Tag Archive: India


I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

~Martin Luther King, Jr. (Harvested from Quote Garden)

 

On a cold day in January, American school children are given an extra-day to rest and reflect on the messages and actions of  Martin Luther King Jr. As citizens of a digital age,  modern society tends to view international collaboration as the fruits of the present age of technological development, but positive ideas for change have always transcended international boundaries and connected individual’s spirits and dreams. As the Coalition for International Initiatives (CII) attempts to establish an international collaboration between classrooms in India and the United States, we ask that you listen to a sharing of ideas that transcended both time & location to result in a changed world.

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Gregory M. McGough, M.Ed.

CII Chief Academic Officer

Ahmedabad

Our trip to Ahmedabad was a remarkable experience.  For the first time, in India, I saw a city that was planning for the future. Through programs started over 10 years ago, Ahmedabad has developed parks, and recreation areas for families.  The most impressive initiative is a 24 km riverfront development project that has cleaned up a major part of the city.  In addition, they have developed a plant that recycles waste from the city and turns it into energy.

The schools we visited were progressive in the same way as the city.  Students at the Mahatma Gandhi International School are confident and curious.  The learning is all project based and students learn through activities instead of textbooks.  For example, students learned math and logic concepts through innovative lessons on chess.  They have also learned problem solving by making videos that have won awards at film festivals all over the world.

The school was noisy and alive with students.  The teachers gave guidance, but let the students discover on their own.  The students were familiar and comfortable with technology and with learning methods that did not involve technology, such as painting on the floor to illustrate concepts.  Once the lesson was taught and understood, the paint would be wiped off and the same method would be used the next day.

The founders of the school have an incredible vision for the students.  When talking to both of them, they had interesting stories about the beginning and the resistance that they faced in opening the school. People in the community were uncomfortable with the fact that traditional ideas about gender and caste were going to be broken and the founders fought every step of the way for what they believed.  The result is a very successful International School that plays on the strengths of students and gives them the confidence to be citizens of the world.

The next day that we were in Ahmedabad, we went to the Blind People’s Association.  The Blind People’s Association (BPA) is a school, a vocational training center, a dorm, a center for betterment and healing, and a place where people are helping those who are very capable, reach their potential while working around their disabilities.

There are 9 campuses that are part of BPA India. Their mission as stated on the website is,  “Promoting comprehensive rehabilitation of persons with all categories of disabilities through education, training, employment, community based rehabilitation, integrated education, research, publications, human resource development and other innovative means.”

When we were there, we met blind students who were training to become physical therapists.  The students had a sense of accomplishment and dignity in the services they were offering to the community.  They studied for two years to become certified in Physical Therapy.  They logged onto a computer with the diagnosis of a medical doctor and administered the required therapy.

In addition to Physical Therapy, they had a Beauty School and an IT Training center among other specialties. Learning a vocation is for the older students, but even the younger ones learn how to make gift bags and, decorate them.  The end result is sold in markets and people can order them and support the school.

The volunteer program is absolutely wonderful at BPA.  They have students from all over the world to come and help at the school.  They take care of room and board and encourage people to come in pairs or groups so that they can share the experience with someone from home.

While our classroom experience was limited since school started at noon, we got a sense from the Director of the school, and from touring one part of the campus.  School starts at noon and is mostly conducted in Gujarati.  They have some volunteers come and teach English.   The school is K-12 and the students have an opportunity for higher learning and job placement.  The place is truly one of a kind and I look forward to working with BPA in the future.  The school and the students are exceptionally inspiring.

Our trip to Gwalior

My name is Naina Boveja and I am the Executive Director of the Coalition for International Initiatives (CII).  I am traveling in India with 2 other members of the CII team, meeting with the schools that we are going to connect to the United States through our eKWIP platform.  Please read about my experience in Gwalior, India-

Our trip to Delhi Public School (DPS) Gwalior was more than I ever could have imagined.  The night before we went, we had the pleasure dining with the Director of the school.  He explained his vision, that children from Gwalior should be exposed to the world.  They should travel and know English well, even if their parents may not know the language. He told us his idea for video conferencing, where students from India would be taught by world-renowned teachers and vice-versa, through cutting edge technology.  We gave him more details about eKWIP, the secure platform that will connect classrooms globally.

