Online Teaching in Brazil

KDSL Global recently had the opportunity to connect with Fatma Trabelsi for a quick check in about her experience teaching online. She is a grade 4 teacher at Graded – The American School of Sao Paulo in Brazil. Fatma was recently celebrated for being innovative an committed to student learning in the new age of distance.

 

How is your distance learning experience?

I should say things are getting better and easier. I am working my way through all the technology features of the tools that I have never expected to use before! Yet this whole transition is extremely draining as it requires a lot of pre-planning and consistency.  If I can use an analogy this whole distance learning is like an airplane prior to take-off. The sound, the spinning, the speed, the fuel, the orientation are all set before the take off. That’s why I find it inspiring and exhausting at the same time.

 

 

What technology are you using?

At Graded, we are entering our third week of distance learning. The dust is gently getting settled.  The first week resulted in long hours of work in front of screen, serious exhaustion, several meetings with grade level teachers and designing the best possible plan to serve both parents and students of our grade level. Yes, we lacked sleep and we were tense. Surveys were sent at the end of the week to check if things went well. We were surely happy with the survey results.

In the lower school, we are all using Google Classroom, Brainpop for reading assignments/ Science. Screencastify for morning messages and mini-lessons, and Edulastic for standardized assessment. For regular check-in we use Flip Grid. Obviously, all the Google resources / extensions are used to support our presentations and enhance our mini-lessons. Our library has a bunch of online resources that became quite helpful in these days.

 

 

One message you want to share with your scholars.  

For all other scholars, it is important to remain calm, clear-headed and positive. We remain the familiar and the inspiring figures in our students’ lives. They need us now most as uncertainty and doubt veils their days. As educators we also need to empower each other and support those who need more help. This is a serious time where we need to show solidarity and compassion in both in action and words.

 

 

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Fatma Trabelsi is an experienced international educator with eighteen years of teaching and leading experience in different international schools across North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, South East Asia and South America. Over the years, she has gained deep understanding of the IB programme as well as the American curriculum. My recent work experience was the American curriculum with a major focus on the workshop model in literacy and math. She has been involved in IB re- authorization visits and CIS/WASC re-accreditation meetings at organizational level.

Throughout her teaching journey, she has often found herself actively engaged with the school growth and development. Fatma has a MA in Education, BA in English Language and literature, TEFL certification, and several years of teaching experience in international schools. Beside her qualifications, she received training as CIS visiting school member and  has recently completed a TTC workshop on leadership tools in international schools offered by Bambi Betts along with Middle Leadership course delivered by Nord Anglia.

Online Learning in Oman

Our School 
Sarh Al Jaameah Private School (SAPS) is a small private school allocated in Muscat, Oman. It serves grades 1 through 3. Its blended curriculum includes Cambridge Primary International (English, Math & Science), Ministry of Education Arabic subjects (Arabic, Islamic and S.S.), Life Skills and specials.
 
What Our School Implemented 
When the Ministry recently closed schools, no direct or implicit directives were given for the continuation of learning during this time. In anticipation of a school closure, and hearing other educational organizations around the world suspending school, I had my ICT teacher to create Google Classrooms for every subject across all grades. Because I have multi-language and multi-national teachers, I needed to have something that is easy to follow, explain and implement.
I chose to adopt the Google Classroom platform because it is the most teacher friendly tool that I have seen used in schools over the years. There are few limitations to what teachers can upload or link to each classroom. You can post as little or as much as you need to accommodate your individual school goals for virtual learning. In addition, Google Meet is also in the G Suite, which allows teachers to visit the same platform to assist with communication with teams inside the organization.
Tips for Others in Getting Started with Online Learning
 
1. Humanity Above All!
Before you delve into what can be managed on the education front, consider that your health, family and well being are the most important factors in the face of this challenge. Our jobs and online learning are beneficial to those we serve, but none of it matters if we don’t care of ourselves and each other. Remember that when you begin, or continue plans you have for online learning. Remember Maslow’s perspective on learning. It will matter to educators and families alike.
 
2. Do something to keep the school community connected
As we can see, educational responses to the pandemic are different from country to country, state to state and school to school within a system. Some organizations have a plan, while some require little to no continuation of learning. There are a gazillion ways to do this. Find what works for you. Don’t worry about emulating others, but do consider some of the creative ideas that have been shared. Even if you can’t address school wide online learning, create a YouTube page for weekly announcements or encouragement, send emails with web-based sites for extension activities, or make calls to families once per week to check-in with any of the workbooks and packets that may be sent home .

