How to Raise a Burmese Child to be the Next Steve Jobs?


Books are to teachers as weapons are to World War I soldiers in battle in a trench.  Social media is the atom bomb.  More on that later…

I had the following idea today that I posted to Facebook that got immediate “Like” status on a Burmese friend’s page.  “I have a set of Burmese refugee high school students social networked on Facebook to doctors via mobile devices. I want to turn that network into an independent website where those interested in the network can help these refugees together with their Chin kin in Burma with writing skills in English. Would any of you want to serve as mentors?”  Building upon my developing thoughts of how to empower people of color and marginalized ethnic groups, I thought of the racial aspect of this article.  A white child is presented as the next Steve Jobs in the CNN article photograph.  I do not want to next Steve Jobs to be white.  I want him to be Burmese and his wife to be the black Sheryl Sandberg.  In my educational work and in my faith life, I empower those of marginalized socio-economic status.  I want that work to be translated into a technology startup.

Here is what I wrote today for a class at Georgia State University.  I want to merge these two threads of thought into a meaningful career as an independent entrepreneur in Christian ministry and public education.  During the past semester I have served as an earth science teacher for students in grades 11-12 with a small additional component of 9th and 10th grade students. The class is comprised of a combination of special education and normally tracked students who share the common trait that they are not high scorers on writing or mathematics achievement test. Thus, the earth science class that I teach as a provisional teacher is one that must emphasize qualitative science learning as opposed to quantitative science learning. The student body of my classes entirely falls within the category of under performing students. In the process of developing a teaching methodology for this group of students I have learned that hands on activities, language development, visual, and aesthetic teaching methods are some of the most effective methods of instruction. Scientific knowledge is developed best in this context by focusing on evolving understanding of key language elements describing aspects of earth science. I have ended up emphasizing vocabulary development and sentence construction and their relationship with artistic representations of the concepts. In this standard, lesson plans and assessment plans are presented that represent development of an overall strategy of appealing to visual learning modalities while at the same time incorporating certain aspects of inquiry learning.

     The lesson plan entitled “Glaciers, Deserts, and Wind” illustrates an example of a lesson plan that uses a variety of inquiry approaches to teach earth science concepts associated with weathering. The lesson plan asks students to model vocabulary words using real building materials found in gardening and other applications such as sand, rocks, and ice. Students are given trays of raw materials (beds of sand, ice, and rocks) and are asked to create model representations of the central vocabulary words in the lesson. For each vocabulary word, students are asked to create a different model. Students were then asked to take photographs of the models and to post these photographs into a group on the Edmodo social networking website along with sentences describing the meaning of the model.[1] In so doing, the students are forced develop models of vocabulary concepts. Then, they collect and interpret data from these actual earth science models and communicate concepts and understand scientific processes, relationships and natural patterns from empirical experiences with the models. In this lesson plan, having students participate in creating high quality visual representations of the vocabulary words assesses visual and haptic learning modalities.[2]

The use of the Edmodo social networking site in the “Glaciers, Deserts, and Wind” lesson appeals to the affinity that youth of high school age have for the Internet and social media in particular. Howard Gardner describes two distinct modalities for digital learning consumption and creation in his book entitled The App Generation.[3] The artifact entitled “Technology Evaluation Plan” contains within it the details of an analysis of technology within my current classroom capable of enabling students to utilize the power of social networking to help in academic language development and mutual peer-to-peer data interpretation skills development to move students from the default consumption mode into the harder to achieve creation mode.  As described in the technology plan, 15 terminals are placed inside the classroom for use in developing academic language associated with vocabulary word modeling using sand, rocks, and ice. The coupling of this 15 laptop terminal technology platform with the social media site Edmodo can facilitate peer-to-peer discourse about the data collected in in the inquiry lesson entitled “Glaciers, Deserts, and Wind” enabling students to cooperatively derive meaning from the models. Within the Edmodo software, all members of the class that are joined into the Edmodo group are able to comment on each others pictures and sentences that interpret the models. As a teacher, I strongly support the educational philosophy of peer-to-peer learning. This technological modality can facilitate this style of learning within the classroom. The lesson plan described in this standard is a prototype for a whole style of academic language instruction for developing scientific language. The teacher is able to guide and assess the students’ language development using the Edmodo social networking platform. Through a Facebook style comment system, the teacher is able to provide written feedback on student posts to the website.

For inquiry learning to take place, students must be able to avoid common forms of misbehavior in class with materials used in instruction. I observed that the Glaciers, Deserts, and Wind lesson did not work effectively in my class because students ended up throwing the ice, sand, and rocks at each other. Students best learn in a classroom that is well disciplined. In teaching the lesson, a classroom management plan such as the one entitled “Classroom and Management Plan” attached to this standard can be used to enforce effectively and well disciplined use of modeling materials. The use of a token economy strategy for enforcing good behavior is likely to be effective with a student population comprised of special education and under performing students.[4] The details of safety for the inquiry lesson described in this activity contained in the management plan are also quite suitable for use in the type of classroom that I worked in this past semester.

A second lesson that builds on the vocabulary development exercise that I developed in “Glaciers, Deserts, and Wind” is that contained within the assessment plan attached to this standard entitled “Assessment Plan.” The lesson is entitled “Sculpting the Earth’s Surface” and has students drawing vocabulary word meanings instead of modeling them with photography and sand, rocks, and ice and writing sentences associated with interpretation of the language meanings instead of using a social media platform. However, the overall pedagogical goals of language development are met in both instructional approaches. The preassessment strategy in the assessment plan has students reporting to the teacher their understanding of words associated with the lesson. The formative assessment is the drawing or modeling of the word meanings and then writing sentences associated with these constructions. The summative assessment strategy in the assessment plan is presented in a multiple-choice test format. The challenge of summative assessment of large quantities of written sentences generated from the formative assessment part of the two lesson plans can be reduced by appealing to multiple-choice summative assessment.

[1] Edmodo [Internet website].  Retrieved from

[2] Liu, X. (2010). Essentials of Science Classroom Assessment. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

[3] Davis, K.; Gardner, H. (2013). The App Generation. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.  

[4] Colarusso, R.P.; O’Rourke, C.M.; Leontovich, M.A. (2013).  Special Education for All Teachers.  Dubuque, Iowa:  Kendall Hall Publishing Company.

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InnerLight Enlightenment by Dr. William Kaya Erbil is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

About kayaerbil

I am a Berkeley educated chemistry Ph.D. who is moving into the area of working on developing appropriate technology for communities that are subjected to socio-economic oppression. The goal is to use simple and effective designs to empower people to live better lives. Currently, I am working with Native Americans on Pine Ridge, the Lakota reservation in South Dakota. I am working with a Native owned and run solar energy company. We are currently working on building a compressed earth block (CEB) house that showcases many of the technologies that the company has developed. The CEB house is made of locally derived resources, earth from the reservation. The blocks are naturally thermally insulating, keeping the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Eventually, a solar air heater and photovoltaic panels will be installed into the house to power the home and keep it warm, while preserving the house off the grid. A side project while in Pine Ridge is a solar computer. I hope to learn about blockchain encryption software for building microgrids. In addition, it is an immediate interest of mine to involve local youth in technology education.
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