Irish Conference on Engaging Pedagogy Reflection

I was so honoured to be invited to speak at the 2023 Irish Conference on Engaging Pedagogy (ICEP) last week (thank you Karen!) This was my first time attending (and will not be the last!) The conference was held at CCT College Dublin – a place I walk by weekly, but have never had the chance to go in to this gorgeous spot. The minute I walked in the door I felt a warm and welcoming glow, something I haven’t felt from a conference in quite a long time! It was such a joy to (re)connect with so many and looking forward to continued discussions and collaborations.  My session was titled Teaching the Teachers: Supportive Pedagogy for Educator Professional Development and it was a great way for me to reflect back on my first semester teaching at UCD and sharing what I learned with others. Slides are below – many if not all of the images link out to resources!

IJTEL Special Issue is Live!

Irish Learning Technology Association ILTA

I’m delighted to share that the special issue of IJTEL The Games People Play: Exploring Technology Enhanced Learning Scholarship & Generative Artificial Intelligence has been published (and on time!) In September we put out a call for papers which were entirely written by AI (along with a transparent reflection on the process.) We were overwhelmed by the number of submissions and as a consequence the process has greatly helped to improve other “back end” workings of the journal.

Please take a moment to read the editorial – and of course – all of the articles that follow! Sincere thanks to the amazing editorial team (Tom, Fiona, & Orna) – it’s a joy to collaborate with you!!

Wolf, L., Farrelly, T., Farrell, O., & Concannon, F. (2023). Reflections on a collective creative experiment with GenAI: Exploring the boundaries of what is possible. Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, 7(2), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.22554/ijtel.v7i2.155 

 

A few quick updates & (AI) resources

It has been a busy semester! As a part of my work I’ve been tasked with co-facilitating a series of conversations around Artificial Intelligence and education.  As a part of this work, I helped to facilitate two workshops a few weeks ago and I’m sharing them out here for others to (re)use, remix, recycle. Both were highly interactive in nature and intentionally constructed to not be a “sit and get” session (there are plenty of those (many great!) that are out there.)

The first workshop (co-facilitated with Marta Bustillo & Emily Smith) is up on Humanities Commons:

Artificial Intelligence and Ethical Practice in Teaching and Learning Facilitator Guide

These are the materials associated with a one-hour workshop on artificial intelligence and ethical practice for higher education faculty, staff and students. This workshop aims to facilitate a conversation in higher education contexts about ethical ways of using AI for teaching, learning and research using three lenses: An educational lens [e.g. what is the impact of AI on teaching and learning practice?] An accessibility lens [e.g. how does AI affect accessibility of learning materials, assessment and the overall educational experience?] An information acquisition and management lens [e.g. how can we evaluate, use and trust information created using AI?] The workshop draws heavily from the Civics of Technology Project: https://www.civicsoftechnology.org/

 

The second was a “share and swap shop” session co-facilitated with Leone Gately. The “secret mission” doc can be found here and helps to support the activity.  Below, you’ll find an associated recap post shared with the community post-activity.

Over the past two weeks there were quite a few campus events and conversations related to Generative AI. First, was a conversation hosted by the Digital Literacies Community of Practice focused on the ethics of AI in teaching and learning. The second was our own Community Conversation (which we will recap shortly in this post) and there was also the WST October Roundtable on Disruptive Technology with a panel discussion on AI.  We know many conversations are happening across campus in informal and formal contexts – please feel free to chime in with events in this space here!

In addition to enjoying a networking lunch at our first Community Conversation we had some time to gather input into what people were already doing with AI and to generate ideas for future conversations.

When asked What AI Tools are you already using? these are some of the tools that were frequently mentioned:

Bard (other Google tools)
Bing
Casper.AI
ChatGPT
Dall-E

When asked What AI tools are you interested in learning more about? these are some of the tools were listed (There was also a desire to learn more about educational, visual and business AI tools broadly.):
Bard
Bing
ChatGPT 4
Consensus
Eduaide.ai
Grammarly
MidJourney
Otter.ai
Swapp.ai 

We also engaged in a collaborative activity to brainstorm educational experiences to help others learn more about topics related to AI. There was a strong desire for more conversations related to guidance around the use of AI and for opportunities to try out new tools. The focus of our February conversation will be “play and display” style and we will ask participants to come with tools to share and we will have opportunities for collective sharing and experimenting with various generative AI tools.  If you would like to volunteer to “display” or share, please get in touch!

