I officially graduate in two days with my Masters of Educational Technology. Could it really be? I meant to get this piece published but ran out of time, so I’m publishing it here as my final hoorah. Enjoy and thanks!
Here is the recap I wrote about my recent two-day experience at Google Sydney. It truly was amazing:
Click on the picture above or go to http://www.edtechdidi.com/1/post/2013/05/google-teacher-academy-recap.html
[Click on the image above or here for direct link to this Prezi]
My final project for EdTech 554 is to create a professional development activity for teachers in my school. This assignment is pragmatic and the training we create should be useful in our daily practice. I chose to focus on helping teachers better empower students to be better 21st Century researchers. I am not a librarian, but I have noticed that students (and often teachers) generally don’t tap into enough Web 2.0 tools available to them to help them search, organize, and annotate their research.
For the assignment, I was given the following questions to consider and I will be graded against how well I address these:
- Are the goals SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound)?
- Professional development goals that will improve all students’ learning?
- Professional development goals that will improve teacher effectiveness?
- Professional development goals that differentiates the learning?
- What activities are planned?
- What are the expected outcomes?
- How will the learning be measured?
- How will you ensure the learning returns to the classroom?
- How will you measure the outcome on student learning?
Here is my professional development plan that outlines SMART goals and expected outcomes, NETS for Teachers standards, learning activities, and how to measure student outcomes. I can’t wait to give it a try.
I just returned from Butwal, my final technology outreach visit before we depart Nepal. It’s a hot, dusty town near Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. These sorts of trips are never convenient nor easy, on a number of levels, but the end result is always worth it. The students and teachers are inspiring and I come away enriched.
These trips challenge me to share something useful in a very limited, one-off session. With a few rare exceptions, the students don’t have personal computers or devices, and the Internet is generally very slow. Developing technology skills takes dedicated time and practice: it doesn’t come during a two-hour window. The ideal would be to meet with these students in a computer lab, over a period of time, and help them truly learn to use the Internet and computers for learning. But, that isn’t a possibility. So, I struggle with sharing something that can be meaningful and lasting. The truth is that they likely will remember very little of what we talked about. What I do hope they remember is that someone tried. Someone cared. That’s far more important than any tool or vocabulary term or Netiquette rule.
[Read my EdTech Didi blog entry for lessons learned and photos]
This week for EdTech 554, we explored some of the the issues surrounding assistive technology. Our forum prompt asked us to explore how we as leaders in educational technology can support the use assistive technology to make these possibilities a reality for our students, in spite of budget cuts.
This is certainly an exciting yet difficult issue, one laden with challenges on every front. My mom has taught special education in a low income area of Nevada for 20 years. She faces this issue every day and there is no easy solution.
Yet, “technology can be a great equalizer for individuals with disabilities” and can provide alternative solutions to assist students with physical, sensory, or cognitive impairments (Behrmann, 1998). Technology holds great potential “to enhance access, inclusion, productivity, and the quality of life of individuals with disabilities (as cited in Chmiliar & Cheung, 2007). While the vision is a strong one, the implementation and funding for Assistive Technology often comes up short.
What stood out to me most from the readings (here and here) is the need to support professional development of teachers (a recurring theme in educational technology…). Assistive Technology (AT) will have little impact unless teachers know how to best integrate it into student learning. Though teachers have a “pivotal role” in implementing AT, they generally receive very little training on how to do so (Chmiliar & Cheung, 2007).
Some things require little money or effort but still make a big difference. I have a nerve deafness, due to a childhood illness, that makes it difficult to understand spoken words. I function in ‘normal’ society but I am greatly aided by small efforts that make my life less frustrating. I enable subtitles anytime I can because it helps me differentiate words and it’s good literacy reinforcement for my children. I also always appreciate it when a speaker or teacher can see their students and speaks loudly and clearly.
The encouraging news, I believe, is that accessibility features are becoming more and more common on computers and tablets. What used to require expensive software is now built-in or available within an inexpensive app. Part of the solution to accessibility is to train teachers to properly use the accessibility features already available to them.
For EdTech 541, I explored the issue of accessibility. I created a Clarify-It tutorial on the built-in accessibility features on my iMac and wrote about it on my learning log. I designed a webpage suggesting iPad apps and software/hardware for students with cognitive, physical, sensory, along with at-risk and gifted and talented students.
This is an issue that we can tackle – one step at a time – together.
Behrmann, M. (1998). Assistive technology for young children in special education: It makes a difference. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/assistive-technology-young-children-special-education
Chmiliar, L., & Cheung, B. (2007). Assistive technology training for teachers – Innovation and accessibility online. Developmental Disabilities Bulletin, 35(1&2), 18–28.
I couldn’t have been more proud of these kids if they were my own.
