Looking Abroad:
 Technology, Science, ESL Instruction, & Children with PTSD 
  October 2014

In This Issue
Communities of Collaboration
Creating Leaders
Education Technology Abroad
Students Explore the Poles
Children & Stress
We see more and more signs. Rony Berger (below) has developed a highly effective program. Read our first article to learn more.

Do you wonder...

...what children around the world think about and hope for?

Genevieve Bailey, Australian documantarian, decided to find out.

Check the website and trailer for the award-winning documentary
"I Am Eleven."

Children from 15 countries offer a view of life from their particular corner of the world

Luca, Germany

Dagan, USA

Consider showing it in your area or school.


Malala Yousafzai,
Youngest Winner of a Nobel Prize
reminds us that the energy, determination, and hopes of youth can make large differences in the world.


Professional Development

We know the ideal PD is blended, personalized, and flexible.
Abandon one-shot workshops. Use the end-of-summer gatherings for a broader program. Then embed development into the school year.
Read here for more details.

New project-based learning ideas should be part of every class.
Need inspiration?
Click here for goals to seek and ways to take students in new directions. 

Do your teachers and administrators need ideas for adapting  Common Core materials?
CEI has a web page devoted to many aids and links.
Click here!




Stu Tables

CEI offers a wide array of workshops with distinguished faculty who deliver timely, up-to-date workshops for schools and districts.
Check out the possibilities!

Hot Topics:
STEM, Reteaching, Neuroscience, Compassion
& many more.

 Newsletter editor:

Carolyn Lieberg 

Dear Educators,

What do you know about educational strategies employed in other countries? When we learn about education in other countries, we in the U.S. benefit in numerous ways, beginning with becoming familiar with other strategies that are effective.

In some cases the strategy in another country may be totally different from educational tools in the U.S. In other cases, we may get confirmation that the approaches used in the U.S. are in keeping with some of the best international practices. So we may improve or validate our instruction by learning about other best practices.

However, in yet other cases, a primary benefit is that by learning about education in other countries, we in the U.S. are simply learning about another country -- i.e., knowledge for knowledge's sake. By learning one more thing about another country we are better global citizens. Just as we learn about the climate, industries, geography, and culture of these countries, learning about education gives us one more piece of our global puzzle.

This month we invite you to read and reflect on educational practices around the world. As you read, you might want to consider: (1) Is this a practice that might work for you? (2) Could you adapt this practice for your circumstance? (3) How does this practice compare to what you know of other effective practices?


Post-Traumatic Stress -- An International Approach for Resiliency and Coping

By Nick Jones, CEI Intern
From daily threats of terrorism to fear surrounding the Ebola outbreak, we live in an anxiety-ridden world. With impressionable, undeveloped minds, children are one of the most affected populations in times of war and natural disasters. Given the rise in stressful current events, the mental health industry and educators have begun crafting solutions for addressing youth anxieties.                                  
                                                                           Rony Berger

Dr. Rony Berger is a leader in the realm of helping communities in the aftermath of disaster. Berger, a family and child therapist and clinical psychologist, has worked with communities after disasters, including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, among other tragedies. As a result of research and work with youth living in the aftermath of traumatic experiences, Berger developed ERASE-Stress (Enhancing Resiliency Among Students Experiencing Stress), a program designed to help students cope with their stress, interact positively with others, and address anxieties in a productive manner.  


The ERASE-Stress program is executed over the course of 12 to 16 weeks, during which teachers spend 90 minutes a week going over the framework designed by Berger. This program not only supports student progress but also equips teachers with tools. Among the list of ES goals and outcomes are to "enhance teachers' resiliency and strengthen their coping skills" and "assist teachers in identifying and referring students who are at risk" (Berger, 2014).  Berger notes that the classroom is a conducive setting for teachers and students to address their stress, because it is an "environment which promotes normalcy and reduces stress reactions and stigma" (Berger, 2014).


The ES program is intended to follow a nuanced approach:

  1. The activity begins with a warm-up that prompts students to prepare for the main activity.
  2. Following the warm-up, the main activity involves exploration of how students exist in their bodies, manage their feelings, and practice skills like meditation.
  3. Students also work on how to prepare for traumatic events that may arise in the future.
  4. The activity closes with a close-up in which students bring closure to their experience by summarizing what they learned and felt.
  5. Students are also given follow-up activities to complete at home with their families.