Special Issue Call: The Games People Play: Exploring Technology Enhanced Learning Scholarship & Generative Artificial Intelligence

Irish Learning Technology Association Logo I’m delighted to share the details of the latest Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning (IJTEL) call for papers.  In creating this special issue we wanted to provide a safe, open, playful, critical, and academic platform to address generative AI.  We are all flooded with lists, articles, blogs, conferences, other CFPs and more related to AI and education. We tried to differentiate ourselves with this call by providing a transparent platform for scholars to increase their own digital literacies and understandings around generative AI – and in turn – we will all learn from the process.  Please consider submitting AND sharing this with others in your network – we are so excited to see what is generated!

 

Special Issue Call: The Games People Play: Exploring Technology Enhanced Learning Scholarship & Generative Artificial Intelligence

While generative artificial intelligence has been a part of the wider artificial intelligence (AI) since its inception, it’s only recently that new advancements have been released for public consumption (and production.) We are all awash with the stories (Bozkurt, et al., 2023; Concannon et al., 2023; Sharples, 2022) and controversies (Glesson, 2022; Liang et al. 2023), promises (Baidoo-Anu & Owusu Ansah, 2023) and pitfalls (Costello, 2023; Wang et al. 2023) of AI.

Recent guidelines produced by the National Academic Integrity Network (2023) state that educators should “be familiar with these tools and their availability, and recognise their limitations and affordances.” (p.8.) This special issue is intended to provide a transparent academic space to explore, play and discover how AI intersects with technology enhanced learning scholarship and practice.  As we are all working to wrap our collective (human) minds around AI, we are inviting submissions explicitly and transparently written with AI.

What does AI really know about technology enhanced learning? What happens when you go “all in” with AI? We believe that facing generative AI in this way will provide an innovative, playful and scholarly platform for capturing and documenting this phenomenon in the moment. What does engaging in this process say not only about our discipline, but, our humanity and identity as scholars?

As scholars we need spaces to develop our own critical AI literacies – and this is an exercise and opportunity to make the process of our own learning transparent (which is by no coincidence a suggestion for “countering” AI in the classroom.)  For this special issue, we invite you to generate a submission that contains three distinct sections: 1) an introduction; 2) the paper/report/or book review written by AI and 3) a critical reflection on the process.

Here is a bit more guidance on each section:

Introduction (not generated with AI)

500-1000 words

At minimum, the introduction should include:

  • your relationship with Generative AI in educational and scholarly contexts
  • a rationale for your choice of the topic; including an exposition of your relationship with the topic chosen.
  • a transparent and detailed description of the AI tool(s) used to create the article (be very specific about the version of the tool, was it a pay version, open, etc.)
  • the prompt(s) you used to generate the article

Position Paper, Short Report or Book Review entirely generated by AI 

Authors should select from one of the standard IJTEL submission types outlined below and generate an article within those guidelines.

There can be minimal formatting edits made by (human) authors, but, for the most part it is expected that you will copy and paste directly from the AI outputs.  We acknowledge that there will likely be errors in citations, hallucinations and incorrect information. For the sake of this exercise, we are soliciting “as is” snapshots of what AI can do in this moment. We have purposely identified word counts that are attainable with non-subscription based tools, though, you are welcome to use any Generative AI tool(s) you wish.

Position Papers (2,000- 3,000 words).

These contributions establish debate or critique a relevant policy or issue. Contributions may be provocative in nature, but must be rigorous and informed by relevant literature and make an original contribution to debate.

Short Reports (2,000- 2,500 words).

These can be reports on ongoing research, or on the challenges of critically engaged practice with  technology enhanced learning. These contributions may take novel or innovative formats.

Book reviews (not exceeding 1,000 words).

These are reviews of relevant books.

