Thursday, December 13, 2012


This has been another productive day!!!  The participants' homework was to write a lesson plan using the format we provided.  We surprised them by having them teach the lesson to their group and many of them came prepared with materials!!!  We also had one student act as he/she had ADHD so we had some very funny moments.  We sure enjoyed learning from them-- and especially how resourceful they are in their teaching.  They must pay for any supply they use and they are not paid much-- even in relation to the Nicaraguan economy.  One teacher brought in match sticks to teach about Braille, another came in with a picture of Dora the Explorer to teach colors and another brought in a small cereal box made into a TV.  One of the students got up and started running around while another kept taking other people's things.  Ulises warned them that he remembers me (Julie)  from class and that they'd better fully participate or else they'd get me for a student which is really bad.  :-)
Jennifer teaching her lesson on colors using Dora the Explorer

Dania teaching her lesson using what she could find
We have been conscientious about building upon things we've been doing all week.  We've also been doing all we can to create a warm, hospitable environment where they feel comfortable participating and being themselves.  "We can't do that because we live in Nicaragua" has not been a phrase used this week--- they truly want to make an impact in education.  During Bloom's Taxonomy Kris challenged them to come up with questions for each level related to Nicaraguan History and to work at creating questions at the higher levels instead of just the Knowledge level.  Then, when discussing Multiple Intelligences, the teachers were given a few minutes to come up with an activity related to the category they were given-- but they needed to relate it back to Nicaraguan history since it had been a topic already.  The eight groups were able to demonstrate the concepts and one group even broke into song.  Soon-- all the Nicaraguans were proudly singing and clapping to their National Anthem.  This was a remarkable moment for me and of course, I had tears in my eyes.

We have been emphasizing positive reinforcement and immediate feedback.  They are very serious!!  Kris and I independently looked over their homework assignment from the night before.  I wrote two stars on the papers and Kris wrote one.  They were concerned that they were doing something wrong!!  (of course, it was very rudimentary grading in our limited Spanish)  There are two people who cannot be here tomorrow because it is graduation at their school.  They were really concerned about missing class tomorrow but we reassured them they needed to be with their students. :-)  Thankfully, we had an extra translator today who was able to help out Ulises and we had the materials ready for the Unit Plan.  We were able to give them the papers and there were no complaints.

Julie, Ligia, Kris
We took a class picture and several wanted to have their picture taken with us.  I have been posting a powerpoint slide show every morning with some of the pictures we have taken.  Several have asked to have copies of the pictures and will be bringing their own flash drives tomorrow.
Resourceful, intentional, devoted--- these are the teachers we have been privileged to interact with this week!!
Muchas Gracias!!
Julie (& Kris)
Julie, Gladys & Kris-- Ulises is in the back reading as usual

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What a Wonderful Learning Day for All

We finished day 3 of the module today with 24 students in attendance.  It was a wonderful day with so many laughs, tears of joy, some frustration, and maybe even some anxiety!  We had them completing a matching/concentration game with the terminology they had learned so far.  This was a fun and new experience for many as they hadn't played a similar game before.
Students working very hard playing the concentration game.
The most fun of the day was Julie leading the Farmer's Game which proved to be a challenge, and some groups wanted that challenge to end, but stuck with it to the end (with Julie prodding them!)  They learned so much during the game about working together, critical thinking and thinking outside the box.  They weren't allowed to write anything down so they were creative.
There continue to be so many rewarding moments.  A smile is universal, and we have seen so many so far this week that it challenges us to continue to create an environment with learning activities that reward everyone.
Julie facilitates the Farmer's Game.

High fives! Challenge solved!
A little frustration!
Another celebration! The joy of learning.
I know that I can say that this has stretched me and reminded me of how much thinking goes into EVERY thing that you do as a new teacher.  We showed F.A.T. City and discussed cognitive and associate learning.  There hasn't been one moment of this week that hasn't been a cognitive moment in the classroom.  What an opportunity.  Thanks to Julie!

Keep learning,

Monday, December 10, 2012

UNAN-Leon Diplomado Training-December, 2012

What a learning experience, and we haven't left yet.  Dr. Julie Delkamiller and I leave for Leon, Nicaragua today to teach an Introduction to Special Education Module at UNAN-Leon.  There are 45 teachers who have registered for the Diplomado in Special Education which will include 6 one-week modules over the next two years.  We have met for hours that would add up to weeks trying to determine the best way to use our class time.  So many possibilities with the need to consider what is possible.