Our adventure began with a 6:15am train ride from Delhi to Gwalior.  I had only heard about train stations in India, but never experienced one for myself, I was a little nervous, but there is nothing like going with locals who know the system.  They bypassed all the traffic and stopped in the middle to let us out.  We followed a man who carried our luggage on top of a red scarf that he wrapped around his head.  It was quite a memorable experience.

The train ride took almost 4 hours.  When we got out of the train, we were welcomed so warmly with smiles and bouquets of beautiful flowers by the Principal, 2 teachers, and one of the trustees of the school.  Similarly, when we reached the school, we were welcomed by students and teachers with a traditional welcome ceremony that included putting a tikka on our foreheads and giving us a blessing.

We walked around the entire school for the rest of the school day, understanding the innovative methodology and seeing the smiling children.  It was hard to believe the school is only 4 years old!

The Principal of DPS Gwalior, Mr. Sunil Bhalla, has created an environment conducive to learning at every level.  The results are phenomenal. The teachers are his strength and he their inspiration.  The day starts out with a motivational thought texted to parents and teachers.  He also has the same thought on various bulletin boards in the school, so the students can also see the message.

It was a breath of fresh air to see teachers have complete freedom over their classrooms.  Students learn diverse subjects in innovative ways. There are dance classes, science, computer, and math labs, audiovisual rooms, music lessons and traditional subjects (just to name a few). They also teach English, Japanese, and German.  The facilities are excellent.  They are bright and airy.   The cheerful environment definitely carries over to the students.  One thing I found particularly interesting is how the students spend less time in school, but are retaining the information at a very high level.  The school day is from 8-2:30, and the morning classes are traditional subjects and the afternoon classes are activities based.  They are using the student’s energy level to their advantage. Some might take the activities-oriented method of learning as unconventional, but the bottom line is that every student seems to enjoy their experience, and they remember the concepts that they had learned previously.

When we went outside, we saw the real life version of some of the exploriments (the science portion of the eKWIP portal), in large tactical “toys” for the children to discover while they are outside.  Concepts in applied math and physics are part of a garden near the playground, so children can be learning while they are playing.

After the school day was over, we had a late lunch and went to the Gwalior Fort to see the Sound and Light show. People sit outside the steps of the fort and hear the history of the place while different parts of the fort light up according to the story.  It was beautiful.

The next morning we arrived at school a little before 9am and were escorted to the outdoor stage area where the students have their Assembly twice a week. The topic of the day was wisdom so teachers and students spoke to the particular topic. We were honored as their special guests. The students showed us dance performances, sang songs, recited poetry and gave speeches. One performance (the peacock dance) actually placed second on the reality TV show India’s Got Talent.

Our day was packed.  After the assembly we had a meeting with the principal to understand the report cards and evaluation system.  The one thing I realized from this school is that everyone is held accountable. The report card includes input from teachers as well as parents.  They go beyond measuring English and Science and have categories for each subject, such as Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Comprehension, as well as Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.  They ask parents to evaluate their own children on discipline, obedience, and their consistent study habits.  The evaluations are taken into account for their overall marks.  The children were so polite and disciplined, that you could tell they took the DPS motto of, “Service before self”, to heart.  Whenever we were walking through the school, the students were sure to say “good morning mam,” or “good afternoon mam.”

Later in the day, we met with some of the students to answer questions about our program. We talked to 10th and 11th graders and found out what each student wants to be after he or she finishes high school. Students want to become astronauts, engineers, lawyers, business people, designers, and journalists. We asked them how they know what they want to be at such a young age, and each student said that it was discussed with their parents and mutually decided.  There was a diverse group, and just by talking to the students, we knew that they would make their ambitions into reality. After, we had the opportunity to speak to the teachers.  We showed them a demo of a eKWIP and answered their questions.

In the afternoon, we had a press conference. Several of the local papers in Gwalior were in attendance.  We even had our picture in the paper!  The press conference went well and people seemed to like the idea of connecting classrooms to each other.  They wanted to be sure that we would also show the rural areas and similarly connect them to the world. We told them that we would be sure to do that in the subsequent rounds of the program.

