The Trendsetter Dawn Wilson

College in the Cloud-Part 6

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Dawn Wilson Interviewed by The Pillars magazine

THE PILLARS: Today we have the joy to speak with Dr. Dawn Wilson, MEd ’99, professor of Education at Houston Baptist University and a real trendsetter. I mean Dawn, when I think about these two books that you were the catalyst to put together and with your wonderful colleague Dr. Katie Alaniz, “Digital Media in Today’s Classroom,” one of the text books; the potential for meaningful teaching, learning and assessment. And then book number two, “Naturalizing Digital Immigrants, the Power of Collegial Coaching for Technology Integration;” this is the very cutting edge of what’s happening today.

DAWN WILSON: It really is.

THE PILLARS:  And you went and met Katie who is now serving with you when she was a teacher in a school and challenged her to do the MEd.

DAWN WILSON: Yes, teaching second grade.

THE PILLARS: And you did all of this while you were fighting the cancer battle.

DAWN WILSON: Well yes, I have had cancer now for about almost three years and I have been fortunate to have colleagues around me that have supported me and the University who has supported me, pray for me all of the time.

THE PILLARS: Let me tell you, it gives all the more significance to what you have done in the midst of such a challenge. So we will definitely keep praying for you to be cancer free. In the middle of it you’ve come up with these two books and you don’t miss one class. How did you do it? Give me the genesis of inspiration for the creation of these two text books.

DAWN WILSON: Well in my Master’s Degree with Instructional Technology that we offer here on campus, and online actually, one of the classes asks the students to work with teachers on their campus to integrate technology. I designed that course like an internship. We realized that look, I’m 55 so I’m an immigrant really, a digital immigrant – I don’t speak the language, but I have adapted to it. Teachers don’t make that transition easily and they need someone to stand beside them and help them integrate technology. First of all, it’s a scary thing. If you’re not already using it, the technology can be a very scary thing – to stand in the front of a bunch of kids and then have something go wrong. They don’t want to do that and lose face.

THE PILLARS: Or they almost challenge you with their own digital skills.

DAWN WILSON: Right, well yes, the young ones do for sure, but they need help learning how to teach. Because they don’t have the years of teaching. So it really matches people with technology experience and those with good pedagogical skills together and has them work as a team. They did things they never thought they would be able to do because they had support. We began to see – in their papers they wrote and in their reflections, in the one-on-one correspondence, and meeting with three teachers during the semester – that it just made a difference for the HBU students and the classroom teacher. So that’s what the first book was.

THE PILLARS: So which book came first?

DAWN WILSON: I think “Digital Immigrant” came first. Dr. Katie Alaniz wrote the proposal for that book and then met with me and did the coaching one-on-one and the students wrote about it. When I met with Dr. Alaniz – she had already experienced being a student and remembers when she had to do that for my class – she decided we should write a book about this. And we did. We worked together on it pretty consistently.

THE PILLARS: And that had to inspire you because you went to her school and challenged her to get in the program.  And then you see this student just take off and go.

DAWN WILSON: She is a star student, I mean hands down, everyone who worked with her, even at the University of Houston, they were so impressed with her getting her doctorate. I wasn’t surprised, you know. So the great thing that we did was to steal her back. They would have taken her in a heartbeat. But she really wanted to work at a Christian university. So that was our pull. It was a great experience for us to write this and to be able to share with people what we had seen first-hand in the classroom.

Both of us had experienced it – student, teacher, coach, all of that. We’ve had several school districts change their design model because of this They realized how important it is, not just to have an Ed-Tech on campus, because they can’t possibly reach everybody, but to put people in smaller groups and get a one-on-one contact. That book has really made a difference. So we’re pleased.

THE PILLARS: Oh what an inspiring story Dawn. Book two comes and I see Joshua Sikora, who I have such a respect for on there with you all, “Digital Media in Today’s Classroom” and this is a weighty book. I mean I didn’t realize it was this size. How did this come about?

DAWN WILSON: It has a little QR codes around so you can scan and see videos online so you don’t have to imagine what it is, but you can really see.

