iPad Based Business Project Benefits Children in Africa
It is far too often that education simply consists of students taking in and regurgitating information, which does little but display retention skills. What is oft overlooked is how each student is developing as a person. So what if you could tie school work and kindness together in a way that teaches 21st century skills? That’s what the educators at St. Vincent’s Catholic School in Salt Lake City are doing. Their Pay it Forward project aims to both educate students about venture capitalism while also tuning up their social conscience by letting needy students in Africa be the beneficiaries of their profits.
How does Pay it Forward work?
The idea is exceedingly simple. At the start of Spring 2010, educator Rhea Hristou, project creator, gave each of her second graders five dollars.
“The children were asked to use that $5.00 as “seed” money to begin [their own startup] – some type of business venture that will turn the $5 into at least $15.00. Over one month, they could use the money for ingredients for cookies or lemonade for a food stand, posters for a garage sale, beads for jewelry to make and sell, or whatever they choose. At the end of that month, students do a presentation displaying their venture.”
Hristou then assisted the students in taking the profits and using them to gain entry for three children in Africa to a school sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame Mission in Uganda. Pretty cool, right? The project doesn’t stop there.
Hristou also requested ten iPads for technology center in her classroom to allow her students greater access to information about the children they were benefitting. Describing the benefit of these devices, she noted how many learning opportunities arose: “…apps to learn about the geography, cultures of Africa, a newspaper app to look up African current events, Math apps to help with funding and money collection, tools like Skype or email to communicate with the children in Uganda, and use presentation apps to help students present their ideas to the class.” The class based set of iPads were made available not only to the second grade, but also after school for other projects.
How can you replicate this program?
While ten iPads may seem like an expensive purchase for a school, they were lucky to find an independent donor to match five iPads if they were able to come up with the remainder. Remember, iPads aren’t necessary to begin teaching your students about business while also filling them with a social conscience. Using resources like those available through Pay it Forward Day, the charity chosen could be anywhere in the world.
When students know that they are making a tangible difference in their world, it fills students with a sense of pride while also bolstering their motivation to succeed at their task. If real lives are being affected, then the effort must be greater. An important lesson for any student.
This project started in 2010, so where are they now?
Student created startups were varied and ran the gamut from dog walking to making and selling pot holders to bake sales but the results were astounding! While only aiming to make a ten dollar profit on each student, Hristou was filled with pride to receive back an average of sixty five dollars a student. The iPads also were a hit, both for the teachers and the students. It allowed them unprecedented access to their African counterparts, while also providing tools and resources that expanded and shaped their world view.
The “Pay It Forward” model is an obvious success. Educating students while also giving them a more worldly view of their planet and filling them with a social conscience. In an increasingly globalized world these skills cannot be emphasized enough. For more information on the ideas in this project, please visit the websites below.
- Teaching Kindness: More than a Random Act (Edutopia, 2013)
- Pay It Forward Kindness Project (Random Act of Kindness Foundation)
- “Pay It Forward” Service Learning Project Gathers Momentum (Beaver Creek City Schools)
- Pay It Forward Day Kit for Schools (Pay it Forward Day)
Professor Sarah J. McCarthey, President of the McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation, announced that the Foundation is now accepting applications for 2014/2015 academic year grants and scholarships. Deadline for applications is April 15, 2014.
For the 2013-2014 school year, the Foundation disbursed over $141,000 to efforts supporting minority and economically disadvantaged students. Funding was disseminated through grants and scholarships to innovative enrichment programs. McCarthey noted that successful projects are “outstanding in their conceptual sophistication, their real-world significance and their collaborative focus… help[ing] students achieve Common Core Standards, but also go[ing] beyond the standards to develop innovative contributions to their communities” (PRWEB, 2013). Examples of successful projects can be found on the Foundation’s blog including the service learning program for teens at the Center for Family and Community Outreach (CFCO) in Evansville, Indiana and Microfinance in Action, a global citizenship project designed to build leadership skills and teach economics in Memphis, Tennesee.
