Visitors from Ireland

Recent visitors to our area were two ladies from Ireland who came up from San Antonio with Dee Anna Willis to spend a few days at the Bloede home south of Lohn. It would not be quite accurate to call Dee Anna a visitor as Lohn is more or less her hometown. She has lived in many places, but spent her high school years here with her grandparents, Hulon and Anna Huie, and graduated from LHS in 1957. She went from being the 4th of July Jubilee Queen to an impressive career in the education field. Her grandmother, Anna Lohn Huie, was very proud of her. Dee Anna has traveled abroad and worked in many places in this country yet she treasures the times when she can come home to sit out on the porch and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. After graduation, Dee Anna attended Southern Methodist University where she earned a Bachelor’s in fine arts. Further studies added a BS in elementary education from Howard Payne, and a Masters and a Doctorate of Education from Texas Tech (in Reading diagnosis and remediation and in educational computing). She has taught at a number of universities, Texas Tech, East Carolina University, University of Houston, Iowa State and Northwestern University of Louisiana, but professionally she is most proud of being a founder of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE), now in its 19th year. She and Jerry Willis, her second husband, were teaching at East Carolina University in North Carolina when a “let’s stage a circus in the barn” occasion arose. They were disappointed with national teacher education conferences that did not give technology-using educators an opportunity to share and compare notes on what they were doing in classes. Nothing was offered for the beginning technology teacher educator. A friend with some funding came to them for ideas and they suggested a small conference with technology uses in teacher education as the focus. It was more popular and successful than they anticipated so they did it again the next year, and every year thereafter. Jerry and Dee Anna also started a quarterly journal that they edited, “The Journal of Technology and Teacher Education.” They continued their editing partnership long after their personal one dissolved, although they have both retired from that now. All this quickly became more work than they could manage so the participants elected to join the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). AACE handles the financial side, publishing the journal, arranging the sites for the conference, scheduling, etc, and the SITE (they count that “T” for both technology and teacher) members take care of the academic side, such as reviewing proposals for the conference. In addition to the paper journal, they now have an online one, Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (www.citejournal.org). The focus of SITE remains technology-and- teacher-education. Dee Anna has connected those because papers presented at the conference and published in the journals must include the whole package. That means they don’t publish tips for elementary classroom use or in a high school science class, but rather how to train (some educators hate that word; they prefer educate) teachers to use technology to expand their students learning. That is a narrow focus, but an increasingly important one. There are many conferences and journals that focus on technology in education at any level, but they have remained true to the original reason for being. Another keystone in the founding was the support and encouragement of young academics in the field; “baby docs” is the term used. SITE is a friendly society and they go out of their way to help people meet others with similar interests. It is a joy to introduce people from opposite sides of the globe one year and have them present their combined works the next year, matchmaking at its very best. SITE has become an international organization; the third president was British and the current one is Australian. Every year they have a “Welcome and Get Acquainted” evening and ask people from different continents to raise their hands. Usually, they have 30 or 40 different countries represented. Dee Anna wrote, “I despaired of ever having anyone from Antarctica as there are no native settlements, no one lives there year round. But last year we had an attendee that spent six weeks there doing research which she presented. I was so excited. I decided that had to count so I could say we have had attendees from every continent. Now we need an astronaut!” Dee Anna still serves on the editorial board of “Technology, Pedagogy and Education,” the Journal of the Association of Information Technology in Teacher Education (ITTE), the sister organization in the UK. A number of their members also attend SITE each year. The board meeting gives her a great excuse (and partial tax deduction) to visit England, Scotland and Ireland. Several years ago the conference was held at Trinity College Dublin’where her friends Ann and Elizabeth teach. ‘Just being in Dublin was a wonderful experience, but walking on the cobblestones of Trinity-‘where so many greats have trod’ really gave me goose bumps. Also, nearly broke an ankle’those stones are cruel,’ she recalled. Last August she “retired” from her faculty position; however, she continues to teach online courses in educational computing. She concluded, ‘Great job; miserable pay, but no faculty meetings, committee work, multiple egregious forms to fill out, etc.’all those things I hated about teaching that had little to do with helping kids of any age learn.’ Our Irish visitors, Ann Fitz Gibbons and Elizabeth Oldham, who were in the states to attend a SITE conference in San Antonio, are School of Education senior lecturers at Trinity College in Dublin. The college was founded in 1592. The ladies are seasoned travelers to America having attended sessions in Phoenix, Ariz. Orlando, Fla., Atlanta, Ga., Illinois and Kentucky. Next year they will be in Las Vegas, N.M. Rama Huie and I were invited to the Bleode home to meet Ann and Elizabeth and thoroughly enjoyed our visit. They are charming ladies. Many of us here in Lohn feel a kinship with those from the “old country” as we have a bit of Irish heritage in our backgrounds, even the Lohn family. They were totally German on the paternal side, yet no one could have been more Irish than Mary Elizabeth Riley who married William Edward Lohn. Ann and Elizabeth like Texas, but Ann said her favorite place of all is the Grand Canyon. They expressed an interest in American Indian lore, and took three books by Tony Hillerman, who writes about the Navaho Nation, to read on the return trip to Ireland.

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