Re-thinking rural education: Bringing the outside world to a village

Aun posts about the village where they grew up in a rural area of Pakistan where basic infrastructure was not available and only a very basic education is available other than to those who have rich parents and go to school in the city. They point out how difficult it is without lack of resources and the challenges that many of the village families face resulting in high dropouts. Aun has an exciting plan for next month, travelling from Toronto back to the village:

This time, I am not going to be doing much talking. Instead, I will let the projector, hooked up to internet, show these children all they want to know about the world that is still alien to them. The children are going to be shown a few visual documentaries and a couple of movies to get them excited about the prospects of learning they will have available to them.

The internet and projector can not only be used to educate these children but can also help in trainings for women & men in the village. For example, we can have virtual classes where someone sitting in Canada or anywhere else in the world teaches women in the village a skill or an art. I believe all of us have a unique touch, a talent. Some of us are lucky enough to have the conductive environment that allows us to discover, realize and use our talents. Unfortunately, most of the times these talents and special skills go unnoticed.

Aun welcomes suggestions for how to make this happen, so if you can spare a few minutes…

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Engaging the gender gap

Eric Sentell describes gender gaps that he has observed whilst he has been teaching across different institutions. He has observed that the female students are more interested and engaged whilst male student interact with their phones or stare out of the window. He is concerned about the development and ambition of his male students and wonders about possibilities for becoming unplugged from media culture

So for me, the gender gap raises not only economic concerns but also anxiety regarding my male students’ abilities to stick with problems. Complex problem-solving requires contemplation, and contemplation requires some engagement and persistence—like proofreading a one-line email before clicking send. This is especially true of most real-world adult problems; unlike video games or sports, they are rarely fun or entertaining to solve, and thus they require especially demanding forms of engagement and persistence.

Education: Makers or Takers?

Mike McDaniel reflects on the students who will be leaving and shows a photograph of his classroom

This is a photograph of a portion of my classroom, which I’ve included for a purpose.  Notice the bookshelves and the cabinet upon which my television rests?  I built them all.  I don’t mention them to pat myself on the back, but to show my students what’s possible, that there is a bigger world out there, a wonderful world of accomplishment and tactile pleasure.  Teachers will understand.

He goes on to explain in detail the making and building process and wonders whether his students who are proficient at using video controllers will be able to achieve in society

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Can Uganda’s robot dreams change the nation’s technological problems?

Sydney Obua Odongo profiles the work of Solomon King who founded Fundibots and is both working in classrooms in Uganda  and opening his home as a lab encouraging students to develop a range of robots. Connectivity across Uganda is slowly improving but data transfer costs are still high. The students are looking at the different problems Uganda faces and wondering how robotics can help with these problems.

“Robotics is a ‘solution waiting for a problem’ says Mr King. “Long term there’s industrialisation which is maybe a bit too grand, but on the small scale we have small scale solutions – maybe a small windmill in a village that generates power. Maybe a home-made mosquito repellent system. That’s what I’m trying to do with the kids. “I think my biggest passion is to see Africans solving Africans problems.
“A lot of the time we get assistance from abroad and when you bring a solution down here it doesn’t quite work, because it’s different mindsets, different environment, just the weather conditions alone are strange. “That’s what Fundi Bots is about. It’s called Fundi Bots but it’s almost less about the robots than the process of building the robots.”Mr King feels that agriculture in particular could benefit from robotics.

Photos of the robots and article in full

“But I’m a Busy Person. I Don’t Have Time for Technology!”

Ginger Lewman reflects back on this statement which she uttered in 2007.  Since then she started using social networks and says that her professional life is now completely different. She was using laptops in her classroom and had to learn from one of the 5th graders in making the most of using them, until she started using online networks and communities

All of a sudden, I was bringing tools and tech knowledge to my kids! Things they’d never heard of! It was me, not the 5th grader! How? I was spending HOURS in these networks, neglecting my family, lesson plans, and probably other things I didn’t even notice. But I did notice it was taking a lot of time. Looking back, I did it simply because Kevin told me to and he was the only support (beyond the 5th grader and the other kids’ parents) I was getting in building this school.

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Ending the ‘tyranny of the lecture’

Dennis Pierce in eSchool News reports on the work Professor Eric Mazur who describes how he changed from his traditional physics lectures, recognising the value of peer-peer interaction.

Educators need to transfer information, he said, but students also need to do something with this information to make it stick—not simply parrot it back during a test, but actually assimilate it and take ownership of it, so they can apply this knowledge in a different context. If students can’t do that, he said, then they haven’t really learned anything.

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CNS Youth Science Challenge Draws Attention of U.S. and Russian Presidents

Masako Toki posts about students across 20 Russian and US universities to complete an online challenge to investigate solutions for managing the world’s spent nuclear fuel.

The students utilize online workshops, e-learning modules, and virtual classrooms to become familiar with unclassified information about the science and technology of nuclear weapons, nuclear reactors, the nuclear fuel cycle, and the risks posed by the key weapons materials of highly enriched uranium and plutonium. Then, students focus on options for handling spent nuclear fuel, especially plutonium. This study requires scientific prowess, critical thinking, cross-cultural understanding, and cooperation. This investigation will require students to research not only the scientific options available for spent fuel management, but also the proliferation risks that different technologies pose and alternative solutions. At the final stage, all teams will come together and present their findings and proposed solutions in the Virtual Science Fair, in a format of their choosing

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Moving toward project based learning—part 1: the frustration

Quantum Progress blog reflects on the problem solving of the students during semester, who became excellent at creating, describing, exploring and solving problems; but wonders about the relevance of the problems.

Here was the culminating moment of my class, the final exam, and the student seemed to equate it with one giant pointless problem sandwich. Sure the problem was fun, but is there any meaning to this work? Does the student even have a basis to judge whether individual parts of the problem make physical sense? Where are the things I thought I cared about, like teaching students to put their physics to use to ask questions about the world around them, and to critically evaluate the answers they find? These failings do not belong to this student—they belong to me

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What happens to learning when school year ends?

Nina ponders

In an ideal situation?  Nothing – learning goes on because students are curious about their physical and social environment and want to keep on interacting with it.  Of course we don’t call it formally “learning” when they are exploring the shores, forests, parks, malls or streets of their hometown or holiday destination.  We call it free time or vacation. Yet, if your students have learned how appropriate and important the question Why? is, they will make the most of their free time as well and keep on learning while wondering and reflecting upon the things they notice

She mentions that current education systems have been killing curiosity and notes the importance of detaching learning from school.

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