Independent Study: Teacher’s without Borders Volunteer Project


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    V4D Organization’s Program “Building Capacity for Disadvantaged Youth', over the course of more than 7 years, we have always tried to work as one of the leading non-profit volunteer organizations in Vietnam.
    With a deep belief that education is fundamental to human progress, enabling individuals and communities to acquire skills and knowledge, essential for improving their quality of life. But for disadvantaged youth their access to education is limited.
    We are carrying out this program to give them opportunities to see the bigger picture of life, to realize their own potential, and to help them address the increasing global social, economic and environmental challenges we face.
    Taking part in this program, volunteers are not only help us with many meaningful activities but also you supported by the very helpful and friendly Vietnamese students at the your class, they help you as the little ambassadors of Hanoi to in bringing you a “local breath”, to live in an insight into our culture, tradition and beautiful sight-seeing.
    Location Hanoi City
    Minimum Program Length One week+. The program we offer can be undertaken on either a short or long term, but you can join our program as little as one week to many weeks (although longer stays are encouraged if possible. A long-term volunteer in this program(longer than six months) will be received amount of $300 per month for pocket money)
    Food Three local meals per day are provide for free
    Accommodation All volunteers will live in V4D House for international volunteers for free
    Work Hours You will work for around 5 hours per day from Monday to Thursday, leaving you long weekends to explore Hanoi and the surrounding areas. You will cooperate other volunteers at the same time to teach together and share classes.
    Daily tasks -Organizing English lessons for rural youth, improving their capacity to use English as an effective tool;
    -Helping organize short- term training courses in English; and
    -Supporting other activities to be realized with students.

    Participant fee No fee – You don’t have to pay any fee, but volunteers are responsible for covering all costs associated with their travel to Hanoi, along with medical insurance other costs.
    Volunteers 4 Community Development Organisation
    Add: House 301, Building A5, Lane 28, Xuan La Street, Tay Ho, Hanoi
    Hotline: +84974 800 359
    Are you sure you want to  Yes  No
    Your message goes here
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Independent Study: Teacher’s without Borders Volunteer Project

  1. 1. Teachers without Borders Service Learning Project by Leah MacVie Teachers without Borders Service Learning Project Leah MacVie EDC590 TWBvolunteer Buffalo State College Dr. Stephen Gareau 1
  2. 2. Teachers without Borders Service Learning Project Leah MacVie EDC590 TWBvolunteer Buffalo State College Dr. Stephen Gareau During the Summer of 2009, I set out to tackle a very large volunteer project for Teachers without Borders. The process of completing my outcomes did not come without setbacks and tribulations. This document details my processes, how I overcome my problems and why the initial scope of the project was too large, and how the project evolved over the summer. My initial contacts at Teacher’s without Borders included Heather Carson and Zachary Thornhill. Heather is the TWB Membership Director at Teachers without Borders. I pitched some ideas for what my project would include at the end of April ‘09. She graciously accepted my offer to do a telecommuting volunteer project. Some of my initial ideas included creating tutorials for how to use TWB Open Course Ware and creating courses. In the beginning, Heather and I had a Web chat via Skype. She was really the one to introduce me to the tool that I would be using all Summer, for this project and another Web conferencing class I was taking. Teachers without Borders uses Skype for communication because all Skype to Skype calls are free. There were a few technical issues to understand about Skype. First, I couldn’t talk to anyone as quickly as I normally talk. It was if I had to pretend I was waiting for a translation; there was always a slight delay. Secondly, everyone needs a headset or else extraneous noise and echoing also feed through and it can be very distracting on the other end. After our first Skype phone call and a few e-mails, Heather said that she would ‘turn me over’ to Zachary Thornhill, Content Director for Teachers without Borders. Heather introduced me to Zachary in early May via e-mail. I described to him everything I told Heather about what I wanted to do. He suggested we also have a Skype chat. After a few failed attempts, we finally were able to connect. This e-mail was sent to Heather the next day. Communication from May 6, 2009 “Hi Heather, Leah and I just ended our call. Had some difficulties with Skype, but it was okay. Our main points of discussion: TIMELINE I will get her a timeline for finishing projects between May 20th and August 1st. 2
