Tag Archives: international education

Reflecting on Technology as a Global Learning Tool

It’s been about two weeks since I taught my first graduate course at American University, entitled Technology as a Global Learning Tool (or as you might have seen on Twitter, #T4GL12). I wanted to wait a little while before writing a post about teaching the course to give myself some time to reflect and review all of the learning that occurred.

The stated learning objectives for the course were as follows:

Skill – To practice new technology skills and use new technology tools (e.g., Tweeting, Voicethread)
Skill – To build a collaborative online workspace to serve as an ongoing resource (i.e., wikipage)
Skill – To engage in dialogue with other educators and trainers around the globe
Skill – To begin building or further enhancing a virtual, personal learning network (PLN)
Knowledge – To examine how to use a PLN and related technology tools to connect your students/clients to other students/clients around the globe
Knowledge – To identify ways you currently do and could globalize your classroom/organization/trainings
Knowledge – To build a wider repertoire of technology tools and strategies to globalize your classroom/organization/trainings
Attitude – To expand your willingness and interest in using technology for global collaboration
Attitude – To develop a sense of community with other members of the skills institute
Attitude – To be empowered to use new technology tools and skills in innovative ways

I am happy to say that I think each of these goals was achieved during the course and further developed in our online spaces (Wikispace, Twitter) after the course ended. I was a bit concerned about how easy it would be to establish a course community in such a short time span (the class was taught in an intensive two-day workshop-style design). Luckily, participants were willing to open up and engage with one another and I think some of the course activities helped to facilitate the connections that were made. For example, we used a shared MindMeister to map each of our existing PLNs and then took time to use the connector tool to make connections within and between our PLNs to visualize how we are all connected and can help one another network.

Throughout the course, I asked students to be active in editing and adding to various pages in our wikispace with the hope that it could become a collaborative,  community resource. It was exciting to see students learn this new tool and apply their new knowledge so quickly. I felt like they really took ownership of the space, especially as they returned after the course to post their final reflection projects.

We covered numerous different web 2.0 tools, such as Lino, Pinterest, and Prezi but we also took time to talk about sustainability and ways to overcome existing and future barriers to their ongoing tech learning. I think this was a valuable part of the course because it allowed everyone time and space to step back from the tools themselves and reflect on the specific steps they could take to integrate these tools into their organizations and classrooms. The concreteness of this activity seemed to really facilitate students’ understanding and was named as something the students appreciated in light of the almost overwhelming amount of new tools they had been exposed to in the course.

One surprising result to me was the popularity of Voicethread. I had imagined that various students would be taken with or attracted to different tools depending on their professional context (e.g., nonprofit, classroom) and learning styles but a majority of students all ended up focusing on Voicethread for their final reflections (in addition to citing Twitter as a new favorite). I wonder if the multiplicity of applications and various modalities it allows for (e.g., video, picture, audio and text comments) are what make it such an appealing tool. I think students appreciated that whether they were planning to work in study abroad/exchange, create global learning in their K12 classrooms, or work globally through their nonprofits, they could use this tool to communicate and collaborate.

As a teacher, it was truly exciting to see students begin to engage with Twitter through our course hashtag and to see them start to explore many of the new tools we discussed, creating step-by-step plans for how they would implement them in their professional lives. It was also great to have students share their own resources using these tools (e.g., sending out a symbaloo of websites they currently use for homework the first night) so that I could also learn from them and be exposed to resources they were aware of that I might not know.

We also documented our learning throughout the course on a page of our wiki. Some of the things that were recorded included:

  • How to create a new wiki page
  • How to create a personalized Google Map
  • I sent a tweet!
  • How to grow your PLN using Twitter
  • Voicethread connects people on a more personal level – more genuine
  • How to create a professional presence and how to cross-pollinate all of your interests
  • Process for setting up a sustainable global project
  • Creation of mini-teams/groups for support and guidance
As one student said,I learned so much in this class, mostly about trying new things and thinking about how to use technology in ways I had never really thought of before.”

I too learned a great deal through the course. In addition to gaining more experience with course design and implementation, I learned more about what works best in introducing new technologies to different audiences. I was reminded of how important “play time” is when exploring new tech tools and when I showed some technologies being used for global collaboration projects, the value of relevant, meaningful examples was reinforced. It was amazing to have an opportunity to work with this great group of students in thinking through ways technology can be used as a global learning tool. Through students’ final reflection projects, I was able to observe their learning in-action and students were able to demonstrate their growth in tech knowledge, skills, and comfort. I hope they all now feel better prepared to explore how technology can be used in meaningful and relevant ways for global learning and collaboration in diverse professional contexts.

