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Dr. Cynthia Sistek-Chandler, a staff developer, trainer, and professor of educational technology at National University works with schools and the San Diego County Office of Education. Since 1998, Cynthia has primarily taught online EdTech courses. She currently the new Program Lead for Master of Arts in Social and Emotional Learning.
What was it like for you as a student?
During my early elementary experience at Maple Leaf Elementary in Garfield Heights. Ohio, my K through 3rd-grade teachers created a warm and caring environment for me. I was a majorette in the Twirling Sweethearts, a brownie, and at our talent show, I twirled a circular fire hoop! Believe it or not, I was also a budding accordion player. I ask you, who plays accordion nowadays? I did back then. As a granddaughter of a musician, who was a music store owner and an inventor, music, and entertainment was in my DNA. Polka music, ethnic food, and dancing was my life.
Then, when I was in 4th grade, my parents divorced and my life crumbled. I had a new stepfather and entered into a transient way of life. We moved four times in the next four years, to Arizona and back, and then in the 9th grade, we left Ohio for the west coast.
Overall, my experience as a learner was impacted by transience and trauma. My mom was a bartender and a waitress. Being a daughter of a twice-divorced, single mother with her disdained occupation, my interactions with others were sometimes wrought with prejudice and indifference. Regardless, I was always a great student in school and was deeply connected with all of my teachers.
Your journey as a teacher
I knew I always wanted to be a teacher. My younger sister was my first student. Each day, I came home from school and taught her everything I learned that day. By the time she entered kindergarten, she knew how to read, write, and do simple math. She excelled in her school career.
Fast forward, I pursued my passion to become a teacher and persisted in college as an adult. Even though it took me nine years to obtain my bachelor’s degree and another 2 years for my Master’s and teaching credential, I have always been a teacher.
As a graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I began teaching first graders. It was my dream job. In the mid-1980s, computers on wheels (COWS), were just becoming commonplace in the classroom. My kiddos were in awe when they saw their writing roll off the Imagewriter printer. I saw the promise of EdTech as a catalyst and motivator for these youngsters. Programs like the Children’s Writing and Publishing Center came alive for students and for my parent volunteers. Hypercard, Hyperstudio, and Laserdiscs were on the scene and educational software became a catalyst for learning.
CUE Changed My Life
As a beginning teacher in 1988, I attended my first CUE (Computer Using Educators) conference and became infatuated with educational software as a powerful tool for learning. After five years of teaching, I took a hiatus from teaching to explore my passion for Ed Tech. I worked in the software industry to assist educators in integrating software applications into the curriculum. As a sales manager, I interfaced with hundreds of school districts and gave numerous demonstrations using an LCD projector. With a master’s in the curriculum, I wrote teaching guides to support the integration of computer-based learning in the classroom. In 1993, I started teaching teachers and it became clear to me that technology was a powerful tool and not just a thing to master.
Over the last 35 years, my connection with CUE has been an inspiration. I developed my personal learning network (PLN) with people like Barbara Bray, Roger Wagner, Jon Corippo, and hundreds of other educators. CUE has been my family. Being with like-minded educators has helped me grow and connect with others to share experiences and best practices.
Professional Developer and Professor at National University
At National University, I am working with a new Master of Arts degree in Social and Emotional Learning. For 13 years, I was program director and co-lead of the Master of Science in Educational Technology with my colleague Dr. George Beckwith.
In my career, I have worked with the PK-20 community as a professional development coach and trained over 500 school administrators to integrate technology into their blended curriculum. Barbara and I built this AB75/AB 430 state curriculum together using My eCoach.
Our Trip to New Zealand
In 2017, my dear friend, colleague, and inspirational mentor, Barbara Bray (our podcast host) asked me to join her on an adventure to New Zealand to share the Future of Education, Personalized Learning, Design Thinking, and other relevant tidbits with New Zealand educators.
