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165705_1717079402550_1577412_nBy Daihong Chen

Milan Kundera, one of my favorite writers, claimed that life is about choices. Every choice leads to a different adventure and experience. I believe that pursuing a PhD degree is a crisis choice in life since it means a huge investment of time and effort. Meanwhile, the decision of which program to enter is a critical choice too. People around you as well as resources and opportunities you can have are essential to enhancing your knowledge, harnessing your research ability, and impacting the development of life values and personality. It sounds like a dramatic change for me to make the choice of transferring from the University of Georgia (UGA), a 33,000 student public university in a small college town to Seattle Pacific University (SPU), a less than 4,000 students private university in a comparatively big modern city. I am blessed and overjoyed that this choice has been leading me to a fascinating path of being a doctorate student.

I still clearly remember the most struggle-filled midsummer I have ever had. Every day I prayed for the clues and guidance from God, consulting pastors and experienced senior scholars, talking with family and friends, so as to figure out an answer to whether I should move to Seattle or stay at Athens. Most of my Chinese friends suggested that I stay at UGA without any hesitation because they even didn’t hear about SPU and obviously the program of the Learning, Design, and Technology at UGA enjoys a strong reputation. I wrote many emails to Dr. Lumpe asking many questions about the transfer and he was always very patient in answering any question.

Time flies! Now I have started my second quarter in the PhD of Education program at SPU. The journey of exploring and adventuring at SPU in the past half a year has provided me sufficient insights and experience to give answers to my questions and concerns before I came here.

My experience in the past six months tells that ranking doesn’t matter as much as you think. Being educated from kindergarten to graduate school in China, I cannot be clearer about the importance of the ranking of schools which is closely associated with the quality of education and the future career development opportunity in China. I have to say it was the biggest struggling I had. UGA is well known in China and the program I was in has been top ranked in the field of educational technology.

I talked about this concern with two Chinese professors working in UGA; however, they told me that, ranking doesn’t mean so much in USA because big public schools definitely have more resources and advantages regarding these standards for evaluation, but these standards for assessing a school usually are not too much associated with your personal learning experience and growth. What really matter is how much personal care, direction, assistance, support and resources you can have from professors and the school.

Now I can say that, the direction, care, help and support I gained from SPU is not less than I had in UGA, and is even more customized and personalized as it is a small group in which students can obtain more attention and assistance. For example, I was impressed that after the international student orientation, every international student has an individual meeting with the coordinator for personal issues or requirements. Because the program is small, everyone knows everyone very well and the acquaintance makes me feel comfortable and encouraged everyday. I have never met the dean of the College of Education at UGA in person, but at SPU, you can talk with the dean, faculty and staff frequently and they are always very happy to help. In this small school, actually, you can reach more resources and have more assistance.

The other main concern I had for the transfer was if there were opportunities to be involved in research and academic practice in the doctorate program at SPU. As we know, research is a critical part through the journey of the doctorate education. Now, I would say that the doctorate program in the School of Education at SPU provides many opportunities involving me into real research project and practice, conference presentation, and journal or book chapter publication. I have started to work in the bPortfolio project since I registered in the school. Benefiting from this ongoing project so far, I was listed as the fourth author of a presentation in at the 18th Annual Sloan Consortium International Conference on Online Learning in Orlando, Florida in October, 2012. Additionally, a full paper coauthored by Dr. Lumpe and I has been submitted for the AACE conference presentation in the coming June. The effort of coding data and writing a paper for this project is a rather valuable experience in terms of improving research skills and academic writing. Additionally, I am blessed to get involved in writing a book chapter in terms of “teacher reflection” with Dr. Lumpe and Dr. Bishop. I believe my knowledge has been broadened and enriched greatly in terms of teacher education, educational technology and research methodology in the past half a year.

Above all, I do enjoy my new journey in the school of education as a doctorate student. I like the fact that SPU places a huge emphasis on students’ development and individual needs and builds a harmonious and collaborative community.

In closing, I would like to use what my friend in my previous program at UGA told me about my choice. When I told her what I am studying and learning, she said that, I think you made a right decision for the transfer to SPU.