  3. 3. OER COURSES Among the ten, Program Evaluation (2), Emergency Education (1-2), Using Technology in TEFL (1), and Developing a [physical] Teaching Portfolio (1) TUTORIALS I will send her a list of common problems/unclear points with the courseware section to be included in her tutorials. Transparency with Brandon about good programs to use, editing, help embedding into website if needed. Tutorials will be linked (if not embedded) on the homepage for the courses at WEBSITE Cleaning, developing, and finding new and old teacher collaboration projects ( DOCUMENTATION Anything Leah submits to her professor on documentation will also be submitted to TWB for our files. **Leah is going to send me a final list of courses to be made and any other adjustments by the end of the week. I will then draft a timeline for approval. I think Leah's contributions are going to be fantastic. Her course on the website now is much more complete. I think Leah may need to write a section on technology and education for the CTM... :) -- All the best, Zachary Thornhill Content Manager Teachers Without Borders 321 3rd Avenue South Seattle, WA 98104 (206) 623-0394 ext. 0” After this e-mail I felt very confident in the effort and work that lay ahead. Zach asked me to submit a final course list to him, and I did. In addition, he also asked me to write five blogs, something that I didn’t foresee setting me back. Dr. Gareau also requested documented communication and a journal summary that would total 9-10 pages. Volunteer Agreement Excerpt from May 10, 2009 3
  4. 4. 1. Documentation of Communication and Experience (5 pages) 2. Journal Summary and Final Conclusion (4-5 pages) a. single-spaced, with headings and space between headings and paragraphs b. Key Learnings, Pluses, Potentials, Concerns, Ways to Overcome Concerns, Reflections, and Overall Recommendations. 3. Well developed OER courses in TWB’s OCW (10) Program Evaluation (3) Building Effective Assessments Evaluating Technology Use/ TCO Evaluating Faculty Emergency Education (3) Building a temporary school in an emergency situation How to rebuild moral through education in times of a disaster Education for All: The Basic Human Right | Reference:, Using Technology in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (1) Developing a [physical] Teaching Portfolio (1) “Developing and Utilizing Your Teaching Portfolio” How to Combat the Effects of Poverty on Education (1) Building Curriculum (1) 4. Tutorials on building courses in TWB’s OCW (5) 5. Collaboration Projects that connect teachers worldwide (3) Zach and I also discussed setting up a timeline and I thought it was a good idea. I set up a timeline through Google Docs and invited all TWB parties involved to it. I also set up a Google Calendar to track my progress throughout the summer. The calendar would track my progress from June 1st through August 15th. On average, I was to submit 3 courses and 2 blogs a month. In addition to these assignments, I would also create the supplemental items on this list, such as collaboration ideas, tutorials and the final report. 4
  5. 5. I began my project at the end of May. I thought my strategy was going to be to work on the courses simultaneously along with the blogs. That way the courses would just have to be created in the courseware. That was easier said than done., I ended up spending 2-6 hours on each blog. From the get-go, the blogs set me behind a few weeks. Another thing I set out to do with the first course and blog was to develop a process and a template. I thought this would save me time in the future. Although the blog template was basic, it did help me with a starting point each time I attempted to create a blog. Journal Entry from May 25, 2009 The first thing I set out to do when developing the first blog was to develop a process to make my future blog more efficient. I spent a total of 6 hours developing the first blog because I was so particular about developing a perfect process. The process I developed is as follows: 1. Select a topic 2. Gather resources (Google everything, make book selections) 3. Start References list, and paste important points from sources/create post-its for books 4. Build a small bulleted outline (My first outline consisted of 4 points and later developed into subtitles.) 5. Develop an intro. 6. Fill in the bulleted points/subtitles 7. Develop a conclusion 8. Lay out the references alphabetically in APA format, fill in citations (I found that has built in APA citations, making life a lot easier) 9. Proof everything, and then pass it on for someone else to proof. At the beginning of June, I was ready to post my first blog. Zach had to change my account in order for me to post it. At that point I was briefly connected with Brandon, the Web master, who gave me access to post on the site. The first blog was posted on June 8, 2009. Communication from June 5, 2009 Hi Zach! Yep, the blog is all set and ready to go. I was thinking I would just send it over to you guys to post because it looks like I don’t have access right now. But just to verify, below is the page that I’m on. I don’t see anything that would allow me to make a new post(like the “add news item”). If you see anything that I don’t, let me know. Talk to you soon! Leah Hi Leah, Yeah, I think we'll have to give you admin access to post the blog. Right under where it says "Latest News" you should have a link that says "Post News Item" or something similar. I will get Brandon to give you access, so once you get access go ahead and post 5
