Instructional Technology Portfolio
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Monday, June 24, 2002
Dept. of Instructional Technology
604 Aderhold Hall, UGA
Athens, GA 30602
Dear Sir or Madam:
Thank you for taking a moment to consider my application for enrollment into your graduate program. For clarity, I have divided this letter up into three parts, beginning with my background, followed by my reason to return to school and finally stating my goals.
My name is Michael Lang. I graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in the summer of 1994 with a Bachelors degree in Computer Science. I participated in the cooperative program, working for IBM for nine quarters. My degree emphasis was on data management systems, software engineering, and human factors in software design.
Since graduating, I have worked for numerous small to mid-sized companies as well as for myself; chiefly as a software engineer, designing and developing complex database application systems such as commercial real estate tracking systems, central reservation systems for large hotels, and human resource tracking and recruiting systems. I am currently self-employed and operating Cybrains, Inc..
About three years ago, I began to grow weary of specializing in building Microsoft Windows based systems. Since forming Cybrains, Inc., I was able to step back for extended periods of time between projects and take a look at my career and look at where things were going in the technology sector and in the world at large. I realized that I was growing disillusioned of the big city corporate world that is the hallmark of Atlanta and realized I wanted to make some changes to my life.
I began to consider returning to school and contemplating what to pursue. I knew that my greatest job satisfaction always came from my roles as a mentor to junior developers and helping others understand the fundamentals underlying the systems being built. I realized that even as my enthusiasm for tackling new development projects for the sheer challenge of accomplishing the task began to wane, my enthusiasm for helping others never wavered.
Over the past eight months I have been building web sites full-time where I rediscovered the open source community (best exemplified by the Linux community and well known software packages such as the Linux operating system itself, and Apache web-server). I realized that it was not my enthusiasm for building systems that was waning so much as I was realizing that the work I did often only benefited the corporation that commissioned the project. In fact, the knowledge and benefits gained during a projects development cycle was not even being shared between teams within the same corporation!
The open source community helped reconnect me with my passion for computers and software development as I no longer felt constrained to just the team members immediately surrounding me. The very nature of their model encourages active communication and sharing of ideas in a public forum that is accessible by anyone.
This rekindling of my passion for software development led me to begin to explore what options were out there for building software systems while simultaneously placing an emphasis on dissemination of knowledge. Over the past few months, I reviewed many different programs at various colleges and spoke with a number of professors and professionals in each studys related field. This search eventually led me to the Masters in Instructional Technology program offered at UGA where I realized almost at once that this was a very viable and interesting field that would hold my complete attention throughout the curriculum. The fact that the Instructional Technology department was one of the top ranked programs in the country in its field only solidified my decision that this was the elusive program I was looking for.
There are a number of potential paths I could follow with this particular degree. Foremost, I believe web sites should be more than just a tool to shine on a corporation's image or sell a product to someone. They should educate the site visitor and provide a wealth of information to the visitor and, in general behave like an on-line community in which the visitors can participate and share knowledge with one another. I believe that one of the skills I lack most, in this respect, is that of how people actually learn and how to best organize material to draw a person's interest and to teach to the widest range of audience within that sphere of influence.
I want to continue to build web sites based on the open source model, eventually building a community framework that would serve as the basis of quickly rolling out a content and interface rich web site. In conjunction with this goal, I would also like to build a number of web sites that help educate the fellow programmer in the art of programming and web-development. Just as computer based training (CBT) has begun to make strong in-roads on the way people use technology to learn, so, too, will web based training (WBT), and I desire to be at the forefront of this field.
I also believe that the Internet will become even more integral in our lives and it is especially important that the theory behind what makes computers work is taught to the younger students so that our society as a whole can stay abreast of the monumental changes that have been occurring throughout society over the last decade. The up and coming generation simply must have exposure to technology at a younger age than ever before if they are to hold any hope of excelling in college and coming out of school on par with those that have been in their chosen field for a number of years. Not only do the students need to learn about computer technologies at the high school level and earlier, but the teachers that teach the students also need the tools and know-how to teach the subject or competent courses of study in the computer field will never get pushed down to the younger audiences.
While I am not sure how I would make such a large scale impact in this area, I do believe this degree will help me understand more fully the issues surrounding todays educational system and why things exist as they currently do. With such understanding of the fundamental theories of education, I may hope to contribute in some way to improve the overall educational system, especially with regards to technologys role in the classroom, whether taught as a subject or utilized to enhance the learning experience of todays youth.
Finally, I have anticipated pursuing a Ph.D. after completing the Masters program. To this end, the Instructional Technology curriculum will immerse me in the educational field and give me the desired exposure to the theories and practices behind teaching methodologies without completely abandoning my strengths in the technology sphere. Not only does the Masters program bridge the gap between my technical background and the educational field, it also provides me with a wide range of options in pursuing a Doctorate degree, whether purely in the educational or technology fields respectively, or once again up the middle of the road.
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