Friday, July 6, 2012

Dr Nerdy Teacher? #edchat

Dr Nerdy Teacher?

I've been exploring my options since I've finished my Masters in Educational Technology. I was hoping it would open doors to allow me to work at the district level to move things forward in instructional technology. While some doors have been opened, I'm not quite ready to take the family out of state, but am closer than ever before. Much of SE Michigan has not quite grasped the importance of instructional technologists. Some districts lump this important job in with tech directors (nuts and bolts people) or have not addressed the plan at all. I love my current district and the Metro Detroit area. The thought of being a Tigers, Lions, Red Wings and Pistons can outside of Michigan doesn't appeal to me, but it might be necessary if I want to continue to grow as a professional.

This growth brings me to an important crossroad. Do I look at getting a Ph.D. in Educational Sciences with a Focus on School Technology Leadership from the University of Kentucky, or do I look at getting a degree in school administration?

I've been told my lack of an administrative degree hurts me when applying for jobs. I feel that an admin degree will not make better at teaching technology to staff or preparing professional development for buildings or districts. I do these things now, so how will this degree in admin (not focused on tech) make me better? I'm not saying I couldn't learn something from this program, but is it necessary to do what I want?

The PH.D. program is exciting, but expensive. I'm also not sure it addresses my problem. Being Dr. Provenzano couldn't hurt and I feel like I could learn many different things in this program, but I'm not sure if it is the right fit.

I feel like districts are slow moving at seeing the power of a teacher given a chance to move a district forward. Relying on career admins to change the face of PD or address the changes in instruction with new technologies is a formula for failure if these people do not have experience using these tools. If I head down the admin route, do I risk becoming one of those people? If I purse the doctorate, do I become bogged down in research? I would really love your thoughts as I continue to think about my options in the coming year.



  1. "The Nerdy Administrator" doesn't sound that bad :-) I've found I have more influence over the classroom as an administrator than as a teacher. I look at it this way, the teachers are the ground troops, the admins are the officers. The ground troops can win any battle, but to win the war you need good officers. A PhD opens up a lot of administrative opportunities.

  2. Wow, This post was like you were reading my mind! I just started an Ed tech grad program and see so much potential for instructing other teachers in instructional technology. Like you mentioned, the advancement in the district often will only happen with an admin certificate which limits great teachers becoming instructors for colleagues. My hope is that districts will realize the power of the teacher who has experiences with using education technology within the classroom and allow them to share their knowledge and guide other teachers in using technology within the classroom.

    Best of luck in your decision making process!

    Thanks for the post!!

  3. If you work on learning about leadership, you don't just forget about the technology skills you have. I know that you are aware of many admin with both technology and leadership skills.

    The thing that is so important to remember in whatever initiative you are trying to move forward is that you are working with people first. I am not sure what different programs are like with administration, but if they focus on leadership, as opposed to management (although there is management in every position, including teaching), I am sure that you will be fine.

    That being said, if you take a program that focuses more on technology, will you become one of those people that forgets about the powerful resource of people and focus more on the technology? I doubt it in your case but again, I have not done the programs that you are currently looking at. The University of Kentucky program looks fantastic though.

    I have seen a few blog posts lately that hint administrators "don't get it" and I guess my response to that is "be the change". Define the role by going and doing it. There is no "template" that all admin must stick by.

    Just my two cents.

  4. You've asked for thoughts, and I think thoughts are always best when shared, so here are mine.

    What do you want to do, career-wise? While the degree offered at Kentucky sounds amazing, are there jobs out there that will allow you to effectively use that degree at a school or district level? Obviously, you've done a lot more research into this than I have, but it's the first thought that popped into my mind.

    One of the main things that has been keeping me from seriously considering a Ph.D. or an Ed.D. is that it would basically mean my classroom teaching career is over. I think the online doctorate program that Dr. Brannan is working on putting together at CMU is interesting, but I'm not ready to leave the classroom, and I don't know if I ever will be. But that's me.

