Tag Archives: consulting

The Best Laid Plans …

Some rights reserved by Luke Andrew Scowen 2009

When my winter break began I told myself I would sit down, reflect, and write a thoughtful post to close out the year. I had the best of intentions to write a nice long post, maybe even two … and then, my winter break came to an end. At first, I felt guilty about relaxing so much and not making the time to post but I slowly began to reconsider those feelings.

I started to reflect again on how nice it can be to take a break from the pressures to write, reflect, and post and how it’s even nicer to allow yourself to take that break. As my winter break progressed and I let myself enjoy the simple pleasures of reading, visiting with family, and walking around the city, I began to feel refreshed and I could feel my energy and excitement around work and learning naturally rejuvenating. I decided that while it would have been nice to post during my break, I could be happy with posting after it as well. So now that my break is over, here’s my attempt at looking back at 2012.

iPad_blog_photo2

The past year has been a year of change, full of endings and new beginnings. To start, after a winter and fall jam-packed with coursework, I finished my masters program in International Training and Education in the spring of 2012. I also had the opportunity to expand my consulting work and in addition to managing websites and facilitating Twitter chats and webinars, I led an online summer book club and traveled to Senegal. During my second trip to Africa, I saw less of the countryside but met many more people (over 300 in fact!), as I managed the social media and online spaces for an international conference. I learned a great deal about child protection systems and had the opportunity to connect with some great new colleagues.

After my African adventures, I moved from D.C. back to Philadelphia and into one of my new favorite spots in the city. I had a chance to explore some more of the local parks and restaurants before heading out to my first NAEYC Professional Development Institute (PDI) as a Lasting Legacy Scholar. It was an educative experience and I appreciated the opportunity to connect with so many other professionals in the field of early childhood education. I was also able to help facilitate the first Tech Play Date and share in technology explorations with other early childhood professionals. The PDI was followed closely by my first ISTE conference, which set the stage for our new Early Learning and Technology Special Interest Group (SIGELT) that just recently launched.

ISTE and the Tech Play Date were the perfect prelude to my new position as a Technology Coordinator at a private school, working with Pre-K through 2nd grade, which I began in late August. Since then, I have been engaged in technology explorations, troubleshooting, and collaborations with the students and teachers at my school. I have introduced a range of new tools and apps and together we have explored their applications in the classroom. For example, to start the school year, some students used Skitch on the iPad to annotate photos showing what they like to do in first grade. I have also worked to facilitate some cross-class collaborations, such as a Voicethread exchange among the kindergarten classes, where each student added an audio recording as an introduction to her or his photo and then left a comment on a photo of a new peer in a different kindergarten class.

Not long after our initial projects were finished, I traveled to Atlanta for my 5th NAEYC annual conference. I had a wonderful time talking technology and networking with new friends and colleagues at Tech on Deck and enjoyed attending sessions with people who I had only “met” before on Twitter! I returned to my school with new inspiration for Reggio-inspired, maker-based technology explorations and since then, I have continued to integrate new tools for student expression and creation into the classroom.

DNLE

As the year came to an end, I looked back on all of the posts I had written, here on this blog as well as the tech tips on my school blog, and I felt renewed excitement about all of the things I have learned and experiences I have had. I tried my first MOOC (Standford DNLE) this year, working with partners in Singapore, South Korean, and Iran for our final project and I had the chance to moderate some #Globalclassroom chats to make even more global connections. I continue to learn constantly from my PLN on Twitter, Google+ Communities, and other social media networks, as well as from new friends and colleagues who I get to see in-person.

After giving one small workshop and with another under-review, I have made efforts to begin sharing more of my knowledge and experience with technology as a tool for global learning.  Meanwhile, the small collaborations and global connections that are just beginning to blossom at our school via Skype and Twitter feel like they are a great foundation for future collaborations and the tech projects that are underway are beginning to feel truly integrated with classroom work and curricula. All in all, I think it has been a year of successful change, a year of growth and transition that I hope will lead to even more learning and discovery. Up next, I want to do some forward thinking about the future and what I want to achieve in 2013!

