Secretary of State’s Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad

speechRead more about this exciting honor I was awarded with here

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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]

Disrupting Class: A Reflection on Transforming Learning

VoiceThreadThis 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.

Technology Outreach: Access Leadership Conference

Google presentation Link to presentation in Google Slides

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.

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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.”

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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!

An Evaluation of Evaluation

appleIn the spirit of reflection and at the completion of yet another intense course experience, I find that I learned far more than I ever intended. While I can’t say I was giddy at the thought of taking EdTech 505 Evaluation for Educational Technologists, I did recognize that my learning curve would be huge. It was. I entered with not even a working definition of program evaluation and now have the skills to conduct one.

I began the course by creating a Gretel-at-a-glance word cloud explaining who I am and what I hope to gain from the course. My formal experience with program evaluation was nonexistent. My objectives for this course were to learn evaluation techniques that could help me evaluate some of the big picture programs in a school. I feel like I at least have the tools and background I need to begin.

Many of the course assignments were exercises found in the course textbook so I didn’t find the need post them on this learning log. One of the downsides of this course is that it is not really designed to increase my digital footprint.

Program evaluation “enables accountability” (Boulmetis & Dutwin, 2011, p. 38). I enjoyed reading about the various vantage points and considerations that make evaluations meaningful. Everyone, especially in today’s economy, wants to know “what did we get for our money [or time, or effort]? Did it work? Did it do what we hoped it would?” Those are fair and important questions. I appreciate the detailed explanations, both in the module and in the text, of programs, inputs, process, outputs, and outcomes.

Our final project was to conduct a small-scale but real program evaluation. The Explore Nepal program is an extensive school-wide program designed to help students reach out to the Nepali community and gain a deeper connection to their host country. I chose go evaluate the Grade 6 Explore Nepal week-long trip to a local Tibetan monastery to see whether the program objectives laid out for the trip were accomplished. The five objectives include: learning about Nepali culture through community interaction, environmental awareness, service learning, challenging physical activities, and team building. It was a major effort and here is a link to a generic copy of my final report:

Summative Evaluation: Grade 6 Explore Nepal Program

Summative Evaluation: Grade 6 Explore Nepal Program on Google Docs
Summative Evaluation Flipbook

One fun aspect of this course was the option on nearly every assignment to turn in an alternate submission format using some sort of tech tool. Some people created slideshows, videos, infographics, collaborative corkboards, flip magazines, and mind maps. It was fun to see the creativity and it sure was nice to have this option to shake things up. I wish every teacher would do that and allow students to complete an assignment while building their online presence, developing creativity, and taking ownership of their learning.

While I didn’t love everything about this course and would have liked more focus on education and technology, I certainly learned a lot that will serve me well, even if I don’t become a professional evaluator. What a ride it has been!

Other coursework:
Evaluation Design Format
Gap Analysis
Program Cycle
Goal-Based Method, Design, and Type
Top 3 Sites on Data Analysis
Review of Chapters 1-9 in course text
Request for Proposal (fictional)

References:
Boulmetis, J., & Dutwin, P. (2011). The ABCs of evaluation: Timeless techniques for     program and project Managers (3rd ed.). Jossey-Bass.