Critical Reflection (not generated with AI) 

500-1000 words

To conclude your manuscript, you should write a critical reflection on the process of generating the article with AI.  As you can see from the list below there are two broad aspects that the reflection should focus on. The first section asks you to reflect and report back on the process while the second asks that you reflect on what it means for you as a scholar and your discipline. Critical reflections should explore:

Reflection on Process

  • What did it get wrong (references, etc.)
  • What did it get right?
  • How long did the process take?
  • What would you do differently?
  • Was it difficult to write a long scholarly piece with Gen AI?

Reflection on Implications

  • What are the implications for knowledge, scholarship, teaching and learning and assessment?
  • What does this mean for you as a scholar?
  • What does this mean for our discipline at large?

Additionally, articles should include an abstract (150 words) summarising the submission. If you used AI to generate the abstract, please be transparent in the introduction.

Timeline

Due to the timeliness of the topic, we are proposing an ambitious submission, review and publication schedule to allow for this issue to serve as a record of open learning.  We ask that you are cognizant of the tight timeline when submitting your manuscript.

Deadline for submissions: October 18, 2023

Deadline for reviews: November 1, 2023

Authors notified: November 2, 2023

Deadline for revisions: November 15, 2023

Special issue publication date: December 8th, 2023 

Peer Review

Accepted manuscripts will be subjected to the standard double blind peer review process.  Additionally, reviewers will be provided with a checklist to guide the review process. Authors should also use this rubric to review their submissions before uploading to the submission portal.

A note on authorship, and responsible use of GenAI: 

For IJET, we request that any submission must be the original work of the author that has not been published previously, as a whole or in part, either in print or electronically, or is soon to be so published. This requirement will be waived for this special edition only for the segment of AI generated text, excluding the introduction and critical reflection. We require authors to adhere to the responsible use of AI in adhering to the principles of transparency on the use of AI and respect for personal data and confidentiality by not entering any such data on a GenAI platform. Similarly with respect to copyright of other’s material. See also the APA guidelines on correct citation here 

Parting Thoughts

To conclude, as an editorial team we are very excited to provide this space for play. And, in the spirit of transparency, no portions of this call were generated by AI.

Leigh Graves Wolf, Special Issue Lead Editor

Orna Farrell

Fiona Concannon

Tom Farrelly

References 

Baidoo-Anu, D., & Owusu Ansah, L. (2023). Education in the era of generative artificial intelligence (AI): Understanding the potential benefits of ChatGPT in promoting teaching and learning. SSRN Electronic Journal, https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4337484

Bozkurt, A., Xiao, J., Lambert, S., Pazurek, A., Crompton, H., Koseoglu, S., Farrow, R., Bond, M., Nerantzi, C., Honeychurch, S., Bali, M., Dron, J., Mir, K., Stewart, B., Costello, E., Mason, J., Stracke, C., Romero-Hall, E., Koutropoulos, A., . . . Jandrić, P. (2023). Speculative futures on ChatGPT and generative artificial intelligence (AI): A collective reflection from the educational landscape. Asian Journal of Distance Education, 18(1), 53-130. https://www.asianjde.com/ojs/index.php/AsianJDE/article/view/709

Concannon, F., Costello, E., Farrell, O., Farrelly, T., & Wolf, L.G. (2023). Editorial: There’s an AI for that: Rhetoric, reality, and reflections on EdTech in the dawn of GenAI. Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.22554/ijtel.v7i1.116

Costello, E. (2023). ChatGPT and the educational AI chatter: Full of bullshit or trying to tell us something? Postdigital Science and Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-023-00398-5

Gleeson, N., (2022, December 9). ChatGPT and the rise of AI writers: how should higher education respond? Times Higher Education. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/campus/chatgpt-and-rise-ai-writers-how-should-higher-education-respond

Liang, W.,Yuksekgonul, M., Mao, Y., Wu, E. and Zou, J. (2023). GPT detectors are biased against non-native English writers. Patterns. 4(7), 100779. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.patter.2023.100779

National Academic Integrity Network. (2023). Generative artificial intelligence: Guidelines for educators. https://www.qqi.ie/news/nain-publishes-new-genai-guidelines-for-educators