3. Create and use a model that is teacher, student and family friendly 
Work together to create a plan…
  • Begin by drafting a plan that all of your staff can have input on. Brainstorm all of the things you think are necessary, practical and feasible based on your goals, resources and current global situation. This includes non-instructional staff. Everyone may have a perspective that may not be readily evident unless you have a variety of views. What do you want to accomplish? Google Docs are great for planning, time-saving and convenient in or out of the workplace.

Online Learning Plan

 

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4. Consider the capacity of your staff
Remember that everyone is not an expert in using/implementing technology effectively. Choose platforms, apps and resources that are teacher friendly because they are the ones that have to develop assignments and navigate your chosen online learning tools.
5. Set up a mock online learning environment – Perfect to engage in professional learning and development initiatives!
Experiment with teachers before asking families to engage in the process. You don’t want to be trouble-shooting with parents unnecessarily. The process can be cumbersome. I created a professional learning Google Classroom for my staff first, requiring a couple of assignments, responses and uploads based on one of our SIP goals with my teachers:) The plan was to incorporate a blended learning environment prior to the school closing. This allowed me to demonstrate and engage my teachers in person, explaining and translating while on the interactive board and their devices. It proved to be very productive and reassuring. The additional benefit to the staff is that we get to engage in continuous professional learning. Use some of this time to catch up or reinforce school wide best practices or introduce others.

 

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6. Keep student work and planning simple
  • Ensure clear expectations (uniform criteria)
  • Compact curriculum
  • Cover essentials only
  • Minimize assignments
  • Refrain from formal grading
  • Make some of it fun!
  • Encourage
  • Praise
  • Give Feedback/Support
Note – Remember the context for why we’re all even having online learning. If students/families aren’t able to keep up with assignments, consider what they may be trying to manage at home. Encourage them to complete what they can, and remind them that our role is to provide some continuation of learning and access. The whole world has a lot on their plate right now. We are just trying to minimize the gaps we all know will occur during this crisis.
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7. Monitor the progress of your online learning
Teachers can and should provide feedback to students with appropriate next steps, praise for their effort to keep up with work and support parents in this homeschooling environment. Administrators, add yourself to each classroom and you’re able to address accountability and support teachers in the process. Note – All the classrooms show up in your Google Classroom app, but you can disable the notifications, so you’re not inundated with participant responses.
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8. Consider feedback and modify plans where necessary 
We’ve seen many memes and responses to the plight of schools and families’ frustrations. While many of these are hilarious, we need to understand the explicit and underlying messages being conveyed. If the online learning we create is overwhelming, stakeholders will not engage in the process, at least not effectively, making the best of plans all for naught.

9. Use available platforms to communicate with each other
We are using Google Meet. For those folks required by your local education authority (LEA) to implement online learning, choose one of the many platforms to hold meetings online for discussion on some of your school’s online initiatives. Most are now free to access. For some of our international schools, this may be difficult, as most VOIPs are blocked. However, some countries, like Oman have suspended restrictions due to the crisis at hand.
Our staff has had very successful meetings on Google Meet. Both my English and Arabic speaking staff engaged to discuss progress and next steps. It offers accessibility using closed caption, chatting sidebar, optional mute, screen sharing for the initiator/presenter of the meeting and multiple screen layouts. The staff took turns in verbal responses while typing thoughts, ideas and questions to be included in our discussion. Responses are used to follow up.
 
10. Consider and document how you’ll continue to incorporate these wonderful practices in the future!
 
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Natasha is currently the principal of an international school in Oman. As an education specialist (Ed.S.), and founder of Key Education Solutions Consulting (KEDS), she also employs 20 years of experience to engage schools, and families in research-based, best educational practices. Professional learning and development of educators is her passion, particularly in the area of Mindset research, and its implications in educator effort and evidence within the classroom.
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KDSL Global interviews The GEMS Camp Founder Saki Milton

KDSL Global recently had an opportunity to connect with Saki Milton, Founder of The GEMS Camp.  The GEMS Camp, launched in summer 2010 as a free 6-week Saturday camp, preparing urban girls in grades 7 through 9 to be well-rounded, confident, and ready for college and beyond.  Since its inception, The GEMS Camp has been instrumental in inspiring more than 200 girls in STEM studies and is hosted annually at The University of North Texas at Dallas.

