Tag Archive for globaled

Lucky To Work In a School

Today has been one of those enriching days where I consider myself so fortunate to work at a school. On these days, I get to witness deep learning, student agency, social responsibility, and global citizenship. Students are engaging with the issues of our world, and there’s no question of how this knowledge applies to their lives.

8:00 AM: met with two seniors to hear their wishes and visions for service learning and internship programs.

9:00 AM: Skyped with a fellow member of Global Online Academy’s “Lab Experience” Global Learning Network.

10:00 AM: reviewed faculty reports on summer collaborative curriculum development.

11:00 AM: attended an assembly presentation by aid worker Carl Wilkens on Rwanda 21 years after the genocide.

Noon: sat in on middle school student input meeting for the school’s master facilities plan.

1:00 PM: sat in on the upper school master facilities plan input meeting.

2:00 PM: met with a group to check in on our progress developing new learning support programs.

3:00 PM: went for a run with the cross-country team.

6:00 PM: enjoyed dinner at the food trucks with middle school parents.

7:00 PM: attended middle school Back To School Night.


Maru-a-Pula Scholars in the U.S.


Edward “Ned” Hall founded the American Friends of Maru-a-Pula in 1974, just two years after Maru-a-Pula itself opened its doors in Gaborone, Botswana. In the 40 years since, AFMAP has helped Maru-a-Pula develop into one of the best secondary schools in southern Africa. The school’s role in the region has also changed beyond its original purpose of racial justice to now include top academic performance and education for social responsibility. In recent years, MAP has extended the gift of world-class education to dozens of orphan scholars who lost their parents.

Since 1981, AFMAP has quietly played another key role in the lives of Maru-a-Pula students. A recent article from Taft Bulletin tells the story of the MAP Scholar program. Since 1981, deserving MAP IGCSE graduates have been selected to spend a senior year in top U.S. independent schools. On average, seven MAP students become U.S. scholars each year. While these schools have underwritten tuition and boarding fees, AFMAP has provided these students with a familiar face and, when needed, a helping hand.

MAP Scholars have startled and impressed their U.S. hosts with their academic preparation, leadership skills, humility, and sense of social purpose. Our students have not only completed the rigorous programs of top U.S. independent schools but have also become leaders and proceeded to top colleges and graduate programs at institutions such as Harvard, Williams, MIT, and Stanford. A number of MAP Scholars previously received Orphans and Vulnerable Children scholarships at MAP. The outstanding support of AFMAP donors has changed these deserving students’ lives.

It should not surprise you that many MAP Scholars have dedicated their lives to helping others. They have become experts in global health, medicine, finance, and East Asian studies. Four serve on the AFMAP board, including president and secretary. In my time, I have been privileged to know MAP scholars Neo, Portia, Thomas, Ernest, Urban, Lollise, MK, Kush, Mmaserame, Tumisang, and others.

I had the incredibly good luck to start my teaching career at Taft in 1991, in the company of former Maru-a-Pula teachers Emily and Gordon Jones and MAP Scholars Tebogo Phiri, Thomas Lukoma, and Urban Dabutha. I then traveled to Botswana and joined the Maru-a-Pula staff for two years. MAP has remained a vital part of my life and career to this day.


Botswana Trip Recap

13 students and two teachers visited Botswana from 19 June to 7 July. The trip achieved its goal of providing direct service to HIV/AIDS organizations, introducing students to Botswana culture, and strengthening the relationship between Catlin Gabel and Maru-a-Pula schools. The trip blog chronicles the day-by-day details. This post summarizes some of the trip themes.

Exchange Students
Five Batswana students have attended both Maru-a-Pula and Catlin Gabel through an exchange program. Three of them were actively involved in the Catlin Gabel trip. They provided some of the most personal experiences of the trip, describing their difficulties integrating into U.S. culture and providing a unique look into their families’ lives in Botswana. MK took us to her family’s cattlepost (ranch) for a sleepover, traditional meal, and stargazing. Mmaserame took us to both her father’s village for a thorough traditional village experience and to her mother’s family’s house in Gaborone for lunch and an amazing oral history telling. Our students also met next year’s Maru-a-Pula exchange student for Catlin Gabel, which should greatly ease her transition into the school.