The ERASE-Stress program has been adopted in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and several other countries and has been translated into 14 languages.


Stress--International Concerns. Considering historical events and current events, Berger's mission parallels statistics and findings compiled by organizations like the National Institutes of Health.  

  • In Iraq, a study of Kurdish families found that PTSD was "present in 87% of children and 60% of their caregivers" (Ahmad et al., 2000).
  • In Palestine, a study of children ages 10-19 found that 32.7% suffered from symptoms associated with PTSD and required "psychological intervention," 49.2% suffered from moderate PTSD symptoms, 15.6% suffered from mild PTSD symptoms, and 2.5% had no symptoms (Sarraj & Qouta, 2005).
  • In Cambodia, a three-year follow-up evaluation of children who were traumatized between the ages of 8-12 found that PTSD was still prevalent among 48% of those surveyed while depression was still prevalent among 41% of the respondents (Kinzie, Sack, Angell, et al., 1989).

Stress, children, and America. Anxiety and stress are not just conditions resulting from direct exposure to international atrocities. American children are also psychologically affected by conflict. Military families are an integral population studied for mental health analyses. Unsurprisingly, "parental deployment was shown to have a cumulative effect on 6-to-12 year old children," causing symptoms related to anxiety and depression before and during deployment and even after a parent has returned from duty (Chriman & Dougherty, 2014).  


A more recent example of the relevance of Dr. Berger's program was the shooting death of Ferguson, Missouri, teenager, Michael Brown. Following his death, teachers held impromptu classes at the local library in an attempt to restore normalcy and create a nurturing environment amidst chaos. Similar to Berger's subtle approach to addressing student anxieties, teachers united on social media to discuss ways to delicately approach Brown's death. While different regions face distinct difficulties, Berger has created a guide that is applicable both here and abroad.


Berger's work reflects the need to support youth in ways ­­that ­respond to the problems they face in these times. Tragedies of armed conflict, natural disasters, and unforgiving violence will continue and thus the help offered to both teachers and students through programs such as ERASE-Stress are of the utmost relevance right now. In addition, ERASE-Stress also supports youth and teachers who face an array of challenging hurdles from everyday events, including racial prejudice and tension. Several studies have shown ERASE-Stress to be effective in both strengthening prosocial skills and also in enhancing academic learning and cognition.

Ahmad, S. & Sundelin-Wahlsten V, et al. (2000). Post-traumatic stress disorder in children after the military operation "Anfal" in Iraqi Kurdistan. European Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 9:235-243.

Berger, R. (2014). The ERASE-STRESS Programmes. In V. Karr & D. Mitchell (Eds.), Conflict, Disaster and Disability: Ensuring Equality. New York, NY: Routledge.


Chriman, A. & Dougherty, J. (2014). Mass Trauma: Disasters, Terrorism, and War" (2014). Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Paper 124. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/usuhs/124  


Kinzie J,.Sack WH, Angell RH, et al. (1989). Three-year follow-up of Cambodian young people traumatized as children. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; 28:501-504.


Sarraj, EE & Qouta, S. (2005). The Palestinian experience. In: Lopez-Ibor JJ, Christodoulou G, Maj M, eds. Disasters and Mental Health. Chichester, England: Wiley; pp. 229-238.


Editor's note: Dr. Berger is now collaborating with CEI with our Heart Centered approach to Education.  See his bio under "our team" at www.edimprovement.org

When English Is Taught in Other Countries
by Nick Jones, CEI Intern
For most children, learning their native language emerges as part of normal development, with little direct instruction. Later, in school, sure, we learn about gerunds and clauses, but beyond classroom instruction, we rarely explore how we acquire language; we simply do it. This seemingly facile process begs the question: How do children in other countries learn English? And of course, a related question - could English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction in the U.S. be enhanced by learning about ESL instruction elsewhere?


Internationally, with more and more students going to college and entering a competitive job market, there has been an unprecedented focus on education as a standard for employability and success. Because of this, multilingualism, and particularly knowledge of English, is not only a celebrated skill, but is often required of students in other parts of the world. In countries where English is not an official language, it is often regarded as a vital language to know.


  • In fact, in Europe, students are usually between the ages of 6 and 9 when first required to start studying another language (European Commission, 2012).
  • Studied by more than 90 percent of students, English is the most studied language in the European Union, according to the European Commission.
  • Moreover, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands top the list of the most fluent non-Anglophonic English speaking countries in the world, according to Education First. In addition, the European Commission found that every student in the Netherlands has studied English at some point in their schooling.

