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Day 4 (part 2) – I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…I will.

Reception—Closing CeremonyTravelling to Madrid and attending the iCERi 4th annual conference was a great learning experience. I’ve gathered so much information and realized how similar my experience (life) is compared to my colleagues around the globe. I believe I had that insight before, but the realization that my ideology was true, has changed me in many ways. To share with you the many lessons learned, would take weeks, maybe months. But I will share some major highlights with you and how I plan to take action and follow through with next steps.
1.       Importance of Student-inspired, Student-Led, and Student-facilitated Undergraduate Research
2.       Global Education: Requirements for Students and Faculty to Engage in Active Learning related to Multiculturalism
3.       The use of Technology to Promote Learning: Video Trailers of Research Initiatives
4.       Social Education and Service-Learning as a Tool for Effective Career Development: Vocational Education vs. Active and Participatory Learning
5.       Retention of Students may just be about Fun and Games
Reception—Closing CeremonyFor my PSU Fayette family, I plan to further develop the first "lesson learned" and co-write a research paper on student led research with Miss Kristan Miller. I hope that we will be able to present our work at a spring colloquium. 

Day 4 (part 1) – She’s not really a student; she only plays one on TV

Conference participants resting in the hotel lobby between sessionsThe second day of the conference started early in the morning and lasted way into the evening. Kristan and I attended various sessions and connected with wonderful people from all over the world.  We also connected with people from our own backyard. Penn State is everywhere - even in Madrid! During the conference, we had the pleasure of meeting Heather McCune Bruhn from University Park. Heather is originally from Morgantown, West Virginia but she relocated to UP when she and her husband began their graduate degree programs - and like so many of us - decided to stay with the University. Heather is one of the leading adjunct faculty and staff members working on e-learning for the University. Disney said it best, "Its a small world after all."
Meeting friends from Penn State UniversityWe also met and made connections with great folks from Kentucky, Austraila, Canada, Germany, New York, New Zealand, Chicago, Kansas and Africa. In one particular presentation, we met Melanie Hibbert from Columbia University in Chicago. Melanie is a graduate student in Communications. At the conference, she presented her research about research - "Using video to present research: Case study of "The Voice" for teachers college record." Through the use of 2-3 minute video recordings accomapanied with text keywords popped up in text and visuals of raw data, Melanie found that researchers could use videos as effective communicative tools to enhance the comprehension of material. She also found that the videos also served as great promotional materials for research in general.  "The Voice" is an online video series published once a week at http://www.tcrecord.org/. Meeting Melanie and speaking with her about her work, stimulated idea generation and potential collaborations to further Kristan's work as well as impact my teaching style (I will share those ideas at a later date). 
Kristan with Melanie Hibbert from Chicago and Paula Hunter from CanadaAs we processed from session to session, it was great to see Kristan in action. While preparing for the conference Kristan printed and designed her own business cards. She shared her information with several participants and made solid connections that (I'm sure) will prove mutually beneficial in the coming weeks. As I mentioned before, Kristan's "now" peers could not believe that she was "merely" an undergraduate Exchanging business cards with friends from UKMC, PSU, and Austrailastudent. I believe that her presence at this conference and her ability to take an assignment beyond the classroom has not only changed her life, but has impacted the lives of all those she meets. As Oprah says - I know for sure - that Kristan has provided a new perspective for educators all over the world to view their undergraduate students. The potential to affect change is inherent in all of us, no matter what. That what can be level of education, cultural background, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. The student is now the teacher - truth be told - I think I've always been the student. Thank you Kristan for teaching me!???

Day 3 - All around the world, can you hear me?

Kristan pinning her locationMonday was the first day of the conference. Kristan had prepared for months and all her work was finally paying off. She was about to present her ideas to over 650 people. Was she intimidated? No! Was she nervous? Not at all! Was she ready? Oh yeah! Kristan walked into the presentation room, head held high, confidence with a swagger. She was ready to share her passion with the world...essentially, she did. Kristan interacted with participants from Poland, New Zealand, Canada, and Germany to name a few. Kristan Presenting AppOver 65 countries were represented at the conference. The diversity of this event was refreshing and sometimes overwhelming. Not only were we different across cultures, we all represented different fields of expertise. From industrial engineers to social workers to leaders in information technology to government officials to teacher educators to scientists to career counselors, the conference was a great example of multiculturalism at its best.

Now back to our hero...

Participants at the Poster PresentationArmed with her high heels and handouts, Kristan began interfacing with participants, sharing her expertise and gleaning information from each person who stopped by her poster. Like a sponge, Kristan absorbed all of the feedback she was given and exchanged business cards to follow up with her peers once the event concluded. On several occassions Kristan was asked, "Are you a Ph.D.?" or "So are you a neuroscientist?" Kristan would politely smile and say "No, I am an undergraduate student at Penn State." Kristan presenting her poster to participants from DenmarkThe look of surprise and shock was priceless. So many people were in awe of her work, her ability to effectively articulate her research, and her refreshing energy for the population she so desired to serve. 