HIV/AIDS Service Work
We had some difficulty planning service activities in detail before the trip, but a lot fell into place once we arrived there. The Botswana-Baylor Centre was great. Peace Corps volunteer Peter took especially linked us up with a number of activities — painting a mural for the teen center (visited by Michelle Obama), designing math activities for pre-appointment playtimes, and supporting the Saturday teen club gathering. Maru-a-Pula hosted an evening with Dr. Ava Avalos from the Ministry of Health and Thobo Mogojwe from PING (Positive Innovation for the Next Generation). We also grew to appreciate the presence of HIV in everyday life across the country, from talk of the new medical school to village trainings for HIV+ people. We toured a new health clinic in Thabala distributed NikeRED laces to youth in Gumare.

Some students wished that we could have provided more meaningful support to HIV organizations than playing with students and painting murals. We concluded that the organizations’ volunteers and staff had far more expertise providing counseling and treatment than did our group, and we were best placed supporting ancillary services instead. We did wish that we could have had more informal conversations with teen peers about HIV and AIDS in Botswana — they may have been instructive to both our students and the youth in Botswana.

A Cross-section of Life in Botswana
Our students got to experience a non-touristic cross-section of ordinary life in Botswana, pretty rare for a visiting group. In two weeks’ time, we visited independent and government schools, internationally-funded health clinics and government hospitals and clinics, cities and villages, the capital city and very remote villages, the edge of the Kalahari and part of the Okavango swamps, a basket weaver co-op, and of course a classic African wildlife experience. We owe this comprehensive tour of the country to our NGO and alumni contacts.

Student Development and Global Service
This was a little tougher. All of our students got so much out of this trip, but sometimes we saw students miss a great opportunity to learn even more. Students were reticent to initiate conversations without ample support structures. The “Catlin bubble” became portable, and students talked about life back home as much as they immersed themselves in Botswana life. We trip leaders were caught between recognizing the students’ development as adolescents and wanting to see them fully engage with the local culture.

This global trip accomplished so much for our school within a short period of time. Perhaps we will move a step closer to fully celebrating our international students and our school’s relationship with a school in Botswana as a result.

School Change Through Experiential Programs

Independent schools have increasingly created specialized positions to lead or facilitate new, experiential learning opportunities for their students. Do you have these positions at your school?

Director of service learning
Director of global programs
Educational technology specialist
Urban studies program director
Director of student life
Outdoor programs coordinator
Director of diversity

These programs feature a common thread: experiential learning. Students engage in hands-on activities grounded in an authentic context such as service, the outdoors, global travel, or multiculturalism.

Where do experiential programs live within the school? How do students access them?

One model: students experience two separate courses of study, a “core” of discipline-based study plus a “peripheral” set of experiential programs.

This structure implies an “influencer” model of school change. The school creates new positions for experiential program leaders. Students participate in these special programs outside of the regular class schedule. Most teachers observe from a distance. If the experiential programs are exciting and the program specialists effective at outreach, then teachers may increasingly partner with the programs to introduce more experiential elements into subject-based instruction. Experiential programs only affect the core as much as they influence from a distance.

The contrast of teaching methods may send students unintended messages. Discipline-based classes may use more recognizable forms of teaching: holding classes, facilitating class discussion, assigning readings, and assessing student mastery through papers, presentations, and tests. Experiential programs may take place in the woods, on Skype, or through a blog. They may emphasize student construction of the learning environment, partnerships with local organizations, special events, and interdisciplinary study. Experiential programs may gain a reputation for being optional or less rigorous.

Another model: students experience a “core” program that incorporates experiential components.

This structure adopts a rapid, comprehensive model of school change. The school makes a decision early on to broadly adopt specific experiential learning themes. All teachers are involved, and all courses integrate experiential learning in some manner. If the school creates special program director positions at all, then these individuals are few in number and partner closely with teachers to create student learning experiences. They do not offer separate programs to students. The weekly timetable is organized to facilitate experiential learning opportunities. Students experience a relatively consistent learning experience across the school program.

How may an existing school integrate experiential programs without completely reorganizing itself?

1. Assign experiential program responsibilities to core teachers. Partly discipline-based teachers, partly program specialists, they are more likely to influence their colleagues to try something new.

2. Mandate special, schoolwide initiatives to introduce more experiential learning, supported by program specialists.

3. Facilitate democratic, teacher decision-making processes to introduce specific types of experiential learning into the school program, facilitated by program specialists.