 

What was your inspiration to work in STEM?

As a secondary mathematics classroom teacher, every year I saw 1-2 kids in each class who actually wanted to learn. They were focused, studious, hard-working, and hungry for a challenge. Unfortunately, with the challenges many teachers like myself face in an urban classroom, those students are typically the ones who end up getting shafted. Large classroom sizes, disrespect, and lack of resources are issues an urban teacher faces on a daily basis. I know I did. My heart broke every time I saw a girl who reminded me of myself as a student, but wasn’t getting the quality education that every child should receive because I was too busy dealing with classroom management or catching up those who were 1-2 grade levels behind. Going home every night knowing that I wanted to do more led me to action.

In 2010, I was teaching at an IB school. I was so moved by my students’ personal projects that I decided to explore my own summer project to give back to those students in my neighborhood. That’s when I started The GEMS Camp. I started The GEMS Camp for the girls who are ridiculed for being smart. Girls who do everything they’re supposed to do, but have to stay in their environments just because they don’t have anywhere else to go. I wanted to give them what was given to me – a quality learning experience that made me curious about the world and compassionate about others in a safe environment. Over the years, my interest in STEM has grown as demands for the workforce have changed. I’ve realized the significance of preparing students for jobs of the future, especially problems facing the environment or those with disabilities.

I believe that the shortages in STEM fields can be filled by preparing more women, which currently account for about 13% of the U.S. STEM workforce. To do so, we need to prepare girls with knowledge and skills but also equip them with confidence to be successful in such fields. My involvement in the community led me to combine my background, experience and passion into forming a nonprofit organization. I encourage teachers to find ways to explore their talents and interests beyond the bell.

 

Tell us about the GEMS Camp

The mission of The GEMS Camp (Girls interested in Engineering, Mathematics, and Science) is to build confidence in urban teen girls in grades 7-12 through five core areas called the 5 Karat Gems – Academics, Career, Creativity, Leadership, and Service– so that they will be successful in STEM studies and careers. The Organization’s vision is to change the trajectory of generational poverty for underrepresented girls’ families.

We teach girls how to be CREATIVE thinkers and communicators – a valuable life skill to help them break away from the pack. They learn LEADERSHIP strategies through a one-of-a-kind, research-based curriculum addressing specific needs of urban girls. Third, girls participate in SERVICE to help them internalize the value of giving back to a greater cause. The camp also prepares girls through ACADEMICS by using rigorous and engaging lessons and experiments led by highly qualified instructors. And finally, The GEMS Camp addresses CAREER opportunities to its participants by inviting local, successful STEM women to speak about their professions and personal backgrounds.

The program started in 2010 as a Saturday day camp servicing 30 rising 7th-9th-grade girls held at a public library in Dallas, Texas. Since 2017, the model has evolved to a one-week residential Summer Experience program held at the University of North Texas at Dallas. The program concludes with a Graduation Ceremony and Community Exhibition, recognizing girls for completion and achievements throughout the program. The GEMS Camp continues to gain momentum reaching more students while maintaining authenticity to its mission. To date, we have served roughly 400 girls, exposing them to more than 30 North Texas female STEM professionals representing major corporations and organizations such as IBM, Atmos Energy, Frito Lay/Pepsico, Mary Kay, Inc., Hilti, Texas Instruments, HKS Architects and more.

One of our greatest accomplishments is the expansion of our mission to include helping girls build global STEM networks through travel. In June 2018, eight high school girls traveled to Italy (Naples, Rome, and Florence) to explore the “M” in STEM, studying geometric concepts of ancient and modern architecture, technology, and engineering. June 5-15, 2019, ten girls will have the opportunity to participate in a culture exchange in the United Arab Emirates (Dubai and Abu Dhabi) with local female STEM girls, while the Dallas camp will be held, June 21-28, 2019.

 

What do you see as the future of STEM?

