But I don't think this applies only to instructional technology leaders. It should apply to every teacher in every classroom.

Unknown said...

Love this post, Amy, and agree 100%. I was recently asked a similar question by one of my teachers. I am sad to say that sometimes I fear teachers are looking to get into instructional technology to escape their current situation in the classroom. While I do not feel the pressure of "the test" and I do not have to answer directly to parents, I do NOT have an "easy" job. And you are exactly right - this is not a job that you can just change the date on your lesson and move it to the next year. It takes a lot of work and networking and researching and planning to stay current and up-to-date in this techno world. I am CONSTANTLY - DAILY - looking for better, innovative ways to reach kids and help educators.

As someone who is about to start back to finish the masters degree I started in Instructional Technology 10 years ago, I accept that I will probably learn little. (Is that too bold to say publicly?!) I do this all day every day. It takes a lot to WOW me or to show me something "new." However, I may need the "piece of paper" to move up in public education.

Hats off to you for this post - enjoyed it and will enjoy reading the comments!

Alicia S. said...

I couldn't agree more...I feel honored to be one of your three. :0)

Lisa Lund said...

I agree and loved the article. I am a Technology Integration Coordinator in a school district. I just finished my Master's in Instructional Technology and spend all my time on Twitter, Social Media and blogs or websites to learn about the latest technology. I want technology tools that will enhance instruction for the staff and students, but not necessarily the latest tool or gadget. I think you have to keep current and be a "life-long learner" who is willing to self-teach yourself or be willing to collaborate and network with other technology integration people. Great post!!

Lee Gree said...

Amy, you were 100% on point! Instructional Technology has to be a passion in order to do this job. I spend most of my free time reading and researching ways to better reach students. I am going through CNet, listening to This Week in Tech, and going through my Google Alerts on a regular basis in order to find things that may help a bit. The degree does help get your foot in the door, but one must have the drive to continue after the door is open.

What I would tell people who are looking to get into the field is fairly simple... Go present something, somewhere. If you have a passion about this material, go share that passion. See where it takes you and you may find something out there.

Amy Mayer said...

@Lisa Lund Thanks Lisa! If your grad program was great, let me know where you went to school. People ask me about great schools for technology integration all the time, and I'd love to add yours to my list. Lifelong Learner, exactly. This field will teach you what that REALLY means!

Amy Mayer said...

@Lee Green Thanks Lee! I like your advice. Why didn't I think of that?! Yes, you need to start doing presentations to get into this field. Perfect advice.

Unknown said...

I often think along these same terms when someone asks me what I will be doing or where I want to be five years from now. My answer always focuses on skills and not technology. I want to be creating in a larger more connected network than I am now. I want to be pushing boundaries, breaking down walls, and creating new things. I want to be in the job that doesn't exist today.

Case in point? The job I have today didn't exist five years ago. The "title" that was similar to this needed different skills and experiences.

I think you are spot on that Instructional Technology isn't something to define with a title or degree. It is a passionate on-going journey that can only be traveled with experience and networks. You CANNOT do this (at least not well) without being connected. I could not fully embrace this field until I let go of the idea of being an expert at everything. It is simply impossible. Pick your passion and become an expert at that. Pick your network and they will fill in the gaps!

Unknown said...

I love this post! I have truly taken the long way around to land in this position, but I am truly blessed to be here. Your post helped me in this transition. Love your blog!!

Unknown said...

Although a degree is not necessary, there is some great value in it. The greatest being connectedness; classmates who are drawn to this field so much that they wanted to get a degree in it and hopefully wonderful, knowledgeable professors who have a sincere love of technology. I am blessed on both fronts. In Grad school, I met the first group of people who were of a like mind about technology innovations in education; my first techy PLN. I can't say that everyone in my program maintained an interest in growing with technology, but I can say that we have inspired and motivated each other along the way. These guys are my go to team who always bring something good to the table as well as make time to listen to everything I have to share.
Sometimes the social networks make it a bit hard to personally connect with people, but sometimes others have no problem with that at all. I can echo the sentiment about the importance of making connections and going after what inspires you, but I will also say don't totally dismiss the value of obtaining a degree ( just make sure it is a highly recommended program). A degree won't define you, but it can help build you up.