Will Deyamport III, EdD, is a Mississippi-based district instructional technologist, connected educator, and ed tech consultant. Dr. Will, as he is known, shares his perspective on earning his Master’s in Education with a specialization in Professional Studies (now a retired program) and EdD in Educational Leadership and Management at Capella University, as well as his passion for instructional technology and blended learning.
Q. Why were you interested in earning a graduate degree?
A. I wanted to move up in my career. There were some management positions I had my eye on. I had two bachelor’s degrees at the time and they were not going to get me these promotions.
Q. What drew you to Capella and online education?
A. I started seeing ads for Capella University as I was browsing the web, but honestly didn’t pay a lot of attention to them. I thought, “Oh, this is an online school. Probably not worth my time.” This was around 2006, back in the day when online education did not have a good reputation. Now, you tell someone you earned your degree online, and nobody bats an eye. Back then, it raised some eyebrows.
But one day, I clicked on a Capella ad and did some research. I looked at the accreditations, dug a little deeper, and compared it to other schools. I was impressed with what I found, so I called an enrollment counselor and went from there.
Q. You earned both a master’s and a doctorate in education at Capella. What did you like about it that inspired to you to continue your education here?
A. I enjoyed the online experience. I had more collaboration and contact with classmates online than I did while pursuing my bachelor’s degrees in brick and mortar schools. My Capella classmates actually communicated about the work we were doing. I could post something to say, “Hey, I have questions about this assignment. What are you doing, how are you handling it?” I found my peers were eager to engage in discussions with me.
I also appreciated that the classes were about real-world application. It wasn’t just, “Go write this research paper.” It was more like, “Go create a product,” or “Go create some curriculum.” My assignments had actual relevance in my real life that I could take and execute in a classroom setting.
Q. Did Capella help you advance your career as you’d hoped?
A. A lot of what I learned from Capella, my master’s and doctorate included, has aided me in being successful. For one, having that doctorate credential has given me a lot of credibility. People see the “Dr.” in front of my name and it has a different ring to it. People listen. It has opened doors for me in terms of the position I hold as a district instructional technologist and the fact that I’m invited to speak at major ed tech conferences.
I also get a lot of credit for the research I’ve done on digital leadership and how teachers can use a Twitter-supported personal learning network (PLN) to individualize their professional development. Capella inspired me to conduct that research. One of my doctorate program professors told me, “The digital space is you. You need to go for it; make it happen.” Light bulb! When I decided to write my dissertation on Twitter, my mentor didn’t talk me out of it. Instead, she said, “This is interesting! We’re going have a good time with this.” I wasn’t told it was too out there or controversial. I was encouraged to fly.
During my research, I learned of a book called “The New Social Learning.” I met the coauthor Marcia Conner on Twitter and told her about my dissertation. She sent me a PDF of the first edition, which I used in my dissertation. Now, they’ve come out with their second edition and my work is featured in the book.
Q. What’s your job like now? What does it mean to be a district instructional technologist and an ed tech consultant?
A. For my full-time job, I work as a district instructional technologist for the Hattiesburg Public School District. Currently, that means I travel amongst eight K-12 schools delivering a variety of technology-focused trainings to teachers and administrators. I can do this in-person or online using Google Hangouts or other applications.
Part-time, I work as an ed tech consultant visiting other school districts and delivering trainings on how to use instructional technology and blended learning. I also deliver keynote talks and workshops at conferences.
Q. How did you get into educational technology?
A. I never thought of it before I got into it. When I left high school, I wanted to be a film director but was also interested in child and family studies, so I got bachelor’s degrees in both those things. Eventually I got interested in higher education, but learned that to pursue a career in higher ed meant I’d have to move around a lot from state to state, school to school. I didn’t want my wife and me to do that.
It was a blessing that ed tech came into my life. I actually learned about it by following and engaging in conversations on Twitter. I eventually submitted a proposal to speak at a conference about it. My talk was accepted and that exposure eventually lead to me getting my job with the school district. That’s sort of how ed tech became my career, just by tweeting about it and writing on my blog, presenting, and making connections with people on Twitter.
