My Mind Palace:
A Synthesis Essay
The mind palace technique, officially termed method of loci, is a memory strategy that utilizes visualization and spatial familiarity to organize and recall information. This mnemonic strategy has been around for a long time, dating back to the time of the Greeks and Romans. It is also a method used by one of my favorite fictional detectives, Sherlock Holmes. The accompanying video clip below demonstrates his use of this technique and many others on the popular BBC television series. It is very entertaining and intriguing to watch Sherlock take the intricate details of a crime scene and put them together to solve a mystery. It is a captivating puzzle for him, but oftentimes he has to dig deep into his memory for a clue or faint memory that may help him. I find many connections to Sherlock’s ability to organize and retrieve the information he needs for his investigations and my ability to recall knowledge of learning, metacognition, and technology to help me when I am teaching. I may not be solving a murder, deciphering motive, or locating suspects, but teaching comes with its own set of mysteries to be solved. As a teacher, I do have to draw upon my formal education and experience to decipher curriculum, establish
Memory Palace. Link.
personal relationships with my students, engage students in content, and encourage them to be teachers and creators themselves all while preparing them for standardized assessments while staying true to pedagogically sound and research-based practices. All these skill sets and many more are all a part of being a teacher in today’s world. This is why it is especially important to organize knowledge gained in a way that is easily accessible much like Sherlock does within his mind palace.
As I have gathered materials and projects for this portfolio created during my time at Michigan State University (MSU) in the Master of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET) program, I often have visited my own mind palace to recall important information I have learned. All those tidbits including methods, pedagogy, strategies, tools, websites, professors, classmates, and colleagues have been tucked neatly into my mind palace. I have tried to be very diligent and purposeful when I organize this information in my mind so that I can easily recall it when needed, especially during lesson planning, teaching, and leading professional development. My learning in the MAET program has been so different and innovative compared to my previous education that it even changed how my mind palace is arranged, which has caused some fundamental structural changes.
[Sherlock] Mind Palace. Link.
To me, my mind palace is now updated to the latest version, perhaps with a few walls knocked out for a more open concept, some new paint and carpet, and of course I finally got rid of the outdated wallpaper. To relate this analogy to my learning, the MAET program has given me the most current information and knowledge surrounding educational technology. My courses were not in isolation, but rather overlapped on many important concepts that allowed me to see how ideas are connected across the field. I found that everything is related in some way to everything else. I was able to discard outdated mindsets regarding technology and education in lieu of research-based practices and sound pedagogical strategies. Most importantly, my time in the MAET program has given me practical knowledge, the chance to play with ideas, and consider alternative solutions to help solve puzzles surrounding a particular skill or student. This has allowed me to be a more dynamic educator with the ability to tailor strategies, methods, and tools to best meet the individual needs of my students. By no means is my learning finished and my mind palace complete, but quite to the contrary. I desire to continue to pursue my education in all forms, both formally and informally. In addition, I desire to continually improve the organization and structure of my mind palace so I can easily access and use all the information and knowledge I have gained and will gain in the future.
As I stroll through my mind palace, I have a room or compartment for each course I have taken at MSU, filled with specific concepts, vocabulary, representations, and ideas. Some rooms are visited and revisited more often than others simply out of necessity or personal interest. Although each course has its own defined place in mind as they each shaped my thinking and learning, there is a connection between the rooms where ideas, concepts, and themes overlap. This can be considered the educational technology common room where the ideas and lines between courses are blurred, as well as where the ideas of Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK), Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and the Substitution Augmentation Modification Recreation (SAMR) model exist. Here is also where the concepts of student centered learning and research and brain-based practices thrive, as well as what we know to be effective and what works in education, learning, and technology. Even though there were many opportunities to make connections with content across courses, each class also brought its own unique
CK. (2012). Keep Calm and Go to Your Mind Palace. Link.
perspective on the world of education and technology. I will discuss several of my favorite courses, what knowledge was gained, as well as how I have used or will use the knowledge gained in my own school and classroom with my students. My entire course listing can be found on the Transcript page. The most impactful courses during my time at MSU include two electives, as well as two educational technology classes.
specifically focused on technology, this course was extremely beneficial for me to improve my understanding of the psychology and causes behind behavior issues with students, as well as classroom management in general. Within my daily small groups with students I do not have many behavior concerns, but this course gave me deep and practical knowledge concerning issues surrounding attention, aggression, impulsivity, shyness, academic problems and other environmental influences that affect students and their learning. Our text for the course was Teaching Problem Students by Jere Brophy, who is a legend among education circles at MSU. His research and insights into the psychology of children is intriguing yet practical. As a group, we discussed the text, as well as case studies and devised strategies to help the students and teachers we read about. It was refreshing to share ideas and suggestions among the group, as well as to get new perspectives from my classmates with varying backgrounds and experiences. I also created a research-based intervention for a targeted student in my class, including recording data, setting goals, and collecting evidence to determine if the strategy was effective. I was able to implement the intervention right away and saw positive changes immediately in my small group. In addition, I was also able to collaborate with the regular classroom teacher to implement the strategy in her room where the student continued to show improvement. This course really helped me to see the importance of collecting data and evidence to support a behavior intervention strategy, as well as the need to include the student in the intervention process. It is my desire to use what I have learned in this course to support other teachers in my building and be a resource to those who are struggling with challenging behaviors in their classroom.
