"I earned my bachelor’s degree in electronic media and film from Towson in 2006. After graduation I freelanced as a producer for Baltimore-area video-production companies and television networks. I learned a lot as a freelancer, but I was eager for something with less day-to-day traveling. A six-week internship in a school library media center introduced me to instructional technology. I’d always been interested in a career that blends education and media production, and I thought an M.S. would enable me to pursue options in television or online media."
Samantha and Professor Sarah Lohnes Watulak work with an ELMO projector while editing a class project.
How would you describe Towson’s program?
"Instructional technology is an applied professional program in the College of Education. It’s about creating instruction that works—finding the right way to teach for the right learning outcome. My focus is instructional design and development, which involves everything from instructional videos, creating employee trainings and simulations to online games. Kids are growing up in a digital world, and instructional technology has become critical to learning."
Is there a class that really changed your perceptions about instructional technology?
My education game-based learning class was very interesting. I went into it knowing games could be fun and helpful, but in fact the range of applications is incredible. For instance, there’s a business-simulation game called “Zapitalism” that teaches students how to build a retail empire in a way that’s really engaging and fun. There are sports-management games and a variety of physics games, such as “The World of Goo.” These games enable learners to bridge their education with entertainment.
"One of the class projects involved having students collaborate to create individual or partnered games. My partner and I developed “Fast Shop” to help children hone their math and budgeting skills. After we’d created paper prototypes, we learned that our first two versions were too difficult for the intended audience. Once we went back to the drawing board and got it right, we had to defend the educational design and purpose in a 14-page paper. It was a great to witness the process of creating a game."
Samantha presents a class project using the Pebble-in-the-Pond instructional design method.
How do you balance a full-time job with part-time graduate studies?
"I hold a full-time position at the university and take two classes per term, so it’s all about time management. I’m a list person: I have sticky notes on the phone, on my monitor and on water bottles. The instructional technology program is a hybrid program: 50 percent online and 50 percent classroom instruction, which is really convenient. It’s very demanding, with a lot of papers and projects, so there are all kinds of opportunities to make friends, collaborate and discover new interests."
Do your job responsibilities and graduate studies complement each other?
"I’m very fortunate to work in the Center for Instructional Advancement and Technology (CIAT), where I work with instructional designers, multimedia specialists, and Blackboard administrators and trainers. I’ve had the opportunity to observe and assist with learning management systems (Blackboard) and work with members of the faculty to enhance their teaching styles with new technologies. I’m able to apply what I learn at work to my studies and vice versa. It has been a great experience."
What do you hope to do once you’ve earned your master’s?
" I’d like to work for a school or a television network. I could also create program content for the Web, since just about all websites feature educational games. It’s an expanding field with a lot of exciting opportunities."