Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Rethinking ASL Concepts

Guest speaker Betty Colonomos and BU faculty
Jessica Bentley-Sassaman and  Kristin Lizor
Rethinking ASL Concepts Betty Colonomos, a pioneer in the field of interpreting, came to BU on Oct. 24 and 25 as part of StreetLeverage’s StreetTour Series. StreetLeverage is an organization geared toward the promotion of innovative ideas that will lead to a positive change in the field of American Sign Language (ASL)/English Interpreting. The StreetTour is specifically designed to introduce sign language interpreters to contemporary thinking, concepts and ideas that will assist them in reflecting upon, and being more consciousness of, the decisions they make in their daily work. The goal of these tours is provide thought-provoking lectures and interaction that help practitioners and students rethink how they view themselves and their role as professionals and as members of both their local deaf and sign language interpreter community.

This event, Self-Sabotage: How Do Interpreters Prevent Fear from Creating Indecision? was partially funded by the College of Education’s Special Initiative Fund, the Pennsylvania chapter of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and Sign Language Interpreting Professionals. This training was conducted in ASL by all participants and attended by a mix of interpreting students, pre-certified and certified interpreters, and a deaf interpreter.

The training offered an introspective look at how interpreters sabotage themselves through negative self-talk. As interpreters, there is an expectation of perfection, even though research has proven simultaneous interpretations (which is not “simultaneous,” but a few seconds behind the speaker) is about 87 percent accurate (Russel, 2005, p. 151).

For one activity, groups formed according to experience: seasoned, experienced, or new/student. It was interesting to see that fears about mistakes during interpretation are the same for members of all three groups. This realization helped participants understand that all interpreters have similar fears, no matter how many years they have been in the field.

The goal of this introspection and the thought-provoking activities that followed was to reconsider the decision-making process and use the knowledge to provide high-quality interpreting services for the deaf community. The training also focused on how we can build communities through communicating with one another. This training was astounding and Betty Colonomos is a great presenter who makes interpreters reconsider their approach to interpreting.

Students who attended the event wrote about their experiences:

I really enjoyed being in this workshop with fellow students as well as interpreters with varying years of experience. This workshop opened to my eyes to the fears and anxieties that are present in our occupation. Betty created a safe atmosphere where participants were encouraged to analyze the root of their anxieties and how to utilize different controls to subdue them. The small group discussions and hands-on activities were also beneficial. Mrs. Colonomos promoted positive change within the interpreting community; we should strive to support and encourage each other. As a student, I thoroughly enjoyed this workshop because of the advice, critical thinking, and support from everyone involved. — Cassidy Sangrey ’16. 
The StreetLeverage Workshop that was held on October 24 and 25, 2015 was a wonderful experience! I thoroughly enjoyed working with different people with different backgrounds and learning from them as the workshop leader, Betty Colonomos. The workshop focused on discussing our fears and self-sabotage. It was interesting to learn that both new and experienced interpreters shared similar fears. — Betsy Lacey ’16. 

This innovative training was as beneficial for new interpreters as it was for experienced interpreters and an all-around amazing experience. It was engaging mentally as interpreters were challenged to rethink their approaches, rethink how they make decisions and communicate with their teammates, and rethink how to incorporate the deaf community into the decision making.

— Jessica Bentley-Sassaman

Russell, D. (2005). Consecutive and simultaneous interpreting. In T. Janzen (Ed.), Topics in signed language interpreting (pp. 135-364). Philadelphia, PA: Jon Benjamins.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Regional STEM Education Center: Teaching the Teacher

Planning is underway for the second annual STEM Teacher Academy to be held during summer 2016 at Bloomsburg University. The academy’s first session gave regional PreK-12 teachers new skills for their classrooms, with a focus on developing strategies to infuse Inquire-Based Teaching (IBT) into their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum. Sixteen teachers from 11 regional school districts participated in this intensive training, which was a collaborative effort between Dr. Todd Hoover, associate professor for Teaching and Learning and course instructor, and Dr. Kimberly Bolig, director of the Regional STEM Education Center, as the enrollment, logistics and facility coordinator.

