Tag Archive: CII

“Mr. McGough…can I have a pass to get a drink of water?”

– Too many students to count


Photo credit: G. McGough



Since 2007, Blog Action Day (BAD) is a an annual event (Oct.15) that calls upon the bloggers of the world to unite around a common issue in order to promote social awareness. The theme this year is simply WATER. According to the Change.org BAD10 website, 1 in 8 people around the world do not have access to safe drinking water. That is nearly a BILLION people!

As a secondary English teacher, I am asked everyday by several hundred students to get a drink. Okay…so I’m prone to hyperbole when making a point! When I learned of the topic for the 2010 Blog Action Day, I was helping students research charitable organizations for their persuasive essays on poverty awareness. Without much thought, I signed a student’s hallpass and allowed him to go and get a drink. What a demonstration of power, the ability to either allow or deny access to drinking water for another human being. Until writing this post, it never occurred to me that in some classrooms teachers aren’t given the option to allow their students a safe drink of water. At the same time, my seniors don’t realize what a privilege it is to have access to safe drinking water.

In celebration of BAD 2010, I printed facts from the Water Aid America website and cut them into slips. Before I left school today, I placed the slips into an envelope near my class sign-out sheet. Tomorrow, the students will have to announce a global safe water statistic to the class before I will sign for them to go get a drink. In this manner, the class will gain an awareness of and appreciation for living in a country where safe drinking water is so plentiful.

Educators have a responsibility to bring social awareness to issues that sometimes go unnoticed by the general adult population. We at the Coalition for International Initiatives are attempting to bridge cultural gaps by connecting classrooms in India and the United States over a digital platform, eKWIP. Children will collaborate over common problems plaguing the global community. At CII, we have identified the subjects of Art, Education, and the Environment as our key curriculum areas. In reference to this year’s theme, it is important to note that CII’s environmental initiative establishes a commitment to safe drinking water with its support of Cardinal Resources, a firm dedicated to a clean environment and water through intelligent engineering.

Thank you BLOGGERS for your efforts to bring about positive social change with your posts for Blog Action Day 2010!

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