While we were in all of our meetings, the students made rangolis for us all over the school.  They used traditional materials like sand and flowers, and non-traditional materials like soda cans and candies.  The whole experience was mesmerizing and we enjoyed every minute.  We look forward to working with DPS Gwalior as our lead school in India and are sure that the cultural and academic exchange with  classrooms using the eKWIP portal and video conferencing capabilities will go beyond any of our expectations.

Naina Boveja
Executive Director
Coalition for International Initiatives

“In 2010, trade between our countries [India & U.S.] is not just a one-way street of American Jobs and companies moving to India. It is dynamic, two-way relationship that is creating jobs, growth, and higher living standards in both our countries.”

– U.S. President Barack Obama on Tour in India

On Sunday (Nov. 6), CNN news reported a story detailing President Obama’s 2010 Asian tour and its political ramifications. This three-day Presidential tour marked the longest trip to a foreign country that President Obama has made since taking office. He announced on Saturday that American companies like Boeing and General Electric are going to benefit from an increased business relationship with India that will result in $10 billion in economic growth. While in India, the President and first lady visited the Mahatma Gandhi museum in Mumbai because of his fascination with the life of Gandhi. On the cultural side, the President and First Lady also took part in the celebration of Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights. This trip marked a renewed interest in building cultural and business alliances between the two countries and their leaders President Obama and Prime Minister Singh.

The proliferation of Internet technology has connected the four corners of the world allowing countries like the U.S. and India to collaborate and communicate in innovative and creative ways.  The type of international collaboration that President Obama is calling for with India relies upon the strength of the education systems in both countries to change their perspective  from a local to an international scope. No longer will schools be able to just develop a harmonious cultural landscape within their own brick and mortar walls. The development of Smart classrooms coupled with Web 2.0 technologies is driving innovation in instructional practices that will allow for collaboration of global classroom communities. The T2M(triggering teachable moments)  instructional design model housed on the eKWIP (educating Kids With International Possibilities) platform was developed to create the proper environment for cross cultural collaboration between Indian & U.S. schools. The eWKIP website was launched less than two weeks ago and is almost ready to manage student work uploaded from both sides of the world.

On Friday (Nov.5), I had the chance to take the eKWIP platfrom out for a test with my first triggering of a teachable moment. Traditional teachable moments usually occur organically as an aside to a preplanned lesson. A student questions a particular element of a lesson, and the teacher leaves the script to offer a clear explanation in order to satisfy the curiosity of the student. The power of the teachable moment rests in the motivation to understand a concept because of an innate curiosity in the mind of the learner. One of the problems with teachable moments is their relative unpredictability. The T2M model was designed on the premise that teachable moments can be triggered with the proper environmental conditions and teacher support.

This past Friday (Nov.5) I was planning on teaching a sample lesson using eKWIP with my high school seniors. I strategically started the day by asking them to respond on a notecard to the triggering question, “What is the significance of the holiday of Diwali?” It was their inability to answer this question that caused a desire to know. The students asked the purpose of the question, and I explained that Nov. 5 is Diwali in India. One student quickly raised his hand and asked why we would want to learn about a country that is stealing American jobs. I explained that Americans have much to learn when discussing future relationships with India.

After the triggering question and negative student response, the rest of the class was interested enough to vote unanimously to participate in my 20-25 minute teachable moment. My plans made use of what I believe to be the key elements of a teachable moment: one academic standard, triggering question(s), a sequence of instruction, international collaboration, and authentic assessment. We began by locating India using the the Google maps link on the eKWIP website. After establishing the correct geographic location, the students read a small passage, lit a traditional Diwali lamp, and ate authentic Indian candy: Besan Ladoo & Kaju Burfee. They were skeptical at first but most of them made an attempt with the sweets. The students also enjoyed the ancient Indian artform of the Rangoli and wanted to know more about how they were designed. A rangoli is a colorful sand art display that acts as a welcome decoration for homes during Diwali.  At the conclusion of the lesson, the students were asked to reflect on the teachable moment. Here are a few of the comments they wrote:

1. “What I liked the most is how they have a holiday that brings their families together.”

