Chris Bugaj: Spreading the Virus - Professional Development So Easy, a Zombie Could Do It

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Can you believe that the end of October is almost here? Halloween is just around the corner! We are just getting back into our routine after attending one of the best professional development opportunities – the Closing the Gap assistive technology conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We had a wonderful time meeting other professionals in the field. We also did a presentation on MATHLIT Kits: Math Assistive Technology Hands-On Literacy Integration Tools. It is always great to learn and share information on how we can make educational materials more accessible for our students. We will definitely share more about our presentation and other exciting AT and UDL strategies and tools we've learned throughout our blog!

Speaking of Halloween and professional development, we would like to welcome our first guest blogger - Chris Bugaj. Chris is one of eleven creative assistive technology teammates we work with at Loudoun County Public Schools. Here's his bio!

Christopher R. Bugaj, MA CCC-SLP is a founding member of the Assistive Technology Team for Loudoun County Public Schools. Chris hosts The A.T.TIPSCAST (http://attipscast.com/), a multi-award winning podcast featuring strategies useful in differentiating the learning experience. Chris is the co-author of The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Public Schools published by the International Society on Technology in Education (ISTE) and works with ISTE as an online instructor. He is also the author of ATEval2Go (http://bit.ly/ateval2go), an app for iPad that helps professionals in education perform technology-related consultations and evaluations. Chris recently co-authored two chapters for a book published by Brookes Publishing titled Technology Tools for Students with Autism. Chris co-produces and co-authors the popular Night Light Stories podcast (http://nightlightstories.net/) which features original stories for children of all ages. Chris has presented over 100 sessions at local, regional, state, and national events.

Oh, and Chris thinks zombies are wicked fun. You'll see what we mean when you read this blog. He is going to share with us some ghoulish alternative ways to professional development. WARNING! The information that follows is not for the meek and mild. Hold onto your goblins and enjoy!

Note: To view any of the graphics in this blog in a larger size, click on the graphics in the photo gallery at the end of the blog.

Spreading the Virus: Professional Development So Easy, a Zombie Could Do It

The following is a transcription of a statement released by Christopher Bugaj, assistive technology trainer for Loudoun County Public Schools and spokesman for N.O.T.S.I.C.K., the faux National Organization for Training and School Improvement in Classrooms for Kids, pertaining to the outbreak of the PD2.0 virus.

No one is sure where or when the infection started. Some say Patient Zero was from some top secret government institution. Others think it originated as a project within a faceless corporation trying to produce a new product. How it all started doesn’t really matter; not any more. The fact remains, people are infected and the virus continues to spread. Those affected show signs of turning within minutes but the true power of the disease can be witnessed through a much more gradual process. The truth is, whether you are infected or not, everyone, and I mean everyone, is impacted by the change.

The virus known clinically as Instructious Pro-developmentitus and colloquially as PD2.0 is spreading rapidly. At this time, transference parameters are only beginning to be defined. Some suggest that infection could occur in multiple ways and, worse, could be mutating through different delivery methodologies. The initial reports indicated that the virus was an airborne pathogen. Simply talking to a co-worker or colleague could spread the infection. If someone knew of an effective tool or strategy, they might just share it over lunch, in a workroom, or even passing by in the hall. It appears that this could still be the simplest and most casual way to spread the disease.

Overtime, additional delivery mechanisms were noted, even via electronic or digital means. One case reported the contagion being spread through e-mail auto-reply messages. Specifically, a specialist did a meta-analysis of all the common requests being made for support over a given period of time. Then, before leaving on vacation, he changed his auto-reply e-mail message from something typical like “I’ll be out of the office from <insert> to <insert>” to something more robust which included resources to assist those in need, like “I’ll be out of the office for a while but while I’m gone, I’ve got some resources to share. Most people who write me need access to resources on communication strategies, writing strategies or reading strategies. The following are some common recommendations I make for each of these areas <insert>.” Whenever someone wrote the specialist while he was away on vacation, the sender of the e-mail was instantly replied to, which, of course, spread the infection. An example of such a letter can be accessed at http://bit.ly/emailreply Please read at your own risk as you may be accessing a potential source of contamination.

Likewise, ever changing e-mail signatures seem to help exacerbate the spread of the virus. Some reports state that e-mail signatures containing quotations from historical or pop-culture figures might slow the spread of the virus while e-mail signatures that shift periodically to include descriptions and links to specific tools and resources might expedite the transformation. One victim stated, “I didn’t even realize I was being infected. I was just reading an e-mail signature and then, before I knew it, I was clicking on resources and learning new strategies. How was I supposed to know that these tools would morph my instructional practices?”