Following Kristan's poster presentation, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch with colleagues from Texas and Maryland as well as Germany. (We will talk about the lunches in a later blog - it deserves its own space.) Lunch was followed by a myriad of presentations and workshops.

EnsladaLater that evening (at 9:00 pm to be exact...hmmm...thanks Kofi) we walked to Heson Txisty, a local restaurant. ?The food was phenomenal. Kristan and I both ordered what we thought would be a small salad to accompany our dinner entrees. Ah no...I think we were given the largest salads in the world! The salads were so large, we just couldn't finish them and still have room for the main course. Gina with Kristan, I mean Dr. MillerThe waiter returned to the table to remove the plates and was not too happy. "Finished? Finished? Finished?" - yes he said it three times. He couldn't believe that we didn't finish our salads. I tried to joke with him and say I was trying to stay skinny, but he just rolled his eyes. I guess the Gina Jones charm doesn't work across the pond...jus sayin. 

Day 2 - How do you turn the lights on?

Sunday we landed in Madrid. Greeted by a beautiful, oversized airport. In the airport we met our new friend Bob Melia Castillafrom Columbia University and V. Jani from Kansas State University, both on their way to iCERi. We shared a taxi with Bob and travelled to our hotel, Melia Castilla - http://www.meliacastilla.com/

The hotel is picturesque. The lobby is draped with live beautiful plants and decorated with sculptures from local artisans. After checking in at the reception desk (recepcion) we settle in to our hotel room.

Lights in MadridAs we enter the room we notice light fixtures, different than those we are familiar with at home in the "states." For about 10 minutes we proceed to click on (and off) every light in the room until we give up and contact the front desk. The operator kindly instructs us to place the "credit card" on the wall near the door. We follow her instructions and "voila" - lights! Every light was on in the hotel room...ha ha! I think we should adopt this model in the "states." Maybe some hotels already do it, I will need to investigate further. Using this feature in hotel rooms could severely cut energy usage and lower energy costs (preventing guests from leaving lights on when they leave the room). 

Kristan and Gina at Poster PresentationAfter getting settled in to the room, we decided to explore the city, hoping to find a great place to eat. Within a few a blocks we come across several local eateries. We stopped at the first restaurant and found the doors locked. The second restaurant, we found the same. The third and the fourth - all locked! The streets are empty and there is no traffic. We think that maybe the restaurants and stores are closed because its Sunday. I mean, six o'clock on Sunday evening could be a time of rest - right?

We venture back to the hotel and ask the receptionist if there is a restaurant open in the hotel. He directs us to La Brasserie, a restaurant and coffee-shop. Following our meal, we stop in the Business Center to print some materials for the next day's events and are introduced to Kofi. Kofi is originally from Ghana but now lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is an investment banker travelling the world to meet with investors and bankers at the major banks across the globe. We tell Kofi of our restaurant walk about town and he shares with us that in Spain lunch is at 2:00 pm and dinner is at 9:00 pm. Thanks Kofi!

Summary of Sunday's activities - we turned on the lights, took a nap, enjoyed a walk, found a restaurant, and learned the Spanish eating schedule as shared by Kofi from Brooklyn!

Here are a few pictures of Kristan's presentation...more to come in the next post!Kristan with Keynote Speaker ??
Kristan demonstrating App to Keynote Speaker

Day 1 - Travelling with Stinky Feet

Flying to ChicagoThe schedule was to depart for the airport at 10:30 am so that we could arrive in plenty of time to prepare for our first flight of the day. Flight to O'Hare Airport in Chicago (don't ask why we flew west then back east, I didn't make the arrangements) was leaving Pittsburgh International Airport at 1:40 pm. As we drove down I-79 we come across stand-still, no movement for miles, traffic. We take the first possible exit and attempt to navigate back roads in an effort to arrive at the airport in time for the flight. We arrive at the airport at 12:35 pm and begin to check our baggage at curbside check-in. Kristan is checked-in and ready to go. I place my bag on the scale to confirm that it is under the 50 lb weight limit. The scale reads 53.3. I quickly open the suitcase and remove a few unnecessary items - curling iron and knee high boots. We weigh the bag again - 49.9! We run through the airport, bypassing several wandering travellers. After checking in at our gate, we realize we probably have enough time to go back to the food court and grab a bite to eat. Carrying our small bags of food we look at the gate where tens of people once sat - everyone was gone. We run to the door and ask the attendant if we can still board - she smiles and says "of course."
Boarding the plane, Kristan who stands 5'11" and I (5'8") realize that we've boarded a rather small plane. So small, that Kristan's head touches the ceiling. We take our seats, eat our food, and enjoy the flight. An hour or so later we arrive Chicago. The airport is bustling with travellers. We find our gate for our second flight, the flight that will take us to Madrid.

Toilet Seat CoverWhile waiting for our flight, I decide to use the restroom (not really fond of bathroom on planes...jus saying). I open the door to the stall and to my surprise I find an automated toilet that provides a fresh seat cover for you by waving your hand over the censor. Now maybe I just don't travel enough or maybe I just take joy in little things, but this was too cool. 

