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Selling Myself In 1000 Words

I recently submitted my application to GMU for graduate school. I thought I would breeze through my personal statement. I do write a good amount and I know the topic pretty well. It ended up taking me about two months to get this (this is pretty heavy so brace yo self fool!): 

The World Conference on Education for All (EFA), held over two decades ago, was a monumental step towards equalizing educational opportunities for all children of the world. While tangible advances have proven that this concept is attainable, decades of concerted efforts have demonstrated that we must accomplish better results, quicker and more efficiently if we are to reach the ambitious education targets reinforced into the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. Indeed, most countries cannot wait for the luxury of the technological advances afforded to the best education systems. Therefore, a response that is appropriate, inclusive of key stakeholders, and meets the needs of the system in a sustainable way is more critical now than ever.

As a musician, writer and educator, I have studied and experimented with different forms of distance education. However, as technology continues to evolve, I realize that the skill set I have developed is only the foundation for a successful career in designing ways to effectively disseminate information. Particularly, I am interested in learning how appropriate technologies and innovations in instructional design, such as multichannel learning, can be used to enhance education systems among learners in the most marginalized communities. I am delighted to submit my application for consideration to the Curriculum and Instruction program with a concentration/specialization in Instructional Design and Development through the College of Education and Human Development.

While at George Mason, I intend to focus my studies on refining my skills for designing and developing effective instructional delivery systems. I look forward to studying with distinguished faculty including Prof. Kevin Clark and Prof. Brenda Bannan, whose respective research in computer game design and e-learning software directly relates to my career goals.

I was brought up in a family of musicians who embraced alternative forms of learning through the study of musical instruments and vocal training. However, it was not until high school that I began producing my own music. My music career includes the production of seven full-length albums, performing live at prestigious venues such as the Apollo Theatre in New York, as well as numerous music festivals, television and radio programs both in the United States and internationally.

After completing my Bachelors in English from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington (UNCW) in 2008, I moved to Washington, DC to follow my interest in journalism and video/audio production. I worked for five months as an intern in the Public Relations department of the Voice of America (VOA) in 2009, where I authored press releases, promoted programming through social networking and assisted in various studio productions. Since August 2009, I have been working as a Technology Specialist at Education Development Center (EDC), a global non-profit research and management firm, where I helped build and run a multipurpose studio, assisted with webpage development, audio and video production, and the creation of an interactive exhibit that told the story of EDC.

After a year of working at EDC’s home office, I was given the opportunity to utilize my creative passion and musical inclination to provide field-based support for an Interactive Audio Instruction (IAI) program funded by the Colombian Ministry of Education and implemented by La Universidad del Norte (Uninorte) in Barranquilla, Colombia. In 2010, I began working in Barranquilla helping create the pilot radio program, English for Colombia (ECO), for national dissemination through the use of classroom radios. Additionally, I supported Uninorte by teaching advanced university ESL courses. I also continued to write my own music and perform with a Colombian band. As the lead songwriter and co-producer of ECO, I wrote and produced songs, played the voice of two of the main protagonists in the radio program, assisted as one of three studio engineers, and edited scripts to make sure proper English was used and lesson plans were engaging and cogent. To create these programs, I helped analyze the target audience to pick rhythms and instruments that were indigenous to Colombia, designed and developed the music with other local musicians, and formatively evaluated the programs in comparable schools before submitting them to the appropriate ministry officials for approval.

I returned from Colombia in November of 2011 and, since February of 2012, have been working with EDC on a new IAI curriculum design initiative that is intended to provide quality instruction for marginalized English Language Learners (ELLs) throughout Latin America. I am currently involved in all aspects of the technical design of these programs, which are ultimately being developed for dissemination on a national scale. As apparent through the ECO program, the advantage of IAI for developing countries is that it trains the teacher at the same time as it teaches the students, by providing instructions for good teaching practices throughout a thirty-minute audio lesson made up of dramas, songs and various activities at very low cost. With this experience, I will develop a more complete knowledge of the technical aspects involved in such multichannel learning technologies.

Completing a degree in Instructional Design and Development will provide me with the tools to further refine my pedagogical and technical expertise for curriculum design. I believe my academic and professional experiences, as well as my personal interests, have prepared me for success in my advanced studies at George Mason University. The proximity of the university will allow me to seamlessly apply what I am learning to real world contexts through ongoing support to EDC. I am excited to begin this next stage of my professional development that will combine the use of my creativity with proven pedagogical theories and models for improving education systems around the world.

I question my decision to go back to school sometimes. I question the decision of picking this path all the time. After I completed this letter though, I realized how much this degree relates to what I have done in the last four years and what (I think) I want to do in the future. I know the next couple years will determine a lot about my future and knowing that puts a lot of pressure on every decision. I want to continue doing things I’m passionate about but I also want to put myself in the best finical situation possible. Should I pay a lot of money and spend two years studying something if it doesn’t promise a job with a good salary after? Should I switch the entire game and be a lawyer or doctor?

I think about these things a good amount but the truth is I worry about them very little. I’ve been happy for the majority of my life and I’ve never been rich. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from people who have much less than I do and are still much happier than most people I know. A smart guy once told me, “happiness is a choice.” Choose wisely people. 

 One Response 

  1. John Erik Myers


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