Drive to Read Program in Amman, Jordan

DTR Program - Book Mobile Activity Area Setup

I’ve started a working with the Drive To Read (DTR) program organized by AED in conjunction with USAid, Ministry of Culture and the Greater Amman Municipality.  DTR uses a mobile book library as its base when it sets up in 4 different parks within Amman and Zarqa.  Where I work there are two shifts of the program servicing an eager, rambunctious group of youngsters between the ages of 6 and 12 years.

As stated on the AED website, http://www.theaedhub.org/archives/497 , the goals of the Drive to Read Program are to build a “reading culture” among young people between the ages of six and 12 years old. Another website about the program says that it supplements and reinforces learning in the formal education system for those children attending school, and offer basic learning opportunities for children outside of the system (http://gec.aed.org/asia/drivetoread.htm).

Main Activity Area - DTR

The parents from the two parks in which I am participating have specifically inquired about the possibility of having a ‘native’ English speaker work with the children so I am keen to be meeting an expressed need! The DTR staff organizes a theme for each month and then plans active ways for the children to learn about that theme – May’s theme is Citizenship.  I decided the English activities I would do would try to dovetail with what the staff were already planning.

Introducing.... Video and Script Writing Activity

In one park, I worked with a small cluster of children pulled from the entire group for about 15 to 20 minutes and then they went back with the group.  In the other park, we tried a larger group for the entire program (45 minutes or so).  Both methods seemed to work okay – with the smaller groups, the learning was more intimate and we worked a little bit more with the technology (digital cameras & personalized ‘orange’ boards) while with the larger group, the learning was more general with more group singing games, such as head & shoulders and “Flag” hokey pokey. In the photo to the left, the older children have written a short script to introduce each other and now we are videoing them.

One of my ideas was to do a read aloud with each grouping.  Since I want to make sure I choose culturally appropriate books and also ones fitting the monthly theme, my current favourite, “The Sandwich Swap” written by Queen Rani and Kelly Dipuccio, fit both criteria.  When I noticed waning interest or confusion in the eyes of my little reading buddies, I had to alter the text ‘on the fly’ – not an easy feat I discovered! In the future I am going to look for very visual books with short sentences on each page.  “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak would be one that fits the bill.

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Virtual Read Alouds – #WRAD & “Read With Me”

This winter, while stationed in Amman, Jordan, I’ve had the opportunity to share a few read-alouds that did not have the typical story-time set up.  They were virtual read-alouds done over the internet using my Elluminate vroom provided by LearnCentral. I was able to connect with classes in Ontario, Canada, Washington, Iowa, Florida and North Carolina. It worked like a charm…well, almost!

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For both World Read Aloud Day and Read With Me, there were calls put out on twitter looking for read-aloud classroom hook-ups. I don’t have a classroom right now but being keen to participate, I answered!  Most of the people I connected wanted to use skype but since I wanted to show the book images while I read the story, I felt Elluminate was a better option. (At the time, I hadn’t used the desktop sharing function of Skype – hopefully, I’ll get to test this option out soon!).  Like a real real-aloud, I also wanted to stop on certain pages and talk about the image or what’s going on in the story.  The whiteboard tools provided great support in circling, pointing and highlighting… actually, I thought it was kind of neat that I could write on the book and not worry about defacing it for ever!  I prepared the slides and then all that was needed was the classroom connections on the read-aloud days (for WRAD, I provided a sign-up sheet ahead of time on google docs: http://bit.ly/f7DZuw ).

The book I decided to read was “The Sandwich Swap”   .  I chose this book for several reasons.  For one, I was already quite familiar it with it since we had used it in the Lunchbox Project http://lunchboxproject.wikispaces.com/  .  Secondly, it was written by Queen Rania of Jordan and Kelly Dipuccio so there was a strong connection to Jordan, I could talk about. Thirdly, the images in the book are absolutely beautifully drawn by Tricia Tusa! Lastly, the story line involves being tolerant about other cultures. Don’t you think it’s a perfect fit for a Global Read-Aloud?

Get Adobe Flash player Here are the slides (with a bit of commentary) for both read-alouds…they just changed a bit depending upon who the audience was. Although I showed full images of the book pages during the read aloud, from a copy-right standpoint, I don’t feel I should share them here – but I do want to provide some background on the set up so I came up with the compromise, you see to the left.

Most of the people I connected with were relatively new to Elluminate being used this way.  Some of the teachers had been involved in webinars so they at least had seen the interface before.  At the very beginning of the session, I turned on the camera so that the students could see there was a real, live, breathing, waving person at the other end of the connection.  I also got some live-video back of the group I was about to read to.

