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PBL 2014: FES Car Marathon

 EDU Systems International celebrated the success of the fourth "Project Based Learning" event on Tuesday December 16th 2014. Different branches of Futures schools participated at the "Car Marathon" project to present outstanding students' work. ESI team members worked closely with schools in an effort to spread the idea of project based learning.

Two months ago, selected group of middle and high school students from different FES branches worked with the guidance of their scientific coordinators to research and study methods and specifications for building electric cars driven by remote controls.

In groups, students worked thoroughly to have a deep understanding of an electric car that works with remote controls. For schools, the idea was challenging as students will build their RC cars to go through car race against all schools. However, as time passed the project became more demanding and required students to go through in depth practical applications and testing for their products "RC car"

Schools have worked to address evaluation criteria which included 40% on engineering design document. The latter contained eight essential elements that explain stages and phases for car design. Moreover, students presented scientific, physical, and mechanical concepts exhibited for car design. On the other hand, 20% were given for students' interviews where questions have been posted by the judging committee to have a clear understanding of purpose, challenges and problems encountered by students during the application phase. Finally, students had to make a car demonstration through race time to earn the final 40 % of the total grade.

As time flied, the day commenced with students sharing their knowledge, narrating their journey of building RC cars and finally demonstrating their abilities at race time. Although the nine schools have contributed to the success of the project, however, the following schools have reached first places:
     1- Fostat School
     2- Othman Ibn Afan School
     3- Mokkatam and International School

At the end, parents, teachers, students, and leadership have all expressed their joy and willingness to constantly become part of the project based learning journey.

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A Classroom as wide as the World

Bringing the world into the classroom is the new global era. Educators should have a mission & vision that could personalize the global experience to learners through, video conferencing with other schools across the globe, sharing with them a world crisis and open a discussion or have a fund-raising project to support a crisis across the world.

Teachers can also integrate content into all curriculum areas, for example in Social studies a teacher could teach world economy, world geography and world religions. Teachers should also teach the students values and respect for other cultures as a preparatory step to engage as an actor in the global context. Moreover, teachers themselves should be aware of the global era, and accordingly could subject themselves to ongoing professional development courses enabling them to deepen their own knowledge of world regions and issues. Teachers should organize seminars that will further develop the international spirit of the schools and arrange for international students and visitors.

Global learning
Each school/teacher should have a survey of the needs of families and the business community; they should include knowledge of other worlds, skills to communicate in different languages and values of respect for other cultures in their curriculum design & classroom. An example of a school mission is that students should be "leadership in their community, the nation and the world". This could be easily delivered through:
➢ Creating a global vision and graduates profiles that supports internationally focused learning and teaching, a student profile is the compass for all school work.
➢ Emphasize the learning of the world language, including less commonly taught languages such as Chinese and Arabic.
➢ Develop an internationally oriented faculty by recruiting teachers with international interests and encouraging teachers to take advantage of the many professional development and study/travel opportunities.
➢ Integrate international content into all curriculum areas for example:
• English: including translated novels.
• Arts: use international films, cultural performances and art exhibits.


Global Connection
The community, school board, and parents should be aware of the concept of going global, and how preparing our students for interconnected world is now the focal point of education. So creating internationally oriented school systems where and understanding the need for an international competitive workforce, recognizing that there are no longer competing with the state next door but with countries around the world should be shared with all parties of interest.

Graduating the next generation of students prepared for the challenges of a divers, globally interconnected world is a national imperative, not just a local state or a local one. The new global era we are phasing require a lot of preparations and restructuring, for example parents should encourage and welcome home exchange programs as it will be a great opportunity for their children and themselves to learn about a different culture, language, economy etc... The schools should redefine their programs to include global knowledge and skills not only this but they should encounter and emphasize the importance of learning a world language from grade 3-12 not only through the standard curriculum and tests but through online courses , video conferencing with students abroad where each student can test the language of the opponent student easily. Teachers should increase their leaning capacity. Global connections should be used to expand global opportunities in-fact technology is our biggest asset in internationalizing education.

Finally, we are moving into a global era which the whole world is becoming one, we need to create a better opportunity for our students to participate in exchange projects which will contribute in their country growth. In addition that will enhance the student communications skills, as the world population is increasing around the clock and people are moving from their local communities either for better opportunities or to exchange information & knowledge.

Teachers & schools should create opportunity to learn beyond the school walls, not only include diverse language in their curriculum but should also provide an opportunity for online language courses where global connections are now at the fingertips of any student.

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Technology in the Classroom: Helpful or Harmful?

Kids gravitate towards technology—if your child heads straight for the video games or Facebook after school, you know what we're talking about. With a world of information at their fingertips nowadays, it seems like kids should be finding it easier than ever to succeed in school.

Kids gravitate towards technology—if your child heads straight for the video games or Facebook after school, you know what we're talking about. With a world of information at their fingertips nowadays, it seems like kids should be finding it easier than ever to succeed in school. However, as more classrooms invest in the latest technology, test scores remain the same, bringing its effectiveness into question.

Technology and Teaching
"Incorporating technology into the classroom requires a double innovation," says Shelley Pasnik, director of the Center for Education and Technology, Educators who receive new technology must first learn how to use the equipment and then decide whether or not it supports the class objectives and curriculum.

