WebQuest: Online Research Sleuth

It feels good to be done!

At least for now…

My final assignment from EdTech 502 was to create a WebQuest. I was vaguely familiar with what a WebQuest is, but since I’m not a teacher I have never created one. The challenge is to help students reach a higher level of thinking. It is more than a scavenger hunt activity of clicking here or there for answers. They are required to think, ask and answer questions, and complete specific tasks. Once I decided on a topic the ideas began to flow.

Looking at my pages, I realize how much I have learned in just a few months. They are complete with CSS templates, original graphics, navigation menus and icons, accessibility features, links, images, and the works. I am still a beginner in every respect, but I am able to produce a professional product I never could have done before.

Technology from the border

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s a little strange being a walking Apple store in the middle of nowhere. I’m 5km from India’s border in Bhairahawa, surrounded by mammoth mosquitoes, mud, and heat I haven’t felt for weeks in Kathmandu. In my luggage I have enough technology to set up my own shop on the corner: an iPad, laptop, iPhone, speakers, portable battery-operated color printer, HD projector the size of my iPhone, camera, Flip HD camera, and the cords/memory cards/batteries/cables that go with it all. Amazingly, I am without four things I really need: an umbrella, ball point pen, earplugs, and mosquito repellent. As I write I’m devising a plan to ward off the mozzies in my room to avoid dreams of malaria dancing in my head while I sleep. So far I am still wearing my scarf and long socks from this morning’s crisp Kathmandu air even though it is roasting. I like a protected neck and toes. Festival music blares and beats so loudly It feels like a small earthquake on my thin mattress.

I am here to teach another group of ACCESS students about technology. This is a fun but in no way easy assignment. These are kids who struggle for the basic necessities of life and who come from several surrounding villages to receive 5 hours of English language per week. They all make great sacrifices to attend but feel it a great honor to learn English. I  had an hour and a half with two classes of 20 students each to teach them everything I could about technology. I spent a lot of time thinking of what I could teach them that would be useful, applicable, and interesting. But in the end, as usual, they are the ones who taught me.

If any of your American kids need a lesson in respect, I have the perfect place to send them. They didn’t enter the classroom until formally invited in and then greeted me by name and ‘Namaste’ as they entered. Each student gave me fresh-picked flowers. Forty bouquets of flowers! If I handed them a piece of paper or quiz, they stood to receive it. They did not make a sound and listened intently to every word I spoke. When called on to speak they stood and spoke clearly. They kept eye contact. They sang me two welcome songs: “Oh Susanna” and “She’ll be coming ’round the mountain.” One boy read a poem he had written. In case you missed the memo, these are teenagers.

Hence the challenge. What could I possibly teach them?  I mean, only four of the 40 have ever even used a computer. Briefly! A room full of teenagers who have not once in their lives sat down at a computer!

I revised my game plan based on what I have learned from my other teaching experience with ACCESS students and in the end I think it was my most successful mission yet.

So what did I do? Well, what would you do? I started somewhere.

I introduced myself using a multimedia Keynote presentation on the projector (with speakers). I told them I had two objectives with it: one, to introduce them to an American; and two, to show them how in just a few minutes technology could help them learn about something they otherwise knew nothing about. In this case, me. I showed them a trailer I had created of the Teej celebration in Kathmandu, and a trailer my son made of our India trip. They loved it! There is something energizing about a darkened room and watching, hearing, and feeling something on a big screen. It’s not on their daily agenda here. I gave them a short quiz on 5 technology terms and went over each answer. I demonstrated a network and the World Wide Web by using yarn strung around the room. The best part that I incorporated this time was to divide them into groups and let each group play with a tool. I gave one group the camera and watched as they went from holding it backwards (I’ve got some great close-ups of noses) and pushing the wrong buttons, to zooming in and taking a decent picture. They had me pose in a dozen ways, holding this bouquet of flowers or that one. My smile muscles are sore. Another group took the Flip and disappeared outside. I caught glimpses of them enacting scenes and narration and can’t wait to look at the footage. They were quite the drama stars. I gave the last group the iPad. That was a huge hit and confirmed my knowledge of how intuitive it is. It took them about a minute to figure it out and they were trying out different apps and each vying for a turn to swipe and tap. Thanks, Steve. Isn’t that what we all enjoy, the chance to play and tinker with gadgets?