  6. 6. that blog! I'll let you know when he confirms. How's that sound? - Zach I also set out to thoroughly research each and every topic. I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything in designing the courses or blogs. When I was coming up with the template for the course, I researched a lot of the other open courses that were on the Web, as well as the curriculum I had built for one of my previous courses at Buffalo State College. These tools helped to set up a course template that would lay out my process. Journal Entry from 5.26.09 Beginning the First Course I began by researching TWB’s current courses to determine layout. Conclusions: 1. Found that the MIT courseware was set up nicely: Course Home (description), Syllabus, Calendar, Readings, Lecture Notes, Assignments, Study Materials (supplemental), Download this Course 2. Connexions’ Collections were set up by Topics/SubTopic Modules- kind of like lectures with built in assignments, downloaded sample collection- entire course set up ad Word/PDF, curriculum designed Found: Journal Entry from 6/3/09 1. Completed Course Template to use for all courses. To build the template, I used my Curriculum Design Project as an example, and built onto the structure. –This will come in handy in the future. The time spent building it now will save me time in the future, and will help keep everything standard throughout the courses. 2. Began to develop first course using course template. The initial course took over 10 hours to produce. I thought it would be the easiest one because it was a topic I was so familiar with. I believe that my passion got in the way, because I wanted to make sure not a thing about the topic was left out. This course also set me back in my hopes to develop 10 well-made courses for Teachers without Borders. One of my other set-backs was not planning for life. June was one of my busiest months with work, my business, and the other course I was enrolled in. I was trying to stay up to task with my volunteer work by devoting week nights and skipping lunches at work to work on school work, but unfortunately, it was beyond me. The courses from June were pushed back until July. At the beginning of July, I finally finished the first course, along with July’s blogs. At the beginning of June, Zach notified me that he would be leaving for Egypt mid- month. His duties would be forwarded to Jennifer Hamann. I briefly spoke to Jennifer via Skype in mid-June to get her up to speed on my project and progress. 6
  7. 7. Teachers without Borders uses a content management system that they call OpenCourseWare. I had already uploaded a course to OpenCourseWare last year and I knew that I wanted to simplify my process. Because OpenCourseWare accepts SCORM compliant objects, I did some research. I found and downloaded an IMS packager that would package all my materials into one bundle that would be imported. The packager ran through Adobe Dreamweaver and my initial package was a success. However, its upload into OpenCourseWare was not. Journal Entry from 7.15.09 NOTE: The following journal entry contains notes and suggestions for OpenCourseWare use, as Jennifer suggested I do. My attempt to upload the course as an IMS package failed yesterday. I was able to package and import the course. But, when I brought it in, it did not convert the Word documents to pages. The rest of my work is being held up because of these courses, both in and out of this project. These courses took me a lot longer to build than I thought they would- roughly 15 hours total each. I do have a structure down now, but I also realize that I have to condense the work included in them in order to get done by the end of the term. Some concerns about the CMS that TWB uses. This whole system of navigation is really strange and awkward, definitely not intuitive at all. I am also confused on how to change the image that appears. Also if these courses are set up as references and self-help only, why are all these instructor options available? I suggest these functions be removed, custom for TWB. 7
  8. 8. From step 1, this entire process should have a help menu/some guided tour on how to create/demo course to let people know what to do with each item. Hopefully my tutorials will help. Even the page editor is strange. I can’t even get my HTML to format correctly. 8
  9. 9. I think I am going to try a different method of attack here. MHT files. Tried and done. Come to find out they don’t even convert to HTML when brought in as a file. There has to be another way… Even when zipped, it still comes in as a file. I am now trying the Lecture option. What do these choices mean? 9