I had a lot of fun reading through the book but I liked most of all connecting with the students.  In one class, they had many questions for me –about the Islamic community in which I am currently living, being Canadian and also working in a foreign place.  It was great at the end of the read-aloud to field so many questions!

The only part that was a little difficult was not being able to keep ‘an open microphone’ on the audience.  I believe all the classrooms were using the on-board microphone and not a head set so if I left their microphone on while I read, I got really bad feed back and could hear a delay of myself reading.  It was really confusing for me!  I think this is one definite advantage to using skype for these read-alouds.  The way the skype audio is engineered, does not have such awful feedback and echo when both sides have their audio, open.  So, in the Elluminate set up, with the classroom’s mic turned off, I felt more alone as I was reading and especially when I asked a question – I couldn’t hear the spontaneous replies from the students.  Luckily, the teachers got very used to relaying the answers to me in ‘walkie-talkie’ fashion.

The read-alouds lasted no longer than 30 minutes.  One group from Florida, had a fire alarm practice in the middle of their session, so I think they only got 15 minutes or so!  I had two groups signed up in one session which was pretty neat too – one class from the state of Washington and the other from Iowa.

Recently, I sent out an email asking for feedback from the teachers who had participated in my read-alouds.  I wondered what they thought of the Elluminate platform vs. using skype, Did they have any suggestions re: technique for me? Etc.  Here is a quote from each email:

We had a great time listening and participating as best as possible through your reading.  Our students came away with a smaller understanding of the world and truly enjoyed the book.  Our teachers had them do a reflective writing after hearing the story where students wrote about the beginning, middle and end of the story.  They even drew pictures of their favorite part of the book.  2 of the 3 teachers went out and bought the book (the other one already had it).  All in all it was an amazing experience for the students and teachers.

As I think about the advantages and disadvantages of Skype and Elluminate I find myself thinking about purpose.  Our school participated in a couple other read alouds that day through Skype.  From my perspective, the purpose of the Skype sessions were more about the sharing of a book and being able to see each other.  It did provide for more of a free flow conversation and students got the opportunity to see each other in their classes.  From my perspective the purpose of the Elluminate session was to have a rich learning experience.  Elluminate allowed the opportunity for students to interact with the text as you shared the book through the slide show.  Students had the opportunity to (with my help) to draw on the screen etc.  They also had the opportunity to learn about Jordan through the photos you shared.
Scott Friedman, Principal, Nine Mile School, Washington (Twitter: @irishscott)

The funny thing that happened with Scott’s group is that I usually do a little talk about the only dark page in the book, the principal’s office.  At the time, I didn’t realize Scott was the principal of Nine Mile School!

The Read With Me project had two main goals: 1) to expose students to students/ people in other areas; 2) to tie in to Read Across America Day.  The northeastern corner of NC is beautiful, but very rural.  We’re at least an hour and a half from a medium-sized city in any direction. Before and after the session, we show the students where the caller is from.  We “fly” into the area to take a look or walk around their location using Google Maps.  After the call we talk about similarities and differences of their location, accent, etc. – trying to build global awareness.

As for the tool that was used, Skype has become a more “popular” tool for educators to use in recent years.  It’s simple to use and requires little to no training.  That’s the main reason I chose it.  The recent education section that Skype has added was of benefit as well.   To be honest, it had never crossed my mind to take advantage of Elluminate’s free Vroom.

Elluminate did a much better job of allowing the listeners to see the text that was being read as well as watch the presenter.  We were able to interact a bit more with the text using Elluminate.  The main thing the students really did enjoy about Skype was seeing the readers appear larger than life on the screen.  We did have an issue with your room not being able to go through our Internet filter.  I’m not sure why, since we’ve participated in Elluminate sessions before.  But some school districts block Skype for security reasons, so I guess it’s a “whatever works” type of situation.

We did have a few issues with Skype.  Low quality cameras, incorrect microphone settings and poor internet connections also plagued some of our calls.  I’m not sure if it would have been any better with Elluminate – especially those that had poor connectivity on the other end.
Cindy Phstic, Instructional Technologist, Edenton-Chowan Schools, North Carolina

I think anytime, you can get a classroom connecting with others around the world, good things will happen.  When I think about the students I connected with on both the read-aloud days, they had probably only heard about Jordan on the news, in stories that talked negative issues.  Reading a book together, across so many miles, gave us an opportunity to learn a little bit more about normal life in a distant land.