To address the whole child, The GEMS Camp program design is rooted in the latest STEM education research, primarily STEM Learning Ecosystems (SLE’s)and incorporates best practices for bringing minority and low-income girls into the STEM career pipeline. In the future, I foresee STEM education headed more down this path based on reports I’ve read. The phrase STEM learning ecosystem has emerged from early works of human development research. SLE models include children at the center influenced directly by other people (e.g., family, friends) and settings (e.g., schools, neighborhoods) and indirectly by their environment and culture. Students shape and influence their environment and narrative via connections with other learners, community representatives, and the broader scope of world culture. I believe more funding will shift towards collaborative partnerships that are operating with this model. The emergence of newer adaptations of STEM –STEAM and STREAM will continue to take place.

However, long-term sustainability of such concepts are dependent upon the global job market. All of the data still point to science, technology, engineering and math-based positions; not the arts – though I am a firm believer and supporter of the arts. Until we see extreme shortages and disparities in the arts, as it pertains to STEM, I am not fully convinced yet that STEM is on its way out nor STEAM has enough critical mass to sustain its current popularity. But, I could be wrong; I hope it is not a fad.

Unlike the early days of STEM where emphasis was on engineering and computer science, I do believe greater increase in the sciences –biology, environment, and chemistry — will experience tremendous growth as human impact, biological warfare, and medical care are becoming macro-economic issues for both government and private sector.

To learn more about The GEMS Camp visit:

https://www.thegemscamp.org

 

Saki Milton

 

Saki Milton is an experienced mathematics educator with more than 20 years in the education industry including adult learning, curriculum writing, coaching, market development, consulting, and most importantly eight years of classroom teaching. Passionate about STEM education, Saki is known for her extensive work in the U.S. by founding The GEMS Camp (Girls interested in Engineering, Mathematics and Science), a non-profit organization whose mission is to build confidence in girls in grades 7-10 in five core areas called the 5 Karat Gems – Academics, Career, Creativity, Leadership, and Service – so that they will be successful in STEM studies and beyond. The organization has served more than 350 girls across Texas since 2010, partnering with major STEM employers such as BP Oil, Pepsico-FritoLay, HESS Corporation, and NASA to name a few. Saki has worked for Pearson Education Middle East as the U.S. Schools Curriculum Manager, delivering educator support to American international schools across the gulf region. Today, she is an independent international educational consultant working on worthwhile edTech and publishing projects globally. Saki holds a B.A. in mathematics from The University of Texas at Austin and an M.B.A. in marketing from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

YouHue: Know Your Students

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KDSL Global recently had an opportunity to connect with Ammar Khan, Co-Founder & CEO of YouHueThis is a classroom app that uses mood tracking to empower students to understand their emotions so they can better manage and communicate them. Data from YouHue gives teachers insight that can be used to support student learning, identify and address issues, and build more meaningful relationships.

 

Tell us about YouHue and the connection to social-emotional learning.

YouHue makes social-emotional learning not only easy but fun and rewarding for every classroom. There are five core SEL competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. YouHue is a tool that guides students to practice these core competencies in how they communicate with their teacher and other adults at the school, leading to real-world impact in the classroom right off the bat.

On YouHue, students are guided to select an emotion, then reflect on and write about why they feel that emotion at that moment. Students then send that “mood log” to their teacher. Through this research-based exercise, they practice identifying their emotions (self-awareness), coping with their emotions (self-management), reflecting on situations (responsible decision-making) and communicating their emotions effectively and confidently (relationship skills). Practicing checking in with their own emotions also deepens their understanding of the ways other people experience emotions (social awareness).

Pausing, reflecting, and then articulating how we feel helps us connect with and become more honest with ourselves. Then, we can do that with others. This helps us live the life we want to, relate and collaborate with others in ways that are fulfilling and honest, and even ask for help when we need it. All of this empowers us to feel ownership and autonomy.

When we recognize our ability to manage our own emotions, we recognize our ability to choose our lives and how we want to react and interact with the world around us. It’s then not up to other people to save us by reading our minds and then giving us what we need. Asking for help, for acknowledgment, for love, for affirmation, is how we get what we need. This type of giving and receiving is what makes us feel like connected, supported members of a community which is the basis of much of psychological wellness and thriving.