The Hundred is There and Now is The Time to Listen

The child is made of one hundred.
The child has a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
a hundred, always a hundred …
(See below for entire poem)

From The Wonder of Learning Website

No Way. The Hundred is There” has been one of my favorite poems for many years now. Hearing it was one of the things that inspired me to study abroad in Reggio Emilia, Italy, where the author, Loris Malaguzzi, worked with teachers to design a unique approach to early care and education. I truly believe that young children have a hundred languages and “(and a hundred, hundred, hundred more)” to express their ideas and emotions and to interact with the world.

It was really my experiences with educators in Italy and coming to understand the vast capabilities of very young children, including the depth of reflection they can engage in, that pushed me to get a master’s in International Training and Education. This passion for early childhood education, as well as my focus on technology, is what has driven my capstone work, which is the culminating project for my master’s program. I have been designing a website for early childhood educators to use as a resource to learn more about the reasons and ways to create global learning experiences in their classrooms using technology. The site provides information about the fields of  global education, educational technology, and early childhood, as well as specific technology tools that can be used in the classroom.

My hope is that the website will be accessible and easy for teachers to use, providing them with relevant and readable information. To make the site valuable for teachers, I have been conducting an online survey asking early childhood teachers for information about their current practices with technology and about what resources they would like to have to better understand and create global learning experiences. I plan to use their responses when selecting what content to add to the site. For example, one teacher has requested a sample lesson plan so she can get a better sense of what a lesson would look like that incorporates technology to create a global learning experience.

What has been frustrating, is that while I have found some great resources about global education and technology tools for collaboration, there are limited sources available that combine these ideas together. And there are almost none, that discuss creating global learning experiences with students before they enter Kindergarten. I have been lucky to have access to some amazing examples of global collaboration and exchange by being part of the #kinderchat community on Twitter. These teachers have provided me with some great stories and are fabulous models for global learning in early childhood.

But I’m still left deeply disappointed. If we believe young children can speak hundreds of languages, why do they have to enter formal schooling before they can have opportunities to express all of those languages and to learn others from children around the world? Preschoolers in Reggio Emilia have been valued and respected enough to be entrusted with designing the city’s theater curtain or creating an amusement park for birds in one of the city parks. Yet in most schools in the U.S., we restrict these young children from using technologies like SkypeVoicethread or Twitter to connect, share, learn, and collaborate with other young children around the world. Why?

I’m left with the mantra Malaguzzi used to end his poem “The child says: No Way. The Hundred is there.” The child perseveres, even after teachers, parents, and society try to separate ideas and opportunities for discovery from the child and to dissuade the child from believing. So that it what I too will do, by creating this website and hoping that more early childhood teachers can begin introducing opportunities to children before they reach kindergarten for global collaboration and exchange. If we can support the inclusion of global learning experiences at this early stage in a child’s life, I believe we will open up exciting and inspiring opportunities to learn about multiculturalism, multilingualism, and diversity both with and from these young children.

The child is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred.

Always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach
Translated by Lella Gandini 

Global Tech Courses Are Not Built in a Day

Everyone has heard how “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and I can now confirm that graduate courses on Technology as a Global Learning Tool are certainly not either!

I have devoted an inordinate amount of my time recently to creating and preparing for this grad course that I will be teaching on March 3-4th. I knew that designing my own course would be time-consuming but I underestimated the amount of time I would want to put into building the course wiki, where I have compiled related articles and resources for at least forty different tech tools.

The longer that I work on the wiki, the more I realize that there is just so much content that I could cover! There is a seemingly endless number of technology tools on the web that teachers, trainers, international development and exchange workers and others in the field of global education could use for global collaboration. I want to share them all! But I know that’s not possible. So I have worked to streamline the content to include tools that I feel will be most valuable for the participants, based on a needs assessment I conducted about their learning goals, and based on the ease and usability of the tools.

I want to prepare and empower my students to begin using any of the new tools we will discuss (e.g., Voicethread, Google Docs, Lino boards) as soon as the course is complete and yet I also do not want to overwhelm them with too many new technologies and websites. I have struggled to balance the more boring “how-to” type aspects of learning new tools with opportunities for student participation and involvement, and active discussions of the practical applications for these tools. Additionally, I have scheduled time for us to discuss sustainability and ways for course participants to continue using their new skills and tools after the course has ended.

I think one of the things that I am most excited about is the course community I hope to establish with students and then keep alive via our newly formed digital networks. The course is built around a private wikispace that will house all of the resources and assignments but it will also be a space for collaborative exploration and learning. The hope is that the wiki itself will be a new tech tool which participants can learn and practice with and then use with future global learning projects. By using a wiki, which everyone can add to and edit, students will have an opportunity to truly take an active role in shaping our course space and contributing to the content and discussions. Additionally, I will be introducing the class to Twitter and using a hashtag (#T4GL12) throughout the course so that students can begin to explore the vast, global network that a platform like Twitter provides. Through class activities and tweets, students can begin learning more about the sharing of resources, support, and ideas that can occur on Twitter. Since both Twitter and our wikispace are virtual platforms, even after the course is finished and students are no longer together, my hope is that we can continue sharing and exchanging resources and building on our new relationships with one another through these mediums.

