Philadelphia Eagles Player Donates Salary to Educational Orgs

A photo of a Philadelphia Eagles jersey, helmet, and NFL football on a field.

Photo credit: dean bertoncelj / Shutterstock

Chris Long, for those who don’t follow football, is the defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles. He currently enjoys a two year contract worth $4.5 million dollars. It’s more money than any one person needs, and Long seems to realize that. That’s why he pledged to give the earnings from his first six games of this year to fund two scholarships for students from his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. Now, he’s giving the rest of this year’s checks to a new campaign founded by himself and his wife (separate from his Chris Long Foundation).

“My wife and I have been passionate about education being a gateway for upward mobility and equality,” said Long in a statement released to the Associated Press. “I think we can all agree that equity in education can help affect change that we all want to see in this country.”

Pledge 10 for Tomorrow, the new campaign, gives funding to organizations that make education more accessible to underserved youth communities. Long has chosen four organizations in three cities: St. Louis, Boston, and Philly (the cities where he’s played). He is pledging 10 game checks to the foundation, and is encouraging fans to join him to “pledge 10” (either ten recurring payments, or simply $10).

So far, Pledge 10 has raised just over $20,000 along with Long’s donation. Donors get to choose which of the four organizations they want their money to go to (one in each city, and a general fund). The organization with the most donations will receive an additional $50,000.

“There’s a lot of opportunities to help out and they’re wonderful organizations,” Long said. “We have such a great platform as football players and hopefully fans get behind it.”

In a world where athletes are paid more than the annual budget of most schools, it is a relief to see someone on Long’s platform not only speaking up for education, but putting his money where his mouth is.

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Providing Education for Refugees in Lebanon

A crowd of refugees. A young girl around the age of six holds a sign that reads, "SOS."

Photo credit: Alexandre Rotenberg / Shutterstock

Lebanon is a small country in the tense area between Palestine and Syria. It’s about twice the size of Long Island, NY, and one of the smallest non-island countries in the world.

It’s also host to over one million registered refugees from Syria, according to a 2016 report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They assume this to be low of the actual number, due to constant arrivals, a slow registration process, and an overwhelmed infrastructure. Their estimate of the actual number is closer to a million and a half. That would mean that more than one in five people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee. And many of them are children.

Being a refugee is intensely disruptive to the life of a child. Many children that flee their home country never enter education again. Right now, over 200,000 Syrian children in Lebanon aren’t enrolled in school.

The Clooney Foundation for Justice, founded in 2016 by Amal and George Clooney, has partnered with international aid giant UNICEF to work on this issue. The foundation is donating $2.25 million dollars to seven public schools in Lebanon.

There’s already a system in Lebanon for providing education to refugees; schools operate in shifts, teaching local students in the morning, then refugees in the afternoons, doubling their capacity. The Clooney’s grant, boosted by a further $1 million from HP for educational technology, will add those seven schools to the pool that can extend their resources.

“Thousands of young Syrian refugees are at risk—the risk of never being a productive part of society,” the Clooneys said in press release on Monday, July 31st. “Formal education can help change that. That’s our goal with this initiative. We don’t want to lose an entire generation because they had the bad luck of being born in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Fighting Fake News Requires Teaching Kids to Identify It

A rolled up newspaper with the headline "fake news" on it.

Image credit: Shutterstock

The recent election cycle taught us a lot about America. Among the things we learned was that “fake news” is a plague upon society, one that many of us are scrambling to figure out how to stop.

Fake news refers to unreliable sources that are shared on the Internet due to people assuming that they’re true. This could be an unverified tweet or photo, an article from a biased “source” like Breitbart, or advertisements passed off as news stories.

There are people on the Internet deliberately trying to mislead us. But the problem is less that these things exist, and more that people are incapable of distinguishing them from actual news.

A recent study completed by Stanford researchers found that the core problem is that students are not being taught how to distinguish between good and bad sources. Middle schoolers, high schoolers, and even college students have trouble doing this. It’s something that they need to be taught.

But before we blame teachers, let’s sit back and realize that they probably don’t have these skills either. Anybody can have an audience on the Internet, and while that can be a very powerful tool for activism, it can also be very dangerous. The public education system hasn’t taught people how to distinguish between good and bad sources because we haven’t really had this problem before.

Breitbart and fake Twitter accounts did not exist twenty years ago. In the old days, people got their news from reliable sources such as newspapers, magazines, and TV news.

Nobody has been able to keep up with the ways in which information is being produced, curated, or disseminated any more. The answer, of course, is to educate everyone. We need to teach more critical thinking and analysis skills to kids, starting in elementary school. This problem is a threat to democracy, and it’s one that will take a great amount of effort to solve.

Teacher Caught on Camera Calling Students N*****s

A black-and-white photo of an African American woman crying.

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Video has surfaced of a Baltimore teacher calling a classroom full of black students the N-word. The incident occurred on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at Harlem Park Elementary/Middle School.

A distressed parent uploaded the video to Facebook, whereupon it went viral. The teacher can be seen grabbing a student by his hooded sweatshirt. She then yells at the student to “get out,” before ushering him out the door. When the student leaves, she then turns on the rest of the class, calling them n*****s and “idiots.”

“You have the chance to get an education, but you want to be a punk-a** n***** who’s gonna get shot.”

The teacher has since been fired. A statement released by Baltimore City Public Schools reads, “We are committed to creating positive and equitable learning environments in school communities where all members are welcome, supported, and valued. No form of discriminatory behavior of any kind is or will be tolerated.”