Sharples, M. (2022, May 17). New AI tools that can write student essays require educators to rethink teaching and assessment. LSE Impact Blog. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2022/05/17/new-ai-tools-that-can-write-student-essays-require-educators-to-rethink-teaching-and-assessment/

Wang, T., Lund, B. D., Marengo, A., Pagano, A., Mannuru, N. R., Teel, Z. A., & Pange, J. (2023). Exploring the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on international students in higher education: Generative AI, chatbots, analytics, and international student success. Applied Sciences13(11), 6716. https://doi.org/10.3390/app13116716

Review Checklist

Overall

  • Is it clear what the author(s) want to communicate regarding the use of GenAI, and the direction of the submission?
  • Does the article contain four distinct sections,(Abstract, Introduction and Process, Position Paper/Short Report/Book Review and Critical Reflection) clearly labelled?
  • Does the title clearly express what the submission is about?

Abstract

  • Does the abstract contain a short and clear summary of the submission, including key findings and conclusions.
  • Does it meet the word count specified between 100 and 150 words?
  • Does it include enough information to stand alone?
  • Does it contain unnecessary information?

Introduction

  • Does the introduction meet the criteria of 500-1000 words?
  • Does it clearly explain the author(s) relationship with Generative AI in educational and scholarly contexts? This may include limitations of current knowledge in this field, or a personal explanation of why the work was necessary.
  • Is a transparent and detailed description of the AI tool(s) used to create the article given (including very specific about the version of the tool –  was it a paid version, open, etc.)
  • Does it adhere to the responsible use of AI in the author’s engagement with the chosen AI tool with respect to (a) adhering to the principles of transparency in their use of AI (b) respect for personal data and confidentiality by not entering any such data on a GenAI platform and (c ) respecting copyright of other’s materials  in not posting these into the platforms.
  • Does it clearly define the prompt(s) used to generate the article?

Main body

  • Does the submission adhere to the word count for the AI generated submission type (e.g. position paper, short report, or book review)?
  • Does the submission adhere to the brief in terms of its focus? (e.g. position paper, report, review.)

Critical reflection

  • Does the author(s) adhere to the word count of between 500-1000 words?
  • Does the submission include a reflection on process that addresses the following prompts:
  • What did it get wrong (references, etc.)
  • What did it get right?
  • How long did the process take?
  • What would you do differently?
  • Was it difficult to write a long scholarly piece with Gen AI?
  • Does the submission contain a reflection on implications section, and that addresses the following prompts:
  • What are the implications for knowledge, scholarship, teaching and learning and assessment?
  • What does this mean for you as a scholar?
  • What does this mean for our discipline at large?
  • Are the conclusions supported by the main body of the generated AI text presented?
  • Are any limitations of the approach discussed?
  • Do the authors compare findings with any relevant literature or other perspectives, research findings, or theories in the research field?
  • Do you have any concerns that this section was written with the use of GenAI?

References and clarity of writing, etc.

  • Are there any key references missing?
  • Are references correctly used?
  • Are APA guidelines for the referencing of GenAI followed?
  • Do you have any concerns about the language, and the clarity or quality of the writing?

Overall review

  • Accept submission
  • Accept with revisions
  • Decline submission

Joining the Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning Board

Irish Learning Technology Association ILTA in large block letters

I’m elated to be joining the editorial team for the Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning. Being the faculty advisor for Current Issues in Education was a transformative experience (and one of the few chances I had to work super closely with open initiatives at ASU) and I’ve missed it! I’m so excited to be working with Orna, Tom, and Fiona (and will be filling the void left by Eamon!)

I was honoured to (very lightly!) contribute to the editorial for Volume 7: There’s an AI for that Rhetoric, reality, and reflections on EdTech in the dawn of GenAI.

Stay tuned for updates and some exciting opportunities to contribute to upcoming special issues (and regular submissions of course!)

RSS IS Awesome

I’ve found myself recently pining for the open social media days of yore – del.icio.us, Flickr, original Twitter – (I feel there is more to discuss on that in another post!) Once Google Reader died (10 years ago now!), my RSS/blog reading died along with it.  With Twitter also dying, I’ve been searching for ways to (re)connect. A few days ago, a solution appeared – an AMAZING tool that came across my Mastodon feed (speaking of searching for open spaces) called RSS is Awesome.