During the fall of 2013, I completed CEP 820 - Teaching Students Online where I created
an entire online course for my students. I started the semester thinking, “How in the world am I going to create an entire online course from scratch?” Even though I consider myself quite technologically proficient, I had no prior experience with online course development. I appreciated that the expectations for our course were laid out clearly at the beginning of the semester and that each step of the creation process was easy to follow. Rubrics and exemplars were provided which gave me a good idea where to start. I explored the exemplars and made note of elements that would benefit my students, as well as features that were not right for my course. I also decided that a hybrid course (online and offline) would be best suited for my students so I could offer support when needed. I had to think about standards, content, as well as make decisions about what digital tools would be best for learning for my specific course and for my students. It was also important to consider how to structure my online course and I often found myself taking the perspective of my students to make sure the content was accessible and would make sense to them. More than anything, this course gave me a glimpse at the limitless possibilities of a blended classroom where learning can take place online and in-person. Student work is self-paced and they can get individual assistance when they need it. This course has also encouraged me to consider a blended or flipped model for my classroom as our school is moving toward 1:1 with iPads for our students. Although it does take a lot of time, effort, and preparation on the part of educators, online learning provides a unique opportunity to meet the academic needs of students while providing necessary individual remediation and intervention. Because of this course, I also feel a sense of increased confidence when creating online content for my students. It is my hope to also encourage my colleagues during the upcoming school year to begin creating their own online content for their students as well whether it be an entire online course, a podcast, a word cloud, or a screencast.
Finally, the most impactful course for me was CEP 815 - Technology & Leadership, completed during the spring of 2014. Despite all the knowledge I have gained, it has been a challenge to be a technology leader at my school. I tend to be a somewhat reserved person, but many of the readings for this class reminded me that leadership is not all about being charismatic. The class took a business perspective to look at what works when leading others, insights I might not have ever considered outside this class. This course gave me an entirely new look at technology from the viewpoint of a leader where the focus was on understanding the multiple perspectives of all parties involved including students, teachers, administrators, parents, and the community. We also considered professional development strategies and the evaluation of technology in education, keeping in mind the ethical and social implications of technology integration. I was also involved in the creation of technology proposals, initiatives, policy briefs, and memos. The most influential part of this course was the in-depth discussion of instrumental versus missional thinking when it comes to technology implementation. Quite often we think about the tool first, when in reality we need to first consider what our goals for learning are. Thinking instrumentally we find that our technology is aimless and misused, but thinking missionally we see our focus clearly and technology then becomes yet another tool to meet our goals. At the end of the course, I came to an understanding that emerging technologies have the potential of changing what and how students learn. In addition, technology can also alter the task of teaching and education in significant ways depending on how it is used. Because of CEP 815, I have gained confidence when sharing my ideas about technology, as well as understand the vital importance of a missional viewpoint when integrating technology in education. My desire is to continue to build my technology leadership role at my school by being an agent of change, as well as providing monthly professional development opportunities for teachers. My goal for these meetings is for them to be interactive, collaborative, and for colleagues to share what works and why when using technology in the classroom.
My second elective, TE 838 - Children’s Literature in Film, was completed earlier this semester during the summer of 2014. I decided on this course as one of my electives because I am very interested in how media and digital technologies influence education today. In this course, we explored the connections between children's literature turned into film with a focus on critical analysis and interpretation. TE 838, although not a part of the MAET program, has helped me to consider technological and business related impacts on the literature, film, and media industries including ideas surrounding copyright, trademark, and merchandising. Film and literary language were also used to further engage with media. In addition, we tackled difficult stereotypes portrayed in text and film, as well as considered the concept of fidelity to the original when recreating classic literature. My view of children’s literature classics turned into films changed during the semester. I started the semester noticing every detail that was different in the film compared to the book. My mindset changed to accepting various interpretations as separate media forms unto themselves with their own story to tell. In addition, I appreciate that this course forced me to read and write about fiction, something I don’t normally do or think about on my own. I have greatly enjoyed being exposed to new ideas about fiction, particularly looking past the surface to intention and interpretation. By being forced to read and write about fiction for this course, I have learned a lot about myself and about the world around me. I have been able to relate to characters and see their struggles and frustrations as my own. More than anything, this course has changed my view of reading in general. Although writing has always been a favorite of mine for personal expression, reading was never something I chose to do. Because of this course instead of dreading another assignment to do, I actually looked forward to each new book every week. I wondered what new or interesting thing I would discover or what new character I would fall in love with or grow to hate. Because of TE 838, I am excited to share my renewed love of fiction with my students during the upcoming school year, as I find it greatly important for teachers to model enthusiasm and an inquisitive mind when it comes to reading.
I hope the above reflections about my favorite and most impactful courses during the MAET program gave you a glimpse at the immense knowledge I have gained, organized, and filed away in my mind palace for easy access in the future. This past year and a half, I have done more reading, writing, and thinking than my entire five years of undergraduate study. I do not want my time in the MAET program to simply be knowledge gained to better myself. Instead, it is my desire to pull from my mind palace daily and use my knowledge to help my students succeed, as well as be an agent of positive change at my school. I pull from information gained in each of the classes above as well as many others, my classmates, and my professors. My time in the MAET program has been both rewarding and personally satisfying to this lifelong learner at heart.