We will need to say THANKS now to Ulises who has been very busy translating materials for us.
Do you know what it looks like to travel internationally carrying all of your materials, including 50 one-inch notebooks, so you will be as prepared as possible?  The best way is to show you....
50 binders waiting for the UNAN-Leon Special Education Diplomado Students
We arrived on Friday night at 11:30pm in Managua to beautiful Christmas lights on the palm trees and around the hotel.  What an amazing sight.
Christmas lights at the Camino Real in Managua, Nicaragua-Amazing!
On Saturday, Ulises came down to the hotel to meet us and Julio showed up in a sedan that would fit 2 of our 5 suitcases (the giant ones with the notebooks were never going to fit.)  After quite a bit of figuring things out, Julio had a friend that would come to pick them up and take the 3 suitcases to Leon.  We were then off to Granada- more hammicas and then to the Chocolate Museum. We had hoped to visit the Masaya Volcano as Ulises and I had never been there (yes, Ulises lives in Nicaragua), but the volcano was closed because it was a holiday.
On Sunday, we spent the day preparing for Monday.  Realizing that the copy shop wasn't open and many last minute details that needed to be completed. Accepting that Ulises would be translating our materials day by day and that we had done everything in our power to prepare for the week.
The classroom is ready for the 45 students!

A horse parade to celebrate starting teaching on Monday (or because people love a horse parade!)

The most beautiful horses we have seen in Nicaragua were in the parade!
Thanks for reading,
Kris Swain

Special Education Training Begins

Kris Swain and Julie Delkamiller ready to start the Diplomado.
Planning is such a large part of education, and we planned for the 45 students who signed up for the Diplomado.  They were actually invited by UNAN-Leon and around 70 individuals expressed interest to our local Nicaraguan coordinator, Indiana.  There are also many reality checks in education such as when 22/45 students show up at some point on the first day.  Less than 50% attendance isn't usually a goal but some Nicaraguans seem to think 50% isn't bad.  I (Julie) must always go back to the Starfish story-- we are making a difference for this one.

Time to get to know each other with Bingo. Many of the students hadn't played Bingo before so a fun activity for all!

Monday was difficult with all the IRB forms, demographic forms, the survey and the pre-test.  Yet, when we showed parts of the Rick LaVoie DVD called "F.A.T. City", they really became engaged.  We were just thrilled that it had Spanish voiceovers and Spanish subtitles.  It's old, but so very effective!!  From the NICHY website, we were able to find fact sheets for all of the disabilities-- and they were already in Spanish.  This is the bulk of material in the notebooks.  We were then able to assign readings for homework and gave them a new shiny yellow highlighter for the task.
Tuesday began with the majority of participants arriving on time.  (success!)  We also know that many of them are riding crowded busses on scary highways over an hour each way just to get here.  A lot of interesting conversation arose around the readings from the homework, especially with the categories of disabilities: 13 for the U.S. law and 4 in Nicaragua.  Regardless of the categories, we are focused on strategies to serve these students.  They are so eager to know absolutely everything right now-- we kept reassuring them that we have 6 modules to explore these concepts and strategies.
Omar and Ulises were the translators in March 2008. They are with us again! Still looking incredibly young!
Martiza has passion in her voice as she talks about strategies!

Maritza, Marta, Gladys, and Lidia are teachers at the deaf school project in Leon.  It was so gratifying to see Maritza very enthusiastically share ideas for working with students-- and-- they were things I've been trying to implement in the project for 4+ years.  (success!)  I couldn't help but joke with them that they remembered!!   When reviewing the homework assignments, the four of them completed both of the homework sheets (success!)

Kris attempted the 2 hole punch-- but ended up with about 8 in her paper.
The best purchase of the day! The participants have never seen a 3-hole punch

Apparently a 3-hole punch is quite a rare thing in Nicaragua as most people had only used a 2-hole punch that we were borrowing from UNAN-Leon.  Tomorrow will be fun as we use the read deal!

We finished F.A.T. City and there were so many "A-ha" moments from the participants.  We also gave some low-tech strategies that we hope to incorporate the rest of the week.  While information is important, we also know it is more critical to model organization and strategies.
Scaffolding at the Cathedral-- use it as an example for education but hopefully more supportive than this one.

One of the only ramps I've ever seen in Nicaragua-- will use as an example of accessibility

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Multidimensional Poverty Index

I've been thinking about the different places faculty from our department will travel in the summer months: three countries in Europe, one in Africa and one in Latin America.   By sharing these experiences, ultimately our UNO students will benefit.

Kris & Beth traveled to Norway in the September 2010 observing schools and building relationships with faculty at the University of Adger.

Phil led a group of UNO students to Norway in May 2012 and then traveled to Finland and Lithuania in August.  Phil has established connections for future research and some of his colleagues from Lithuania will be visiting UNO in October.

Our Graduate Assistant Julie Grotelueschen returned to Kisumu Kenya in June 2012 as a surprise to her former students.  She spent a month just loving on the children of Kisumu.

Jonathan and I traveled to Nicaragua in June to work with deaf children at our deaf school project.  It was amazing to see the impact on the teachers and the students to see a successful, independent deaf adult.

Kris, Beth, Mitzi and I traveled to Nicaragua in July as part of another sister university relationship.  One part of the UNO internal "Faculty Research International" grant was to introduce new faculty members to an existing project in a different country. As in previous posts, there were many lessons learned by all
All of this diversity has made me very reflective about comparisons and expectations.  Entering into another culture can be exciting, overwhelming and very educational.   There are so many thoughts and feelings running through me right now.  :-)

It is impossible to capture the full experience in pictures and videos-- the smells, the stereo sound, the varying cultural nuances----  something I'd love to do as an anthropologist.

