An Addendum

Why am I an ideal candidate for the position of Academic Design Strategy Manager in the Office of Information Technology at the University of Colorado Boulder?

In my cover letter, I wrote about my wide array of experiences that are spread across practice, teaching, research, and scholarship.   Yes, I do wear many hats; but I firmly believe that these experiences have provided me with a unique skill set that makes me a great fit for the position of Academic Design Strategy Manager.

For you convenience, I have attached my cover letter, CV, résumétranscript, and an annotated list of references.

Thank you for taking the time to look at this page.  And again, thank you for your consideration.


Design Studio Graduate Assistant

CEPSE/COE Design Studio at Michigan State University

The CEPSE/COE Design Studio is part of the Michigan State University College of Education and is a resource that aims to to provide faculty with technological and pedagogical support to effectively teach face-to-face and online.

You can learn more about my work as a graduate assistant at the CEPSE/COE Design Studio here.  In my cover letter, I provided a few of the ill-defined and ill-structured issues I had to address in my work and I promised that I would uncover the solutions on this page.  Here they are below.

  • How can we assess and evaluate the success of the pedagogical and technological strategies mentioned earlier? [solution: in progress]
  • How can we design a teaching and learning environment in such a way that it supports the learning of a deaf online student who is synchronously participating in a face-to-face class? [solution]
  • How can a faculty member teach two places at once? [solution]
  • How can two face-to-face instructors simultaneously teach seven face-to-face and fifteen online students? [solution]
  • How can we design a teaching and learning environment in such a way that it provides a sense of presence for online students synchronously attending a face-to-face class? [solution]

I also referred to a class set up where we used iPads to “beam” online students in.


Ph.D. Student

Educational Psychology and Educational Technology (EPET) program at Michigan State University

My specific research interest in the doctoral program include (1) designing, implementing, and evaluating technology-rich learning environment and (2) learning using mobile devices and the implications of such devices on learning.

In fact, I am currently working on my dissertation titled: Use of Smartphones for Learning.  Where I am trying to uncover what does learning using smartphones really mean to students using these devices.

I’ve taken several courses that would provide me with a strong theoretical foundation to be an effective Academic Design Strategy Manager.

Click to open (p)rojects and (w)orkspaces

CEP 957 | Learning in complex domains (p)
Problems of learning in complex and ill-structured domains. Real-world knowledge application. Learning difficult subject matter. Situated, collaborative, and case-based approaches to learning in complex domains. Technologies for enabling new kinds of learning.

CEP 952 | Technology in higher education
Technology for support of teaching and learning in higher educational settings. Theories, research, and design of online learning. Electronic portfolios. Libraries in the age of the Internet.

CEP 909 | Cognition and technology (p)
Interaction of computer technologies and cognitive theories. Learning with new technologies; how technology influences theories of mind. How theories of cognition may guide the development of new technologies.

CEP 956 | Mind, media, and learning (c) (p)
Philosophy, psychology, and sociology of new media. Media effects and learning with media. Issues of gender, identity, culture in technologically mediated environments, including Internet, virtual reality, computer games, simulations, artificial intelligence (AI) systems, and pedagogical agents.

CEP 917 | Knowledge Media Design (w)
Design knowledge as it intersects education, psychology, communications, engineering, media theory, art and aesthetics. Research methodologies for understanding design. Design of educational media.

CEP 981 | Research on literacy and technology (w)
Issues, scholarship, tools, and scholars central to the research on literacy and technology.

In addition to coursework, my graduate studies have lead to publications (more here) and presentations (more here).  Most notable publications and presentations include:

Sawaya, S. (2013, March). Learning using smartphones: Analyzing what current learners think and do. Full paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Information Technology in Teacher Education (SITE). New Orleans, LA.
|PDF | Slides | Abstract |

Research on mobile learning has given much attention to (a) the affordances of mobility that mobile devices offer, and (b) how these devices are used in classroom learning.  Less attention has been paid to how students/learners perceive and use mobile devices.  This exploratory study focuses on developing an understanding of how undergraduate learners’ interpret learning using their smartphones, in particular learning that is not initiated by a teacher.  The study used a qualitative grounded-theory approach to analyze data collected from 28 undergraduate learners in an introductory educational psychology course.  Analysis of the data suggests that the learners’ perception of the phenomenon of learning with smartphones appears to have three properties: What is learned, why, and when.  Each property can be further characterized along one or two dimensions. We see this study as being a first step towards identifying the nature of learning using mobile devices and its varying dimensions.

