Tag Archive: Problem-based Learning

Photo/Icon Credit: Flickr Susquehanna River Valley’s photostream

The international submissions of student-inquiry learning is beginning to appear in the various posting places on the website. Now that we have people participating…it is time to start the collaboration process.

Step #1: Read the wonderful work submitted by any of the eKWIP educators, and locate a piece of their project that “triggers” a teachable moment with your students.

Step #2: Contact your global partner and let him/her know that his/her work was “rich” enough in content that it “triggered” a lesson across the globe.

Step #3: Present the teachable moment to the students and let it “trigger” wonder and excitement in their minds. This type of “trigger” should naturally inspire student-inquiry lessons in your classroom.

Step #4: Please share these new responses with your new international colleague so that they can see that the learning process they initiated is being used to inspire others.

Step #5: Harvest the various learning artifacts that result from your student sessions. These lessons are not the end…they may be the beginning for another educator in the eKWIP community.

Modeling Example:

I was inspired by the works of Dr. Rashmi Jamwal and her students as they created the profile of “Himachal Pradesh.” The water conservation study is comprehensive and shows a beautiful blend of student-inquiry learning and meaning construction. The section on pollution “triggered” a teachable moment with my students.

The environmental and political debate surrounding the safety of the drilling in the Marcellus shale formation in the western edge of our state has inspired my students for the better part of two months. We are currently working with understanding the chemical process of “hydraulic fracking” to harvest natural gas in the shale formations under our state, Pennsylvania. Through research we found out that the same type of shale formation is found under parts of Northern India. What impact will this invasive process have on drinking water? The problem is that people don’t understand the process and its impact on the environment.

In fact, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just released a fracking study yesterday about the detrimental impact of “fracking” on local water supplies. My students are taking the academic position of a poetic scientists as they promote awareness by capturing the impact of this manmade pollutant in verse. Their finished poems will be submitted to the local Scholastic Writing contest for 2011-12. We have contacted our international research partner Dr. Jamwal to determine if “fracking” is being used in India, and the potential impact on their water systems.

Global collaboration allows learning to trigger more learning as humankind attempts to solve the myriad of problems that plague modern society.

P.S. The eKWIP website is playing host to a wonderful new demonstration video created by our partners over at LogicBay. Make sure to visit our homepage and take a quick tour of our innovative initiative. We can be found on the Internet at http://www.ekwip.net.

Gregory M. McGough, M.Ed.

CII Chief Academic Officer


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

Teachers should have the same expectations for their students that they have for their own children.

-Geoffrey Canada, Founder and CEO of The Harlem Children’s Zone

The executive team and families of the Coalition for International Initiatives (CII) enjoyed an inspirational evening with educational reformer Mr. Geoffrey Canada. The event began with a memorable face-to-face with Mr. Canada where he listened to our vision for global collaboration between schools in India and the United States. His interest and true passion for education was revealed when he focused on how our goals are going to benefit children. Even in this informal social scenario, Mr. Canada was searching for an answer to the “true” educator’s core question, “What is best for kids?” The keynote presentation was passionate and transcended the early technical difficulties with the microphone. Through it all a message of hope and faith in the education for all children, despite their current life situation, was felt in the hearts and minds of all who attended. At the conclusion of the evening, Mr. Canada left the audience with two challenges to improve education in America: unshakable optimism and constant innovation. We at CII believe we can accept Mr. Canada’s challenge because of our belief that all children can learn when given the opportunity and the community support to find academic and social success. That is why we are building an interactive online classroom community  that will allow children in the US and India to collaborate on Problem-based Learning (PbL) projects in all subject areas including an interactive science laboratory, Exploriments. When children are given the freedom and support to explore their own world to make meaning and solve problems, true educational gains can made in schools at every level.

Photo Credit: C. McGough

Gregory M. McGough, M.Ed.

CII Chief Academic Officer


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.

“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