I want to thank both Scott Friedman and Cindy Phthisic for the information they supplied in their emails.  I’d also like to thank again, all the classes that have allowed me to come into their schools from Jordan.  I hope to be doing more virtual classroom connections in the future.

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Virtual Literacy Initiative – Connections Wanted

I’ve just finished one contract and although there’s another on the horizon, right now I’m technically ‘between contracts’.  This situation doesn’t work for some, but for me, right now, it’s a rare moment to grab tight and exploit!  I feel lucky to have time to pursue a few projects and subjects that have been on my mind for a while.

One idea I want to explore is providing support ‘virtually’ for students struggling with literacy issues.  This is an extension of an idea I had back in November after participating in the Global Education Conference.  In the post “Virtual Literacy Intervention” I explore the techniques used by one online tutor and why providing support ‘virtually’ has potential to be a transformative use of technology for education.

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Now I want to take the idea forward, in a more formal way. I’m curious about the logistics necessary to provide an online intervention solution in a typical classroom as well as breadth of possibilities for assisting students.  I’d prefer to do an ‘action research’ project so the planned activities have a well thought out and scripted beginning, middle and end.  The key will be finding a teacher (and/or perhaps a principal) who is interested in seeking answers about the potential for virtual supports through an action research project.

Although, the specifics of the action research project will be designed with the teacher (and/or principal), there are still some basic administrative requirements for getting involved in such a project:

  1. The school needs a reliable internet connection with consistent bandwidth (at least 56k)
  2. The teacher/principal will need to set aside weekly time to organize, monitor, assess, and analyse the project as it unfolds (at least 30 minutes/week).
  3. The designated students in the study need to be able to access a computer with internet, headphones, and microphone.  Ideally, this computer will be in a space that is somewhat private yet monitored by adults such as a library, special education room, etc.

So, are you interested in the learning options provided by a Virtual Literacy Initiative or do you know someone who might be?  Let’s connect!

Virtual Literacy Initiative

I’ve just finished one contract with another on the horizon which means, technically, I’m ‘between contracts’ which doesn’t really work for some but for me, it’s a rare moment to be grabbed tight and exploit! I feel lucky to have some time to pursue a few projects and subjects that have been on my mind for some time.

One idea I want to explore is providing support ‘virtually’ for students struggling with literacy issues. This is an extension of an idea I had back in November after participating in the Global Education Conference. In the post “Virtual Literacy Intervention” I explore the techniques used by one online tutor and why providing support ‘virtually’ has potential to be a transformative use of technology for education.

Now I want to take the idea forward, in a more formal way. I’m curious about the logistics necessary to provide an online intervention solution in a typical classroom as well as breadth of possibilities for assisting students. I’d prefer to do an ‘action research’ project so the planned activities have a well thought out and scripted beginning, middle and end. The key will be finding a teacher (and/or perhaps a principal) who is interested in seeking answers about the potential for virtual supports through an action research project.

Although, the specifics of the action research project will be designed with the teacher (and/or principal), there are still some basic administrative requirements for getting involved in such a project:

1) The school needs a reliable internet connection with consistent bandwidth (at least 56k)

2) The teacher/principal will need to set aside some weekly time to organize, monitor, assess, and analyse the project as it unfolds (at least 30 minutes/week).

3) There must be space for the designated students in the study to gain to a computer with internet, headphones, and microphone. Ideally, this computer will be in a space that is somewhat private access yet monitored by adults – a library, special education room, etc.

So, are you interested in the learning options provided by a Virtual Literacy Initiative or do you know someone who might be? Let’s connect!

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Diigo Roundup (weekly)

How to Make an Interactive Lesson Using Youtube « Knewton Blog
tags:
youtube interactive digitalstorytelling

iLearn Technology » Blog Archive » Corkboard: Classroom Collaboration
tags:
collaborate stickynote

FoldingStory | The Group Storytelling Game
tags:
collaboration storytelling foldingstory DigitalStorytelling ELA

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Diigo Roundup (weekly)

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Diigo Roundup (weekly)

Revisit
tags: Twitter visualization tool conference

Discovery Education: Web 2.0 Tools
tags: web2.0 webapps

Rush, Little Baby – The Boston Globe
tags:
medialiteracy ece primary

10 Podcasts for Teachers and Kids | Scholastic.com
tags:
podcasts studentpodcast

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Low Cost – High Impact Technologies for Education

In an age when educational technology usually means Interactive White Boards (IWB’s) in the classroom, I am always on the search for low cost, accessible technologies that will make a great impact in the schools I like to deal with – those having limited internet, few computers and usually moving from a “teach to the test” instructional approach to one that is more inclusive and student-centric.