For example, an instructor may restructure a lecture into a group activity, having students conduct online research to boost their understanding. With such a vast reference tool, the students might pose questions that no one in the class, not even the teacher himself, can answer. Many teachers and schools choose to avoid this situation by discouraging the use of computers in a well-organized lesson. Their latest shipment of Smartboards, ELMOs, or iPads stays locked in a closet as they struggle to find the time to effectively incorporate them into the curriculum plan.

Despite the challenges, incorporating technology into education still has proven benefits, especially when it comes to personalized learning. From math games that adjust the level of difficulty as players progress to electronic books that talk and respond to the tap of a finger, products that personalize the learning experience for students often benefit their understanding. An interactive game is more engaging than a book, so technology often promotes more practice and review in areas requiring memorization, such as spelling, math and geography. This frees up time in the classroom so educators can focus on skills like problem solving, character development and critical thinking.

Technology also makes it easier to spend more overall time on learning. "After school and weekend time can become effective learning time with the right technology," says David Vinca, founder and executive director of eSpark Learning, an education company that focuses on bringing iPads and iPods into the classroom. Much like how smart phones extend the workday by allowing professionals to send emails anytime, educational technology extends the school day for kids who will happily play multiplication games or review grammar on computer programs.

Educators also find it easier to track and assess student progress with the help of technology. At the end of each lesson cycle in eSpark's app, students record a video summarizing what they've learned, and email it to their teacher. If a student consistently misspells words of a certain pattern, the teacher will know immediately and reintroduce that specific skill. This kind of data-driven information is invaluable for teachers who want to revise and review.

Maximizing Your Child's Tech Time
Consider these three tips when you consider your child's daily interaction with technology
• Look for Connections. When students use technology, it should be within the context of larger learning goals rather than in isolation. "Technology used in isolation is less effective than when it's integrated into a curricular set of activities," says Pasnik.
• Don't Assume. There are a lot of facts floating out there, and everyone has an opinion. Base your understanding of education technology on reliable sources. Pasnik suggests asking your child's teacher about how technology is incorporated into the curriculum.
• It's All in the Application. The success of any tool depends on how it's used. Ask how a gadget or program furthers higher thinking, basic skills, or the child's ability to evaluate, analyze, and synthesize ideas. This way, you'll ensure that it's being used for more than its novelty.

Looking Ahead
Technology may be changing the experience of education, but the role of teachers and parents grow increasingly important as they become the experts and guides for new learning resources. Teachers remain the constant in an ever-changing classroom environment, which will continue to shift with the technological tides. Vinca agrees. "However technology is used in class, it has the opportunity to be a game changer."

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Who Is Santa, and What Does He has to Do With Christmas?

During Christmas time it is hard to ignore Santa. His image is everywhere. So when the kids inevitably ask, "Who is Santa?" what do we say? As with any question from our children, we can use it as a teaching opportunity. I will share some of the interesting history I found about the identity of Santa Claus.

The name Santa Claus is the English form of the Dutch name for St. Nicholas Sinterklaas. Though the modern Santa Claus is associated with a world of fantasy, the historical St. Nicholas was a godly man known for his charity and generosity.
Nicholas was born in the 3rd century to wealthy Christian parents in Patara (a harbor city in modern day Turkey). It is probable that Nicholas and his parents could trace their spiritual heritage to the Apostle Paul, who stopped in Patara on his third missionary journey 200 years earlier. It is said that Nicholas' parents were devout believers who had long prayed for a child. When Nicholas was finally born, they devoted him to God. As an only child, he was raised with great affection and special attention. However, when Nicholas was still a young boy (likely a teenager), a plague struck his city, and both of his parents died. Though a loss like this might turn some away from God, it seems to have drawn Nicholas closer to him. The loss of his parents also seems to have made the boy's heart tender to the suffering of others.
Nicholas was left with a large inheritance and decided that he would use it to honor God. He developed such a good reputation in his region that he was chosen as Archbishop of Myra (a harbor city just south and east of Patara) when he was in his early 20s, an indication that he must have demonstrated wisdom and maturity beyond his years.

There are a wealth of stories about Nicholas' life -- many of them emphasize his kindness and generosity. After his death on December 6, a tradition of gift giving was begun in his honor.

St. Nicholas Day is still observed on December 6 in many countries, but in others, America included, the practices associated with the day were combined with Christmas. It seemed natural to many Christians that a holiday celebrating giving would merge with the birth of Christ, the greatest gift ever given to the world. However, the merger happened to the dismay of many Christian leaders who thought that St. Nicholas started to draw too much attention away from Christ. In Germany, parents were encouraged to teach their children that the Christ Child was the gift-giver. The name Kriss Kringle is the English form of the German name for "Christ Child." Ironically, in America the name Kriss Kringle came to be used synonymously with St. Nicholas, St. Nick, Santa Claus and even the English nameFather Christmas.

In Middle Age art, St. Nicholas was typically depicted as a tall, thin, bearded cleric. So how did he evolve into the Santa that we know today in America? Santa's white beard and red suit are actually quite similar to the bishop's vestments worn by the Dutch Sinterklaas. But the "chubby and plump" appearance of America's Santa Claus is generally traced to the 19th century poem "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" – an attempt to create a more friendly image of Santa and assure children that they had (in the words of the poem) "nothing to dread."

Though the modern Santa Claus has devolved into a secularized figure surrounded by fantasy, his image can serve to help us remember the real St. Nicholas, a man who devoted his life to serving God and inspiring others to do the same. The purpose of all saints (all Christians) is to bring glory to God, not to detract from him.

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