Dr. Sonja Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, hosted a press conference about the incident. She claims she was appalled when she first saw the video.

“In the current climate, we in city schools are very, very clear about where we stand with any kind of hate speech, any kind of obvious discriminatory language,” Santelises stated. “The behavior in that video was not about a teacher trying to regain control of the class.”

Santelises also went on to explain that while many educators struggle with classroom management, they don’t all resort to racial slurs.

The teacher, whose identity has not been released, was a second-year science teacher. Parents whose children attend the school were visibly shaken by the incident. However, they did express their relief that the teacher was fired. Some even said that if the teacher hadn’t of been fired, they would have transferred schools.

Can Pokémon Go Be Used As An Educational Tool?

A young boy finds a Pokémon on his cell phone.

A young boy using the Pokémon Go app. Image: MichaelJayBerlin / Shutterstock

A quick summary in case there’s someone still out there who’s not familiar with Pokemon Go: The newest installment in Pokemon’s 20-year history of video games, the popular phone app requires players to walk around the real world to find virtual locations and virtual creatures, all the while collecting, strategizing, and battling. Immediately after it’s launch in July, it surpassed Twitter to become the most-downloaded app ever, and the largest mobile game in the history of the industry.

Creator Niantic wisely chose to release the walking-based game in midsummer, but as September approaches, parents and teachers alike are curious about the game’s educational potential. On the flip side of the coin, others are worried about privacy and safety risks.

The game features local landmarks across the country as Pokéstops—places where players collect in-game items—which educators are hoping will spur a widespread interest in students who want to learn about local history and resources. Players online have been talking excitedly about discovering features of their own towns that they’d never known before.

In the words of James Gee, a researcher in educational video gaming from Arizona State University, the app “enchants the environment.” After all, it is firing up a new interest in real world surroundings. The non-gaming generation has long bemoaned youth’s alleged lack of interest in their environment. With Pokémon Go, school-aged children can rediscover their home towns, and even organize outings and clean-up events in popular places.

Players can also use features of the game to track individual Pokémon, teaching them the concepts of triangulation and orienteering. Math, too, is a part of the game for those who want to calculate which of their Pokemon will evolve into the strongest creature at which level.

The biggest concern of detractors is that of safety and privacy (players have been accosted while following the game into unsafe areas, and game play requires your phone to be tracking you at all times). But with prudence and supervision, it will be interesting to see how education becomes the next thing to enfold this social mega-phenomenon.

The Benefits of Classroom Laptops

A photo of school-aged children using a laptop in a classroom setting with a teacher supervising in the background.

The use of classroom laptops has proven to increase performance in reading, writing, and science.

These days, a good laptop like Google’s Chromebook can cost less than a new math textbook. So it’s no longer an extravagant luxury for schools to provide one for each student. And the potential benefits of such a supply are worth a good look.

Michigan State University is one of those doing the looking. In a meta-analysis led by Binbin Zheng, 96 independent studies into school laptop programs were looked at. They focused on programs that distributed laptops to K-12 students to use across all their school subjects. After narrowing their scope to 10 studies with statistics that could be charted against one another, they released their findings.

The main points boiled down to these:

Whether or not laptop distribution programs help to bridge the income-education gap is not clear. Poor students’ grades increase from being given a laptop more so than better-off students’ grades do, but the better-off students’ test scores still remain higher.

Students of all demographics show performance improvements in writing, reading, and middle-school science when participating in a laptop program.

Teacher participation in the laptop programs are vital. If the teacher is not engaged in teaching students how to get the most out of their technology, the programs fail. To bolster this, teachers must be given strong IT support and training and be included in the program. When teachers are engaged like this, teacher-student relationships also improve, which may account for a percentage of the improved test scores.

Students who participate in laptop programs were found to write more in and outside of the classroom than students who did not.

These results of the meta-analysis all echo a 2013 study also led by Zheng on one-to-one laptop programs in two low-income, primarily Hispanic school districts. That study also showed that at-risk students used their laptops more frequently than other students.

Science Project: Insulation

Seal in water

This science experiment can help explain why seals like this one are comfy even in extremely cold water.
Image: Shutterstock

This is a good science project for children as young as preschool, maybe kids who are still learning their animals. In this one, we’re looking at polar bears, walruses, seals, penguins, whales–you can tailor it to your child’s interests.

How do these animals stay warm? Your kid probably knows how cold they can feel in an unheated pool, even on a scorching day. But these animals live in the water around ice and snow.

The answer, of course, is blubber, the layer of fat under their skin. It acts like a sweater, but how?

For this project, you will need:

  • A bowl of icy water
  • Vegetable shortening
  • A couple of latex or vinyl gloves
  • Plastic wrap

(The gloves and wrap are to make clean-up a snap.)

First, ask your child to put their hands into the ice water. Count or use a stopwatch to see how long they’re willing to keep their hands in the water. It probably won’t be long!

Next, put a glove on their hand. Have them use their gloved hand to scoop out a handful of shortening, and make a fist. They’ll probably like this part since it’s messy! With your own gloved hands, smear more shortening thickly around the outside of their fist, and then wrap all of that with plastic wrap.

Once they’re all coated and wrapped up, have them put their hand back in the ice water. They should notice right away now much less the cold seems to reach them. Time them again. Odds are good they’ll get bored before they’re too chilled to stay in the water. So this is a good time to talk about how the shortening is just like the fat that animals (and people) have under their skins, and it keeps them warm, even in cold water. Some animals have to get out and warm up from time to time, like walruses and polar bears, and some can just live in the water forever like whales, kept cozy by their blubber and thick skin.