To me, those relationships are what help shift a standard exchange of knowledge and resources from a single “sage on a stage” to the students below to more reciprocal exchanges of teaching and learning. I am eager to see what the participants of my course can teach me about different technologies they use or new ways of seeing and using the tools that I teach them. By forming a community of learners who want to find ways to use technology as a global learning tool in diverse setting around the world, we can ideally create a group motivated by curiosity; united by our goals of global exchange and education; and inspired by one another.

Now, back to making the final touches on the course schedule and wiki!

Another Year Gone By

Wow, another year has gone by and we’re already three days into 2012! With the start of a new year, I wanted to take some time to reflect back on 2011 and things that I learned, accomplished, and hope to carry with me into the new year.

I think one of the most memorable things of 2011 will always be my first trip to Africa. As part of one of my master’s courses at American University, I traveled to Nigeria for two weeks in May to conduct research on the early childhood education available in the small town of Yola. I was amazed at the range of education practices and facilities I saw, ranging from mud buildings with a few tables and crayons to a fully-resourced, air-conditioned facility connected to the American University of Nigeria. The trip was a great reminder that no matter how many books you read or perspectives you hear on a country, there is nothing like walking into a new culture, hearing new languages and quickly trying to adapt to the local customs, food, weather, and everything else that goes with international travel! Some parts will always be easier than others, such as getting down on the dirt floors and playing with the children at the various schools I visited. Whereas trying to stay silent and honor the accepted cultural practice of corporal punishment (i.e., watching a four-year-old be repeatedly hit with a large, thick stick) is much, much harder. Overall, the trip was extremely educative. I learned a great deal about life in Nigeria, the education system there, and the importance of traveling with a flexible, supportive group (and protein bars … for when you can’t take one more day of rice and chicken!).

Aside from my international travels, I had some great developments in my professional life in 2011. I had the opportunity to spend the summer working as a teacher at the Penn Children’s Center and loved getting to work closely with one preschool class. Our adventures included “traveling” from Japan to England, learning about the royal family, creating castles of all shapes and sizes, growing flowers and vegetables in our garden, and enjoying many days of water play!

Earlier this fall, I was able to start working as an Education and Technology Consultant, which has allowed me to learn a lot about webinar management, utilize more of my tech skills, and be more active in the field of early childhood. Consulting has allowed me to work with some great new colleagues, including @FSSimon and @KarenNemethEdM, which has been a real privilege. I’ve also really enjoyed helping to facilitate the Early Childhood Investigations webinars and if you haven’t checked them out, I’d highly recommend them, they’re free

I also grew a lot as a learner and educator in 2011 through my master’s courses. I especially enjoyed Models/Methods in Early Childhood Curriculum; Global & Multicultural Education & Training; Training Design; and Critical Educational Psychology. These courses helped deepen my knowledge of approaches to literacy education in early childhood, critical theory and ways it applies to education and psychology, and how to design a meaningful training. I was able to take a fresh look at the works of Freiere, Vygotsky, Piaget as well as many new theorists and I had the chance to read a number of great texts. I would particularly recommend: Making Literacy RealCritical Multiculturalism: Theory & Praxis, Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach.

Of course a big part of my past year has involved a continued exploration of tech tools. As I wrote about in my first post, I discovered Storify not long ago and I have also been testing out Symbaloo, a great way to compile your favorite sites, as well as exploring new uses for the virtual cork board Lino. I also began using Picnik so I could add a watermark to the photos in my new Etsy shop. After following and reading many other papers, I finally decided to create my own #Tech, #GlobalEd & #EarlyEd  paper.li and after being fairly inactive for a bit, I jumped back into LinkedIn in 2011, creating two new networking groups for my master’s program and finding other professional groups where I could join some great dialogues. Twitter was also a major part of 2011 for me, as I traveled to New Orleans to present on Twitter in liberal arts classrooms at the annual meeting of AERA, connected with more educators around the globe, began participating in more great chats like #kinderchat, and started tweeting for my program @ITEP_AU.

All in all, it was a pretty great year! I’ve loved the discoveries I’ve made, whether they’ve been in the field of international education, early childhood, or technology and the connections I have built will definitely be a big part of this new year. I’m excited to see what 2012 will bring and to start charting new waters, either here or abroad, so that I can continue to learn and grow and to connect educators around the globe.