Mishra, P., Cain, W., Sawaya, S., Henriksen, D. & the Deep Play Research Group (2013).  Rethinking technology & creativity in the 21st century: A room of their own. TechTrends, 57(4), 5-9.
PDF | Abstract |

In this article, we suggest that undervaluing our users may be to our own detriment as scholars and designers, neglecting as it does the kinds of knowledge and real world experience that “naïve users” (if we may characterize them as such) bring to the process and product of design. This gives short shrift to what has gone before, ignoring historical context, collective and collected knowledge, and the rich experience of past and current users.  We argue that observing and understanding the manner in which educators and learners construct their own (“naturally built”) learning spaces, when provided the opportunity to do so, is something we should embrace. Users who question and subvert existing designs, and recreate them to reflect their own practices, can be a powerful impetus for creativity.

Sawaya, S., & Putnam, R. (in press). Bridging the gap: Using mobile devices to connect mathematics to out-of-school contexts. In H. Crompton, & J. Traxler (Eds.) Mobile Learning and Mathematics: Foundations, Design, and Case Studies.
| Abstract |

Cameras, recorders, and storyboard apps on mobile devices make it possible for teachers to create problems that are more realistic, relevant, and engaging for learners, and less dependent on textual presentation.  They also make it possible for learners to create problems themselves, further developing their understanding of connections between the mathematics and situations.  In this chapter, we present an integrated framework that will help teachers design mobile learning activities to connect in-school to out-of-school mathematics.  This framework highlights the importance of considering the interplay, integration, and interdependence between the affordances of mobile devices, the mathematics learning goals, and the learning activity types.

Sawaya, S. (in press). Wearable devices in education. In P. Redmond, J. Lock, & P. Danaher (Eds.) Educational Innovations and Contemporary Technologies. Palgrave Macmillan.
| Abstract |

Computing devices are becoming smaller in size; however, their impact on daily interactions is increasing exponentially.  Wearable devices are the newest addition to the growing family of computing devices and might find their way into classrooms by 2020.  When considering the research on their current applications, these devices have been used for authentic, multimedia, and kinesthetic learning.  When considered from a situated theory of learning perspective, it becomes apparent that wearable devices have the potential for seamless and experiential learning as well.  Despite the excitement in integrating them into teaching and learning, there are several issues for educators to keep in mind.  Nevertheless, wearable devices will positively impact educational practice and educational research in the near future.


Messages-128Online Instructor

Master’s in Educational Technology  program at Michigan State University

Since January 2011, I’ve been an instructor in several online courses in the Master’s in Educational Technology program.  This summer, I co-led the re-design CEP 820: Teaching Students Online.  Courses I’ve taught include the following:

CEP 813: Electronic Portfolios [online]
Fall 2014
In CEP 813, students design learning experiences in digital contexts using the lenses of assessment and evaluation to focus their work.  By starting with the end in mind — that is, an understanding of what mastery will look like for learners — students explore several themes that will empower the creation of meaningful, authentic learning experiences using digital tools.  Course themes include: foundational theoretical frameworks for understanding assessment; instructional design that is informed by assessment; using digital games for assessment of student learning; exploring the affordances of online content management systems for teaching, learning and assessment; feedback, its design, its role and modes in digital learning environments.

CEP 820: Teaching Students Online [online] Summer 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Summer 2014
CEP 820 is a course about teaching students online.  It is designed to meet the needs of a broad range of educational professionals who would like to think deeply about the ways that children, teens, and/or adults can learn on the Web.  It is also designed to help teachers and professionals alike create an online learning environment that includes essential markers of quality for online instruction, including tools that promote collaborative knowledge building and effective communication.

CEP 822: Approaches to Educational Research [online] Summer 2012, Summer 2011
CEP 822 course is designed to support learning how research can inform your professional practice, and how the tools and stance of a researcher can enhance your professional growth.  The goals of this course goals are to prepare students to: (a) be knowledgeable consumers of existing research, including developing a working knowledge of basic research strategies, methodology, and practices, (b) understand the complex context of education research within current US & international education policy and practice, and (c) develop their own research agenda as an important step in understanding their own teaching practice or supporting reform or grant initiatives they may be involved in.