    I wonder, though, what your influence would be as a classroom teacher who knows and pushes good ed tech practices (and is respected by colleagues because you actually use these things) versus a district instructional technology expert (who may end up being viewed as a bit out-of-touch, since you're not in the classroom).

    I'm on the verge of rambling, so I'll try to stop soon.

    It's hard to predict the future. Having the Kentucky degree may allow you to knock on doors that haven't been built yet, and be among the first wave of a new standard job. But it may only allow you to knock on a door that won't be built.

    Then again, maybe my comments address things that you've already moved past, in which case. . .nevermind.

  5. I struggle a lot with similar thoughts. I just finished my M.Ed. in Ed Tech Leadership and I'm not sure where to go from here. The idea of a Ph.D. or Ed.D. program appeals to me very much, but I'm not sure that it's going to get us what we're after. Like you, I love the district where I work, but I worry that I'm never going to be able to push us enough to become a forward thinking district where technology is embedded and valued (allowed, even?).

    Not sure if you feel at all like this, but for me I think a lot of what makes me want that Dr. title so much is that I feel like it would demand respect and give me credibility. But I also worry that it really wouldn't. I'm still going to be looked at as the young, crazy librarian girl.

    I'm definitely not sure what the solution is to this, but I can very much relate. Curious to see what others think!


  6. I thought my original post went through, but I don't see it, so if you get two, I apologize…

    As already has been said - will a PhD lead you to the job that you are looking for? Great credentials, but here in Canada, most PhD's end up being academics in the University systems…which is great - especially if you'd like to do research and/or teach teachers.

    I had similar experiences with my board in terms of the tech support for teachers coming by way of a tech person who knew hardware/software, but not teaching… I also was told I needed specific AQ (Additional qualification) courses to move into other areas (in part because my MBA, 10 years of business experience and 6 years of teaching in the college system wasn't looked at the same way as if I took an course from a Faculty of Education in guidance and/or administration)…. just part of the reason why I ended up moving to the college system.

    Last year I approached my chairs about putting a proposal in for an HP Catalyst Grant.. They, at first, said no we weren't ready…we'll wait. I pushed back and said I would write it and take ownership. They agreed … and our little school got the grant.

    The thing I have learned from this and other initiatives I have started at my new school is that you have to make your own path. George is right - if you figure out what you want to do, start doing it - showing the importance and the need, the good administrators (like George) will take notice and you will effect change.

    What every you decide, I am sure it will be the best decision!

    Take care,

  7. I am about half way through my M. Ed. in EDTC and probably should not be thinking about the Ed. D. program but sometimes I can not help it. While I don't have any advice to offer, this conversation has lead to two questions in my mind:

    1) Does a Ed.D (specialization in EDTC) still qualify you for teaching at a university some day, or do they prefer Ph D.? (wasn't sure if Ed. D would limit future options too much)

    2) Kind of off topic, but is it poor practice to pursue the Ed. D from the same school you received your M. Ed from?

  8. I am actually thinking of getting my second masters in Instructional Technology. My district does not support technology, so I am wondering if it is worth the time and money to get another masters. There is a push for me to go into administration, but I do not see how that would help me be a better educator.I have no interest of being out of the classroom. I do see that it would make you more marketable with your technology degree. Having a degree in administration would open more doors for you! The state of Michigan has not embraced technology like many other states have...but it is coming and you will be a powerful force with both degrees, so when the time comes to move forward with many of the initiatives many states have adapted you will be ready!

    I think that staying in Michigan is a smart move because we do make more money than most when you figure in the cost of living and you want to live anywhere else?! We have an awesome state and we need to keep educators like you!

  9. I finished up my specialist online at Mizzou in Educational Technology and really felt like I learned a great deal. So, I decided to go for my Ed. D. It's not about the title at all. I don't have an admin degree either and still won't even when I finish my doctorate this fall. People tell me it's crazy and that there is "no place to go in schools without an admin degree." I think this is crazy. I don't have the desire to be an admin. I love being in my classroom with the kids. Some day, I may do something different in education and I really feel that growth I am experiencing through this process of writing the dissertation is going to get me there. I do feel bogged down in writing this paper some days, but on the days when I climb out and get my head above water, I realize what I am learning. That makes it all worth it.