4. Provide program specialists greater access to school change vehicles, such as administrative leadership and curriculum review committees.

Case studies: schools trying different experiential programs

I would like to list these schools now and write short case studies in the future. What other independent schools would you add to this list?

Urban School: Innovative Teaching

Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences

Lick-Wilmerding School: Public purpose

“Leading from the Middle”

A summer institute offered by the Santa Fe Leadership Center

Global Ed Across the Curriculum

As a follow-up to our presentations on global education, I am guest teaching in our Pathogens and Parasites classes this week, part of a broader effort to broadly integrate global education across the curriculum. Students have studied infectious diseases from the perspectives of science and public health, and now a series of guest speakers have been relating first-hand stories and posing authentic problems to the students. Consistently, students are spending class time researching real-world topics and brainstorming possible solutions. Is it safe to drink the water in Haiti? What precautions should we take when working with HIV+ youth in Botswana? Why have AIDS treatment efforts been so much more successful than HIV prevention efforts?

Authentic problems are complex and difficult to solve, compared with highly specific problems normally assigned during academic coursework. AIDS in Botswana involves principles of biology, public health, sociology, anthropology, politics, and economics. Students, so well trained as logical thinkers, are surprised to find that rational explanations are usually insufficient when they do not take all contributing factors into account. Why is it a bad idea to conduct saliva HIV tests in Botswana? Why would a doctor reasonably acquiesce to a HIV+ mother’s wish to breastfeed a newborn?

School technologists work every day to identify and support authentic uses of technology across the curriculum. The methods for integrating global education are not all that different. Communicate with enthusiasm, focus on the positive effects on student learning, work the most with those who respond with equal enthusiasm, focus learning activities on authentic applications. Use technological tools to facilitate research, group work, communication, and public presentation. Take advantage of the many wonderful electronic resources that exist out there on most topics.

Where are you finding synergy between global education, teaching and learning, and technology?

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Peace Corps Correspondence Match

The Peace Corps runs the Paul D. Coverdell Worldwise Schools program, providing education resources to U.S. schools based on Peace Corps volunteer experiences. One part of this program is a correspondence match, in which a Peace Corps volunteer exchanges written notes with a classroom in the United States. Currently, the program has hundreds more enrolled volunteers than interested classrooms, so consider joining this superb program!

Given our focus on Botswana and AIDS this year, I expressed that I would be happy to participate, but only if the volunteer met very specific criteria: an individual working on HIV/AIDS in a rural region of Botswana. I did not anticipate that the Peace Corps would be able to provide such an exact match, given the thousands of volunteers they have working all over the world. Not they find an exact match, but the individual is extremely enthusiastic, communicative, and well-connected within the local public health and village community! This connection has already paid huge dividends for our trip, to the point that we may change our travel itinerary to include Gumare.


Global Education: More Than Just Trips

I recently co-facilitated this concurrent session with three teachers at our school, at the PNAIS Fall Educators Conference. The purpose was to describe how we have worked together to integrate global education throughout the school program. Historically, global education has meant international travel, typically with a focus on language and culture. As cultural competence is increasingly recognized as an essential student skill, we have an opportunity to include global education in regular courses, extracurricular activities, and community events. We find particularly interesting synergies between global experiences and academic subjects, community service, and environmental preservation efforts.

Presentation outline

  • Local-international partnerships
  • Curricular integration
  • Involving community
  • International presence in our community

Detailed presentation notes

We created a page on the Catlin Gabel website to document our ongoing work on this project. Please look there for detailed notes on the presentation. We also plan to include the information we gathered from conference session participants.

What does this have to do with technology?

The best technology integration supports school programs without taking them over. Technology is an essential tool in these integration efforts, even if they are not at first apparent. Our highly interconnected world makes the teaching of global cultural competence so important. At the same time, it’s critical to recognize the uneven distribution of technology throughout the world.

Technology tools make it possible to coordinate activities with distant locations and bring the world into the classroom and other school programs. The detailed presentation notes include uses of Skype, blogging, Internet research, long-distance communication, online forums, intranet planning sites, portable media tools, and other technology applications that make this all work.

Presenting at NCCE in March

This presentation was also accepted at NCCE, which will take place in March 2011 in Portland.

Great Teaching With Technology

What is the secret to great teaching with technology? Great teaching!