We chose the student-teacher relationship to base this practice because it offers not only an opportunity for students to strengthen their skills but also for communication between students and teachers to be increased and their relationships strengthened. Increased communication means teachers better understand their students and what they need to thrive. Strengthened student-teacher relationships are proven to increase students’ engagement in academics and their feeling of being part of their school community. This improves both mental wellness and academic performance. All of us have a tough time knowing when, how, and to whom we can open up and express ourselves. For kids, it’s particularly difficult. But, it’s really important that kids communicate… especially with the adults who are trying to help them succeed at school.

 

What are some ways YouHue is being implemented in classrooms?

YouHue is used in classrooms with students aged five through twenty-two. Each educator receives a YouHue Toolkit to help them introduce YouHue to their students. It is filled with background about the value of mood logging and gives teachers useful emotion terminology, plus tips for introducing YouHue to students so they feel good about using it. Then, most of our classrooms try to log on a daily basis. Usually, students share how they feel as they arrive at school in the morning. Besides that, teachers often invite their students to share at times that are uniquely meaningful in their classroom. For example, they might ask their students how they feel before or after a quiz, when an important event at school, or when current events impact their lives.

Once students start logging on YouHue, educators can access their YouHue Insights Dashboard where they can see a report on trends and key topics about which their students are logging. For example, insight into what made them confused this week or what got them really excited. Teachers also receive real-time email alerts if a student logs about a topic that indicates a mental health or learning issue–for example, if a student uses a word like “bully” in a log. That empowers teachers to help that student right when they need it.

As classrooms use the program, our team is always here to support them by providing more information or guidance about how to use YouHue with students. We’re always just an email or call away.

Schools learn more about their students and are able to keep up with what is impacting their behavior and learning, as well as what makes them who they are as people. Educators see their students’ communication and self-regulation skills flourish as they grow healthy habits of self-expression. And, together they build strong and meaningful relationships that lead to learning and growth.

Each of us experiences every type of emotion at some point. When the people who care about us understand how we feel we can work together to do amazing things. It all starts with, “How are you?”

 

How does the YouHue team envision the future of education?

We are preparing the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, family members, and teammates to be their best possible selves–to be confident and curious, kind and loving, thoughtful and in touch with their personal values. A YouHue student of the future is one who knows herself well enough to navigate setbacks, be authentic, rely on her community, and ask for help–all skills that lead a person to live a meaningful and fulfilling life in the 21st Century.

All of this is contingent on young people growing up and learning in an environment where they feel securely connected to their community and where their social-emotional skills are fostered. Educators all across the world have been recognizing the importance of fostering growth in young people in more than just academics. There is a loud and strengthening cry for tools that expand the abilities of educators to support their students in this way. Parallel to that outcry is the demand for learning environments that facilitate positive student-teacher relationships.

Attachment theory states that a strong emotional attachment to a primary caregiver is critical to personal development. A child with a healthy sense of attachment to caring adults in her life will feel the confidence to go out and explore the world knowing that when she tries things and fails, she has a support system. She also has a model for a healthy collaboration that will determine how she will interact with others throughout her life. We are providing educators with tools that will enable their relationship with their students to be one of those empowering relationships.

Psychological science has a robust knowledge of how to help young people develop emotional health, but the problem exists in making that knowledge applicable to the real world–in real schools and homes. That is what we are doing with YouHue. By giving educators and parents tools that provide effective emotional education and ways to practice life skills, we bring that knowledge to classrooms and families. YouHue, as you see it today, is just the beginning. It is the core exercise from which we will expand into additional exercises, resources, and education content that enable schools to provide truly rich guidance and support toward emotional wellness and mental thriving.

As a technology, we don’t seek to replace and exclude adults from the child’s emotional development. We seek to empower them with the right resources at the right time that will equip them with skills that universalize the standard of support students receive in their emotional education.

What we have been experimenting with over the past few years is offering social-emotional education resources (lesson plans and exercises) that up-skill the adults who work with children. These adults have often not received formalized emotional education themselves, and so skill levels vary significantly which has a huge impact on their abilities and confidence in supporting the emotional education and wellbeing of their students. By giving them resources that feel easy-to-use, effective, and engaging we up-skill in a way that not only gives our teachers confidence, increases their ability to educate their students, but also even improves their emotional skills over time.

In this, we not only improve the mental wellness of young people but also adults! Making the kind of impact in education that our society needs on a global scale will take all of us. Our vision of the future of education is one in which we work together as a community and a society, empowered by healthy technology, to elevate well being, engage learning, and ready human beings to move toward a brighter future. It all starts by changing our relationship with the world within ourselves. YouHue seeks a future in which education is synonymous with science, reading, and emotional thriving. We are working to empower educators to provide that type of education to their students, so their students are empowered in turn to make healthy and impactful connections with the world around them.