  10. 10. I did watch the tutorial on working with the course ware done by Brandon at TWB, but it is the system is still very awkward o me and the tutorial didn’t explain enough. So I decided to get right to the root of the problem. The bottom of the TWB CMS let me know that it is powered by Plone, an open source CMS. I am able to dl a free user’s guide: and manual:, something I will definitely have to read up on this weekend. For now, I will concentrate on getting the rest of the content together for the other courses. After the first attempt at course upload into OpenCourseWare, I read the Plone manual and searched the Web for help. I couldn’t find much on the version used by Teachers without Borders. I decided to simplify the process, wiping out all styling completely from the courses, and to provide the styled version at the end of the course. Journal Entry from 7.16.09 Got the course uploaded last night. Finally. I realized I was putting too much into the software. It is just meant for text, not really fancy text. Because TWB already has a preloaded template, I can’t really do too much CSS to text because it’s already predetermined. So, finally, after 2 hours of research and trying new things, I decided just to strip all of the styles and go with a base text. I loaded all of it in (it took about 45 minutes for one course) and I added my Word doc (with style) for downloaded at the end. This is the structure I will use from now on. At this point, I have one month left to go. I have 9 courses, 3 blogs, 3 projects and 5 tutorials still to create. In order to complete these tasks by the designated point in time, I need to stick to my schedule and also streamline my workflow. It is going to be crucial that I try to tackle a task a day. Time was beginning to run out. With less than one month left, I didn’t even have a third of the designated items completed. I continued to work on the courses every chance I got. I did employ my husband to review each document, as he had an outside perspective on most of the topics and was able to verify if the audience understood my approach. Journal Entry from 7.26.09 I just finished uploading my second course and fourth blog. I have to find an easier way to complete the work because I am running out of time. It takes a lot of time to work 10
  11. 11. through each course. However, today I wrote my blog in record time. I said what I had to say and sent it off to my husband, who is a little over qualified to be my proofreader, but does a great job at it! I am hoping to speed through my next 7 courses, trying to get three done a week. It’s not going to be easy, which is why I really need to focus on speeding up my process and streamlining my output. At the beginning of August I also came up with collaborative project suggestions. The suggestions detail three ways in which schools and teachers can get involved globally with other classrooms and individuals to work on curriculum projects. I also developed five OpenCourseWare tutorials using JING and Camtasia. Journal Entry from 8.2.09 For the past week I’ve been working on developing courses and tutorials for developing courses. I’m trying to get all caught up and I’ve been fairly successful. It’s been hard trying to balance everything and getting this course work done. I upgraded my JING subscription so that I can edit the tutorials that I’ve produced. The tutorials walk a person through how to build courses in TWB’s OpenCourseWare. As mentioned before, it’s a quirky system, but I managed to find a way to bring everything together. Today, I’m going to send Dr. Gareau my progress so far. Next week, I hope to have another clump. And finally, the final submission which will be a zip of everything I’ve done. It’s been a great experience developing items so far. As I later learned, I still couldn’t edit the tutorials in Microsoft Movie Maker with the Pro version. I had to find and download a converter, to convert the MP4 to a WAV. I also downloaded a free trial of Camtasia for post-production. I finally reached my due date of August 14th and had to accept that I just couldn’t complete all I set out to do four months ago. In four months, I completed and uploaded 5/10 courses, 5/5 blogs, 5 tutorials and a small list of collaborative project suggestions. Developing the materials and working with Teachers without Borders was a great experience. Key Learnings Above all else, the one thing I learned is not to over-extend myself. I kind of bit off more than I could chew because my eyes were bigger than my stomach. When initiating a project, it is important to weigh in extra time needed to complete the project. Basic Instructional Design methods say that it is also important to reevaluate your scope. I had to do this once a month. I had a feeling on July 26th that there was a slim chance I would be able to complete what was left. But it was important to me that I tried, so I set small goals for myself each week. The other thing I learned is that it is so important to come up with a process before jumping into a project like this. Before I began working with each tool, I did an evaluation and planned a process. I did encounter difficulties. The OpenCourseWare took a while to find a process to, but I documented my attempts and solution. Before 11