For a more "quantitative" comparison, the closest I have come to trying to understand the diversity is the Multidimensional Poverty Index.  There are issues with accurate databases and data collections as well as differing views on how to report the data. While not perfect, it does provide a window into the complexities of these cultures much less their education systems.

The following chart explains this the best and is from which is the United Nations Development Program.
The MPI identifies overlapping deprivations at the household level across the same three dimensions as the Human Development Index: living standards, health & education.
Looking at the variation in experiences this summer:

CountryMDI/HDI rankCategory of human developmentGross national income per capitaMeanyears of schoolingExpected years of schoolingAdult literacy rate (15 years older)% living below the nation’s poverty line% living on less than $1.25/day
Norway1Very High$47,55712.617.398.5~4.5NA
USA4/6Very high$43,01712.41693.9~15NA
Lithuania40Very high$16,23410.216.188.3~18NA

This specific  information might be great for contestants on Jeopardy but I've been more reflective on how we respond.  Education must be the foundation of any change we wish to see in the world and hopefully the SPED department at UNO will be part of that change.
(Julie Delkamiller)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Palanga Lithuania

After finishing up meetings in Siauliai, my hosts Ingrida Baranauskiene (Dean of Social Welfare and Disability Studies) and Luida (Associate Professor) took me on a tour of western Lithuania coastal towns and scenic parks. We finished our day at the resort town of Palanga. It is a beautiful town on the coast of the Baltic Sea. It has an excellent thoroughfare for walking down to the peer. Perhaps a bit like the boardwalk, but cleaner and safer. Highly recommend a visit to Palanga for anyone who comes to the Baltics.

Today my hosts are taking me to a camp for children with disabilities and then I am by myself until I head home. Having a remarkable time, but starting to get homesick. Head to Riga tomorrow then fly home on Sunday.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Siauliai University, Lithuania

Had a wonderful day today in Siauliai except that I lost most of my photographs via a computer error. Very disappointed to say the least.
My travel into Siauliai began with a visit to the Hill of Crosses which is a very meaningful part of Lithuanian culture. They are not certain why people began to leave crosses on the hill, but it is believe to represent lost loved ones of uprisings past. The Bolsheviks (Soviets) repeatedly tried to tear down the Hill, but the Lithuanians continued to persist. In 1993 the Pope visited the sight, gave a sermon, and placed a cross. This is a place of great pride for Siauliai and Lithuania.
This morning I did a brief presentation to the faculty and toured the facilities. Siauliai University has a new library that is very modern and includes a chessboard.
I spent the rest of the afternoon visiting a living museum and being treated to the traditional cuisine of Lithuania. The hospitality has been incredible and the faculty are very eager for collaboration. Tomorrow they are taking me on a tour of the vacation town of Palanga. Hopefully my camera will not lose the pictures this time.

Monday, August 6, 2012

University of Eastern Finland-Joensuu

After spending 12 hours on airplanes, I was happy to arrive in Joensuu Finland on Sunday evening. I was greeted by Hannu Savolainen, Vice Dean of the Philosophical Faculty, and taken to a Finnish baseball game, which is very different from American baseball, except that they use a bat, ball, and glove to score runs and get outs.
It didn't take me long to realize that Finland is a beautiful country that is characterized by lots of trees and lakes. Unlike Nebraska they are having lots of rain this summer so everything is very green and the rivers are very high.
Today we spent the morning and afternoon discussing potential collaborative topics to pursue. These discussions centered on pursuing collaborative research related to school-wide positive behavioral supports, assessing teacher attitudes towards inclusion, and our online Master's degree in special education with the concentration in behavior disorders. In addition, we discussed some of the longitudinal data sets that we may be able to collaborate on. We had a wonderful exchange of ideas and look forward to turning these discussions into action in the near future.

This evening Hannu and his wife took me to Koli National Park for a beautiful view and a wonderful dinner that included steak with bear sausage. I also had a chance to enjoy wild blueberries that you can pick and eat directly from the forest. It was a wonderful experience with a fantastic view. Erkko Sointu was able to join us on this trip and he provided great entertainment by sharing his enthusiasm for Finland and the Lapland region in the north.
Although I have only been here for a short time, I have done my best to learn as much as I can about Finnish culture. The hospitality has been wonderful and I have experienced a new form of baseball, beautiful scenery, and great food. The last thing I did today was partake in the Finnish tradition of taking a sauna in the evening. I learned that almost every home in Finland has a sauna. At the hotel, it was an entertaining experience whereby I was told that a man's measure is determined by how long he can stay in a sauna. Of course I did not last long, and the jump in the freezing pool afterwards was both terrifying and refreshing. Sorry, I did not take any pictures of the sauna :)
Tomorrow I have one more meeting and then I'm off to Lithuania.