Tag Archive: PbL

Under the heading of autonomy, for example, Google Inc. employees are free to spend up to 20% of their time pursuing new projects. He quotes one Google engineer who told the New York Times: “If your 20% idea is a new product, it’s usually pretty easy to just find a few like-minded people and start coding away.” – L.A. Times

My ninth grade Career Pathways students are currently learning concepts found in the Pennsylvania Career and Work standards–specifically focusing on entrepreneurship. They need to understand multiple business concepts, and most importantly, their place in the global market. The eKWIP web portal will allow them to learn global market concepts from/with their Indian classmates.

The following YouTube video, created by students in Delhi Public Schools in Gwalior, India, is going to be used to “trigger” a teachable moment on the concept of “inflation” as a problem for the common “hu”man. As part of their 20% side-projects, my students will be developing, gathering, and displaying relevant inflation data to share with their new partners in India. This side-project will be driven solely by student innovation and willingness to learn more about the world around them. Under our 90-minute block scheduled class-time, the ninth grade students will have 18 mins. to work autonomously on their “inflation” projects.

Thank you to Manju Singh and her creative students at Delhi Public Schools in Gwalior, India for “triggering” this insightful teachable moment.

International collaboration and innovation is just a click away on the eKWIP website.

Gregory M. McGough, M.Ed.

CII Chief Academic Officer


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

“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

“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

…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