Introduction to CI5190

Time really does fly when you are having fun; it is hard to believe I am already at my final semester for my M.Ed. in Learning Technologies. This initial post is an introduction to my final project for CI5190; I will be using my blog to document my progress throughout the semester.

Although I had some ideas for what I wanted my final project to be, in January the CI5190 students received an email from our new adviser Angelica Pazurek to give us further guidance for completing our final project. An excerpt from that email:

Details About the M.Ed. Final Project

The objective of the final capstone project is to showcase your skills and knowledge gained during the M.Ed.  This final project must be new work– it cannot be a repurposing of work that you have already done in other classes during your program.  However, it can be an extension of prior work; for example, you could add new things to a project you have been developing throughout your M.Ed. program.  The additions should be significant; that is, they must require a sufficient amount of effort and time investment from you befitting an M.Ed final capstone project.  If you choose to go this route, I will ask you to explain exactly what will be new or what you will add, extend, develop further, etc.  Or, you may have a whole new idea!

As you are envisioning your M.Ed. project, you should strive to:

1) Create something that solves a problem you care about.

2) Create something that might be useful for others

3) Use your LT knowledge

The following excerpt is what I love about the Learning Technologies program at the University of Minnesota. Their aim is for you to be spending time on projects and assignments that are relative to your work and have actual application in the real world. This call to action makes the line between my work life and school life practically non-existent.

Currently I am a Professional Development Manager at the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC). Specifically I train adults and young people about leadership and service-learning both face-to-face and online. I manage our online platform, the Generator School Network ( a community for youth and adults to learn, plan, and connect around service-learning. It is this role and my love for educational technology that drew me into the Learning Technologies program in the first place.

Some Background

The Generator School Network as an online community is almost five years old, my organization created it initially to stay connected to teachers that we work with across the country. The site has been built from the ground up but if we were starting this network now we would most likely use a pre-existing LMS. While the site has transformed throughout the years from it’s initial thinking one of the biggest changes was in July of 2012. The site was originally created for K-12 teachers to collaborate, but we had many non-formal educators and other educational professionals using the site as well.  Only catering to adults did not align with our mission so we opened the site to youth ages 13-18 and updated our security features.

While young people were welcome to use the site it really wasn’t a community designed for young people. It needed a fresh look, more youth driven content, and some sort of incentive for participating. I asked one of our high school interns to give me feedback and she shared, “Participation is a big thing in making the GSN amazing. Youth are going to want an incentive in why they will participate [for instance] with @15, people got points when they participated and then they could use those points for other goodies, has grants, and the 26 second campaign sends you a t-shirt just for liking them on Facebook”.

She was right! But I would add it is not just youth who have a choice, adults have a choice as well. It was from that impetus that I began looking at user incentives for online participation not just to drawn them to our site but to get them to contribute and collaborate on our site. My search to find the holy grail of online incentives sent me tumbling down a rabbit hole of digital badges (which I will explain further in my blogs). This quest has pushed me to grow as a financial developer, an instructional designer, a project manager, evaluator, and technical developer all with the help of the LT program.

The Project

In the fall of 2013 NYLC secured funding through State Farm insurance to integrate digital badges and an interactive project-planning tool in the Generator School Network. Some initial thinking for this work happened in the fall in these classes (click the link to see the related projects)

CI 5336- Planning for Multimedia Design and Development:

CI5331 Introduction to Learning Technologies:

CI5177 Practical Research- This was the basis for my research and what will be submitted to the IRB after further updates.

The assignments in those courses allowed me to further research digital badges and create a draft plan for my project planning tool. To build on those projects I proposed my final M.Ed. project guide me through the first quarter of my website updates which includes:

  • Writing a web development RFP
  • Hiring a web developer
  • Conceptualizing and designing the GSN’s badge system
  • Conceptualizing and designing the GSN’s project planning tool
  • Submit my practical research paper to the institutional review board

Read on to see how this project progresses throughout the semester!

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