2. “I learned that Diwali is a national holiday in India. They celebrate for 5 days and light fireworks and give gifts. I like the candy too!”

3. “The festival of lights is a celebration of prayer for good health, peace, and wisdom. Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity visits Indian children on Diwali.”

4. “Diwali is a yearly celebration that combines many of the traditions of multiple American holidays.”

5. “Would it be possible to write some questions for you to post on the site for students in India to answer?”

 

One of the wonderful elements of T2M is the ability to stack moments together to develop a deeper understanding of complex issues. As part of a non-fiction reading assignment I am teaching on Monday (Nov. 8), I am going to have my students read the CNN article titled Obama in India for Start of Asian Tour . I will start by reminding my class about the comment one of them made about Indian citizens stealing our jobs. The students will draw on schema from Friday’s lesson and will be able to make connections to the article that would have eluded them before. It is as if the first moment sparked interest and understanding in the second moment. The President’s tour in Asia heralded a new era of equitable international partnerships between India and U.S., and schools in both countries should be preparing students to take part in this important endeavor. In developing broad international perspectives, schools can begin the process of multi-cultural learning one moment at a time.

Gregory M. McGough, M.Ed.

CII Chief Academic Officer

“Carbon, the basis of all known life on earth, has surprised us once again.”

– STATEMENT from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

 

 

Photo credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory - http://www.flickr.com

 

 

 

 

At the beginning of any positive social/educational movement, a team of innovators must have a vision that transcends the horizon of known limitations. This small core group is charged with the responsibility to somehow share this vision with others and recruit them to believe that they too can see beyond. The Coalition for International Initiatives (CII) has five founding members who all have a noble vision for a better tomorrow for global school children in India and the US. Logic Bay, our web-developer, has been attempting to bring our vision to reality by programming the eKWIP website. This Web 2.0-based site houses global collaboration tools as well as the standards-based lesson plan format called T2M (Triggering Teachable Moments).

In a recent exchange with our web-developer, I was having a difficult time explaining the new “teachable moment” format for lesson design. The T2M format is based on previous research studies in Problem-based Learning(PbL). The PbL movement is itself less than 50-years-old and has not yet been adopted into mainstream educational institutions–we’re working on it! How does one explain a lesson design that begins with a “fuzzy,” ill-structured problem with no pre-determined solution? It is also difficult when the program sets expectations of classroom educators to act as facilitators of students pursuing the iterative process of creating possible solutions and testing them out.

In our vision of the eKWIP platform, the sucesses and failures will be shared between global partners in India and the US  in order to generate new and unique possibilities for solutions. This is a shared vision of the core team of CII developers, but it is difficult to explain in terms of the concrete schematics of a web design. I have spent many nights wondering how to demonstrate our vision. Then…

Earlier this week,  I turned to the back page of our local paper. The 2010 Noble Prize in Physics was just awarded to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, two physicists at the University of Manchester, England for their nanotech discovery, graphene . Their story is one that helps to illuminate eKWIP, a multi-dimensional social/educational experiment. Take a look at their story on this brief YouTube clip:

It all starts with a problem and a team of dedicated thinkers who have the ability to wonder, “What if?” Did you notice that I said a team? Two heads are better than one, and when hundreds of heads from around the world collaborate online problems get solved in new and unique ways.

For these two Noble scientists, their problem was to wonder “if” there might be a new material that would prove more effective and efficient than currently existing materials. The solution to their problem was truly at their fingertips the entire time. Graphene, as you saw in the video, is a two-dimensional material that has uses in almost every facet of life. The fact they were able to isolate the atom with a piece of ordinary Scotch tape is what makes this story so amazing. Simply, they had the ability to see the extra-ordinary possibilities in the ordinary objects of a piece of tape and a lump of graphite. They had a “moment” of genius because they started with a clearly-defined goal but allowed for the wiggle room of wonder-filled exploration.