What is RSS is Awesome? From the website:

The RSS is Awesome feed reader is a in-progress passion project by me, Tom Hazledine, and I’m working on it a lot right now (as of late-July 2023).

Features

-All state stored in your browser – no server (and so no costs!)
-Add RSS and Atom feeds with a feed URL
-Sort feeds into Groups
-Filter items by read/unread
-New items are highlighted when feeds refresh
-Mark items as read/unread
-Dark mode and light mode support
-Responsive layout

I have to say -so far, I LOVE IT! It’s one of the first tabs I open and has (re)oriented me to spaces I haven’t visited in a while. I’m still adding more as I go and remember – so please – add your RSS feed below! I have to fiddle with the URLs sometimes to get the feed to work, but, it’s usually still buried in there somewhere!

 

Clean interface of web based RSS reader.

Giving in to AI

I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that I can be against AI, yet, find ethical ways to learn and engage with it (so that others can do the same.) (And, I should be more specific and say GENERATIVE AI, as AI is already in and around all we do.)

To start, I asked ChatGPT to write a bio for me.  It’s certainly starting out with flattery … we will see how far it goes as this journey continues.

Prompt: Write a brief bio for Leigh Graves Wolf

As of my last update in September 2021, Leigh Graves Wolf is an educator and scholar recognized for her contributions to the field of educational technology and teacher preparation. She is known for her expertise in leveraging technology to enhance teaching and learning experiences.

Leigh Graves Wolf has an extensive background in education and has held various leadership positions in academic institutions. She has been actively involved in researching, designing, and implementing innovative approaches to integrate technology into the curriculum, with a particular focus on preparing future educators to effectively use technology in their classrooms.

Throughout her career, Leigh has demonstrated a commitment to promoting digital literacy and empowering educators to embrace new tools and pedagogical approaches. Her work has spanned topics such as digital storytelling, online learning, social media in education, and data-driven decision-making in teaching.

Additionally, Leigh Graves Wolf has likely published research papers, presented at conferences, and contributed to the broader educational community through workshops and professional development sessions. Her work may have inspired countless educators to embrace technology as a means to engage students and enhance learning outcomes.

Please note that there may have been additional developments or changes in Leigh Graves Wolf’s career and accomplishments beyond my last update, and I recommend checking more recent sources to get the most up-to-date information about her.

Celebrating a Milestone

Last night I celebrated a bit of milestone – my last(ish!) ASU dissertation defense. (I am second on a few more at ASU, but those are down the road and not as immediately time intensive as these past several months have been.) Since I started my new position at UCD mid-year, I did not want to leave my students in the lurch without a chair the semester of their defense. Both ASU & UCD agreed that I could stay on to complete the dissertations (and timing wise it worked out because when the clock it 5pm here, it was 9am in Arizona!)

It has been a true labor of love over the past several months. It’s always a tremendous honor and privilege to be a part of a dissertation journey – and this semester, I was a part of 12. I chaired 5 dissertations, 1 dissertation proposal, was second on 5 additional committees and an external committee member on a dissertation here in Ireland at Dublin City University. So, in total, leaving ASU I have chaired 11 dissertations and sat as second on 23. (34 total!)

I’ve listed them all out below – as you can see, I was witness to an absolutely incredible amount of scholarship from so many disciplines and spaces across the educational spectrum.

I would like to draw attention to two dissertations which pushed boundaries by integrating multimodal aspects into the dissertation and moved beyond the 5-chapter model:

Dr. Michael Little Crow created a podcast series, As the Little Crow Flies, which is a series of conversations with educators who work in Tribal Communities – you can access the podcast here (and each podcast is a “chapter” in his dissertation) https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/as-the-little-crow-flies/id1643415571

Dr. Debbie Stephens Stauffer also created a podcast series (and drafts of two journal articles) – the episodes (and activities) can be found here: https://www.givinggracematters.com/

I’m looking forward to both of these going up on ProQuest as I know they’ll serve as models for other EdD/CPED students who wish to explore new modalities and formats. I’m looking forward to the rest being up on ProQuest too! Lots of amazing practitioner based action research to share and learn from.