The teachers spent the first week of the academy at the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown, recognized as one of America’s best programs for educators. Its professional programs are Act 48-approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Dr. David Smith, senior director of science and strategic initiatives for the Da Vinci Science Center and recipient of the National Science Teachers Association’s Distinguished Informal Science Educator in 2014, and Ms. Karen Knecht, director of education and exhibits at the Da Vinci Science Center since 2010, comprised the center’s professional development team. Participants in the STEM Teacher Academy were trained using IBT curriculum developed by San Francisco’s Exploratorium Teacher Institute. They interacted with exhibits, engaged in hands-on classroom activities, and shared teaching strategies. Dr. Hoover oversaw the week of training and coordinated information with the rest of the course.

Dr. Hoover continued to instruct participants in IBT methodology through the creation of lesson plans and curriculum during the second week of the academy, held on BU’s campus. In addition, the participants received a full day of training on The Power of Micromessages, provided by National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE). Micromessages are defined as conscious and unconscious words and actions, such as facial expressions, gestures or tone of voice that, over time, can affect students’ self-concept or self-efficacy and influence career choice. NAPE developed a research-based professional development program for educators that employs micromessages to improve classroom pedagogy and increase the enrollment, retention, performance, and completion of underrepresented students in nontraditional careers. This inclusive professional development solution is designed to help educators address specific school needs related to equitable learning environments, student academic success and readiness to pursue high-wage, high-skill, and high-demand careers.

In evaluations conducted at the end of the STEM Teacher Academy, participants expressed appreciation for the academy’s organization, content level, and professional development opportunity. One participant stated it was “definitely one of the best professional development experiences I’ve had.” Additional evaluation was provided through student reflection papers. Students were graded on their ability to incorporate IBT into their curriculum through their final project and received three college credits from BU upon successful completion of the academy.

Bloomsburg University and the Regional STEM Education Center received a grant from the Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corporation to partially cover the cost for the Teacher STEM Academy.

 — Kimberly Bolig, Director, Regional STEM Education Center 
and Todd Hoover, Associate Professor, Teaching and Learning

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

McDowell Institute: What is Mental Health First Aid for Youth?

BU’s McDowell Institute is becoming increasingly involved with Mental Health First Aid – Youth, both on campus and statewide through its membership with the Community of Practice on School-based Behavioral Health (CoP SBBH).

Mental Health First Aid – Youth (MHFA-Y) is help offered to a person (in this case a youth) developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. MHFA-Y is provided until appropriate treatment and support are received or until the crisis is resolved. MHFA-Y is not a substitute for counseling, medical care, peer support or treatment.

 In Pennsylvania, a process has been established for training to become certified in MHFA-Y, similar to credentialing in first aid through the American Red Cross. This training to receive a certificate as a mental health first aider is eight hours in length.
There is also an established process for someone to become a credentialed instructor in MHFA-Y, requiring one full week of intensive training. The process has numerous, required fidelity/treatment integrity metrics relevant to training after one is credentialed as an instructor in MHFA-Y. Schools across the Commonwealth are increasingly exploring training and credentialing of teachers and other school staff to meet the Act 71requirements associated with suicide prevention.

MHFA-Y is an offshoot of Mental Health First Aid for Adults. It is considered an evidence-based program by numerous federal-level entities, including the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The Community of Practice on School-based Behavioral Health (CoP SBBH) is a statewide community of cross-sector stakeholders and leaders who share a commitment to the advancement of early childhood, school age and adult behavioral health and wellness. The CoP SBBH supports children, youth, families, schools and community partners through development of comprehensive early childhood and school-based behavioral health support systems.

 This is carried out to overcome non-academic barriers to learning so all children and youth can successfully transition into adulthood. Current focus of the CoP SBBH is on:

  1. Promoting implementation and sustainability of evidenced-based multi-tiered systems of supports (PBIS);
  2. Promoting integration of evidence-based programming into decision-making frameworks (e.g. situating mental health EBPs within the PBIS framework); and
  3. Fostering and leveraging articulated and robust school-community partnerships. 

The CoP SBBH believes it will have been successful when children, youth, families, educational entities and community agencies have access to services, supports, training, technical assistance, and collaborative opportunities that ensure academic and emotional/social success for all. The CoP SBBH operates the Affiliated Network of PBIS Facilitators (Trainers) in Pennsylvania and is in the process of organizing a parallel Affiliated Network of MHFA-Y Trainers in Pennsylvania.