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Use of audio, such as podcasts like The A.T.TIPSCAST (http://attipscast.com/), seem to demonstrate the most rapid transference of the virus. It appears that listening to strategies during one’s commute takes advantage of the time one is trapped with nowhere else to go. During this time the virus attacks the nervous system, festering in one’s brain, wreaking havoc on the hippocampus and amygdala. Podcasts that entertain as well as inform seem to be the most expeditious way for the virus to spread. Those trying to avoid this pestilence should stay away from podcast subscriptions at all costs. Additional podcasts to be avoided for those who want to elude the infection include The Inclusive Class Podcast, The Edceptional Podcast, and Moving at the Speed of Creativity.

Short video segments have also been determined to cause symptoms. Research studies on victims of the disease show that the rate of transference directly relates to the length of the video being consumed. The longer the video, the less likely it is that one will be infected. Shorter video segments increase the impact as viewers receive a more highly concentrated blast of viral pathogen. As a source of short video segments, Youtube should be avoided at all costs as this video content could be highly infectious. Even more potent, 6 second videos viewed using the VINE app are particularly dangerous. Anyone viewing videos marked with the hashtag “VineATTIPS”, initiated by Jamie Martin, have instantly succumbed to the PD2.0 strain. Instagram, which allows for 15 second videos, should also be avoided (https://vine.co/v/hdJheHPArV5).

For all of these reasons, survivors have stayed away from digital resources like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media tools as these tools have also been known to spread the virus. Specific phenomena such as the Twitter #ATchat that occurs on most Wednesday nights from 9pm to 10pm Eastern time, the QIAT (Quality Indicators in Assistive Technology) Listserv, and the “Assistive Technnology” Facebook Group are veritable petri dishes for infection.

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Many individuals seemingly escaped the plague at first, sticking to more traditional modes of communication, namely, paper-based correspondence. Unfortunately, this transfer methodology proved to be toxic as well. The kinesthetic and tactile properties of a paper-based, tear-off Strategy-A-Day Calendar have also proven to be a successful contagion. One practical resource providing a description and implementation strategy shared daily in an easy to access, low-barrier to entry format has driven people mad. Fortunately, not many paper-based calendars exist and their impact has only begun to propagate throughout the world. If word were to get out about the digital, crowdsourced, open-sourced Strategy-A-Day Calendar at http://bit.ly/opensourcesadcal there would be no hope for humanity. Everyone could be infected. If word were to spread that any educator could share any educational strategy on this calendar so that any institution could make their own Strategy-A-Day Calendar, the outcome could be catastrophic.

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It is important to recognize the symptoms if you were to come in contact with one of the infected or if you, yourself, believe you have been exposed to the virus. The symptoms can be broken down into three stages of development. In Stage 1, the afflicted desperately attempt to stave off the effects. This typically manifests itself as denial that the tool or strategy to which they’ve been exposed is “not for them”. Characteristics of Stage 1 include comments from the individual such as “I don’t know how to use this”, “This might work for others but not me”, and “I’ve been doing it this way for years.” However, lingering thoughts of how a tool or strategy could be used to change one’s environment or alter one’s practice eats away at the person’s consciousness until reaching Stage 2. When the disease progresses to Stage 2, those infected begin to demonstrate mind-opening behaviors, such as integrating the tool or strategy in a lesson. A person in Stage 2 might find that his or her mind races with possibilities when they learn of a new tool or strategy. People in Stage 2 often ask questions like “How can I use this?”, “How are others using this?”, and “What options does this tool provide me and my students?” When an individual starts sharing what and how to use a tool, he or she can be classified as exhibiting Stage 3 behaviors. This phase of the disease is when the virus is considered most contagious. The diseased mind feels the necessity to share experiences with a passion to reproduce results with other individuals in additional environments. If you believe you are demonstrating any of these behaviors, you could be infected.

One by one, the afflicted spread the disease, tearing into new information, resources, and implementation techniques, each hungry for more. As the number of the infected rise at exponential rates the impact can be felt through changes in the very fabric of society. Implementation of one tool or strategy makes a direct difference in the lives using that resource, however, the underlying power comes with change to the culture as a whole over time. As each new resource is implemented and shared, the infected and the non-infected alike realize that the whole world has been irrevocably altered forever.

For these reasons, it is recommended that if you are hearing or reading this message, you should consider succumbing to the PD2.0 virus sooner than later. Embrace the newfound environment which has been thrust upon you. Allow the virus into your system to take root. Learn new things. Consider new tools. Immerse yourself in effective strategies which provide diverse, personal learning opportunities. Create authentic, practical, meaningful experiences for all. Once you’ve been transformed, you’ll see the world through a whole new set of eyes. When you open them, you might find that this newly shaped world is a better place for everyone. There is no known cure.

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Oh, and Chris thinks zombies are wicked fun. Happy Halloween!

To experience an audio version of this blog post, visit http://bit.ly/spreadingtheviruspdaudio or scan the QR code.

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