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The UW Research Literacy Center and Clinic Uses Technology to Reach Across the State

George KamberelisTechnology is the key to achieving the University of Wyoming Literacy Research Center and Clinic’s mission of helping students and their families succeed through literacy.

“A big part of the fundraising effort (for the center) was to get technology so that we could better serve the state,” says George Kamberelis, co-director of the center, “because if we don’t have to drive to all of the places where we have partnerships with schools and community-based organizations but could communicate with our partners via distance technologies, then we could be much more effective and we could reach more people.”

Kamberelis is one of two Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowed Chairs in Literacy Education who will direct the center—Victoria Gillis is the other.

The University of Wyoming Literacy Research Center and Clinic will be the epicenter of literacy knowledge in Wyoming, offering professional development for teachers, literacy education for pre-service teachers and graduate students, research on literacy education, and service as a statewide clinical resource.

The center has partners throughout the state, including the Child Development Center of Natrona County in Casper, the Teton Literacy Center and Systems of Education in Jackson, the Wyoming Department of Family Services, the Laramie community, and school districts in Sweetwater, Lincoln, Laramie, and Weston counties. Being able to work with these and other partners from one centralized location will make things more efficient and allow more people to be served.

There will be two kinds of technology in the center: video teleconferencing technology that allows the center to work with people around the state and internal cameras and computers that allow for data capture, storage, organization, and analysis within the center.

The teleconferencing technology will be located in the observation rooms/analysis labs and the conference rooms. It will allow observers to view and interact with children, teachers, administrators, and parents in various parts of the state or within the different rooms in the center. All of the tutoring rooms, conference rooms, and observation and data analysis rooms will have SMART screens that can connect to the internet.

Because one component of the center’s mission is to conduct research that can be both disseminated and scaled up, tutoring and conference room cameras will make archival recordings of the center’s activities for current or future use. The teleconferencing activities can also be stored and reviewed later. The primary goals of all research conducted at the center are (a) to develop more effective ways to help children become competent, strategic readers and writers and (b) to help children’s teachers and parents become more effective in supporting their literacy development.   

The technology in the Literacy Center and Clinic will be the best available at the time of construction. Although it isn’t inexpensive, it is necessary for both the outreach and research missions of the center.

“The primary mission of the center is outreach to the state, and unless UW professors travel to Jackson or Casper or Gillette or wherever, outreach activity is both difficult and inefficient—even with technologies like Skype,” explains George. “The teleconferencing technology we will have at the center is absolutely essential, and we need the best that’s on the market now. We also need multiple kinds of technology—some of which is compatible with the WIN and the OVN networks in the state and some of which allows us to reach partners who do not have easy access to these networks.”

Thankfully, donors believe in the mission of the center and have enthusiastically funded the kinds of communication technologies that will allow faculty and students at the center to better serve the children, families, teachers, schools, and community-based organizations for children and adolescents of Wyoming. Supporters include the State of Wyoming and First Lady Carol Mead, along with other private donors including Thea Stidum, Mickey and Jeanne Klein, the Joe and Arlene Watt Foundation, Don and Betty Walters, and the John P. Ellbogen Foundation.

The University of Wyoming Literacy Research Center and Clinic is scheduled to open in early 2014.

By working collaboratively, private donors, the public, the State, and the university can make a huge impact on the literacy of its citizens.

George Kamberelis, Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowed Chair in Literacy Education and co-director of the University of Wyoming Literacy Research Center and Clinic

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