Scandinavia. Scandinavian countries have some of the largest populations of English-speaking people in the world. This is because "most Scandinavian children start learning English in their third year at school, usually around the age of nine, and continue until they leave school at sixteen or seventeen" (Hansen, 2010). Considering that less than 20 million people speak the languages of Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish combined, learning English is a necessity for communicating with the outside world. In other countries like South Korea however, learning English is a luxury.




English in South Korea. English education is a multibillion dollar industry in South Korea.

  • In 2012 alone, Korean parents spent more than $17 billion on English services for their children (Ripley 2013).
  • From tutors to study-abroad programs, parents seek out a multitude of resources to immerse their children in the English language.
  • Rooted in traditional Confucian ideology about the importance of education, along with an increasingly competitive job market, "many Korean parents believe that they can help their children succeed by emphasizing, and even imposing, education for their children" (Park, 2009).
  • Parents often enroll their students in hagwans, private academies with accelerated curriculum, send their students abroad to pick up English, and sometimes even move to Anglophone countries, leaving one parent in Korea to work and support the family.
  • The government is also making efforts to make English accessible to students. Favoring native English speakers to Koreans, the government is working towards hiring at least one native English speaker for every primary and secondary school in the country. By the time this is completed, at least 10,000 native English speakers will be working in the South Korean school system (Park, 2009).
  • What's more, local governments have created English villages, towns where the goal is to become full immersed in the English language.

English in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, under-served students and their teachers are finding other ways to learn English.

  • While English is an official language in Hong Kong, working class families often don't have access to proper education in the English language and may also not make learning English a priority.
  • Thanks to the globalization of pop culture, teachers have a foundation from which to work. By using popular references, teachers create an even playing field for students of varying English proficiency levels who are learning together in the same classroom.
  • Activities such as rapping not only appeal to students, they allow them to take ownership of their learning experience (Hazari, 2013).
  • Additionally, one key challenge associated with teaching English is often related to motivating students to care. Instead of trying to figure out how to motivate students, teachers might consider a student-centered approach by asking questions such as "Who are our students and how can we connect English to their needs and interests?" "How are their lives multilingual and how can our teaching promote multilingualism?" (Hazari, 2013).

Pop-Culture and Language. English can be practiced with words to popular songs, quotes from movie actors, rap lyrics in English, popular English-language videos and electronic devices, English language web-sites, and even English names for current fashions and trends.


Immersion. Whether out of necessity, luxury, or as mandated by the government, there is a common behavior in successful language instruction. It's immersion. Immersing oneself in a targeted language is considered to be fundamental for becoming proficient. In the U.S., dual language schools sometimes have instruction in English 3 days a week and instruction in another language 2 days a week. Sometimes, high school students and adults will participate in immersion programs by living with a host in another country where only the native language is spoken. Similarly, in other countries, sometimes English language is taught through immersion - such as the Korean "English villages."


English Language in 2014. In this global era, whether through immersion, traditional academic instruction, or inclusion of pop-culture, there are a multitude of resources being devoted internationally to teaching English. With a growing influx of students from around the world to the U.S., we may advance our ESL practices by learning from others.


Suggestions to Principals. CEI recommends that principals and teachers consider ways to advance ESL practices in the U.S. through advancing pop-culture, immersion, and even "fact-finding" about how ESL is taught elsewhere. If you are trying to advance English with ESL students in your building, here are a few indicators that you may be on the right path:

  • Look around your school. Do you see signs that the culture and language of other countries are acknowledged and regarded? For example, are words from another language paired with English and prominently displayed?
  • Listen to greetings. Are teachers and students greeting each other in English and other languages?
  • Review projects. Do students have opportunities to research and report on findings of how things are handled in other countries, including the countries they are from?
  • Consider "pop culture"--is it being used to help students learn English? Is pop culture incorporated into academic instruction?
  • Talk with families and listen to their needs; ask for volunteers, and find ways for families to promote English and learning.