 To learn more about MHFA-Y, along with other kindred evidence-based approaches to address non-academic barriers to learning, contact McDowell Institute at .

 By Tim Knoster, co-director, McDowell Institute

Friday, October 16, 2015

Two faculty publish books

Two faculty members from the College of Education recently published books.

Beyond the Classroom Walls: Developing Mindful Home, School, and Community Partnerships by Tom Starmack (at left) and Michael Patte (right), professors of Teaching and Learning, pushes students to look beyond the walls of the classroom to explore all avenues of educating students, including families, community and other school resources. The book features recent scholarly articles to support the concepts of each chapter. Included are notes to instructors for the means of creating authentic and engaging assignments and means of delivering instruction.

Starmack also wrote and edited Organizational Behavior: A New Three Dimensional Leadership Paradigm, which explores various types of leadership and major concepts critical to leading in the 21st century. The book has a PK-16 target audience for students or professionals seeking to learn more and be engaged in learning about effective leadership in our complex world. The impact on pre-service and in-service teachers is the depth with which students engage with content and apply concepts in their current setting through job-embedded assignments. Mindy Andino, assistant professor of Teaching and Learning, wrote case studies that are included in the book.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Culturally Responsive Teaching

Research suggests that when teachers have the benefit of multicultural education preparation, they are less likely to embrace cultural deficit views. Moreover, teachers who have learned culturally responsive pedagogy are more confident and believe they are affective in their instruction of diverse children. Unfortunately, most teacher candidates lack the knowledge, skills, dispositions and experiences needed to teach ethnically and linguistically diverse students.

What is Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT)?
  • CRT is respecting the cultures and experiences of various groups and using these as resources for teaching and learning. It appreciates the existing strengths and accomplishments of all students and develops them further in instruction. Examples are race/ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, religion, sexuality, age and weight. 
  • CRT acknowledges the legitimacy of the cultural heritage of different groups, both as legacies that affect students’ attitudes and approaches to learning, and as content worthy to be taught in the formal, mandated curriculum.  
  • CRT builds bridges of relevance between home, community and school experiences, so the learning experiences become seamless. 
  • CRT uses a range of instructional strategies that are connected to different learning styles, preferences and needs. 
  • CRT teaches students to know, respect and appreciate their own cultural heritage and the heritage of others; cultural pride is nurtured. 
  • CRT incorporates multicultural information, materials and resources in all school subjects and activities. 
Teacher education programs in the United States can prepare highly effective teachers who are able to work with all students if CRT is part of the curriculum. This means updated courses and training for faculty, who are key to CRT’s success.

As the minority population in the United States continues to grow and refugees arrive from many countries, integrating CRT into the curriculum will greatly benefit new teachers and all of their future students.

The term all children did not always mean that all children were included, nor that teachers had high expectations for every student in their classrooms. In today’s educational settings, we still hear that it is about “all children” but, in reality, most teachers are not prepared to teach all children.

CRT can be a resource to truly help future teachers face their prejudices and fears in order to successfully teach students of all cultural backgrounds. CRT goes beyond having a multicultural curriculum in schools; it acknowledges the cultural heritage each individual represents in the classroom. CRT teachers create lesson plans that take into consideration every child’s background and learning style. These teachers can inspire all students to take ownership of their education. 

Teachers who use CRT effectively can promote high academic achievement and help all students develop critical thinking skills and become life-long learners. Most important, CRT can promote social justice and have a major impact on closing the achievement gap that exists in the United States among majority and minority students. Teacher education programs need to prepare future teachers who can embrace diversity and promote high academic achievement for all children. Teacher preparation programs in the U.S. should integrate CRT into the curriculum. 