Student Teaching/Mentoring Scholarships are funded in the amount of $6,000 each Full-time student specializing in elementary or secondary education who are in their final year of teacher education programs at New Mexico State University, University of California at Santa Cruz, University of Texas at Austin and Stephen F. Austin State University are eligible to apply for the one-year Student Teaching Scholarships.
Teacher Development Grants and Academic Enrichment Grants are funded in an amount up to $10,000 each per year for a maximum of three years provided the eligibility requirements continue to be met.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to review frequently asked questions before applying.
The Foundation receives hundreds of applications each academic year funding from public, private and charter schools in both urban and rural areas. Including the projects mentioned above, the McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation funded 22 enrichment efforts for the 2013-2014 school year. Recipients include the New York Urban Debate League and The Water Quality Project. The application deadline is April 15 of each year for proposals with significant potential to enrich the educational experiences for youth.
Connecting lessons learned in classrooms to real world applications is one of the great challenges in teaching. Teachers and administrators at Harrison High School in Evansville, Indiana have come up with an innovative new classroom model to address that challenge.
What is the CFCO?
They have created the Center for Family and Community Outreach (CFCO), which aims to use student skills (built around academic content) to create documents, multimedia, events, presentations, and more for over twenty non-profit organizations in their community.
Educators are able to connect students with members of the non-profit community, creating a symbiotic relationship wherein the student gains valuable real-life skills and the non-profits get a free service. Not only is it easier to engage teenage minds directly if they feel a sense of involvement and contribution towards the betterment of their community, it also helps teens build invaluable skills for the transition into their adult lives.
How can service learning support non-profits and drive engagement for learners?
There are many service learning projects around the country, but few, if any, that drives content in the classroom around producing products for non-profits. The CFCO model has elements of numerous trends in education, such as:
- project-based learning
- student-centered learning
- and new technology,
but is truly innovative for the level of engagement it produces for students.
This program has seven distinct goals.
- Research the non-profit groups and social issues in students’ communities.
- Hold ‘Round Table’ discussions with local experts on special topic issues using the latest online literature and information.
- Tour the non-profit facilities and volunteer with local organizations and events.
- Collaborate with leaders on project ideas and write formal proposals
- Use project based learning and technology to design and create materials
- “Pitch” their ideas through benchmarks and final presentations
- Openly communicate with the community through blogging and video reflections.
Importance of Community Support
Students are immersed in the tangible application of skills from the classroom, and since students know what they are doing will have a real impact on their community, it is readily apparent how seriously they take it. The program has relied on a tremendous amount of community support and is currently in it’s third year of operation. Fortunately they continue to draw in new non-profit partners based on the satisfaction of their initial partners and publicity the projects have generated for the mission of non-profits in Evansville.
What is the impact?
So where are the teachers and students of Harrison High School now, a year into the program? Reports have come back with very positive results, including:
- Students have a sense of ownership and engagement in their work as well as their community.
- Non-profit data shows that the community’s organizations have much higher perception of the schools and teens’ abilities after working with the CFCO.
Moving forward they plan on moving the program to a half day model, to increase student exposure, as well as continuing to nurture community involvement and contribution.
With such an easily adaptable model, educators around the country should be looking to Evansville, and Harrison High School in particular. How they proceed could very well dictate how dozens of similar programs pop up in the future. Community involvement and concrete links between lessons learned in the classroom and real world applications are key in both advancing education as well as building a student body that is invested in the present and future of their community. While the saying “It takes a village to raise a child,” has been politicized as of late, I think we can all agree that fostering a child’s investment and involvement in his or her village can only lead to positive results.
For more information
- What is Service Learning?