Children in Europe start learning foreign languages at an increasingly early age. (2012, September 20). In Press releases database. Retrieved 2014, from http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-12-990_en.htm 


EF English Proficiency Index - Third Edition. (n.d.). In English Proficiency Index (EF EPI). Retrieved 2014, from http://www.ef.edu/epi/ 


Hansen, P. (2010, February 11). Why do Scandinavians speak such a high standard of English? Retrieved 2014, from http://www.thetranslationpeople.com/2010/02/why-do-scandinavians-speak-such-a-high-standard-of-english/ 


Hazari, A. (2013, June 3). Pop culture helps students learn English. South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2014, from http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/family-education/article/1250689/pop-culture-helps-students-learn-english 


Park, J. (2009, March). 'English fever' in South Korea: its history and symptoms. English Today, 25(1), 50-56. Retrieved 2014, from http://www.shawnashapiro.com/courses/SMC_WorldEnglish/EnglishFever.pdf 


Ripley, A. (2013, August 3). The $4 Million Teacher. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2014, from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324635904578639780253571520 



Education Technology in Three Countries
by K'Lee Banks, M.Ed., CEI Research Associate
Educational technology has revolutionized how students learn in and out of the classroom. Innovative and strategically designed technology tools increase student engagement. These tools also serve as valuable resources for students to facilitate simulated hands-on activities that help expand their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Today's students must acquire the technological literacy they need to succeed in the 21st century. 
Technology standards, developed for the U.S. by the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE), have helped educators integrate technology in ways that would enhance the overall learning experience for students. The group publishes standards for all subgroups in education, including teachers, students, administrators, coaches, and computer science teachers (all available here ). For teachers, the range begins with directives for teaching: "Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity." Of the five standards, three are for students, and two are for teachers. Number three: "Model digital age work and learning."  


Globally, Germany, Shanghai, and Singapore have impressive track records of educational technology integration. Teachers and administrators in the U.S. and elsewhere may benefit from knowing more about how technology is used in schools in these countries.


Germany: Virtual Learning Environment at Frankfurt International School 

In Germany, the Frankfurt International School (FIS) offers a well-equipped virtual learning environment (VLE) for its 900 Upper School students in grades 6-12. FIS includes an emphasis on ISTE standards that helps students understand their role as digital citizens and develop learning skills they can easily transfer eventually to higher education and career settings.


The VLE allows FIS students to access their course content and online library, collaborate through Google Docs, utilize email accounts and file storage space, and benefit from the school's "Tech Deck." The Tech Deck is a technology workspace located in the FIS atrium, complete with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) support personnel.


Extensions of the VLE in the classroom include SMART interactive whiteboards for students and personal computers for teachers. Students are also allowed to bring their own personal computers and mobile devices to use in the classroom. Beginning in January 2012, FIS implemented the 1 to 1 Laptop Initiative with Grade 7 students, where students will be required to purchase Apple laptops.


Dr. Paul Fochtman, the Head of FIS, stated the individual laptops allow students to enjoy a "greater use of multimedia, interactive learning materials, and software" with a focus on collaboration and achievement of learning goals (Technology, 2012). 


                              Source: Carey, Chris. ocps002.jpg. Pics4Learning.

                                (Retrieved from http://pics.tech4learning.com)


Shanghai: New Pathway Education & Technology Group, and Prepsmith
China's most heavily populated city, Shanghai, is well-known for its New Pathway Education and Technology Group, founded in 2009, and its related innovative test preparation adaptive learning system known as Prepsmith. 

New Pathway heralds Prepsmith as "the most innovative and inspirational one-stop platform" for test preparation that maximizes student potential and enables students to attend some of the world's best universities. Students can choose from among a variety of tests, including SAT, SAT subject tests, ACT questions, and more than 100 other full-length tests.


Some of the features of Prepsmith include the following:

  • Simulated test-taking experience with full-length, timed SAT exams
  • Filling in knowledge gaps with GapQuiz concept-specific quizzes
  • Focused reviewing with multimedia explanations for SAT questions and score reports highlighting recurring mistakes
  • Tracking with instant progress notifications and the online platform and mobile apps

The effectiveness and success of Shanghai's Prepsmith boasts these statistics for SAT results:

  • 500 students (5 percent globally) scored 2000 points or above
  • 350 students (3 percent globally) scored 2200 points or above
  • 200 students (1 percent globally) scored 2300 points or above
  • 7 students (300 globally) scored 2400

Singapore: Singapore Math®   

What began as basic math curriculum in the island country of Singapore has expanded in use around the world.  Since the beginning of the 21st century, American and Canadian markets in particular have utilized Singapore's math curriculum under the registered name of Singapore Math®.


The Singapore Math® curriculum has undergone several transformations since then, including its most recent variation in 2012 of a Common Core-aligned series for American students in grades 7-8.