Lessons Learned in Dakar

Two weeks ago, I was getting on a plane to Dakar, Senegal and a week after that, I was helping to launch the first conference on Child Protection Systems Strengthening in Sub-Saharan Africa. In that short time frame, I have learned an amazing amount about child protection and the unique issues its pioneers strive to overcome; the challenges of bringing new technologies to sub-Saharan Africa; the power of technology for global communication; and even a bit about the city of Dakar.

Working out of the UNICEF office in the days leading up to the conference.

Before I delve into some of the amazing experiences I had in Dakar, I’ll give you a little more background about what I was doing there in the first place. Working as a Technology and Education Consultant for Wellspring Advisors, LLC, I have been designing a social media campaign and building a wikispace to house the discussions and documents related to this conference over the past few months. Through numerous Skype meetings and emails, I worked with international agencies to organize what would ultimately be a conference of 350 people from 40 west African nations. It was exciting to see so many agencies, organizations, and funders come together around this topic. We had representatives from UNICEF, Save the Children, Plan International, The African Child Policy Forum, Terre des Hommes, REPSSI, RIATT, Oak Foundation, and other funders.

Conference on Child Protection Systems Strengthening in Sub-Saharan Africa – Promising Practices, Lessons Learned and the Way Forward

During the conference, I introduced attendees to the new technologies associated with the conference and helped them to actively use the wikispace to share session notes, upload documents, and ask questions or make comments. I learned that there is no pre-existing repository of documents on child protection (e.g., child abuse, exploitation, welfare, justice, marriage) in sub-Saharan Africa so our wiki now serves as a space to collect these from each country.

Additionally, I had the privilege to help many attendees join Twitter and Facebook for the first time so that they could begin sharing their knowledge and thoughts on child protection issues with the larger world via social media. It was inspirational to be reminded of how empowering it can be to gain access to a platform that allows you, with the click of a button, to connect and dialogue so easily with other people around the world. It was also very powerful to see the energy people had as I worked with them to resolve tech glitches and help them access these new spaces for expression and sharing. For many, it was a new experience to learn how social media could be used for professional networking and they were surprised to see how many people and accounts were following the conference online via the tweets and posts I made during each session.

@JNdyeta sends her first tweet after joining Twitter and Facebook at the Conference

Working in Dakar, I was also reminded about the challenges that arise from working abroad. We had a minimum of three languages at the conference (i.e., French, English, and Portuguese) and at times only one router for 350 people. And while Google Translate widgets can be a life-saver they’re still more of a tool than a full-fledged solution – as we discovered when attendees clicked the “edit” button in our wiki and all of their translated text converted back to English. I also encountered issues with firewalls trying to block Internet access and conference websites, problems pasting text into our wiki from foreign computers, and some other minor things that you come to expect when working with technology.

Attendees responded to reflection questions on the conference wiki

Yet, amidst all of the tech troubles, I think for me, the key of the conference was adaptability: Transitioning from “Thank You” to “Merci” in a French speaking nation; re-wording the benefits of Twitter in ways that made sense in our child protection conference context; and re-defining a wiki to fit the needs of attendees. Buy-in is always one of the most important pieces when you introduce a new technology but to have buy-in and the resulting motivation and hopefully momentum to continue its use, you need to communicate things in a way that makes sense. You need to adapt your own understanding and way of explaining a tool to fit the linguistic, geographic, cultural, and technical context in which you are working. This can take time, reflection, and a bit of mental exertion, but I can promise you, it’s worth it.

To see some of the amazing dialogues that occurred at the conference and which were then shared through social media, I invite you to visit the slideshows on our wiki.

And finally, I leave you with one of the many photos I snapped from the most western tip of Africa, because for me, regardless of the continent, the ocean will always be home.

The Western Most Tip of Africa in Dakar, Senegal.