- NSSE Results 2013 (teachingresearcher.wordpress.com)
- Creating Space for Marginalized Voices: Re-focusing Service Learning on Community Change and Social Justice (knrajlibrary.wordpress.com)
- Online Student is Set on ReStore-ing Ethics (blogs.msbcollege.edu)
As we wrote earlier this year, “Among the many challenges facing us in education one of our most formidable foes is the comprehension gap, across all content areas, between students of low socioeconomic status and those of high socioeconomic status.” The multi-year project Opening Classrooms to Close the Knowledge Gap‘s goal was to enhance students’ ability to develop literacy across the diverse content areas. In the first post, we shared how teachers at School for the Future in New York City had addressed students’ ability to work autonomously through Peer Assistance and Review seminars that took place after school.
In this post, we’ll look at how the project worked to build a school wide culture of Teacher-Led Professional Learning Communities.
A professional study group around lesson analysis
To support the goal of building this teacher-led culture, School for the Future teachers engaged in a professional study group around a shared text, John Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers. This book challenged their thinking and pushed the teachers into incorporating many of the exercises into their own coursework. A specific example from the book gave instructors a simple three-step process to analyze their own lessons by looking specifically at the learning intentions.
- What is the outcome I am tracking progress toward?
- How do I track progress toward that outcome?
- How do students track progress toward that outcome?
In establishing the learning intentions the teachers looked at two things; skills necessary for participation in a democratic society and skills necessary for success in secondary and post secondary school.
Improving feedback on persuasive writing
What did teachers choose to focus on? Persuasive writing.
Although the teachers understood the need to zero in on writing performance, the students were somewhat harder to reach. To assist, teachers established another simple method of tracking student progress that included a common rubric that was used on every persuasive writing task and an online grading platform accessible to students, teachers, and parents.
Every participant teacher constructed a video that encapsulated how participating in the study group enhanced their professional practice. During the first year, only 11th and 12th grade teachers participated while in the second year it was expanded to include 9th and 10th grade teachers.
After the first year each of the participating instructors constructed a video encapsulating what they gained from participation and how the study group improved their professional practice. In this example, Scott Chesler, Inclusion Teacher, explains the impact of the teacher led professional development community.
In the videos teachers spoke how the group led them to alter how they gave feedback to students, leading the students to get to know more about themselves as writers. Teachers noted in their annual report that they are attempting this change from the bottom up rather than the top down. For example, teachers like Stephanie Van Duinen (9th grade social studies) asked students for feedback about the course and then analyzed the information. When she learned that a signifigant group of students needed more feedback, she worked with her professional learning community members to form an action plan for providing “in the moment feedback” so that students could use the information to improve their work as soon as possible.
This was a highly rewarding experience as it forced me to reexamine my beliefs about my own personal practice and think not so much about my methods of teaching but about their effectiveness.
-Stephanie Van Duinen, 9th Grade Social Studies Teacher
School of the Future, Manhatten, NY
One teacher reported that the course helped him realize that student expectations have a high effect on performance so he reimagined his course to track individual student goals, regularly meeting with the students as he coached them forward. Jessica Candlin, 11th Grade English Teacher, presented how she used commenting features in Google Docs to support enhanced feedback for student writing in the slides below.
Teacher-led collaboration creates powerful connections
Although there was a certain amount of trepidation when new teachers were introduced into the program during the second year, the collaboration ultimately led to powerful connections between educators. Teachers reported they could have started earlier in the year to complete the project. While it seemed like March would be an ideal start time, as most teachers have “settled” into their schedules, it made it difficult for them to get their video materials together in time for the deadline. In the future, the teacher led professional learning community will be able to draw on the important learning experiences from this project and continue making an impact on student literacy.
Explore the following articles about teacher-led learning communities to learn more.
- Redefining Professional Development as Teacher-Led Professional Learning – NWEA 2013
- Teachers, Learners, Leaders – ASTD 2010
- When Teachers are the Experts – Education Week 2009
Quote Posted on Updated on
[Our] projects are outstanding in their conceptual sophistication, their real-world significance and their collaborative focus. Our newly funded projects help students achieve Common Core Standards, but also go beyond the standards to develop innovative contributions to their communities.”
-Sarah J. McCarthey, President
McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation
- Common Core and Disadvantaged Students (edweek.org)