“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