From Harvard Magazine:

“It is nice to be able to virtually walk around a Chinese town, but without good lectures and rich secondary reading materials, the town is just a collection of interesting stuff,” says teaching fellow Max Oidtmann, a PhD candidate in History and East Asian Languages. “Professors Bol and Szonyi contextualize the images and draw details from them that speak to larger historical issues that transcend place and time.”

PNAIS TechShare Conference

I just returned from three days at the PNAIS TechShare conference, located in the foothills of Mt. Hood. It was a great conference. Though very small (maybe 35 attendees), we attracted a critical mass of teachers, kept the conversation focused on teaching and learning, and enjoyed the retreat-like atmosphere of a resort hotel. Gaining face time with Northwest colleagues we usually only “see” through email was most valuable. I picked up a lot of useful sites and tools to support our global education initiatives and made several contacts at other schools who are doing very interesting work. Best of all, I shared the experience with two colleagues from my school, which should really help with implementation of these ideas this year. Go TechShare!

We did devote an hour’s time to discussion of open source software. Interestingly, the conversation was not much different from similar talks two years ago. A lot of tech staff are still struggling with how to take the first steps to exploring open source software in their schools, and the categories of desktop, server, and web open-source software are mixed without much discrimination. I don’t fully understand why open-source technologies are not treated like other new technologies. You find the time to learn it because it’s interesting, your users are curious, and it has the potential to really help your operations. If it’s strategically important to your school, then you find the time to study it. I hope that we may one day take this conversation to the next level within our community of northwest schools.

Wow, has the Apple revolution arrived to the state of Washington! A number of schools are now wrestling with Mac client-Windows network integration, as students have begun to show up on campus with MacBooks. A whole bunch of conference attendees sported iPhones (and complained about the spotty signal reception at the resort)!

We maintained our global ed theme throughout most of the conference. The best part for me was learning what interesting global trips other schools have undertaken (Seattle Academy, Overlake, Northwest Academy, Lakeside, among others). However, when I asked the teacher group how many had tried a virtual exchange, no hands went up! Maybe the right people weren’t in the room, but I was surprised at the lack of virtual exchanges. Thankfully, the group received my presentation about our Gaza City Skype chat very well, and perhaps one or two will give it a try this year.

After a lovely retreat and conference experience up in the woods, I return to help launch our new web site tomorrow! Hopefully, by the end of day, you will see a whole new look and functionality at www.catlin.edu.

Planning International Collaborations

Our middle school spanish teacher and I met with two staff members from Mercy Corps today to lay the groundwork for collaborations between Catlin Gabel students and schools in El Salvador and Guatemala. It quickly became apparent that we have at our disposal so many different options for how to take the first steps in that direction and subsequently deepen the relationships.

Spencer in Guatemala
Spencer at the Centro Educativo Maya Ixil in Chajul, Guatemala.

Despite our experiences working with schools abroad, we mostly have questions at this time.

  • When will a satellite-enabled cell phone or laptop modem become affordable enough that we can bring internet connectivity to a remote village in a developing nation and leave it there when we depart? When will video Skype become a standard feature on mobile phones?
  • When will the numbers of kids in developing countries who are online in social networks reach a critical mass, so that appreciable numbers from an individual school can spontaneously connect with our students? What happens when we realize that students have far more developed competencies for social networks than do the adults?
  • When should we choose to set up a teacher-teacher professional development relationship with a school rather than going student-student?
  • Is a highly organized, teacher-led, curriculum-based instruction still the best model for global school-school partnerships? At what point can we turn the leadership of the relationship over to the students, for example by setting up a private social network for the exchange and then letting the kids go at it?
  • What language-social studies teacher partnerships can we leverage within our school in order to provide both meaningful learning experiences for both second language acquisition and study of world cultures?
  • How far into our school’s core curriculum does a school’s global education program have to penetrate in order to be successful?
  • Most of our global relationships are due to the passion and commitment of a single teacher. How does one broaden responsibility so that the school owns the relationship, and it continues after the original teacher departs or alters his/her priorities?

    Spencer adds:

    I would add one piece to the last comment about broadening our commitment and having the school steward the relationship as opposed to the individual teacher. I really like the model of individual teachers creating and fostering these international relationships, but we do need some oversight on the bigger picture of how many relationships we can sustain and to which we can dedicate ourselves wholly. Some relationships will naturally form and also end in time. I think this is ok and logical.