It was also great to be joined on the committees by some of my cherished collaborators and colleagues (Andrea Zellner, Liz Owens Boltz, & Aman Yadav.)

And now, it’s time for a bit of rest in the evenings.

Chair:

Dr. Leroy McLean: Developing Expertise & Expert Teams for High Performance: Utilizing the Expert-to-Expert Practice Framework

Dr. Lois Malone: Chameleons among Us: A Hermeneutic Inquiry about Adults and Belonging after a Globally Nomadic Childhood

Dr. Deborah Stephens Stauffer: Tuning In To A Grace-Based Approach To Leadership: A Management Podcast Designed for Learning

Dr. Zoe Bennett: Those Who Play, Emerge Together: Toward a Community-Building Framework through Role Playing Games

Dr. Zsuzsa Szabo: Building a Collaborative Culture: Study of a High-School Cross-Curricular Professional Learning Community

2nd Committee Member:
Dr. Youlina Rehak: Designing for Struggle in Urban Schools: Mathematics Teachers’ Perspective on Productive Failure

Dr. Elizabeth Thies: Once a Coach, Always a Coach Creating professional development for a co-teaching model designed to support second language learners

Dr. Michael Little Crow: Professional Development for Math Educators Podcast: Amplifying, Hearing, and Understanding the Voice of Community Educators

Dr. Yassanne Garraway: Creating Self-regulated Student Teachers at the University of Guyana: Strategies to strengthen student teachers’ awareness and learning skills

Dr. Chris Brooks: Transforming Teacher Beliefs and Roles to Change Student Engagement Practices in Online Classrooms

Dissertation Proposal (Co-Chair)
Jacob Bunch: Assistive Technology and the Lifeworld of Postsecondary Students with Dyslexia Understanding ‘Fractions’ of Experience through Narrative Storytelling

External Committee Member:
Dr. Fergus Timmons, Dublin City University. Supporting family carers of people living with dementia through online education: A case study from an Irish NGO.

I am here now (some major updates!)

It has been a busy few months – lots to catch up on, but, the most exciting is…I moved to Ireland. In January I started a new post as an Assistant Professor in Educational Practice with the Teaching & Learning Centre at University College Dublin. To say this is a dream come true, is an understatement.  I have so many posts and thoughts brewing in my head.  I am still with ASU in the evenings to see my Leader Scholar Community (LSC) through the end of their dissertations (I would never leave them hanging!) Thus, my headspace is a bit packed at the moment. I’m looking forward to finding my new “normal” pace and rhythm soon.

In the meantime, I’ll share this wonderful conversation from a few weeks ago. Good friends Gearóid Ó Súilleabháin and Tom Farrelly invited me to this conversation at MTU in Cork along with the incredible Frank Rennie. We had all known each other virtually for over a decade, and it was so wonderful to meet in person. I hope you enjoy as much as I did!

A Tribute to Michael Hughes

A tall white man in graduation gown giving thumbs up to cameraI first started teaching overseas with the MAET program in 2006. At the age of 30, this was the first time I had ever ventured overseas (beyond Canada.) While many of our students talk about how transformational the experience is (even for seasoned overseas travelers) I might argue back that it was equally if not more transformational for me as well – and that is all because of the amazing human beings I  had the privilege of working with. Michael Hughes is one of those humans.  

Bindu (his amazing wife, fellow MAET grad, and another incredible human) messaged me Saturday to let me know the devastating news that Mike unexpectedly passed away on Friday, June 10th.  My heart stopped.  Mike’s memorial is today, and I cannot be there in person, so I am honoring him the best I can with this tribute.   

As I started culling through photographs and emails, it became difficult to see through the tears. MAET Overseas is an intense and joyous Masters program for teachers – it’s 9 credits, in-person, over 4 weeks of 8am-4pm Monday – Friday. Teachers come to the program from all across the globe. When Mike and Bindu were in the program, the majority of teachers were from international schools and we had growing cohorts of students from the US joining. This mix of teachers was like nothing I had ever experienced.  The seasoned international school teachers in the program often served as informal mentors to the US students, and many went on to expand their own teaching horizons overseas. In the program we lived together, worked together, learned together, ate together, and celebrated together – often spending more intense time with each other than our own family and friends.  When Mike went through the program, it was located in Plymouth, England.  He was always the center of joy and wisdom in our classes and he was a consummate lifelong learner.  Mike and his cohort graduated in 2009.  