 

Here’s where you can learn more about YouHue websiteTwitter and Instagram. To join the free pilot program email ammar@youhue.com.

 

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About Ammar Khan

Ammar Khan is an education and health tech entrepreneur who is the co-founder of YouHue, a mood tracking app that helps students communicate more meaningfully with their teachers while developing core social-emotional skills that improve their wellness and outcomes in classrooms.

Meet our KDSL Global Intern – Dalal El Kurdi

Dalal El Kurdi was born in Lebanon but grew up in Bahrain in a household where education was a number one priority. In high school, she was the most hard-working student, but nevertheless, she found time to play on sports teams, hold a constant active role in student government, and participate and host MUN (Model United Nations) and YLC (Young Leaders Conference). She cares greatly about the environment and participated with a colleague in a national activity to promote recycling named “Recycling in School Life” organized by the Gulf Petro-Chemical Industries Company in Bahrain. Their idea was awarded first place. She also received a full scholarship from Microsoft Technology Associates after being tested and receiving a high score to take a course in MTA Windows Operating System Fundamentals program, MTA Networking Fundamentals program, and MTA Security Fundamentals program. Dalal’s fascination with technology began at a young age. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at the American University of Sharjah. She has taken on several internships in the past couple of years to help apply educational knowledge to real-world situations and perfect her skills in professional settings. She applied to this internship keen to learn new things and broaden her horizon into the educational sector. She hopes to hone her research and writing skills and learn how she can blend what she learns as a KDSL Global Intern with her degree because she is passionate about the future of education with technology.

MENALearns Portal

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During 2018 the MENALearns Portal will be a new resource for educators at American curriculum schools. Our KDSL Global intern had a chance to chat with the team this past summer about what the portal is, how it is different and future plans.

 

What is MENALearns? 

MENALearns will be an online portal for educators at American curriculum schools based in the Middle East and North Africa region. This is a collaborative effort with Xblended and KDSL Global. It is for educators with resources reviewed, created, and shared by educators. Tools and resources will be related to curriculum, instruction, assessment, professional learning, and more. Six educators from six countries reviewed the initial portal and provided feedback to the team. We call this group our first educators. During the summer of 2018 we collaborated with an educator from the region who served during the month of July with the purpose of reviewing and selecting additional resources for K-12 educators on a wide range of topics. The site will launch later in September 2018. A free introductory webinar will be held on 1 October at 6pm Dubai time. Users will have the option to become a member of the community as a MENALearns Teacher, MENALearns Leader, or a MENALearns School. Special rates for new members will run from October- December 2018.

 

There are many online platforms and resources nowadays. How is MENALearns different from these?

This is very true! We wanted to craft a resource that was specific to educators who are based in the MENA region. Often there are resources from the states with references and images that students and educators may not be able to connect with. Educators who we spoke to openly shared this information. We wanted to have a blended approach with materials from the states along with resources provided from educators in the region. This will grow over time as we encourage educators and leaders to share resources from their schools and classrooms. Also, we asked American curriculum educators in the region where they go to online to access resources to use in planning. A plethora of websites was listed. We then asked what if there was one place where they could access most of the sites they used. All were interested and first users talked about how organized, comprehensive, and easy to navigate the portal was.

 

 

What are the future plans for this portal?

We will see what the future holds. As we receive feedback we will make changes and update information as there is always something new to learn. Our short-term plans is to make as many American curriculum schools and educators aware of the portal as possible in the MENA region. In the future we hope all will be a MENALearns School.

 

 

To stay updated on MENALearns email menalearns@gmail.com. The portal will launch later in September 2018.

 

 

Jenessa Dsilva
KDSL Global Intern
Website: www.kdslglobal.com
Twitter: @KDSL07
Facebook: @KDSL Global

 

Closing the STEM Gap

A new study called “Closing the STEM Gap” published in March 2018 by Microsoft surveyed more than 6,000 girls and young women on their interests and perceptions of science, technology, engineering and math. They found that girls lose interest in STEM careers as they get older. What can be done? The study cited recommendations to change this narrative. This included: role models and mentors, exposure to real-world examples of STEM, hands-on experience through participation in STEM-related clubs and activities, and encouragement from parents and educators could.