THE PILLARS: Very cutting edge. So there are QR codes throughout the book that obviously allow that teaching to segue to video content. Is this going to be the future?

DAWN WILSON: Well I think so. And the power that we try to encourage here is geared for teachers to use the technology in the classroom to teach. It is much better if the teacher can design instruction for the student by creating multi-media projects or digital-media projects that demonstrate what they’ve learned. That has them hooked. They are the producers and they love that. So it makes all the difference. Both Dr. Alaniz and I really made a shift in our own classroom. We’re not big into testing, but we assess a lot.

THE PILLARS: Right. Now these QR codes, I notice that on one page there’s four QR codes to four different examples of cool tools for schools, cool apps for schools, “Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Online Tools,” “Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Bloomin’ Apps.” I mean four QR codes, you know, so of course every kid today, every student, now they get this.

DAWN WILSON: Yes, they don’t just read about it, but they get to see it.

THE PILLARS: Exactly. Rowman & Littlefield, published this in 2017 so it just came out. And then you were speaking in February at the Southwest Educational Research Conference in San Antonio. Tell us about that.

DAWN WILSON: Well I believe the first one we did was along the lines of our “Naturalizing Digital Immigrant and Coaching Teachers” and the conference really wants to have research-based articles presented. And so we work hard.  It’s a little bit harder now to collect data because you’ve got to find schools that will work with you. You have to do all kinds of things that will let you collect some data off of their students, right? But we managed to do that with the teachers with our “Digital Immigrant” so it is research-based. We produce some of those articles for publication for that conference. And we’re working on a couple of things trying to collect the data to be able to continue to do that.

THE PILLARS: Is this in the area of the MEd or is it Cinema New Media Arts or is it both?

DAWN WILSON: No, it’s in the MEd. I ran into Josh Sikora a couple of years ago at HBU and so before we began writing this I talked to Dr. Alaniz about including Josh – he’s a new media person, and we thought he could really help us be more cutting edge initially. Things that he sees that are not in the classroom yet we thought he could write that in with us and we’d take care of the pedagogy part. We worked well together. We did it all online of course; it was a great way to have someone from outside our area look at what we’ve written and think about it.  We offer two degrees here on campus, the MEd and Course of Admin Instruction and the MEd in Educational Technology, with Master Technology Teacher Certification if they want it. So there’s just the curriculum and instruction degree. That one seems to be very popular and it is also online. It has 18 hours of core course work to give the C&I, Curriculum and Instruction background. And it offers 18 hours of electives. Often students will hop around so they’ll do a few more technology courses but also they might take English as a second language course, or maybe a bilingual course – there’s all kinds of Special Ed kind of courses so they can mix and match to fill their own gaps. Some of those people in that degree plan are teachers and some are not. They have other aspirations. So it doesn’t really matter what your aspirations are, this will really make you current and those are teaching and learning skills.

THE PILLARS: I think too it gives the teacher a distinction.

DAWN WILSON: It really does.

THE PILLARS: So before we wrap up, I just want to ask you to, you know, education here at HBU is one of the growth engines and the graduate area of education is a growth engine. So what you are doing is indisputably working. So give a plug to those prospective students and others who may be not be just in the Houston area in Texas, but across the country either online or residential – they could come and become a part.

DAWN WILSON: Well what I hear from students all the time is that they love the rapport they’re able to build with faculty online. And they love working with their classmates so a lot of assignments are product-based so you don’t just create something or you don’t just take a test. No, you can be creating something that you can use in three months. So you are paying for an education, and the payoff is you’re also creating things that, when used in class, tend to make you a star. People see it and then they share. They’re so proud of what they’re doing; it really makes you a leader on your campus. That’s what we’re trying to do, build leaders in today’s public schools and private schools. So I believe we do that very well here.

THE PILLARS: It’s been a delight and we again express just a great deal of enthusiasm about the two text books, “New Digital Media in Today’s Classroom” and “Naturalizing Digital Immigrants, the Power of Collegial Coaching for Technology Integration” by you and your associate Dr. Alaniz. Thank you so much for being with us.

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