Tag Archive: 21st Century Learning


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.


“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

…each student and teacher is engaged in the art of composing a life.”

-Anne Murray Orr & Margaret Olson

When I was hired by the Coalition for International Initiatives for their positive global impact initiative in education, I was reading an article by Anne Murray Orr & Margaret Olson titled Transforming Narrative Encounters. This particular research study focuses on the power of narrative-inquiry as a legitimate research tool in educational settings. The authors explains that transformations can be made in education through careful reflection and inquiry into the individual stories of teachers and students. As a part-time consultant and full-time English teacher, the notion that our lives are nothing but intersecting storylines appeals to me on a level that transcends the everyday.

One of the areas that interested me was the idea that curriculum development is shaped by teachers and students as they attempt to make sense of their worlds through the various rising actions and conflicts. It is this constructivist notion of curriculum that now drives the Triggering Teachable Moments (T2M) lesson design on the eKWIP website.

After reading the article on narrative inquiry, I began to think about the educational power of allowing students to author their own worlds with collaborative global partners. The eKWIP website is designed to open a collaborative platform for students in the US and India to attempt to share their stories and ultimately their worlds. The T2M model focuses on allowing students to develop narratives that add a rich narrative content to the otherwise stale academic standards. Teachers using eKWIP will be asked to establish an environment that is conducive to the development of a rich story line between the learners in the two countries and written in a purely digital medium.

As the storyline develops, the eKWIP team will be blogging about our journey as we try to make a positive global impact in global education collaboration.

Gregory M. McGough, M.Ed.

CII Chief Academic Officer