When analyzing this story one can find insights into the capacity we are trying to build by designing teachable moments around academic standards.  In the T2M model we base all of our “teachable moments” on a single academic standard triggered by a problem and assessed with a project -based rubric. The problem must be harvested from events in the “real” world that trigger the students to wonder, “What if?”

 

Photo credit: K-idea : http://www.flickr.com

 

By the way, it was not always the Nobel committee calling for Andre Geim. In 2000, Geim won an Ig Nobel award for his work with frogs and magnets. He was experimenting with the possibility of levitating a frog using a magnet. The failure of this project and his global condemnation could have blinded his vision of solving future problems. At CII we believe that failure is a necessary part of the learning process. Failure alllows the problem-solver to change course and direction in order to eventually find success. When transcending the horizon of the known world, one cannot be fearful of a flat world.

To you Dr. Geim and Dr. Novoselov, we at CII congratulate you both on your prestigious award and for  your ability to seek extra-ordinary solutions through collaboration and the belief that wonder is a Noble pursuit. CII is creating a Web 2.0 program with a creative pedagogical application that helps to trigger teachable moments that turn the ordinary into the extra-ordinary.

On another note, I would like to see a frog levitate–how about you, reader?

Gregory M. McGough, M.Ed.

CII Chief Academic Officer

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. – M. Gandhi

 

 

One need not look too deeply into the media to see that the world is caught up in a struggle that seems to be impacting every nation on the planet. Whether it is armed conflict, economic collapse, or failing schools, superlatives label those who are deemed the best and subjugate those who fall short. As Thomas Friedman tells us in his seminal work The World in Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century, the world is growing closer as technology connects nations including small towns in the US with villages in India. His book has been taken by many a progressive educator to be a rallying cry for improving the “failing” education systems of the West in order to compete with the rising economic powers of the East, India & China.

Several years ago, I was attending an Innovations in Education Conference at Penn State University when I came across a book in the “free rack” in my hotel lobby. I traded a worn Stephen King novel for Thomas Friedman’s non-fiction book. A shared text from an anonymous reader, what a fantastic way to come across a book that would ultimately change the way that I perceive the world. The impact the book had on me is different than most readers. I don’t want to see the world in terms of winners and losers. Instead, I would like to see the world as a network of collaborative participants working to make the human experience on this planet a happy, healthy, and productive one.

In the United States, we have an obsession, based on tradition, with selecting those teams or individuals that rise to the top of their sport or competitive field. I don’t see education as an area of human endeavor that requires competition among participants. Instead, I view education as a shared experience where learners help each other to construct meaning in an otherwise abstract world. In this light, the United States is not competing with the educational systems in other nations of the world, but rather using technology and Friedman’s “flat world” theory to allow students to collaborate and transcend the artificial boundaries of the world’s nations. I heard a speaker say that looking down from space the boundaries between nations cease to exist. Boundaries between humans are created in the very minds of those we deem winners and are reinforced to allow these winners to stay on top and in power.

At the Coalition for International Initiatives (CII), we are attempting to make a positive impact by building a computer platform that will allow for collaboration between schools in India and the United States. Children will not be ranked or measured but will be allowed to explore their world and construct meaning that fits their individual realities and expands their learning beyond the classroom walls. It is our belief that if given the technological capacity to collaborate, students will connect and teach each other about their country and culture. As the program advances, we hope to focus these students on the task of solving some the world’s most pressing social problems and issues.

I am currently working on a “teachable moment, ” a small mini-lesson that builds with other lessons to help students solve a common problem, that will have inquisitive students in the US attempt to connect with Indian students to explore the holiday of Diwali. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I am a highly-educated teacher who until accepting my position with CII never heard of Diwali. As the largest national holiday in India, this tradition is important to the understanding of the complex social network that is modern India. Not sure what Diwali is all about–check out the following video from National Geographic on Youtube:

It is through collaboration and global communication that education can transcend the adult-created problems of the world and allow students to find solutions for their future. I welcome your comments to this blog post and would love to hear from our readers around the world. Collaborate with us in order to create the change we wish to see in the world.

PS. Happy Diwali to All of You Who Celebrate the Victory of the Light!

 

Gregory M. McGough, M.Ed.

CII Chief Academic Officer

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