“Mr. Orphal!  Why?  You’re sucking up all of my battery life!”

I just had to laugh.  “Quit your whining, Whiney McWhineypants!  Get your phones out and find the answer to the questions on the overhead.”

If it weren’t so funny, I’d be frustrated.  I tell my students to put their phones away, they whine.  I tell them to get their phones out for our class project, they whine.

Because they are basically fantastic students, the whining was perfunctorily and short lived.  Presently, androids, iPhones, and even an old iPod Touch appeared.  My kids began Googleing and Binging their ways to the research I wanted them to do.

I’m thrilled about the project we’re in the middle of right now.  It’s a revamp of our unit on International Education.  Last year, my students researched the educational system of Finland, while I was over in Helsinki visiting with teachers, professors, and their national board of education.  After studying what one of the best systems in the world, my students used their newfound knowledge to suggest improvements to our school in Oakland.

This year, we’re teaming up with an organization called Build ON.  Maybe you’ve heard about it, but they are a brand new organization in my little world.  Unbeknownst to me, Build ON has been working in my school for years.  Each week, they meet as a lunch time club.  Each month, several students from Skyline have joined in on weekend service projects throughout Oakland.  Last year, one Skyline student journeyed with Build ON to Nepal to help build a school.  This Spring, two more Skyline students will travel to Haiti, and this Summer, one of my Educational Academy students will be traveling to Burkina Faso.

So, this year, rather than study a top educational system with an eye toward improving our own school, we’re studying education in the developing world with an eye toward lending a helping hand.

Our project this year has two components.  First, we’re researching about the education system in Burkina Faso.  At the end of this phase, my students will write a short essay about their findings.  After that, we’ll begin to study and analyze children’s books.  In coordination with their English teacher, my students will write short stories about their lives in order to turn those stories into children’s books.  Our Skyline Build ON representative will take our books with him to Africa where they will be translated for use by the Burkinabe students.

Stay tuned, next week, I’ll write in more detail about using our cell phones and other devices for research.  After that, I’ll update you about our findings and our progress on our children’s books.

It’s going to be a great project!

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