At the University of Waikato at Hamilton, we had a most generous host, Leigh Hynes and incredibly talented educators as guides to schools in the North Island. We flew to the South Island to meet with the wonderful Anne Kennelly from Core Education who introduced us to the Maori culture and connected us with the caring culture of NZ educators.
We toured 10 schools and were immersed in environments where kids came first in learning. I was taken back by how all the students were able to kick off their shoes at the doorstep and fluidly engage in personalized projects in open classrooms and through experiential and exploratory learning. What I loved most was that teachers were required to take regular coffee breaks. Refer to this Google doc about Viscount School in Auckland, New Zealand. Here is a photo of Anne, Barbara, and me enjoying the fall colors and leaves.
Your WHY and how it has changed during this crisis
My “Why” has always been my quest to share my passion for teaching and learning with technology. I have been teaching online since 1999 and know what it takes to engage learners in the online environment. I have always listened to educators, my students, and trainers as they begin their journey as master candidates. I continue to connect with colleagues worldwide. Our collective wisdom and experiences help to heal the world in this time of COVID-19. I have weekly webinars with educators to share online teaching practices and share resources to help all of us in this “new normal” of online learning.
How can people contact you?
Cynthia Sistek-Chandler is a Professor in the Sanford College of Education at National University where she has taught Educational Technology online since 1999. She is currently the Program Lead for the new Master of Arts in Social and Emotional Learning.
Cynthia Sistek-Chandler, Ed D is a Professor in the Sanford College of Education at National University in San Diego and is the Program Lead for the new Master of Arts in Social and Emotional Learning. Dr. Sistek-Chandler is the former Academic Program Director (APD) for the Master of Science in Educational and Instructional Technology (MSEIT). In 2007, “Dr. C “ earned her Doctorate in Educational Technology through the University of San Diego and San Diego State’s joint doctoral program.
Dr. Sistek-Chandler is also an is an eLearning advisor and Moodle Development “coach” for the country of the Philippines and the country of Ghana’s Flexible Learning Project working with the Texas International Education Consortium (TIEC).
Cynthia is a recognized leader in Educational Technology. In 2020, she was awarded EdTech Digest’s Higher Education Technology Leader of the Year.
Her leadership with organizations includes reviewer for th eClassroom of the Future Foundation, judge for the iVIE Film Festival, advisor for the former California Learning Resource Network (CLRN), contributing advisor to the Horizon Report, content writer, professional developer for over 500 school administrators through the AB 75/430 Professional Development and a grant reviewer and writer.
Through her 35-year affiliation with Computer Using Educators (CUE) she has worked at the affiliate level in San Diego holding every board position including President. As an award-winning educator, in 2019 from this organization she earned the prestigious ISTE and CUE Award for “Making IT Happen” as well as earning a Gold and Platinum Disk from (CUE) for her lifetime achievements and service to the educational technology community. In 2014, she received the President’s Professoriate Award from National University and for two years served as a Faculty Fellow for Teaching and Learning.
Dr. Sistek-Chandler is a pioneer in the area of online learning where she has designed and taught online courses since 1999. Her ongoing research focuses on the efficacy of online learning in higher education and how synchronous methods of online communication enhance teaching and learning. Her new book, Exploring Online Learning through Synchronous and Asynchronous Methods was published in April 2020 by IGI Global.
Link to CyberCyn’s Cafe: Communication and Collaboration
Podcast on Unleash Learning interview by Dr. William DeJean, founder of Unleash Learning.
podcast interview by Dr. Patricia Dickenson
“Distance Learning in a Dash”
The emergent role of the MOOC instructor: A qualitative study of trends toward improving future practice
S Haavind, C Sistek-Chandler
International Journal on E-learning 14 (3), 331-350
Interested in checking out more of the Rethinking Learning podcasts and reflections, click on the podcast tab at the top, the logo below, or go to https://barbarabray.net/podcasts/
Go to this page for resources, questions, and more information about Barbara’s new book, Define Your WHY.