About Daihong Chen:

I am a current doctorate student in the PhD of Education program at Seattle Pacific University. I am originally from China. I graduated from Beijing Normal University with the Bachelor degree in Education and Master degree in Education majoring in Curriculum and Instruction. Before I came to USA, I was a high school teacher teaching Moral and Political Education for three years and then worked for the China National Curriculum Resources Center for two years. I finished my first year of PhD education in the program of Learning, Design, and Technology at the University of Georgia in which I was a graduate assistant working for the coordinators of Master programs of Learning Design and Development and School Library and Media. I also co-instructed the course of Introduction of Instructional Design with Dr. Clinton in the summer semester of 2012 at UGA. I transferred to Seattle Pacific University in August, 2012. My research interest is technology integration and teacher education.

by Jon Tienhaara

Twelve years in a small, rural school district have provided me a variety of educational experiences.  A native of Naselle (pronounced nay-sell), I have done everything from mowing the grass and fixing computers during my college summers, teaching science and mathematics to elementary, middle and high school students, to my current position of business manager and serving as one of the principals in the Naselle-Grays River Valley School District.

I have always had a passion for technology and its implications for both teaching and learning.  For example, two years ago I wrote a grant which funded a 1:1 iPad initiative for Naselle’s ninth and tenth grade classes.  Today grades 9-12 are 1:1 with iPads.  Students utilize the iPad in most all of their classes and technology is very much integrated into the school.  I also oversee our online Alternative Learning Experience school which has a larger student population than our regular brick and mortar school.  Currently, I am working with Michigan State University to bring online Mandarin Chinese to students across Washington.  

Technology plays an important role in student learning, and principals have great ability and responsibility to influence technology utilization in their schools. This is one of the reasons I am pursuing a doctorate degree at SPU.  My research interests include the role principals and superintendents play in positively and effectively integrating technology into K-12 education.  My future educational goals include a superintendency and/or professorship working in education technology leadership.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my first two quarters at SPU.  The doctoral program continues to be a great experience.

Follow Jon’s work at http://mrt-naselleschools.blogspot.com/

By Dr. Shu-Sheng Liaw

 In 1997, after eight years computer science teaching experience at the college level, I decided to study in the doctoral program at Seattle Pacific University. Indeed, I spent three years in the School of Education and earned my doctoral degree in 2000. During the three years at SPU, my major study and research fields were focused on educational theory, educational statistics, and education psychology. Professors, such as Dr. Ellis and Dr. Sink gave me great assistance as I integrated educational theories as well as educational research methodology into an investigation how technology can assist learning. I was particularly interested in the Internet as a learning assistance tool. While at SPU, I learned how to integrate educational theories, such as constructivism and active learning theory, into technology for learning purposes.

After earning my doctoral degree, I come back to Taiwan. In this period of time, my research interests include e-learning, mobile learning, attitudes toward technology acceptance, knowledge management, and Virtual Reality for learning. In my recent work, I am more interested with e-books or hand-held devices for learning. My research has been published in over 70 research papers in journals, conferences, and book chapters that include the British Journal of Educational Technology, Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, Computers & Education, Computers in Human Behavior, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering, Educational Technology, Information Systems Management, International Journal of Instructional Media, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Perceptual and Motor Skills, and Psychological Report.

I am glad that I had an opportunity to study at Seattle Pacific University.

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Dr. Shu-Sheng Liaw is currently a Professor at China Medical University in Taiwan.

Bright Ideas: Connect the Classroom With District Progress

In a classroom in Federal Way High School, SPU doctoral student Lindsay O’Neal posts a thoughtful new quote every day. It’s just one of her strategies for inspiring students to prepare themselves for the world beyond graduation.

Read the complete article in Response Magazine.

by Melike Yucel Koc

In 2008, with three years of teaching experience at a state secondary school and a master’s degree in English Language Teaching, I decided to come to the U. S. to explore the American culture. My journey in the States started as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant at Portland State University (PSU), Oregon. After teaching Turkish at PSU for one academic year, I decided to take classes from the Applied Linguistics Department. In 2009, I was accepted to the master’s degree program in Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in Applied Linguistics. As a bilingual, my research interest was on bilinguals and their use of emotion language. I completed the degree in TESOL in two years with a thesis topic focused on Emotion Language of Turkish-English Bilinguals.

After completing the master’s program, I started looking for doctoral programs in the Portland and Seattle area. I always wanted to pursue a Ph.D. degree in language education. My master’s degree experience at a university in the U.S. encouraged me to stay in the country and continue my studies. When I couldn’t find Ph.D. Programs in Applied Linguistics in the Pacific Northwest, I started to look for professors with similar research interests and I found Dr. Nagy at SPU! I thought working with him would be a great opportunity for me – and indeed it is!

