Parents, why volunteer at school? “The school is part of your community and the stronger the school, the stronger the community.” – USA
Candis Int-Hout volunteered at her children’s schools for years, beginning in pre-school, at the suggestion of her mother. But now that her children are no longer in school, Int-Hout has found new motivation to continue volunteering. Through technology, she has discovered a way to contribute to her community that is not only rewarding, it’s also desperately needed. For over 20 years, Int-Hout has worked as a transcriptionist for an education research company. When her company was working on a project involving digital storytelling, she got curious and searched for digital storytelling programs. “I came up with Microsoft Photo Story 3 (PS3). I experimented with the program myself for several years, and then it just seemed the right fit for fourth graders.” Today, Int-Hout talks about her work with Photo Story 3, why she volunteers and why it’s critical that other parents do the same.
Can you describe how your volunteer work has advanced innovation in education?
About a year ago, I volunteered to work with students in the computer lab. That led to a summer technology camp using PS3. The camp included incoming fourth graders and students who had completed third grade. Once school began in the fall, the students did more projects in the computer lab working on the school’s website, and then they built their own web page using HTML code to introduce the PS3 story they had produced. They not only learned the PS3 software, but became acquainted with Paint, Notepad and Internet Explorer.
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
At Vale Elementary, 28 students during the 2011-2012 school year learned PS3 and about half learned to make a web page. The students have found a new way to showcase what they have learned, and it has been fun for them. Many of them will give up their recess to be working in the computer lab. During the school year, students interviewed teachers and updated the biographies for our teacher web pages. A group of students produced the end of the school year slideshow presentation.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through volunteering?
If you are a school that has computers, I would recommend you check out Photo Story 3. As this is a volunteer-led program, our tech program is all done out of school, i.e. during lunch, recess or after school. A lot of schools will teach keyboarding, but I feel kids want more than that. Put students in front of the PS3 software and let them take off. They learn many skills along the way. By using PS3, a student learns skills with the mouse, learns keyboard shortcuts, and ways to navigate Windows, all which give them opportunities to move on to more complicated tasks on the computer. For schools that just don’t have the money to invest in technology, this is a great way, because Photo Story 3 is a free download from Microsoft. Our school did invest in thumb drives. You could do it without thumb drives; kids could just bring their cameras and download their digital pictures directly to the computer. Our thumb drives were on lanyards and the students appeared to enjoy wearing them around their necks.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your school’s technology program?
I am always looking for something new and innovative to offer. One student asked me if I could teach him how to make a computer game. (Actually a Microsoft employee told me to check out the Kodu software.) Another student just asked if she could learn something new, so I showed her Microsoft Word. Technology is moving fast and students need to be moving right along with it. I tend to wonder, in five years, will students be reading on tablets, or something that we don’t even know exists yet?
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
Other than not having enough time to work with the students, I have had no major obstacles. Having students come after school can be a transportation problem, but most parents have been extremely supportive as have been the Vale Elementary principal and staff.
What conditions must change to better support education?
I believe parental involvement is key; it is free and can enhance what schools are already doing. If you ask a teacher if you can help by listening to a child read, the teacher will most likely say yes.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
I believe you have to have access to innovation. Vale Elementary is fortunate to have computers for students to use. It is my hope that Microsoft will continue toc support software such as Photo Story 3, and continue to make it a free download. And hopefully, in the future, they will even put forth new types of software that could be specifically aimed at more elementary ages of students.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
I can’t advise a teacher but I would say you can always make a difference in education if you volunteer in your child’s school.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
I would like to see students have access to technology, be it a computer or perhaps materials to do a technology or science experiment. The tool needs to engage the student.
Why do you volunteer at your school, and what would you say to anyone thinking about doing the same?
When my children were young, my mom told me to get involved in a cooperative preschool, a model where as a parent you take turns being the teacher’s helper. I found that to be a great experience and continued to volunteer, mostly at the elementary level. When my daughter was in middle school, the school did not have a website and I volunteered to get one started. Frankly I didn’t know much about what I was doing in the beginning, but thankfully Irene [a colleague] was helping too and she taught me a remendous amount, which led to many of the skills that I use today. Recently a program was started at our elementary school where adult volunteers come in and assist students with reading. I had an opportunity to do that, but instead asked if I could work on the computers with kids. It was from there that I started working with fourth graders. As to what I would say to anyone about volunteering, I would say they will find it very rewarding. My children are out of school and I still enjoy doing it. The school is part of your community and the stronger the school, the stronger the community.
About Candis Int-Hout
School Volunteer Cashmere
Birthplace: Long Beach, California
Current residence: Cashmere, Washington
Education: Associate Degree in Medical Record Technology
Website I check every day: Facebook
Person who inspires me most: This would have to be the 4th grade students that I had the pleasure of working with, as their energy and excitement were very fulfilling.
Favorite childhood memory: Camping at Wapato Point on Lake Chelan, Washington
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): I just got back from Seattle. My daughter graduated from the University of Washington, School of Communication – Journalism.
When was the last time you laughed? Why? On Mother’s Day. My children took me to play golf. I am not a golfer.
Favorite books: Medical mysteries
Favorite music: Big band music
Your favorite quote or motto: I tell this to the tech students: “Don’t be afraid to click on it and see what it does.”