CEP 800: Psychology of Learning in School and Other Settings [online] Spring 2012, Fall 2011, Spring 2011
CEP 800 focuses on developing technology-based instructional interventions that are based on what and how students learn and know.

In addition to teaching, I have several responsibilities:

  • Preparing instructional material including lectures, assignments, rubrics, summaries, and so on
  • Recording instructional videos
  • Re-designing existing courses
  • Managing and updating existing course websites
  • Providing constructive and critical feedback and support on assignments
  • Meeting with students (face-to-face, over the phone, or through video conferencing) to provide further support on course projects
  • Grading student projects and papers
  • Moderating online discussion forums
  • Communicating with students, other instructors, and course coordinators
  • Hosting online synchronous meetings using Adobe Connect and Zoom
  • Mentoring incoming instructors


User Experience Intern

Usability/Accessibility Research and Consulting  (UARC) at Michigan State University

UARC is a leader in determining how interactions can be most effective for users of computer software, websites, and devices.  The group conducts usability testing, training, and consulting for clients from the academic, industry, and government sectors.  UARC is a department of the MSU Office of University Outreach and Engagement (UOE).

As an intern my responsibilities include:

  • Conducting usability evaluations
  • Conducting user interface heuristics evaluations
  • Conducting website content inventories
  • Evaluating information architecture designs
  • Proposing information architecture designs
  • Moderating usability testing
  • Moderating focus groups
  • Formulating usability testing tasks
  • Formulating usability testing and focus group moderator scripts
  • Tagging usability testing videos for analysis using Morae
  • Writing technical reports (view technical report references here)



Synchromodal Learning and Teaching Environments (SLATE) research group at Michigan State University

Synchromodal learning and teaching environments involve spaces where online and face-to-face students are sychronous and active participants.  Our research focuses on the how the design of these synchronous learning environments influences learning, classroom practices, engagement, presence, to name a few constructs.

Our research thus far has culminated in a series of publications (more here) and presentations (more here).  Most notable publications and presentations include:

Cain, W., Bell, J. & Sawaya, S. (2014, March). Supporting diffusion: Engaging the innovation-decision process for synchromodal class sessions. Presented at the 25th annual meeting of the Society of Information Technology in Teacher Education (SITE). Jacksonville, FL.
PDF | Slides | Abstract |

This best practices paper describes activities and initiatives that engage the innovation-decision process associated with a teaching and technology innovation (known as synchromodal class sessions) at the College of Education at a large Mid-western university in the United States. In particular, this paper will discuss how certain activities engaged faculty members at the knowledge, persuasion, and implementation stages of the innovation-decision process, as well as how they have contributed to the continued diffusion of this innovation by faculty members within the College of Education.

Bell, J., Cain, W., Sawaya, S. (2013, June). Introducing the role of a Technology Navigator in a SynchroModal Learning Environment. Best practice paper presented at the annual meeting of the World Conference on Educational Media and Technology (EdMedia). Victoria, BC, Canada.
PDF | Slides | Abstract |

This paper introduces the new role of Technology Navigator to support instructors with the particular challenges of teaching face-to-face and online students in the same section at the same time. This role includes the technology tasks often associated with technology assistants, such as ensuring that the needed technologies are functioning for all students. It also includes the pedagogical tasks both in preparation for teaching and in the moment of teaching that have often been left to the instructor.

Bell, J., Sawaya, S., & Cain, W. (2014). Synchromodal classes: Designing for shared learning experiences between face-to-face and online students. In International Journal of Designs for Learning, 5(1).
PDF | Abstract |

This paper introduces the efforts of the CEPSE/COE Design Studio at Michigan State University to design and implement synchromodal classes for the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology (EPET) Ph.D. program.  Synchromodal classes refer to classes in which online and face-to-face students interact during shared synchronous sessions.   Our efforts stem from the introduction of a hybrid Ph.D. program in the summer of 2010.  In this paper, we describe the antecedents that led to the development of a hybrid Ph.D. program. We then describe our approach to designing synchromodal classes.  We conclude by discussing the lessons we learned through this design and implementation process.

Icons by Gregor Cresnar.  License: Free for commercial use.