Today 40 students graduated from the English Access Microscholarship Program, the first cohort of students in Nepal. At great personal sacrifice, these students have spent 6 hours weekly for the past two years learning English after school and on weekends. In addition to English language instruction, they have explored U.S. culture, traditions, holidays, ideals, and democracy. As a result of their hard work and supportive teachers, they emerge with greater confidence, lasting friendships, and leadership skills. This program, for many of them, has changed their lives.
I could see it in their beaming faces today, as they stood supported by their teachers, NELTA and U.S. Embassy representatives, and their families. They were happy. They were proud. They have accomplished something difficult and against all odds. As the Deputy Chief of Mission Patricia Mahoney said during her remarks, whatever they can imagine – with education – is possible. They can overcome challenges, contribute to their great country, and make a difference. They are, in short, the future of Nepal.
I first met these students during their Teej celebration during August 2011. They had been part of the English Access Microscholarship Program since that March and were making steady progress. They welcomed me as Nepali youth always do: with respect and love. Since then, I have visited them several times, along with their cohorts in outlying areas.
My contribution has been small (I blog about it here and here) but has had a lasting impact on me, a journey I will ever be grateful for. I have attempted to instill some form of 21st Century skills in them, or at least a desire to learn. We’ve covered Netiquette and social media, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and search engines. I’ve shown them slideshows, multimedia presentations, and how technology can be used for learning English. They’ve explored my cameras, iPad, and video camera. Just last week we had a good discussion on how they can be contributors and innovators to make their world a better place. They wrote some personal pledges on how they will make a difference.
Today is a day of pride and success: for the students and for everyone who has played a part in their great journey. Tomorrow may bring new challenges and new mountains to climb.But today, for one hour, these students were honored and their efforts celebrated.
Greatness was in that room.
This week I am revisiting the very complex and important issue of digital divide. I recall an early assignment in EdTech 501 in which we played the role of a pseudo-task force to determine how to use $50million to reduce statewide digital inequality. I realized through researching that assignment the distinct differences between digital divide (the have’s and the have-not’s of computer access) and digital inequality (the level to which a user can implement and utilize available tools). Both are critically important.
This week’s article “Bridging the Digital Divide” addresses mostly the digital divide and the importance of schools providing sufficient technologies to “close or at least narrow the digital divide.” It states that schools must “provide full access for special student populations – especially those with disabilities – to the Internet, distance learning, and multimedia materials.” I loved that it points out a need to have a technology specialist on staff to “stay informed and up-to-date on technologies” and help train teachers and facilitate student learning. That’s my current role and I feel like it critical to our school accomplishing our technology vision.
While I don’t question the importance of universal access, I do have a slightly different perspective since I currently live in a developing country. Few have computers at home. The Internet is costly and sporadic. Everyone fends for themselves in this regard by going to their local “cyber” to use the Internet when needed. It may not be easy nor convenient, but they make it work. They find a way. Sometimes I wonder in the U.S. if we mistakenly call it a digital divide if a student doesn’t have all the bells and whistles on all the latest gadgets at home with a high-speed Internet connection, when there are many other ways to get online (school being just one of them.)
The digital divide is certainly a complex problem and one that schools need to address – but schools are only one piece of a very large puzzle. Individuals (regardless of their circumstances), communities, and Internet Service Providers are key players as well.
An article called “Can E-learning Break the Digital Divide?” looks at whether the convenience and availability of global e-Learning narrows the digital divide with students from developing countries. The author, who is a virtual education professor from the University of Liverpool, believes that the Divide is only widening. The reasons for this are complicated, but they resonate with me because I live in a developing country and work with students similar to the ones he describes. I see these problems and know they are real.
He claims that while the potential is there, e-Learning doesn’t provide equal education to everyone because of four main reasons: 1) the language barrier, which includes cultural specifics; 2) the lack of prerequisites which leads many students to struggle; 3) technology hurdles such as slow Internet or old equipment; and 4) lack of course translation. E-Learning courses also require a certain level of maturity and self-motivation for students to contribute to discussion boards and assignments, and many students are not familiar with this type of intense learning. He cites statistics about how many students are studying from outside their developing home country due to lack of opportunity and sufficient Internet access.
Ultimately, the author makes a strong claim that “crossing the Digital Divide is equal to crossing an economic barrier.”
This is a collaborative VoiceThread created in response to this article:
Disrupting Class: Student-Centric Education Is the Future
[I made my comments directly in the VoiceThread but wanted to put them here as well.]
This article has some very persuasive arguments, if not downright discouraging, about the state of our current educational landscape. As someone in this class mentioned in a previous discussion, and like many other similar articles, it uses scare tactics to make its point. It calls for a complete reform of learning, of education, of technology integration. I can’t debunk its persuasive arguments, and even agree with many of them. Yet, I wonder if there is a better way, something a little more balanced, a little more realistic. Or is that what vision is? More of a dream than reality?
