Learning Technologies Alumni Make Their Mark on Museum Communities and Beyond
Sarah Marcotte (MA ’03), an alumna of the online master of arts in educational technology (OMET), holds a coveted position as a part of the Mars Public Engagement team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). In this capacity, she works to engage the public in the concepts of Mars exploration, scientific discovery and technological achievements by providing museums, science centers and planetariums with everything from life-size spacecraft models to presentations delivered by Mars scientists. “I see the dedicated people that work in museums as ‘my people,’ and I have an idea of what resources they need from JPL,” said Marcotte.
Marcotte, who entered the OMET program with the thought of changing careers, changed her mind once she met the other people in her cadre. “I had been working for one museum for six years and thought I had hit a career wall,” she expressed. “I figured there was something bigger and better for me out there, but I quickly realized that I was already doing the job I wanted to do—I could just approach it in a different way. And while the GSEP program did improve my skills in HTML and using hardware and software, it was the pedagogy on technology and learning that stuck with me most.”
Marcotte credits the OMET program with having given her a deeper understanding of the idea that technology does not supplant, but rather supports, education. Additionally, she said, having GSEP on her resume lent credibility to her ideas when applying for her current position.
“The GSEP curriculum focused on creating progressive, collaborative learning environments, which fit very well with my work for and with museums,” Marcotte said. “The degree also helped me get accepted on the boards of directors of several national museum technology and education organizations. Those positions have benefited my professional development and networking, and have allowed me to contribute meaningfully to my field.”
Judging from what looks to be a fairly frenetic schedule, Marcotte and her team will continue to contribute meaningfully to their field for some time to come. “I am thrilled just to be working at JPL, but, even better, the next two years will bring additional exciting projects,” Marcotte enthused. “The next Mars rover, Curiosity, launches in late 2011 and lands on Mars in August 2012. I genuinely want to help create beautiful, compelling, and accurate exhibits and programs about Mars that will get (and keep) children and families interested in science and engineering. This is my dream job!”
As senior director of teaching and learning at Project Exploration, Christian Greer (MA ’05) leads a team of educators in creating personalized, science-based experiences for populations traditionally overlooked in science—particularly minority youth and girls. This exciting and fulfilling role involves overseeing the organization’s award-winning youth science programs, evaluating them, fostering new program design, developing grants, and cultivating successful partnerships with scientists and science-oriented organizations, such as museums. “At the heart of our work are youth programs, which impact the lives of hundreds of students each year by fostering a long-term interest in science,” said Greer.
Greer, also an alumnus of OMET, said his studies at GSEP provided excellent training for his fast-paced and inquiry-driven work: “The education I received was both engaging and inspiring. Course work was up-to-date and relevant to my profession, and the curriculum was closely aligned with best teaching practices.”
At first hesitant to enroll in graduate school given both time constraints and financial considerations, Greer changed his mind after meeting with a few OMET alumni at a National Educational Computing Conference. Greer remains impressed by the quality of GSEP’s cadre-based approach to online learning, citing a noticeable increase in student-to-student interaction and a real sense of community.
And it is that idea of community which drives what Greer said is the best part of his job. “Whether the public and students are discovering new dinosaur fossils in the field or exploring topics in forensic science, our technology-enabled teens are poised to make an incredible impact on the world, and I want to play a role in their education and growth,” he said. “In an increasingly complex world, critical thinking skills are essential for our students, and science is the perfect teacher.”
For eight years, David Greenfield (MA ’07) served as the new media coordinator at the Skirball Cultural Center. But after participating in numerous museum conferences, he began to realize that the primary themes of many discussions within the museum community were education and learning, and felt it was necessary to pursue his own education and learning in the OMET program.
“OMET was challenging, inspiring, and flexible in terms of content and approach,” he said. “Although I was the only museum professional in my cadre, I felt that the material that we studied was appropriate and related directly to my work and interest. Additionally, the faculty was amazing—they all seemed to understand my strengths, weaknesses, and interests, and were able to guide and help me to succeed.”
Greenfield did freelance design and consulting work while simultaneously completing classes, and began looking for a permanent position as the program drew to a close. Just three weeks after graduation, he was hired as an instructional technology analyst at Loyola Marymount University (LMU)—something he said he could not have done without OMET, noting that several of the learning theories to which he was introduced in the program are very much in line with LMU’s approach.
Working with LMU’s School of Film and Television, as well as the College of Communication and Fine Arts, Greenfield collaborates with professors to identify technologies appropriate to their instruction and content to better engage students in learning. “This could be anything from training the instructors on how to use Blackboard, to finding ways to integrate blogs and wikis into a class to promote reflective learning techniques, to building course work using Flip mini-HD cameras as an educational tool,” said Greenfield.
Greenfield continues to be active in the museum community, and is currently a student in the GSEP doctor of education in learning technologies (DELT) program. Beyond that, he said, the future is unwritten, given the dynamic nature of technology as well as the changing landscape of education.
“I am very interested in inter-institutional collaboration, especially between schools and museums, as there are many rich learning opportunities that bridge formal and informal learning,” Greenfield noted. “There will be interesting challenges and opportunities ahead.”