About 15 years ago… (okay maybe a little more than 15)
… I was a student at the University of Massachusetts where a Conceptual Change Guru took me on as a work study student. I remember thinking, “How many articles can be written on the same subject?” There was an entire office filled with 5 foot filing cabinets filled with articles about how to teach more effectively. My job was to organize this room, these cabinets, and all the articles. I then had to go and research more articles for future publications (mostly on microfiche at the time).
I began to research…
I slowly started to take the duplicate articles home and read them. At the same time, I was in undergraduate courses with 100+ students. Most of the classes were lectures. I was so confused how upstairs we were finding that lecture may not be the only way to learn and teach, while downstairs in the lecture halls we were only taught through lecture. My first thought was, “They don’t know… they don’t know that they don’t have to lecture. Maybe they should read some of the research.” After graduating 3 years later, I was sold that lectures were often a waste of time UNLESS they were coupled with something tangible I could grab onto.
I then decided that for the next few years I would be a stay-at-home mom… I had my first 2 children in college and just wanted to hang out with them. After I did that for a while, I needed a new hobby. Since I love research, school, and all that, I took the entrance exam for law school, and applied to a few local schools (just to see what would happen).
Since, the law school had an evening program, my husband and I thought, “Why not?” Law school was interesting, more lectures. But, these lectures were coupled with stories and stories and more stories from my professors’ real life experiences. I decided that lectures aren’t that bad as long as I am intrigued by the subject matter.. or the stories. Needless to say, I only remember a few courses, but I remember most of their stories. I decided that if I were ever going to teach law, I would bring the students into my life as a lawyer, let them experience law.
I then began to think, “Is there a way to teach material to people who are not interested in a way that they will retain the knowledge?” My first guinea pigs were my children. By the time I had graduated from law school I had 4 children and a friend who homeschooled tried to convince me to homeschool. Since I was so academically minded, I wondered if it were possible. Would I be hindering my kids… then I thought about the degrees my husband and I had between us and thought, “Why not.” I loved teaching my children the same material their friends were learning in traditional schools, BUT in a way that actually meant something to them. My oldest is artistic and creative. My second is a mechanical genius (especially to my untechnical soul), my third child talks and sings through her lessons, and my fourth is interested in everything under the sun. It opened my eyes to different learning worlds and needs. The experiment worked.
After a period of time at home I went back to work and Did the Lawyer Thing (still do a bit). I still enjoy being a lawyer, but I came across another amazing adventure. And that adventure is what this blog is all about: Teaching those learners that need more than a lecture.
I began teaching at a University as a favor. They needed a business law instructor. I was starting my own law firm and needed the extra income. Little did I know that I got completely enchanted by education. I am able to be creative and teach the tough subjects that are often boring. I started out with the dreaded Powerpoint. I needed to make sure they knew what I was talking about. Then, I realized that most of the subjects were familiar to the students in some way. It took me all the way back to Conceptual Change models and UMass. I realized that the students knew legal topics, but they had misconceptions (especially international students). I realized that I was assuming things, and overlooking other things. By my 2nd and 3rd terms, I began each class with large paper and Markers. I needed to find out what they knew and why. I needed them to be comfortable with each other so they would challenge each other. I needed team-based learning and a lot more dissonance. I also needed to know why the students were doing what they were doing and how I could help them be as enthralled with the subject matter as I was. So…
Back to College
I decided that I needed more education. I needed to know the theories and techniques. I, also, needed to do it from home. And, since we were now in the internet world, I could do it online. I went to a competency based online college for a masters degree in curriculum and instruction. I thought about putting my whole life on hold (law firm, teaching, family stuff) and get a doctorate from a traditional school. But, I was no longer traditional. And, I already have a doctorate… I just wanted the information, not the degree.
I was a bit leery of online colleges at first because I came from large on-ground colleges and universities. But, I learned so much, and got everything I needed to create a new classroom experience.
This blog was birthed out of that experience. I needed to complete a Capstone. I chose to do it on a subject I was teaching- Ethics. A friend found out I was teaching ethics and said, “Mia, just make sure it’s not boring. Every ethics training I go to is boring.” I assured her, “Oh, I don’t do anything boring… anymore.” This blog started with my research on gamification and teaching anything without a lecture. It was my life mission to be an everlasting memory in my student’s learning experience, through non-boring methods of teaching.
The first way I thought to be non-boring was through images. I love to take complicated subjects and break them down into simple, easy to understand pieces. I do this with my clients in law and my students in class.
So I searched for a way to do it for others. I found Piktochart.com. I tried it out. I used the templates, then started making my own infographics. I, then through up a few on Pinterest and on this blog… and people actually liked them as much as me. So, I thought, “Why not?”
Everytime I encounter a problem, I research how others have solved it (and what the researchers say), I practice them on my students, I talk to other teachers about the ideas, then I make an infographic. The infographic is simply taking complex issues, breaking them down, and offering solutions. It is just the tip of the iceberg.
There is so much more behind them. SO much research. SO much discussion with others. So, if you read one of them, dig deeper. Go beyond the simplicity and ask, “Why not?”
I, then started to teach a business law class online. At first I wondered if I could have the same relationship with my students online as I do online. And, I am here to let you know…. Yes! It’s possible. It even takes away some of the barriers to dissonance. I love teaching online.
Epigogy, Inc Launched
Then, I decided to take all this to the next level. I found a couple of those colleagues that I used to pass things by and asked them to join me. They, too believed that education needs to change. So, we formed Epigogy. The mission of Epigogy, Inc. is to provide cutting edge guidance and training to leverage current research and technology to enhance learning at all levels. Visit us at epigogy.org
And that’s a little about the behind the scenes story…