For sometime now, I’ve been following two projects (OMPT and FrontlineSMS) that have the potential to impact large numbers of resource challenged classrooms in the world.  These are the types of projects I like to share when I’m working on International Educational Technology Contracts so if you know of others, please share in the comments!


One Media Player Per Teacher (OMPT)

Those who have worked alongside me have probably heard me explain that in some places, even One Laptop Per Child is not a viable solution so we’ve seen One Laptop Per Teacher and this project, One Media Player Per Teacher (In Sri Lanka, we even suggested the OTPT project – One Thumbdrive per Teacher!).  Started by Matt York, the CEO of Videomaker magazine, the OMPT project is now in its 4th year of building “the capacity of teachers in the most under-served places on earth with the innovative use of specialized, portable, audiovisual devices to deliver educational content“. OMPT is involved in Zambia, Somalia, Tanzania, South Africa, Bangledash, India, Mali, Ghana, Afghanistan, Haiti and Southern Sudan – read about the work here. On the organization’s website it states:

One Media Player per Teacher (OMPT) is equipping teachers in remote areas with the powerful technology of portable media players (PMPs). This allows village educators to give their students enhanced learning via recorded voices and lessons from the most proficient teachers in their nation.

Now, I can imagine many educators are gob-smacked by this statement and probably thinking, “Oh, no! We’re going backward to a passive ‘lecture-mode’ of teaching”.  Hang-on!  Two quick thoughts: “Contextual solutions” and the “Fisch Flip” ( see video lectures and the 21st Century)

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Diigo Roundup (weekly)

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Virtual Literacy Intervention

The Global Education Conference 2010 is now two weeks behind us but with the 400 1 hour sessions archived on their site, the conference has the potential to easily continue throughout the entire year! I was involved in the conference as a moderator and participant but now I’m enjoying mining the site for topics of interest – you can too, the archived webinars are online.

In one of the webinars I discovered the skyping tutor.  A little digging on google and her YouTube Channel gave me a good idea about the techniques she was using:

There were two other Skyping Tutor videos I viewed intently: Personalized Sight Word Practice & The ‘at’ Word Family.  As you can see from the videos, the “skyping tutor” name is a bit of a misnomer since the techniques used go beyond skype where little more than a talking head from a webcam can be seen.  To do the tutoring effective, there needs to be access to a screen sharing/webinar such as: yugma that works in parallel with skype (or forget skype and use webinar software that includes an audio option – see below).

To think deeper about online tutoring, I’d like to first share this slide from Bernajean Porter’s, webinar (session archive) at the “Leading our way forward event” from the Edmonton Regional Learning Consortia .

Literacy / Adapting / Transforming

Literacy / Adapting / Transforming - Bernajean Porter

When technology is added to an educational activity, Bernajean urges that we see, in the least, an adaptive application that alters the way the learning takes place but ideally we should make the technology transform the learning so that something new occurs.

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Web Guest to Nipissing’s Infusion Conference

On January 31st, 2009, I had the great opportunity of presenting at Nipissing University’s Pre-Service Teachers’ Infusion Conference.  That’s really not newsworthy…except, I was in Sri Lanka and the conference was happening in North Bay, Ontario!  Then, to make it a truly global experience, the presentation was twittered a few times during the week, announced on the Classroom 2.0 “Live” notice board and also promoted through emails.  I was extremely pleased when we ended up with around 24 Pre-Service Teachers in North Bay and several seasoned Teachers and Web 2.0 users from around the globe, including United States, Sri Lanka and Canada. It was really special to see the activity in the chat room, the mixing of experience and support.

The webinar was entitled “Teaching in the Web 2.0 Era” – Here is the description:

Join us in Elluminate to investigate how the Read/Write Web has affected teaching and learning.  We will review many ways teachers have incorporated web resources and ‘cloud applications’ into their lessons while highlighting the professional development opportunities made available through Web 2.0 technologies. Participants will be encouraged to share their own best-use examples for the classroom, as well.

I was lucky enough to have Paul Soppit, a Nipissing University, “ITeach Support” person in the Conference room at Nipissing to help out while Steve Hargadon got up at an excruciating 6am to assist in the Virtual Room.  Both guys were gems…and were the key to making things go smoothly!

The Elluminate archive of the Webinar can be found here while there is an opportunity to follow up on the conversations started here.

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