Student Spotlight – Dr. Preston Clark

Dr. Clark is a December 2018 graduate of the Doctor of Educational Technology program at Central Michigan University. This interview took place on January 25th as he reflected upon his time with the DET program.


Interviewer Justin Plevinski, JP: We have Dr. Preston Clark here. He is a recent Doctor of Education Technology graduate at Central Michigan University. You graduated in what year? You graduated in what year?

Dr. Preston Clark. PC: Just last year, just this past December, 2018.

JP: You have graduated 2018 and it is January 2019 as we are recording this interview.  So just last [month].  I want to ask you a little bit about your experience with the DET program, and how the DET program has impacted your career so far? What is your occupation currently?

PC: Currently, I am semi-retired.  I am a professional tutor at Delta College here in Bay City, MI.  It’s a position that I took after my time as an educator at a large University in New York state.

JP:  What is your educational and professional background?

PC: My background is somewhat diverse, it is everything between human services and business and information systems management.  I’ve kind of run the gamut with my career.  I spent 28 years at Cornell University in various positions from administrator to lecturer in hospitality and information systems management and business computing. I also did human services, were I managed group homes for people with disabilities.  I’ve had a big gap in different types of things.  IN terms of my background in education, I have got a Bachelor’s in Psychology, Master’s in Adult Education, Educational Specialist in Educational Technology, and most recently this doctorate in educational technology.

JP: What led you into working on the doctorate in educational technology.

PC:  It’s kind of funny in the way that stated. I retired from Cornell about 5 years ago.  My wife is from Michigan, so we moved back home. I decided I wanted to keep my hands in the technology field because I had been teaching information systems management and business computing for a number of years so I wanted to keep in touch with the technology.  The best thing I could do is to touch base with some of the local colleges.  I taught at Saginaw Valley for a year then moved to Delta College because I like the tutoring aspect of working with the students. And not having to grade, which is even better <laughter>.  What got me into the program was that my wife had seen it listed and she saw that one of her cousins was signing up for the program and it was a new program, as the DET, is a new program.  So it’s just over three and a half years old. I had gone back for a doctoral degree ten years ago and I didn’t quiet finish it given the demands I had at the university at the time, so I really wanted to finish off what I had started.  I applied for the program and was accepted, and the rest is history.  I was able to complete my degree just this past December.

JP: It looks like there was a quick turn-around for your degree, so how long did it take you to complete the entire program?


PC: Because I have a lot of time on my hands, I think that really worked for me. Being how it’s an online program and it works in a cohort bases I was one of the first in the first cohort of the program, we completed it within three and a half years. Seven of the original twelve of us finished just this past December.  Three and a half years from beginning to end is what it took.  It took a lot of work <laughter> I might add.  Typically, that’s unusual for a doctoral program to take such a relatively short period to finish the program.  Usually it takes five, six, or even seven years to finish.  The last degree I was working on, I went to ten years, but didn’t have the last “umph” to finish the degree so I was A.B.D.  So I took some time off and went to back and was able to do this one. I was ready for it by then.

JP:  So, you were working part-time as you were working on your doctorate?

PC: Yes, I was.  For me, I was one of the few in the cohort that was working part-time time rather than full-time.  The other folks were all working full-time working in various types of positions from education to business and other jobs.

JP: Fantastic.  What was your experience program as you went through the DET program?

PC: I would say that was unique is that we were the first to experience the program as it was growing. It was building around our cohort initially. That first year was spent- we averaged roughly two courses per semester. We had slots of activities in-between courses to prepare us for doing some really good research and understanding of that, and those dynamics that take place. A number of students had taken previous master’s program within CMU.  I wasn’t one of those. I was coming in from outside CMU. I had to adjust the thinking process at CMU.  The fact that the program completely online was a unique environment. 

JP: As you were working through the DET, you had a dissertation you had to write up, what was your dissertation topic? Can you tell me a little about that?