Since starting the program in 2011, I completed three quarters of coursework and I learned much about research and educational theories in the core courses. Writing a colloquium paper gave me the opportunity to focus on my own research interest which is morphological awareness and academic reading of adult second language learners. Working as a graduate assistant in School of Education at SPU provides me with the opportunity of conducting research. In short, SPU has been a great learning environment for me. Through a teaching practicum that is part of the doctoral program, I was able to teach second year Turkish at the University of Washington in the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations. I had 8 students – 7 were American and one Albanian. Preparing the course syllabus and materials, keeping a reflective journal, and being formally observed all contributed to my learning and teaching to a great extent. Furthermore, I gained teaching experience at the university level.

After completing the Ph.D. program at SPU, my long-term goal is to get published and teach at the university level in a TESOL program while training future language teachers.

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Melike is a student in the Ph.D. Program in Education at Seattle Pacific University. She currently serves as a Graduate Assistant at SPU and as an Instructor at the University of Washington’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization

By Dr. Gail Stewart

Over the last fifteen years, I have developed and maintained an interest in equity, retention and social justice in higher education, especially among historically disadvantaged/marginalized social groups attending colleges and universities (such as students of color, for example). In addition, my experiences as a doctoral student at Seattle Pacific University have sparked an interest in sociolinguistics and assessment; specifically, the relationship between language attitudes, racial identity and the quality of classroom experiences.  The aforementioned influences, along with consistent questions from colleagues regarding classroom engagement among African American males attending community colleges, served as the motivation for my recently completed dissertation Racial Identity, Language Attitudes and Educational Experiences: The Voices of African American College Students.

This study provided an opportunity for me to develop a new research instrument that measures language attitudes and racial identity- The Language Attitudes Questionnaire (LAQ).  The results of my research also indicate several issues for consideration: 1) the power of language dictates to a large extent, the language one speaks, and is intimately tied to one’s sense of identity, 3) understanding of students’ home language or dialect has a major influence on classroom performance, especially among African American students, 3) in a classroom setting, the way students are evaluated and labeled by teachers may have a major lifelong impact on their educational trajectory and 4) language attitudes may serve as a retention issue that has a profound impact on students of color.

I look forward to conducting follow-up studies on language and racial identity among diverse racial-ethnic populations attending colleges and universities to further develop my research instrument.

I am extremely grateful to the faculty at Seattle Pacific University, especially my dissertation committee, Dr. William Nagy, Dr. Nyarazdo Mvududu and Dr. Cher Edwards. I feel truly blessed to have had such wonderful mentors who provided me with an outstanding quality of education, guidance and support that will have a positive influence on my future professional endeavors and personal growth.

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Gail Stewart successfully defended her doctoral dissertation in April 2012. She earned a master’s degree from Pacific Lutheran University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington. She has taught at the community college level for 11 years. She is a classically trained musician who enjoys anything pertaining to the arts.

ImageI have always been interested in how children learn words and how vocabulary can best be taught, and over the years I have often tried to synthesize what I know about effective vocabulary instruction.  My most recent publication (Nagy & Townsend, 2012) is the latest such attempt, focusing in particular on the challenges students face in understanding academic language.  I am also interested in how students’ awareness of language contributes to their reading ability.  In particular, I have been investigating morphological awareness – students’ knowledge about morphemes (prefixes, roots, and suffixes).  In my recent work with Dr. Scott Beers, I have also begun dealing with another aspect of literacy, writing.

Everything I know about these topics is going to be needed for my upcoming research.  Dr. Beers and I are now part of the research team led by Dr. Virginia Berninger at the University of Washington in the new Center for the Defining and Treating Specific Learning Disabilities in Written Language.  This center is part of the Learning Disabilities Research Centers Consortium funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).  (For a press release, see http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/011712-learning-disabilities-centers.cfm).  We’ll be part of an interdisciplinary team, including not only educators, but computer scientists, geneticists, and experts in brain imaging.  Our work will range from basic research on the nature of writing disabilities to very applied work on developing interventions to help students who struggle with writing.

Nagy, W.  & Townsend, D. (2012).   Words as tools:  Learning academic vocabulary as language acquisition.  Reading Research Quarterly, 47(1), 91-108.

Dr. Nagy has been a Professor in the School of Education at SPU since 1996. He teaches literacy and research courses and mentors many doctoral students. He was inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame for his pioneering work in vocabulary development. 

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