Professional Development: Web 2.0 Tools to Boost Student Research

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[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:

  1. Are the goals SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound)?
    1. Professional development goals that will improve all students’ learning?
    2. Professional development goals that will improve teacher effectiveness?
    3. Professional development goals that differentiates the learning?
  2. What activities are planned?
  3. What are the expected outcomes?
  4. How will the learning be measured?
  5. How will you ensure the learning returns to the classroom?
  6. 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.

STEM at the Border…a Final Attempt (for now)

Butwal Access Students

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 triedSomeone 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]

Assistive/Adaptive Technology: Revisited

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.

References:

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.

English Language Learned: A Celebration to be proud of

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.