Tag Archive: flat-world


Our trip to Ludhiana

Our trip to Ludhiana was a very interesting experience.

It started off with the long and bumpy drive from Delhi to Ludhiana in a car that I am sure had to have its shock absorbers replaced after the journey.  After stopping a few times along the way, and experiencing ethnic culture with drums and, entertainers dressed in traditional costumes (at rest stops), we reached the city. Turns out the part we had reached, was the old part of the city. To say it was crowded, is putting it mildly.  There were people everywhere! Traffic was interspersed with hawkers on carts selling fruits and vegetables, toys, clothes, and flowers practically on the road.  You dodged them in your car, as you did the stray cows and dogs and other animals, roaming the streets along with bicycles and rickshaws.  It was chaotic and surreal.

We asked a few different people for directions to our hotel.  They had never heard of it! One man even said it doesn’t exist.  He had been in the city for the last 20 years and never heard of such hotel.  We decided to call the last hotel we stayed in for help.  They told us where to go and we finally found the hotel.  It was a hard hotel to miss.  It was huge! We were thankful to finally find the place and we were excited to see Harvest International School the next day.

Our experience at Harvest International School was the exact opposite of our experience getting into the city.  The campus is beautiful! It is set in an authentic Punjabi Village that is cleaner and friendlier than I imagined.  The campus is set inside and has a lot of land.

The entrance doubles up as a little amphitheater and, the seats have every nation’s name carved out reminiscent of it’s own International nature.  Dorms are extremely comfortable and one would feel like as if s/he were in a kids room at home in the US.   The halls are decorated with tennis legends and their history.

The school is a tennis academy and a boarding school.  The entire campus has Wi-Fi and their own generators.   Tennis is taught for four-six hours a day with such intensity, as is the rigorous academic curriculum.  Teachers have put lessons on electronic format so that if students are competing they don’t fall behind in their studies.  They are nourished with organic vegetables and fruits, grown in their own gardens.

They follow the Cambridge standards and most of the teachers in the school have taught internationally. The school is very small, but growing.  There are less than 65 students and it is in its first few years as an institution.  The founders of the school are dedicated to the students as well as the facilities.  There is no doubt in my mind that one day this will be a premiere tennis academy in the world. For now, it seems like a well-kept secret.

The teachers here were enthusiastic about exchanging ideas.  One teacher had even worked out formulas using ancient Hindu scripture.   He was confident a student using his math techniques would be able to solve any problem.   He took the fear factor away from the subject and, made it accessible.  We hope to share his know how with the eKWIP community.  Another teacher had taught at a Public School in New York and was bringing her international training to another level.

It was easy to feel a sense of dedication to the Education field.  The Director, who started the school, had experienced living in a disciplined boarding school growing up.    With an excellent work ethic, he and his wife have created an environment where students can be assured of a quality education.

Naina Boveja
Executive Director
Coalition for International Initiatives

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Interest does not tie nations together; it sometimes separates them. But sympathy and understanding does unite them. -Woodrow T. Wilson

Naan is a traditional bread of Northern India, and it was one of the Indian food selections offered to guests of the Coalition for International Initiatives(CII), at last night’s dinner. Innovative 21st Century school leaders from Spring Grove, Conewago Valley, Eastern York, and Gettysburg School Districts decided to attend a demonstration of the eKWIP website held at the New Hope Academy Charter School in York, PA. These leaders understand the impact of globalization and recognize that educational programs and practices must prepare children for international collaboration.

The 21st Century is being defined by the ability of organizations to connect to people from all nations around the world. This powerful innovation process has been felt by commerce and industry but has had less of an impact on mainstream school populations. Granted there are those forward thinking teachers in districts who seek out innovation and creative practices on their own and have connected internationally using Moodle tools and Skype. These teachers are to be applauded for their efforts in developing 21st Century skills in tandem with their core curriculum.

One of the areas of difficulty with this singular teacher approach is that it is difficult to model and implement across disciplines within schools. Techno-phobia is causing paralysis in innovative educational technology practices because the fear of user error is too strong.

The eKWIP (educating Kids With International Possibilities) is an open-source online learning platform that was developed through the cooperation of CII, LogicBay and IETS, a division of IL&FS, an India-based infrastructure Company. These collaborators believe in the mission that children can develop international sensitivities through standards-focused teachable moments. It is the academic rigor of the lessons that allows the eKWIP platform to transcend those surface online programs that have weak academic merit. Although rigorous in instruction, the program was designed with a user-friendly approach to aid in ease of dissemination across educational institutions.

At the demonstration last night, leaders from the aforementioned schools experienced the site and willingly signed up to take part in the R&D of the site and companion teaching model of T2M during the spring semester. Grade levels within the K to 12 sequence will be represented in this research project.  School children in the US and India will be able to communicate and share artifacts of learning collected during the teachable moment phase of the learning process. This international collaboration will trigger more teachable moments and bring a cultural richness to a curriculum that is recently becoming too sanitized and standardized.

It is at this moment, that we at CII would like to thank New Hope Academy Charter School,  DPS Gwalior, and the Mahatma Gandhi International school for their participation in the soft-start of this online program in late November and early December, 2010. We would also like to extend a warm thank you to the school leaders who met last night to put children first in international collaboration.

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