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Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award Recipient: Shawn Mahoney, TIE'10

Shawn MahoneyWhen Shawn Mahoney was contemplating enrolling at the Ed School, she looked to Professor Chris Dede for advice. "[He] was instrumental in my decision to attend HGSE," she says. "Throughout the year, he continued to be a thought mentor, critically questioning instructional design, and encouraging everyone to ask: 'What are the challenges and affordances of this technology?'" For Mahoney, the support of Dede and others in the Technology, Innovation, and Education Program (TIE) has been invaluable.

"There are two honors blended into this award -- intellectual achievement and engagement with the master's program -- and Shawn Mahoney richly deserves them both," says Senior Lecturer Joe Blatt, director of TIE. "Shawn extracted herself from a busy professional and student life in Arizona to come to TIE, plunged with gusto into a demanding course load, and has been a reliable and insightful contributor in all her classes.... The combination of dedicated coursework and enriching our mix of practice with theory make Shawn a model student and a very deserving award winner."

Mahoney will remain busy after graduation. In addition to returning to Pearson Digital Learning to lead design and evaluation efforts, she plans to promote the iDEA Innovation Center, a digital laboratory that democratizes formative evaluation. She also will continue to work toward her Ph.D. in educational technology at Arizona State University.

Upon learning that she had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for TIE, Mahoney answered some questions about her time at the Ed School and beyond.

What was your goal upon entering the Ed School?
Upon entering the Ed School, I was interested in the interplay between research, policy, and practice. My specific interest is in the areas of instructional design and formative evaluation. My goal was to explore essential questions about the challenges and affordances of technology pertaining to 21st century learning, connect with thought leaders across disciplines, and investigate the equity and customization issues of online learning.

Is that goal any different now?
Although my goals have remained consistent, during my HGSE experience I have developed a deeper understanding of the interaction among educators, policymakers, and private enterprise which can be leveraged to maximize the educational opportunities created by technology. The importance of a cross-institutional, integrated approach was recognized in many of my classes and manifested itself in the broad range of expertise my classmates brought to both our in-class and out-of-class discussions.

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education?
The Good Work course with Howard Gardner offered a compelling framework that I will take forward with me. Professor Gardner's approach demonstrates the power of thoughtfully examining the things we do every day within our profession. The course, quite literally, challenges us to define what it means to do good work. In education, such an approach means rethinking old categories and taking responsibility for new possibilities. It means striving for alignment amongst ethics, excellence, and engagement.

What advice do you have for next year's students going through your program?
I have three pieces of advice. First, I would pass on words of wisdom shared with my class during our orientation: a) balance investing and harvesting, b) find and make friends who disagree, c) ask yourself: What have I changed my mind about? Second, attend the Askwith Forums and other special events across the university; where else do you get the benefit of perspectives from inspirational individuals like Eric Carle and Bill Gates? Third, schedule 1-1 time with a librarian; my appointments saved me time with reference lists and helped me craft a more targeted literature review.

If you could transport one person/place/thing in Harvard Square to your next
destination, what would it be?

It might be a tie between L.A. Burdick and Lizzy's Ice Cream. Burdick's hot chocolate is perfect on a cold winter morning and the Mango Sorbet at Lizzy's is a fantastic treat on a warm day. It's like the yin and yang of indulgence near the Ed School.


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