  10. It is interesting because I have struggled with some form of that question for the past 20 years. When I got into education I told myself I would be an administrator by year 10. I just finished my 21st year IN THE CLASSROOM! But EVERY year I grapple with your same questions. It always comes down my heart and where it tells me I belong in education.

    I became a "teacher leader" through the writing and math projects which allows me to provide professional development and leadership while staying in the classroom. I get the best of both worlds.

    I think your heart and gut will tell you what to do. Either option will provide opportunities. It is my belief that soon education will drastically change and those like you who are on the forefront of leadership and technology will emerge as the trailblazers no matter what degree(s) you have!

    Thanks for the post, it is good to know that I am not the only one who has this argument with myself every year!
    Kristen Beck

  11. Hi Nick,

    I commend you for your willingness to keep growing and for honestly reflecting on your professional growth. I'll offer my views, but echo what so many have said, that everything rests on where you want to be in 5 to 10 years.

    If your goal is to work in an administrative capacity, I'd encourage you to think about an Ed. Specialist program at Wayne State or Oakland. It's a two year program, in a cohort, and will provide you the opportunity to learn about school law, finance, evaluations, profesional development, policy, and will give you the chance to do some action research on how the role of technology in any of the above ideas. I took a course on program evaluation during my specialist program that was particularly valuable and would be helpful for an educator in any capacity. It is a misnomer that people in leadership programs all want to be a principal, I've been in classes with future curriculum coordinators, HR specialists, and teacher leaders.

    Oakland has a program specifically focused on teacher leadership, where you can learn a lot of the above lessons while focusing on leading from a classroom. I think your district has had a partnership with the Galileo Institute in the past.

    For what it is worth, those are my thoughts, hope it's helpful.

  12. Great post, and great questions.

    I’ll throw in my 2 cents here – I have been an educator for 11 years, and this is my 5th as an assistant principal as well. After receiving a Master’s in education a while back, I recently started an Ed.D (Doctoral) program in educational leadership.

    As you have demonstrated by your online posts, you clearly ‘get it’ when it comes to effective teaching, being a reflective educator, and utilizing technology in a way that advances the education. But it does sound like you are looking to become a leader in some capacity as you develop in your career – be it a principal type administrator, or an technology integration person, etc. Either way, I think George’s point is well taken – leadership is largely about people and relationships. What I have found most helpful about the Doctoral program I am in is that I am learning more about those dynamics, both from a psychological/human relations perspective, as well in terms of the structures of how an organization works so that people are utilized most effectively and feel purposeful about what they are doing every day.

    To me, those skills are tremendously valuable for a leader, in whatever position it ends up being. Will you learn more about EdTech in a PhD program on technology in education? Undoubtedly. However, in my humble opinion, only looking from afar, you have a wonderful foundation in technology already. And because you have such strong network/PLN etc of fellow educators and EdTechers, you can and will continue to develop in those areas even outside of an academic program. The leadership skills, and the nuts and bolts of leadership/organizational theory, are what you will gain in a traditional educational leadership doctoral program, and in my humble opinion, those will serve you well in whatever step you take next in your career. Hope this was helpful!

    Thanks for serving as an example for me about what being an excellent educator is all about. Sorry we didn’t get to meet in person at #ISTE12, but I look forward to connecting in the future :)

    Dov Emerson

  13. I agree with what others have said about the decision somewhat depends on what you want to do. I started as a classroom teacher, and I began working on an MA in Instructional Technology because I loved integrating technology in my classroom. I ended up with a job for my district as an Instructional Technology Facilitator before I finished that degree, not because of the degree but because of what the people hiring had seen go on in my classroom. BUT- the degree is one of the requirements of the job.

