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!

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.

Web 2.0 at the top of the mountain

I had the opportunity this past weekend to visit a small town called Gorkha, about 6 bumpy, dusty, cliff-clinging hours outside of Kathmandu. It was my first time out of the Valley, and I was thrilled to breathe again and be in the mountains.

My mission was to teach a group of ACCESS teachers and students about technology. This was no easy task, considering most of the students have never used a computer and Internet access is extremely limited. In addition, these students are learning English, so their skills are emerging. It was a challenge, but a fun one, and in the end was enriching for all of us.

The teachers were amazing. They teach English classes to these students, college courses to other students, volunteer large amounts of time, and juggle various professional pursuits. They were well-equipped with computer skills and were willing and gracious learners. I helped them explore Google docs and they were sold immediately on its practical application. We exchanged ideas and I felt an immediate connection with them and an appreciation for all of their efforts. It is a real challenge to incorporate technology into learning when 1) you don’t have the technology and 2) you don’t have the Internet. Yet, they are trying and hoping to head in that direction soon.I took my aunt and uncle, who happened to be in town and who are retired professors. They were great sports to make the journey. Word spread fast, and before we knew what we had gotten ourselves into, we were the “distinguished guests” of a panel in front of a room full of teachers that had come from all over to hear them speak. Though we were slightly unprepared, a lively discussion ensued and participants asked great questions about the differences of Nepali and American education systems, curriculum, outreach, and teacher training. We were even presented with a “Token of Love.”I led a few sessions with the students, and I immediately realized I wasn’t prepared. Their English skills were more limited than I anticipated and few have ever used a computer. The quiz I prepared on Internet 101 was too hard. So, I went to plan B. I pulled out my iPhone-sized projector, pop-up speakers, and iPad, and showed them some multimedia on the wall. I introduced myself and hometown of St. George, Utah, through a Keynote presentation, and showed them an iMovie trailer of their counterparts in Kathmandu. We talked about the usefulness of technology, a little about netiquette, and I challenged them to learn all they could.

They are great students: eager, willing, and polite.

We gave them some practice with a camera and printed out some photos for them. They enjoyed that. The first class I observed was about neighborhoods, and I enjoyed their list of their neighbors on the board.

While it was all a wonderful experience and I made some great contacts and connections, I came home a bit troubled. I truly believe in using technology and its power to enhance and further educational experiences. Computers and the Internet are valuable tools, nearly indispensable. But for these students, it just seems so unattainable, so unreachable, so far away. I have to ask myself, will it even help them? Do they really need all of the fancy tools and applications that most of us rely on? I’m torn, knowing that the answer is both a resounding YES and a cautionary no. I’m content knowing that they are learning English, receiving an education, and are empowering themselves to really make a difference in their lives. In the end, that’s what really matters. The rest will come, in its own time.

Yet another benefit of technology

Last night we experienced an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal. It measured 6.9 at the epicenter about 150 miles away in Sikkam, India. While we were all ‘shaken up’ a bit, especially our four children, we suffered no bodily or property damage. I was reminded again of the positive and effective uses of technology in such scenarios. Of course, technology in the classroom is the main focus of the EdTech program, but technology in our daily lives is pretty great too. Here are a few examples:

  • Our earthquake alarm sounded about 15 seconds before we could feel the earth shake. Since our family had practiced drills recently, we knew to take cover.
  • Within minutes after the earthquake stopped, we were in radio communication with the embassy as accountability measures began and information relayed
  • Our Internet (which can barely survive a heavy monsoon rain) stayed functioning. Within minutes we notified our parents via email that we were OK. We updated our Facebook status. Ten minutes later, on the iPad we checked this amazing earthquake site for details on the quake so we could prepare for aftershocks (which thankfully didn’t reach us).
  • Since phones (land and mobile) were overloaded, we Skyped our neighbors to check on their status.
  • Today, the day after, we checked the newspaper headlines to learn any additional information and gain a better perspective of what happened.

Technology truly is a blessing that reaches into every aspect of our lives. I realize things would have been less functional in a more major disaster, but it was a reminder to me how many tools we have if we are able to utilize them.

At the end of the day, however, it’s having my husband and children safely sleeping next to me, that is the greatest blessing of all…