Anyone who has been an educator knows the joys of receiving an “out of the blue” email from a former student – it always brings a ray of sunshine to my (usually mundane and sometimes fraught) inbox.  Mike, Bindu, and I formed a continuing bond and I would receive messages frequently post graduation.  As I was looking back through emails, this one started the flood of tears and I think keenly represents the incredible educator that Mike was:  

August, 2009 

My school just admitted its first 100% deaf student, sixth grade, my homeroom. How cool of an opportunity is that?

I’m now searching out ways I can learn to sign, and wonder if there is anything you know of that would help me. Anything from MSU, or Berlitz or anything else?

I’m excited and searching.

Thanks for any suggestions,

Mike

This was the first of many years of emails related to his quest to learn and support ASL. Fast forward to 2013 – Mike was no longer in a formal teaching position because of the rules in his country that required educators to stop teaching at the age of 60. 

August 2013

Hello Leigh and Punya,

I wanted to catch up and let you know what an MAET grad does once he’s no longer in the formal classroom.

When my knowledge of eBooks combined with my contact with the deaf community, it set off a buzzer in my head. Every child sitting on the lap of their parent deserves to have literature delivered to them in their first language. Ok, that is generally quite possible…unless the child is deaf. 

The deaf 3 year old who’s struggling to learn sign language could not experience sign in a paper book. From their earliest days, deaf youth are learning one language to make their way in the complicated world, and yet another language to decipher written text.

Along comes the eBook with the inclusion of video–a game changer for this young child. Now the youngster can page through the eBook on an iPad, seeing their first language coming back to them in the form of video.

This is what I am doing, producing eBooks for the deaf/signing community.

Attached is the flyer I’m sending with my letter to organizations of deaf persons. I’m getting results. This idea is gaining traction.

Please feel free to forward this info on to anyone you know who would be interested in ASL eBooks as well as maybe promote the effort a little bit. 

Michael Hughes

Creating eBooks for the deaf/signing community

 

Mike and Bindu eventually moved to the US in 2016 once they were both fully retired. We would zoom every so often and nothing delighted Mike more than sharing with me how amazing Bindu is and he would also share with me his new passion of learning leather making and how he was giving back to his new community in Durango – continuing sharing his love and talents with the world, making people feel welcome, human, and loved in a unique way that I have never experienced and that I will carry with me in perpetuity. 

When I am sad and grieving, I often seek solace in poetry as I don’t feel my own words are ever quite enough.  One of my favorite poets John O’Donohue always seems to capture emotions in a way that brings me a bit of peace. Bindu, and Mike’s family and friends – I hope this poem can bring an ounce of comfort to you in a time when our hearts are shattered.  

 

Though we need to weep your loss,

You dwell in that safe place in our hearts

Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.

 

Your love was like the dawn

Brightening over our lives,

Awakening beneath the dark

A further adventure of color.

 

The sound of your voice

Found for us

A new music

That brightened everything.

 

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze

Quickened in the joy of its being;

You placed smiles like flowers

On the alter of the heart,

Your mind always sparkled

With the wonder at things.

 

Though your days here were brief,

Your spirit was alive, awake, complete.

 

We look toward each other no longer

From the old distance of our names;

Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,

As close to us as we are to ourselves.

 

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,

We know our souls gaze is upon your face,

Smiling back at us from within everything

To which we bring our best refinement.

 

Let us not look for you only in memory,

Where we would grow lonely without you.

You would want us to find you in presence,

Besides us when beauty brightens,

When kindness glows

And music echoes eternal tones.

 

When orchids brighten the earth,

Darkest winter has turned to spring;

May this dark grief flower with hope

In every heart that loves you.

 

May you continue to inspire us:

To enter each day with a generous heart.

To serve the call of courage and love

Until we see your beautiful face again

In that land where there is no more separation,

Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,

And where we will never lose you again.

 

By John O’Donohue

To Bless the Space between us