    I also wrestled with the question of going back for a doctorate- but my end goal is to teach again, in higher ed. After having classroom experience, and district level experience doing PD and collaborating with teachers, I really have started believe that a major change in education needs to start at the higher ed level- we need to teach our education majors differently. So- I made the decision and just finished the last class for my doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. One day, if I finish my dissertation, I may even graduate :) So like you, my degree isn't going to be a technology related degree.

    What I learned though, is that my classes did make me think about everything I do in my job differently. It made me a better researcher, made me reflect on things differently and better, and more. So even though it's not a "tech" related degree, it has had a great impact on me, and has also made me think about leadership differently, and see myself somewhat in that light. Now if Michigan is anything like NC, I can see why you'd say it would mean the end of classroom teaching days, because for me I'd never be able to make enough to make the degree worth it financially in the classroom- but again, I knew I wasn't going back to the classroom.

    So I guess my long-winded advice would be to go for it if you think it will be worth it for you personally or professionally, and don't be afraid to try a program that's not in the technology world.


  14. Everyone has made really good points to ponder before you jump into what is an investment of time, energy, and money that comes pursuing a post-graduate degree.

    I think a way to do more research on the type of degree you should work towards, take a look at job descriptions of jobs in (and out) of your district you are interested in. Look at the required degrees and experience. A lot of jobs at district levels these days do require administration experience and degree. Even with a PhD or EdD it is hard to bypass needing the admin degree to get to the district level.

    I am in the same boat as you, I do not desire another master's degree, or really even a EdS -- I would rather begin working on my PhD, but I realize that I would not be able to get to the level I want to be at in my district, or any district without the admin/ed leadership degree.

    And you don't have to leave the classroom just because you get your admin or PhD/EDd! Many people pursue these higher degrees to get out of the classroom, but you can lead from inside the classroom if you are in a district that fosters teacher leaders and allow them to influence district policies, practices, and instruction.

    Hope my humble opinion helps!

    Cristin @Mrs_Dilly

  15. I've been thinking about a doctorate in ed tech for a while. I'm on the same page as you--it's expensive and time consuming. I also have no desire to be an admin.

    I teach at two colleges, and would love to do that full-time, but I don't have the PhD. So at this point, I'm trying to present as much as I can. It's enjoyable, I'm meeting amazing teachers, and I'm becoming a better teacher in the process.

  16. I went through this same dilemma five years ago. I asked an administrator I respected why she decided to get her doctorate. She told me that I could spend the rest of my career screaming at the top of my lungs, but it will only sound like a dull whisper to those making the decisions until I have that Dr. in front of my name.

    My Ph.D. in curriculum development with ed tech emphasis has helped me see that we're living in a completely different time and you're right, the value of the individual professional is ultimately what should matter. She was right, though...I see fundamental changes in the way people react to me when they know my background.

    What I won't do, though, is tell you the degree doesn't have very real, applicable value to any job in education. I notice a distinct difference between many with the degree and those that don't in their decision-making. Those without tend to make decisions more on anecdotal evidence rather than research. They tend to make them without considering how it will impact a wide range of groups and issues. They also have less of a penchant for long-range thinking.

    Of course there are very notable exceptions. The first principal I ever worked for possessed the traits of someone with the degree even though he didn't have one. He was entirely self-driven and self-taught. He was also quite rare.

    I wish I could tell you there's an easy solution to your problem, but so much is up in the air about the road ahead for schools that it's anyone's guess if a doctorate will be worth the price tag.

  17. I'm going to throw some more options in your court. As John wrote, it's inspiring to see you want to continue to grow and walk the walk we teach our students to reach for everyday.

    Here's some other things you could do that's related to education and could still tap into your expertise:

    :: Consulting - I'm saying it. So many ed startups and ed orgs need an authentic viewpoint from a tech-savvy educator. Many (if not all) wouldn't mind telecommute options and it'd be cool to see your ideas come to fruition and help so many educators.