Our KDSL Global Fellow Tiffany Johnson recently interviewed one of her students to find out her perception about STEM after attending Interactive STEM Development Seminar for Underrepresented Students hosted by the Woods Educational Enrichment Foundation in Chicago. This was an additional program Johnson, who is implementing the recommendations in the study, suggested to her students.

This purpose of the seminar was to introduce and expose students to STEM career options and provide hands on experience with real world topics and projects leading to the development of the students as future leaders in the STEM fields.

 

What are your feelings about STEM?

“I feel like STEM is great for all kinds of people.  It allows you to dive more in depth about the world, technology, etc.”

 

Do you see yourself as a person who would pursue a career in the STEM field? If so, which field and why?

“Yes, I see myself pursuing a career in sciences, specifically psychology or sociology, becaucareese I like to study the functions of the brain, the actions of humans, and why people do the things they do.”

 

What did you do at the STEM event you attended?

“At the event, I had to design a functional hand using cardboard, sticks, tape, and string.  I also made slime.  The instructors that were there were African American men who knew a GREAT deal about STEM.”

 

How would you describe your feeling about STEM? Are you intimidated? Do you feel like you would be supported as you pursue a career in this field?

“I am supported greatly by my family and different teachers who push me to join the STEM field.  My feelings towards the STEM field are that I think it offers different opportunities to different types of people to work in an advanced field.  Also, I feel like being a part of this field, I would be able to represent African-Americans in a positive way.”

 

To learn more about Woods Educational Enrichment Foundation visit https://www.weefchicago.org/

 

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Meet Janessa, a high school scholar interested in STEM and recent participant in the Woods Educational Enrichment Foundation in Chicago.

Encouraging students to consider a career in teaching STEM*

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Profile on Julio Mendez: Science teacher, lifelong learner, and founder of the STEM Education Introductory Program

As well as being a busy Physics and Chemistry teacher in Chicago, Julio Mendez has founded the innovative STEM Education Introductory Program – it gives high school students the opportunity to earn college credit through a series of lectures and hands on teaching practice at a local middle school. We ask him all about the project, and how it came about.


You are a science teacher – where do you teach, and what led you down the path of both STEM and teaching?
 

I teach Physics, Chemistry and the Education 101 class at Perspectives Charter School – Joslin Campus, in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood. I also teach Engineering courses (Project Lead The Way curriculum on Saturdays) through Project SYNCERE. This is a non-profit in Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood.

Teaching is a second career which found me more due to circumstance than through any active effort. I had returned to school for a Physics degree and was looking for a part time job when my wife suggested I look into Project SYNCERE. I decide to go interview and try it, and the rest is history, as they say. I fell in love with the kids’ ability to look past all the crap they are dealt and still seek knowledge. Having been raised on Chicago’s south side and dealing with a lot of the social issues they are living with made me relatable and my natural sarcastic demeanor and ability to look past slights allowed me to create good relationships with the students. I saw at once that this is where I needed to be and then I just found ways to keep pushing myself to learn, grow and sharpen my craft.

The STEM part is easier to explain: I’m a nerd. I love science and all that it tells us about the universe, I always have. I also understand the need for our communities to be better represented within these fields. We have been neglected for a long time and those who looked away are now realizing that they will need us in order for the world to continue its progress.

 

What inspired you to set up this program encouraging high school students to consider a career as science teachers?

When I was considering become even just a part time teacher, I started looking into the profession and the history of teaching and learning. I came to the realization that education is one of the oldest forms of community building that there is. Until recent human history, we have learned everything from the previous generations in our communities. From hunting and gathering, to planting and growing and so on, we learned it all from our elders, who did it before us and learned it from their elders.

When the opportunity with the Shell Oil Company and the Smithsonian Science Education Center and their call for applications came to my attention I knew the solution had to come from within the community, to create a new lineage of education. There is also a long tradition of finding “fixes” for our communities from outside, as if we hadn’t the talent or abilities to be the solutions ourselves. I have seen our children do some incredible things and come up with some huge ideas that would amaze the greatest thinkers, but because they don’t show high scores or even high rates of high school graduation, their ideas and grand thinking and potentials aren’t acknowledged.  Given all this I knew that the solution to a lack of science teachers of color had to come from our own ranks, the students of color. It was just a matter of convincing the kids they could be the solution and that being a teacher is a viable career (harder than it seems) and convince all the powers that be, this is a viable solution (harder than it should be).