As we prepared to board the plane, Kristan and I realize that our seats were not next to each other. Kristan had the pleasure of sitting next to a curator for the Smithsonian. I on the other hand sat next to a wonderful man who had an unfortunate battle with halitosis. On the other side, I enjoyed the company of an American lawyer from Tenessee...well until he realized I worked for Penn State. He began to conduct a full investigation into a recent story that broke over the major media outlets (you may have heard about it - I was clueless). After realizing I had no idea what he was talking about, "Mr. Lawyer" decided to share his headphones with me (because my outlet for the radio was broken). "Mr. Lawyer" and I were friends on a journey to Madrid...well until he starts to complain about the temperature. Suffering from the overwhelming heat (that I didn't feel), "Mr. Lawyer" decides to take his socks off and place them in the pocket of the chair in front of him. I woke up out of a deep sleep to the smell of FEET - funky feet at that!

AirplaneA few hours later we arrived safely in Madrid and began our adventure!

The Backstory: From Class Project to Madrid, Spain

In December off 2010, Ms. Kristan Miller was enrolled in HDFS 490, a prepatory course for the 480 hour spring semester internship experience. A major requirement for the course is the development of a capstone project. Each student develops a proposal for a project to be implemented during their internship the following semester. Although students are not required to implement the project, they are expected to attempt implementation, address barriers, identify potential resolutions, evalute their measures for success (goals), and share reccomendations for next steps.

Ms. Miller originally proposed to survey her co-workers to identify effective resources/interventions that they currently or previously employed when working with clients. The results of the survey would then be considered and a resource sharing program developed. Therapeutic staff support and mobile therapists would use the program as an index to quickly access the most effective internvention for their clients' specific diagnosis(es) or behaviors.

Throughout her internship, Ms. Miller encountered several barriers to the successful implementation of her project. When faced with each barrier, Kristan sought counsel from instructors and supervisors and used various problem solving techniques to identify the best next step or solution.  In spite of the barriers she faced, Kristan successfully developed a resource sharing initiative and presented the outcome of her work at Spring 2011 Learning Fair (where she was awarded for First Place at the inagural colloquim). 

Kristan Learning Fair PresentationSpring 2011 Learning Fair
Penn State Fayette, the Eberly Campus
Project title: The Missing Pieces 
Student: Kristan Miller 
Description: Developing resources and interventions to enhance outcomes for children with autism and related disorders.

At the conclusion of the spring 2011 semester, Kristan was meeting with her advisers and scheduling her classes for what would be her final semester at Penn State Fayette. On her way to completing her bacalaureatte degree in HDFS, Kristan found herself consumed with the work she just completed and wondered how she would continue to help her co-workers and the clients she served. Ms. Miller decided to enroll in business administration courses to earn a minor in Business Administration. An education in business administration, coupled with her passion for providing therapeutic services and education in Human Development and Family Studies, Kristan believed that she would now be equipped with the tools to effectively affect change in the field of behavioral therapy. 

In the summer of 2011, Kristan continued working on her project. What was once "just" a class project was now an all-consuming passion for effective delivery of therapeutic services. While completing coursework with Dr. Jo Ann Jankoski, Kristan video taped mock counseling sessions. The purpose of the videos was to allow students an opportunity to assess themselves and each other, gaining critical insight about how they interact with clients. Considering the insight she gained form that invaluable experience and the work from her internship project, Kristan considered the following: 

Children with autism, experience difficulty with mirror neuron function. Mirror neuron dysfunction leads to an individual's difficulty and/or inability to gain insight into others thoughts and actions. Individuals with Autism may have touble thinking about others thought processes. If individuals with Autism have mirror neuron dysfunction, how will they be able to effectively relate to the content and as a result learn the appropriate behavior? (K. Miller, 2011)

Kristan with Poster PresentationKristan sought counsel from various faculty members including Peter Eberle (Business Administration) and Dr. Josh Marvit (Science). After consulting with faculty, mentors, and experts in the field, Kristan identified a potential solution: an App that allows individuals with Autism to superimpose their image as well as their caregiver's image into the social story that they are using to learn the normative behaviors. This allows the individuals with Autism to more easily relate to the story and learn normative behaviors (K. Miller, 2011). She then submitted her idea to the iCERi 2011 - International Conference of Education Research and Innovation.

Throughout the summer, Ms. Miller continued to work on her ideas, nearly forgetting about the conference submission. To her surprise, she was notified in late August that her work was accepted for presentation at this year's conference.

Immediately, she began to work on her "app" and acquire funding for the trip. Ms. Gina Jones (internship instructor) assisted Ms. Miller with acquiring funding from the University and connected her to Matthew Scarfo of Geneva Marketing, Inc. Mr. Scarfo worked with Kristan to develop a simulation of the "app" and lend his expertise to regarding web development, usability, etc. 

Poster PresentationPictureMe Learning is the name of Ms. Miller's app and potential company. She has purchased the web domain and is currently in the midst of patent and copyright applications as well as a full business plan for her tech company. 

Ms. Miller travelled with Ms. Jones to Madrid on November 12, 2011. She is presenting her work on Monday, November 14 to over 650 participants.