What is so special about the Singapore Math® curriculum? One of the best ways for students to improve comprehension and acquire proficient math skills is to go beyond mere textbook reading and exercises. The Singapore Math® curriculum incorporates the use of interactive CD-ROM exercises and hands-on manipulatives to reinforce math skills presented in textbooks. The curriculum covers kindergarten to grade 12, and ranges from basic math to advanced math, including algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.
How can we be certain the Singapore Math® curriculum is effective? An independent international cooperative comprised of national research institutions and governmental research agencies, known as the International Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), conducts its Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) every four years. In 1995, 1999, and 2003, the top place score in mathematics was awarded to...4th and 8th grade students in Singapore!


Considering these results obtained by the IEA, it appears students who benefit from immersion in the Singapore Math® curriculum also gain advanced and even superior math skills.
Technology -- Global to Local

Countries worldwide have welcomed the global integration of educational technology tools and their use in classrooms. As U.S. schools continue to integrate technology locally, looking abroad may well increase the effectiveness of implemented uses. One thing is certain: New technology tools will continue to transform how students learn in the 21st century's global classroom.


Editor's note: CEI is developing a rubric to help administrators measure how technology is being implemented in their schools.   


Students on Ice -- A Canadian Approach to Global Warming   

by Christine Mason, Executive Director, CEI                                 


Both Antarctica and the Arctic provide opportunities to study the impact of our human footprint on the earth. Over 90% of all the ice in the world is in Antarctica and 70 % of the earth's fresh water is held there. A unique continent, Antarctica is not "owned" by any country. According to the "Antarctica Systems Treaty" signed in 1961 by over 50 nations, Antarctica is designated as a science preserve, available for scientific investigations. At the other side of the world, The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, and parts of Alaska (United States), Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden.  


If you want to learn more about the polar regions, videos, simulations, and multi-media presentations are readily available online, and organizations such as NASA, the National Wildlife Federation, National Geographic, and others have many links to provide up-to-date information on the flora and fauna in the polar regions. However, another way to increase knowledge and concern about the Arctic and Antarctica, global warming, and polar ice melt is to sponsor trips to visit Antarctica, the Arctic, and other glaciers.    


According to the Students on Ice website, "Our mandate is to provide students, educators and scientists from around the world with inspiring educational opportunities at the ends of the Earth and, in doing so, help them foster a new understanding and respect for the planet."


Founded by educator, environmentalist, and entrepreneur Geoff Green in 1999, Students on Ice presents a "placed-based" approach to learning. Over 53 countries have participated in over 25 Students on Ice expeditions, providing learning adventures for over 2000 high school and college students. In 2014, 70 high school and college students will visit Antarctica, and another 85 students will visit the Arctic. Each trip will also include musicians, scientists, journalists, and educators.


                 The Sea Adventurer enters the town of Illulissat, Greenland.   


Since 2001, Dr. Green has led over 10 expeditions to the poles. The researcher and accompanying teams of prestigious scientists, videographers, professors and others, have conducted numerous experiments. With groups of youth and scientists, Dr. Green continues to measure changes in the ice, vegetation, wildlife, and global warming in Antarctica and the Arctic.    


          Norman Harris, Bryan Sweeten and Maike Van Niekerk examine some  specimens in the Museum of Nature collections.   


While elementary and middle school students have not yet participated in the Students on Ice program, the program provides inspirational videoclips showing the tours conducted by high school and college students. These videos serve as one valuable resource to help younger students who are learning about science. They may also inspire younger students with a desire to become involved in place-based study and investigate Dr. Green's program. We need more students to believe they can make a difference. Becoming involved with others on the path can providing an exciting way to seek solutions to some of problems we are facing today.



                                        Cruising the icebergs. 



 Education - The Global Puzzle


Students from Finland, Korea, Shanghai, and Singapore consistently demonstrate high academic gains. Why? Do educators from these nations have insights into education that might be worthy of consideration? Is it their approach to language, their use of technology, how they handle stress, or even how they approach science that makes a difference? It is interesting that approaches in these countries are very different, and that approaches in some countries (i.e., Finland) are less stressful than others.


Countries such as Canada, Germany, and Israel have made significant discoveries about ways to reduce stress, inspire learning, and motivate students. Could we learn from them and the approaches they are taking?


As school leaders, what are you adopting or adapting from other countries?



Christine Mason
Executive Director, Center for Educational Improvement
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