Q. How does edtech and blended learning make a difference in the classroom?
A. Let me give you an example. I had a teacher walk up to me, talking about how she was bored. She knew if she was bored, her students were bored, too. She asked if there was anything I could teach her to help the situation. So I taught her how to use Google Classroom and the ShowMe app. She took her students online for a portion of what they were learning. She was excited; they were excited. It got results. The teacher made videos and built in pauses, and kids actually responded with answers—it was more interaction than in real life! With some blended learning, the students were more engaged and their scores went up. Even the school principal was impressed.
Google Hangouts are also a great tool; they allow teachers to do collaborative projects with other classrooms, bring in experts into their class, or do virtual field trips. For example, I helped a local culinary teacher bring a respected Dallas chef into the classroom to talk to her students. The students were able to ask questions and talk to someone putting into practice what they were learning in the classroom.
Q. What’s the next challenge you’re looking to tackle in your career?
A. This school year, I will be leading and managing ed tech for the high school and implementing Schoology—a learning management system—there. Starting with the 9th grade, and adding a grade every year, every classroom will get a set of Chromebooks. Every student will have access to a Chromebook every day to do blended learning activities.
My job will be training teachers on the hardware and software, implementing procedures for Chromebook use, managing Wi-Fi and software programs, creating instructional practices, and just overall making sure teachers understand how they can provide an array of instruction. I’ll also still have 1-2 days a week to do ed tech training with rest of district. It’s going to be a challenge, but a lot of what I learned in my Capella doctorate program comes into play. Leading and managing people, creating systems, that sort of thing. It’s going be really interesting.
Q. How accepting are teachers and students of instructional technology and blended learning?
A. Well, the students love it because they have a device in their hand! It feels natural to them. For teachers, there is some pushback. Some teachers don’t like technology at all, some are excited, and some have concerns. Most concerns come out of fear of the unknown; it’s a new environment for them.
Lucky for the skeptics, I have the unique experience of having earned a degree online and being a leader in ed tech. I can help teachers overcome their objections. I ask them to look at it this way: You have 25-30 kids in your class. There are a certain number of kids who are high-performing, a certain number who are low-performing, but in today’s world, everybody is teaching to that middle. It’s not benefitting the kids who could use enrichment or need extra help. Blended learning allows teachers to create a workflow where they can group 15 kids in Schoology doing self-directed learning, which leaves them 10 kids to teach face-to-face. These can be from the low group or the high group; it gives teachers options. It allows teachers to reach students where they are and pushes them to show growth, all while giving them a unique learning experience.
Additionally, my personal thought is that this is no longer a world of pen and paper, where you show up to the job every day from 9 to 5 and leave the office behind when you go home. This is a mobile world, a globally-connected world. Teachers have to adapt to that. They can also benefit from the flexibility it allows them, like working remotely.
Along with that, kids need exposure to technology. When they go to college, they need to go in with a certain set of technology skills. Or, if they go straight to the workforce, they need to have practical knowledge of how to use tech tools. Kids need the ability to learn and adapt to technology to succeed in the real world. That’s why ed tech and blended learning are a must for today’s teachers.
Q. What would you say to someone who was thinking about enrolling at Capella?
A. I would tell them that they need to assess their individual learning styles, because being an online learner, you must be self-directed. I had to learn that quickly. At Capella, you have to be on top of what you are learning, your postings, your assignments. It’s not like a traditional school where you go to class on Mondays and Wednesdays and don’t think about it much outside of that. I remain very enthused about the quality of my Capella education and would highly recommend it.
Capella offers advanced degrees in educational technology to prepare K-12 educators to integrate digital techniques into instructional plans. Learn more about:
- Graduate Certificate, Instruction in the 1:1 Environment Specialization
- Master of Science in Education Innovation and Technology, Instruction in the 1:1 Environment Specialization
- Education Specialist, Teacher Leader in Digital Transformation Specialization
- Doctor of Education, Teacher Leader in Digital Transformation Specialization
Connect with Dr. Will on Twitter.