 

Could you describe your aim in setting up the Education 101 program? Who is it designed for and what will they learn?

The biggest aim for the program is to give students of color the opportunity to see themselves as STEM subject teachers. Let them see a side of teaching that they don’t get to see; mostly because they have a very different experience with the teaching profession. They do not have the opportunity to see a lot of themselves in these roles, so they can’t identify with the profession. They just need to see they can and some might.

The students in the class are exposed to the history of education in the country, including the injustices our communities have gone through, the  definition of what a STEM teacher needs to be, exposure to informal science education, observing teachers, the complexity of the classroom, the preparation for lessons, reading and writing college level papers. This will be set around Socratic discussions and group projects that will be catered to the students’ abilities and raising expectations at every turn.

Was the creation of your program partly in response to the lack of diversity found in the teaching profession?

The creation of the program most definitely has to do with the lack of diversity in teaching. It is very difficult to be a teacher of color within a system which serves mostly students of color and yet we are an overwhelming numerical minority, especially in the STEM subjects.

 

A Student’s Perspective: Here’s what one of the course participants, Jada Woodard, has to say about the Program

Why did you apply?

I applied to the Education 101 course because I am thinking about being an educator. I thought it would give me the upper hand when I do attend college to study education. In addition, I wanted to find out if it was really something that I wanted to do.

What’s the best thing about the course?
The best thing about the course is that I am able to learn about the previous educational system, the current educational system, and the future of the educational system. I love that I am able to give my perspective as a student while learning the perspective of a teacher. We are able to talk about topics within the educational system that others aren’t willing to talk about, students of colors and teachers.

What’s the hardest part of the course?
The hardest thing about the course is actually putting yourself in the shoes of an educator. My student mindset slightly limits my ability to think like an educator. It is something that we as a class are working on to do.

What are you learning right now?
At the moment, we are learning how to effectively make lesson plans. In a month or sooner, we will able to teach this lesson plan/activity to a middle school class using the five aspects of an effective classroom that we have learned.
I think the reason there are not many STEM teachers of color is because of the lack of knowledge and resources. I think that in some schools STEM is a luxury. Although we do get taught science and math, it’s not taught or introduced in a way that makes it relevant to engineering and technology.

 

To learn more about the STEM Education Introductory Program contact Julio Mendez at jmendez@pcsedu.org.

 

*STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

Makers Builders: Inspiring Creativity

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Makers Builders is a program that trains young people in the field of technology. I had the chance to interview Amir Yazdanpanah, founder and CEO, and asked him some questions about his company’s focus and direction.

 

How important do you believe these technology skills are to the growth of the next generation?

Technology and science continue to play a rapidly growing role when it comes to everything that consumers purchase and corporates create. Therefore future jobs will require a skilled workforce that is not only able to use technology but also knows how to create and innovate with it.

 

Are there any advancements or new technologies you wish to incorporate into your program such as VR?

The phenomenally fast-paced advancements in 3D printing, coding, robotics, VR/AR, smart devices, machine learning and so on is putting stress on traditional education and teaching methods as well as curriculum content. This new generation needs to be learning a lot of new skills in order to be ready for the next generation of jobs in 5 to 10 years. We strive to develop engaging “digital making” programs and courses that can capture the interest of children at an early age and encourage them to pursue learning paths in STEM.

 

What is the most important aspect to you about your programs: the fun, the education or being family oriented?

We try to make our program seem like “Edutainment” – we want it to be fun and engaging while educational at the same time. For example, coding is learned by doing. Students get to learn coding by building programs that change games they already play and are very attached to. We want to make them aware of and excited about the possibilities at their fingertips so that they be easily empowered to create. Learning about fundamentals, concepts and architecture comes with age-appropriate programs.

For more on Makers Builders visit:

http://www.makersbuilders.com/
https://twitter.com/makersbuilders
https://www.facebook.com/makersbuilders/

 

 

Matthew Diprose
KDSL Global Intern
Website: www.kdslglobal.com
Twitter: @KDSL07
Facebook: KDSL Global