— By David Vázquez-González, assistant to the dean

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Professor writes article on bringing videos to class

 Michael F. Ruffini, professor of teaching and learning, has written a guest blog for TechSmith Blog outlining how teachers can incorporate video in their classroom using the applications PowerPoint and Camtasia.
Driven by significant advances in digital technologies, today videos are much easier to access – whether it be by the Web or mobile devices. Because video is so ubiquitous, it is an invaluable educational tool. Video is revolutionizing the way we teach and learn and is a powerful medium used extensively today in both eLearning and mLearning. For example, online resources, such as TeacherTube, Khan Academy, and YouTube provide thousands of streaming educational video clips for teachers to use in their lessons.  
Communication through the use of video can bring lessons to life, initiate discussions, and impact learning on both an emotional and cognitive level. Video can illustrate complex, or abstract concepts, take students anywhere around the world, go back in time, explore beneath the oceans, take a look into a cell, and travel to the moon and beyond! Digital video is revolutionizing the way students learn.  
Read the rest of the article.
Ruffini teaches both undergraduate and graduate educational technology courses in the Department of Teaching and Learning. Michael wrote a fantastic book on communication and learning through screencasts called PowerCasts – Creating Dynamic PowerPoint Screencasts with Camtasia Studio. He has also been published on The Educause Review twice, for articles titled Screencasting to Engage Learning and Creating a PowerPoint Screencast Using Camtasia Studio. For more information on his work, visit his website, The Teacher Cast Academy, or send him a note at mruffini(at)bloomu(dot)edu 

Friday, May 22, 2015

McDowell Institute concludes successful 2014-2015

BU’s McDowell Institute for Teacher Excellence in Positive Behavior Support continued to provide professional development experiences emphasizing student support models during the 2014-2015 academic year. The institute focused on increasing awareness of bullying, child sexual abuse prevention and mental health issues.

A highlight of the spring semester was the McDowell Institute’s professional development experience for more than 150 student teachers. The program emphasized preventive classroom management, including the core foundations of building rapport, providing clear and explicit behavioral expectations and providing high-density, behavior-specific positive reinforcement for students as they acquire and demonstrate appropriate behavioral skills and meet performance expectations.

This fall, the McDowell Institute plans to increase mental health awareness by collaborating with student organizations to host events and activities in conjunction with the World Federation for Mental Health and their partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses. In addition, the McDowell Institute will convene a symposium for the BU community with an emphasis on students enrolled in the College of Education’s teacher preparatory programs. The symposium will highlight practical actions classroom teachers can take to create trauma-informed learning environments, as well as collaborative statewide initiatives to support trauma-informed educational approaches sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Office of Children’s Mental Health within the Department of Human Services.

The McDowell Institute’s Charlotte Kemper can provide more information on these events. If you are interested in attending, please contact Charlotte at 570-389-5124. You can learn more about the McDowell Institute and read our newsletter at

 — Angela Pang, Interim Director, McDowell Institute

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Professional Mini-Conference for our Teacher Candidates

As our teacher candidates prepare for their educational careers following graduation, it is our hope that they will be ready for the rigor and relevance of the profession. The latest trends, the highs, the lows, the excitement and eagerness to make a difference for the many students who they impact is what education is all about. Education is also constantly changing, which can make the journey more challenging.

The College of Education: Office of Field Experience, in collaboration with the McDowell Institute: Teacher Excellence in Positive Behavior Support and Alumni and Professional Engagement, has implemented a C.A.T.C.H. event to provide our teacher candidates with a snapshot of the latest trends and insight on how to begin their journey in a positive direction. This year, C.A.T.C.H. is scheduled for March 27.

So what is C.A.T.C.H. and how do our teacher candidates benefit from the event? C.A.T.C.H. – Collaborating to Assist Teacher Candidate Hiring – is a professional development event for all of our teacher candidates. The C.A.T.C.H. initiative was developed in spring 2014 to prepare aspiring teacher candidates for the job market with sessions on current trends, interview preparation and the hiring process.

C.A.T.C.H. provides opportunities for our students to collaborate, network and interact with Bloomsburg University alumni, including superintendents, principals, teachers and others who have chosen an educational career. This opportunity gives them experience and exposure to the districts and to the latest professional changes.

Being a lifelong learner is key to educators’ sustainability and success. We hope the annual C.A.T.C.H. professional development mini-conference provides our graduates with the tools necessary to be problem solvers and innovators … to make a difference. These skills set them apart from other candidates and prepare them to make a lasting first impression during the interview process.

Get Ready …. Get Set …. C.A.T.C.H.

— Candy Trate, Director Field Experience Office