PC: I can tell you a lot about that! <laughter> In a nutshell the study that my focus was on, was how people use multiple electronic devices that they have and how they were using those in terms of their academic studies. For me, it was looking at how people were using their Smartphones, their tablets, and their laptops.  Most of these mobile capably device that they would utilize.  They would utilize them in very different ways. My focus was how they did that to access online services such as a Learning management system such as Blackboard. I did this at the community college that I work at and created a survey that I sent to over 10,000 students.  I got a pretty good return of about 1,600 responses. This led into a lot of information- of which I am still looking at! <laughter>  

JP: What do you think your findings so far from that data have been?

PC:  There are some clear indications looking at home people use their devices is a relatively new area of study.  It’s only been really looked at for the past six or seven years with the coming of the iPhone back in 2007 and that is when people started paying attention to it.  The interest that I saw, was how productive people where being with their mobile devices. We first need to look at home people are even using mobile devices.  My studies are some of the first that are looking at that kind of behavior.  What I found was that people use devices for various reasons.  They’ll use their smartphones for quick information checks, for quick communication, and maybe even an initial notetaking points for activities they are doing online.  Then some of them will transfer that work over to their laptops or other devices that have larger screens and screen better resources for doing more deep thought and critical thinking kinds of work.  It is interesting to note that while everybody is walking around with smartphones some people are using them simultaneously, such as multitasking with multiple devices, so they may look up something on their smartphone while they are writing a paper rather than using software on their computer to do it. So that was an interesting discovery.

JP: Since completing your dissertation, what is the impact of your study had on your professional life or wider in your career or other fields?

PC: It’s actually involving. Currently I am working with the college that I did this study at and as they are looking at the new learning management systems some of the information that I provided to them is useful in terms of how students are accessing their systems and utilizing them.  Already there is an impact to the colleges that are trying to make decisions about what is the best tools to use given the way that students are currently using their devices. So that’s been initially a major impact. This coming year I’m hoping to publish some of the articles from my dissertation and I’m currently working on those. Identifying some of the key behaviors and saw how different people are using the technologies.  Now I expect that I will get one or two articles published from that.

JP: What does the impact of the DET had on career?

PC:  I’m one of those odd people in terms of my career. I kind of did it backwards.  I have already completed my career in education in terms of the teaching that I have done in terms of the expertise that I have.  What is has done has expanded my opportunity to impact the field of education.  Now my goal is to do more consulting with institutions of higher education as well as K-12 now that I have some understanding of what goes on there. This was something that I learned from the program as I was able to really understand the dynamics going on in K-12 education.  I hope to go back and apply that knowledge as I help districts look at and analyze what they are doing with the technologies that they have in place.

JP: For future students who thinking about applying for DET or who are starting the DET program soon, would you have any advice for them?

PC:  I’d say that first and foremost is to have an understanding and look into what DET is about. I think that the initial belief that a degree in educational technologies is only for those who are teaching in education at the K-12 level.  That’s the first thing to rule out. There is more to using technologies and the approach to that in a variety of fields.  That’s what I think I represent the business and training developing kinds of fields where an understanding of the educational tools can help with training and development. I think it’s important for the persons considering thinking about when is that fit within the kind of work that they do? They will find that the DET is an incredibly flexible degree in terms of looking at the way that we implement learning within the environments in which we are part of.

JP: Do you have any last thoughts?

PC: I would say that one thing about the program which I think works well for us is that there is a comradery that can be built between people in a cohort. Being an online one assumes that you are working individually and that you are working by yourself. That you are working by yourself without contact with others expect maybe with the instructor who you may or may not see.  That could not be further from the truth. Every course has some opportunity of visually interacting, such as we are talking now, through either this video conferencing software and an interaction that way. Some people have even gotten to meet each other.  I think these opportunities really get to help enhance learning. You can see the facial reactions and expressions through the discussions that you have.  I would encourage the people who come into the program from this point on that this is a key part of the learning.  That it is not necessarily with what you are learning from a course but how you are interacting with everybody.  The visual impact is such a positive tool that I encourage people to take advantage of it.  One of the things my cohort is continuing to do, even thought we have graduated, are still online helping our fellow cohort folks who haven’t finished yet.  We still meet regularly and a few of us are helping the rest of the cohorts who have come behind us.  We are currently meeting once a month with the other cohorts so that they can ask us questions about how we have progressed and what we are doing. We can help them with whatever stages they are in during their program.

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