Q&A with information technology student Benjamin Kahn

This week, we’re featuring the Information Technology (“info tech”) master’s program for We are WOU: Academics. We’d had a chat with a current student in the program about his experience. Meet Benjamin Kahn ’19 from Seattle who’s currently living and working in Portland as an instructional technologist at the University of Portland. Kahn

Why did you choose the info tech program?
I knew the next steps in my career would involve supporting online learning and instructional design, so the info tech program was a great fit. The info tech program addressed the learning and development I wanted, and it also offered a balance between the flexibility of fully online coursework as well as opportunities to meaningfully interact with professors and peers.

What have you loved most about the program so far?
The core faculty that teach in the program are amazing. They each have their different strengths and styles, but all really care both about their students and about delivering a great educational experience. Even though the classes are fully online, I have been able to develop meaningful relationships with my instructors. I’d say the same about many of my classmates, whether they are from a teaching background or a tech background. Learning and interacting with them, and seeing the high quality of work they do inspires me to go above and beyond and push myself to stretch and do my best work.

How do you feel this degree will help you with your career?
I have no doubt the the experiences and knowledge I’m gaining in the program will help me take things to the next level in my career. I came with a strong background in tech. What I needed was a thorough grounding in learning theory, instructional design principles, and multimedia design studies. I’m getting that needed content and industry knowledge in a context that allows me to continue to explore, apply, and reflect upon my technical knowledge in new ways.

What advice do you have for anyone considering this program?
Undertaking the program is a big investment, of your time, your money, and your effort. Learn to plan ahead and use your resources as much as possible. Use a calendar to plan out your weeks. Make an effort to get to know your classmates in the Moodle forums or through email and chat. Always, always save your work to the cloud and/or an external hard drive!

What has been your favorite class so far?
It’s a toss-up, but I’d say the Emerging Information Technology course was the most intellectually interesting to me. The first content in the course was a picture of Donald Trump standing next to Don King underscored by the quote Trump gave reporters at the time the picture was taken: “The whole, you know, age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what’s going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure you have the kind of security that you need.” I thought this was a fascinating way to start a survey course on emerging tech. It made me realize how complicated unpacking the current state of the world is, never mind trying to gauge what’s coming next. The interplay of technology and culture is very complex, very interesting, and very nuanced. There are not a lot of easy answers. In asking difficult questions, our own personal values and philosophies of education technology emerge. It’s a vital area for technologists and educators to be thinking about and collaborating on.

What has been one of the most challenging parts of the program?
This is a rigorous program – it can take a lot of cognitive effort and many hours per week to be successful. You will need to make sacrifices and make the most of your limited, precious time (and brain power!)

What’s your favorite piece of technology that you get to use in the program (physical thing or software or web app, etc.)?
I took the summer quarter condensed course in Photoshop and learned a lot – I’ve gained a new appreciation for the creativity photo editing can bring out. I use Photoshop for classwork all the time now.

How do you think technology will change in the next 5-10 years?
I think it will continue to become more ubiquitous and influential, but also become more invisible and embedded. The cloud will do more of the computing, but sensors will be added to all sorts of everyday items to collect data. Augmented reality will blur the line between reality and cyberspace. Ambient computers with voice control will be the new iPhone. Unfortunately, cybersecurity is going to be more and more of an issue.

How have your info tech classes changed how you see technology in education and your field?
I have a much deeper and contextualized understanding of the opportunities and challenges that come when integrating technology in an education setting. I’m familiar with many of the common fears and reservations that teachers have, as well the pitfalls that occur when technology is used in a perfunctory way. At the same time, I’ve gained insight into the processes in which knowledge construction and learning occur. This makes me more effective as an instructional technologist because I can better design technology solutions that are truly in the service of teaching and learning, rather than trying to bend learning to fit the demands of technology.

Why did you choose WOU?
I was looking for a program that could help me take the next step in my career, and wanted to find the best fit for me. The info tech program is a perfect fit. I can take all my classes online, which works with my busy career and life. Monmouth is just a short trip away from Portland, so I can still visit the campus for events or opportunities like the Summer intensive courses.

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