I agree here when it says that the key to transforming technology is how it’s implemented, and here — that simply investing in expensive technology devices or software isn’t enough to move student learning forward. So what is the answer? I believe that while it’s complicated, it’s also possible — and it’s an effort we must continually support and fight for.
We need to use technology in strategic, measured, planned ways that allows students to learn the way they need to learn. We need to reach them on their terms and speak their language, which almost always involves some sort of social media format. We need to not be afraid to take risks, to try something new, to fail miserably and to try again. We need teachers that are willing to think outside the box, but to also be there for their students, both in a traditional sense and a digital one.
Maybe a complete transformation is needed, maybe not. Why don’t we start by doing a better job at the things we’re doing and continually looking for ways to bring our students along with us in this great world of learning.
What a week! Last weekend I was in Sydney presenting at and enjoying the Google Apps for Education Summit. I learned from edtech rock stars who are using Google Apps and other tools in brilliant and innovative ways to inspire teachers and students.
This weekend I find myself in Pokhara, Nepal, speaking at a leadership conference for 160 Nepali Youth. I was invited by NELTA to address these English Access Microscholarship Program students. My topic, “Creativity and Innovation: Leveraging Technology to Change YOUR World” was inspired by the three keynotes I heard at GAFE by Suan Yeo, Jim Sill, and Chris Bell. Thanks, guys!
I’ve worked with the Access students before, told countless stories of my experiences with them, presented in the Global Education Conference about them, and even had a feature article published about my efforts with them. They are dear to my heart, even though my time is limited and I’ve not been able to do as much as I would like.
These students have come for a 5-day conference from their various locations to be taught and inspired by educational leaders. For most of them, this is the first time they have left their home town/village, stayed in a hotel with friends, and met their counterparts. They are vibrant, happy, and having a great time, even though their days are long and packed full of activities.
I brought my two oldest children along with me, and the students were so warm and accepting. I didn’t really see my 8-year-old daughter much, as she was adopted by several of the girls. These are such great kids, full of life, hope, and energy, despite coming from very limited circumstances. Through their efforts in learning not only English, but Western ideals and culture, and gaining the skills that come from true collaboration and hard work, they have an opportunity to change their lives and make a difference in their communities.
My goal of this presentation was to show how technology – when leveraged for good – can be a powerful tool to help them change their world. We may not be able to change the whole world, but we can change our own world. I showed several inspiring examples of people who have made a difference. I showed them some tools for learning (Khan Academy, YouTube EDU, MOOCs, Google Drive, Google art project, etc.) and encouraged them to use the Internet at their local cyber for learning. The Internet is an incredible leveler – anyone in the world has access to the same information as anyone else. True, not everyone has fancy tools or a personal computer or tablet. But anyone that can get online can tap into the wealth of knowledge out there. Knowledge is power – the question is, what will they (we) do with that power.
I wanted to open their minds – to show that the Internet is for more than Facebook and YouTube, that social media can be a tremendous tool for good. They really don’t know what they’re missing.
I think my message got through. It’s truly a privelege to work with them and I am always the one who comes away humbled, honored, and inspired. I came away wanting to make a small difference in my own world. Hopefully, this weekend I have done that in some small way.
Oh, and at the last minute I decided to give away a nearly new Dell Streak 7 that my dad donated. I didn’t want to draw random names out of a hat: I wanted it to go to someone who would really appreciate it and use it for good. So, I had anyone interested write an essay. Here are a few quotes from the 22 responses:
How I Can Use Social Media to be a Global Citizen
- “Social media are those media which not only helps to connect with one individual, society, or country but it includes or connects to whole world”
- “I can search or explore new inventions about science and technology”
- “Today our world is becoming narrower as it is a village because of social media”
- “We can use Facebook for making new friends from different sides and corners of the world”
- “The coolest thing about social media is its global nature for me. It’s great to go to bed and know people are communicating, opinions are being debated, and news is being created and shared.”
- “Knowing that the world is full of decent, intelligent, caring people and being able to tap into this, the biggest pool of all, gives positive outlook indeed. We are moving from consumption to communication and co-creation.”
- “We can upload our problems”
- “When we share about our idea that idea will reads one/two person then after it will pass one to another and another to another. So, it will be provide everywhere. Then everybody knows our idea.”
- “Social media helps us to know the world’s culture. For e.g. we Nepali don’t know about the Christmas Day. But the use of social media we know about Christmas. And it’s wonderful when we develop a vision of globalization of the human race.”
- “We know the world’s culture by the help of social media”
- “Someone say that every things have good or bad things, so as well as social media have both things. We have to follow good things and recognize bad things. So I want to say always use good part of social media and never use that bad things.”
- “Through social media we can give information to others who are away from us”
- “Through the Internet we can learn others cultures, religions, and we can be together.”
The winner was a very appreciative and humble young man from Ghorka. Read his full essay here.
So, yes, it’s been a spectrum of a week – but a great one!