  12. 12. developing the courses and blogs, I knew I had to figure out a method to laying out my content so that I was prepared each time a new project would start. Lastly, working with Teachers without Borders was a great experience. Due the effort needed just to complete the volunteer work, I didn’t have as much communication and collaboration with the staff of Teachers without Borders as I would have liked or that I expected I would. However, this relationship will hopefully lead to future opportunities on both ends. Pluses There are definitely some pluses to doing such a large scale project like this. I really had control of what tools I could use (Microsoft Word, JING, Camtasia, Google Docs and Calendar) to manage the project and complete the tasks. I had control over how much time I would give to each project and the best outcomes that would aid my portfolio. I also didn’t have to rely on anyone for information to complete the project. Because I was a part of the entire projects from start to finish, I saw all the sides of the project. Content development was the hardest part of this project. But, I didn’t think that I would have as many hardships with the technical aspects as I did. Finally, I was appreciative that I had the support that I did at Teachers without Borders to complete this project. I hope that the materials can aid teachers around the globe, and give them ideas for use in their situations. I am also looking forward to adding the additions to my portfolio. I am sure this project will help set me apart from other candidates. Potentials The type of project that I did was a service-learning volunteer project. This not only has potential for students seeking to work on an independent study, this project could also be implemented on a larger scale. A project like this can also have several components and be tailored to meet a program’s requirements. At times, I felt extremely overwhelmed with how much work was involved in the project. However, this type of project would be a great idea for a course project involving an entire class. Given a volunteer opportunity, each individual in the class could contribute one, or a set of materials that would be compiled together and donated to the organization. This is the type of group project that would work because no one is relying on another for content, in order to complete their own. For an individual that would like to take on a project like this, I think the experience speaks louder than the products. The project management aspects of the project were overwhelming at times, and I didn’t expect them to be. This project put all of the lessons I learned about Instructional Design to the test. In the end, the scope won and I just couldn’t foresee it. Had this have been a real client, I would have missed my stated 12
  13. 13. deadline. These types of experiences really prepare a student for the real-world of time- crunched environments. Concerns My initial concern was that I felt that I let down Teachers without Borders. Personally, I was really upset I couldn’t finish the courses when I had planned the best way I knew how. My contract spelled out work that I was unable to complete in the allotted time span. I also got burnt out at the end. Towards the end, I couldn’t focus on the courses and content because I had been developing blogs and courses for three months. It was also hard to come home and work on the computer after work, when I had already been working with courses, curriculum and learning management systems for 9 hours. Ways to Overcome Concerns Instead of agreeing to more than I thought I could manage, I should have refused. I spent a lot of time on the blogs and developing the courses. I should have asked what were the most important items needed so that I could have put them at the top of my list. With so much to think about, it is hard to find the time to come up with more efficient methods of production. Overall Recommendations My overall recommendation reflects the possibilities and concerns of this project. I hope that my project experience opens up the possibilities of the Buffalo State Educational Technology department to other independent studies and service-learning projects. The type of project that I worked on would be best suited to be tackled by an entire class, where each student would be able to develop their own piece, sharing their experiences with each other. For one person, it was really overwhelming. Reflections My independent study in the Summer of 2009 was an incredible experience. I originally set out to tackle a large volunteer project for Teachers without Borders. It did not come without setbacks and tribulations. I made many contacts in Teachers without Borders and really respect everything they stand for and do. I also learned a little bit about how a non- profit runs. I really enjoyed learning and writing about the topics I researched. There are many topics in education that the Internet is now making widely accessible to people around the world. I also value open courseware to be one of the most magnificent inventions of my time. Because of open materials, teachers and students all over the world have virtually free access to education. It’s amazing. Lastly, even though it was a stressful experience at times, the project taught me a lot about how much I could tackle in a given amount of time. In order to produce a product that I am proud of, I need an excessive amount of the time to research, validate, comprehend, and compile the information. Each course was worth the 10+ hours I put 13
  14. 14. into it, and each blog was worth the 3-6 hours I put into it, because they were products that I was proud of. 14