    :: Author/Speaker Circuit - Don't knock the books -- writing a book can be a great way to inspire thousands and get your name out to do some keynotes.

    Not that you already don't have enough options but I thought these might even be cool to do while you're getting a degree to help cover that cough, cough very expensive degree.


  18. I find it extremely fustrating that the education system is so caught up in degrees only and not actual knowledge. I have met a lot of good instructional technologists who do NOT have a degree in edtech and I have met an equal amount of poor instructional technologists with degrees, EdD included.

    While you may need to get the degree to actually get the job it really doesn't address qualifications. Experience using the tech and successfully implanting it in a class is much more important than some degree. Even for demonstrating leadership/admin skills why is an entire degree needed? Classes, trainings, mentoring isn't enough??

    I agree with everyone who says look for the job you want and then evaluate the criteria before making a decision but this issue is indicative of a larger problem.

    --Joe Spano @joespano_

  19. Here are a couple more cents (soon you'll have enough to pay for something you want to pursue!)... I used to want the title of "Dr.," when my maiden name was perfect for it, and there were three other Dr. Powers(es) in my large family (two were MDs, though!), but then I got married, and it sounded a bit like Dr. Kevorkian... Didn't want they. So I went for my National Board Certification. I blew it off as just something silly, until I actually did it - WOW! I learned a ton abut myself and about my students - in one school year. Best thing I've done before getting involved in Twitter.

    One more side note.., my new (and last) husband spent 58 years in a suburb of Detroit, and moved to IL to be with me - he'll always be a Tigers, Lions, and most of all Red Wings fan. :-) Do what is right for you and your loved ones!

    Great reflection! -@JoyKirr

  20. Hi. I hope I didn’t write too much...

    I know there are many people posted before me and some of this may be redundant. I went for my Masters in Educational Technology about eight years ago. During interviews afterward, people were curious what it entailed. The program was new in our area at the time. For me, it was a great program that solidified what I already was teaching/doing as a teacher.

    I left the classroom a few years later and became a Professional Developer in Technology (I think you call them Technology Instructionalist). It was great, but I was eventually trapped by not being able to make decisions and make the changes needed for my teachers.

    I went for my administration degree in the meantime....and now I interview and interview and interview trying to get an admin job as I continue to do my job as a staff developer. I still love my staff.

    Why do I tell you this selfish story? You sound just like me-- The almighty crossroads. I am trying to cross my road now, as well. This is why I enjoy your blog.

    My suggestion is consider not jumping into more heavy schooling unless you truly feel that the university is the way for you. The economy is poor and unless you have the money to pour into more college, you may not get the return on the investment. One friend warned me that if you load up on too many degrees that you can look too expensive without experience.

    Whatever you choose, I hope it works for you. I believe that everything works out in the end somehow.

    ...I hope.


  21. I'll keep this short :)

    I was admitted into a PhD program and am still being considered. The more I think about, however, I think of all the liabilities (cost, time, not being able to work, etc) and benefits (the title, the opened doors, the...prestige?) and I've spent lots of time comparing them.

    This is personal only, but I've chosen not to pursue. The bottom line for me was that everything the program offered me was what I'm already doing. My master's degree taught me innumerable important skills, which I use every day. And the prestige? Maybe it sells books, but in my experience, PhD generally = out of touch, just because the classroom is sort of a memory, instead of a practice.

    Teachers--good ones, anyway--are researchers and game-changers when they want to be. I wish more district leaders recognized the talent at their disposal, without seeking lofty titles and degrees.

  22. Nick,

    You may want to consider getting an Ed.D. In Instructional Leadeship with certification inEducational Leadership. I received mine through Western Connecticut and ther are a few others that offer the same program (Columbia, Botston, College and others). This degree allows for a lot of flexibility. I also loved that my program is a cohort program, it is so nice to have that consistent support (think of it as an internal PLN). Feel free to send any questions my way.


Please post your thoughts here. Thanks!