Their favorite app was rather pointless but had them all laughing hard. Jib-Jab, of Elf Yourself Christmas movie fame, has a story app that inserts their picture into an animated pizza-making adventure. They loved watching their own face rolling out the dough, spreading the sauce and cheese, riding a bike, and doing a dance. I didn’t have the heart to point out there were both beef and pork on the pizza…

Before the students arrived I spent a few hours with the four English teachers. They are educated people who want to help these students learn and do a wonderful job. While much of our time was spent trying to get their Internet up and running, even though I insisted we would be fine without it, they were eager and willing learners. I showed them some of the power behind Google docs and they want to create a class blog. I think they will.

We all left in high spirits. One girl gave me a book she made. On the front are ornate wooden window cutouts and her written note, “Let’s have a look in our Nepal through this beautiful windows.” She illustrated a stupa and lovely Everest scene. Then she wrote this letter to me, “Dear Madame, I would like to say thank you as you came in our class and teach us about the computer. I felt very happy. To tell you the truth, when I just going to start this class, at that time I just think this class teach us about english language only. But now we are learning about computer with someone like you. Now I am feeling very lucky. I made this card by myself and I hope you’ll like it and keep it and may this card always memorize our country Nepal.”

See what I mean? They teach me.

School Evaluation Summary

It’s easy to criticize schools, especially when it comes to the use of (or not enough use of) technology. Parents do it, teachers do it, even students do it. If you have never had to really evaluate your school based on a number of factors, you might want to look closer before voicing your opinion. It’s complicated.

This week in EdTech 501 I surveyed our school’s technology environment. As I became more familiar with the Technology Maturity Model and the Stages of Technology, I realized this was no easy task.

The Technology Maturity Benchmarks and Stages of Technology “link the technology resources to their use in every learning environment. In this way, the existing level of support for students, teachers and support staff can be determined. The premise is founded on the theory that both resource availability and behavioral changes are required to improve educational outcomes.”

The five organizational filters are: administrative, curricular, support, connectivity and innovation. Each of these levels of the organization are addressed with both behavioral and resource/infrastructure criteria.

I began by creating a Google survey form and sent it to a small mix of administrators, teachers, and technology committee members at my children’s school. I received enough responses to give me a good starting point. The results (using a pseudonym) are noted here:

 

As I analyzed these benchmarks, I realized that it takes a village to improve the technology environment in a school. There’s no easy solution, no magic device or gadget. Results are measured on a spectrum and continually adjust. Many intricate factors work together to create the overall picture. A detailed summary of the results are found here:

 

For this assignment, I polished my project management and collaboration skills, information-gathering and decision-making strategies, and formative evaluation technique. I think AECT would be pleased.

Virtual Field Trip: Sydney

I realized in this week’s EdTech 502 assignment that I know more than I thought I did. Web design is finally starting to come together! What a great feeling. While I won’t be designing for Apple or Adobe anytime soon, I have come far. Just a few weeks ago I knew next to nothing about XHTML or CSS. Looking at the source code for a web page was like reading Greek. Now, while I may not understand it all, I understand most of it. I can apply it. I can start from scratch or from a template and create a professional product. This is a major improvement.

This assignment is to create a virtual field trip experience. It needs to be more than just information about a place or a set of links. It needs to be a place that students likely won’t be able to visit in person. The website needs to have audio, images, and video embedded throughout, with educational activities and questions for the student. Sydney was an easy choice for me since we gathered 21,000 photos during our two years living there. Sadly, not many students will actually get there, so it was the perfect fit. Interestingly, all of the photos and video are from my personal collection.

This was the first time I used a single CSS style sheet linked to each page. I tweaked an online CSS template to create a set of linked pages. The entire project took a huge amount of time this week, but in the end I am pleased. I feel much more confident using Dreamweaver to write and edit code, insert links and images, and adjust colors and formatting. I created a banner in Fireworks. I embedded YouTube videos and an .mp3 file. I linked to internal and external documents. I managed and organized complicated information both on the server and online at Diigo. In short, I used every skill we have used so far and it all came together. Finally!

Have a look: