Power out in India

Most people have experienced power failures.

Yesterday, nearly one tenth of the planet had a power failure.  All of them live in India.

These pictures from a Google image search show folks waiting for trains, but it was more than trains that had problems.  As the New York Times reported:

A lack of power to more than 670 million people — twice the size of the entire United States — serves as a good introduction for middle school students who are starting to learn about the world outside the United States (which represents, at 314 million people, less than 5% of the world’s population).

Regular readers of this blog know that students would create Google Earth place marks that show where these places are.  Since we’d read the news most mornings, students would accumulate at least 10 place marks per week, which translates to more than 300 place marks per year.  At the end of three years (grades 6-8), graduates from TLC middle school will each have a personal library of more than 1000 place marks from around the world.

We will take time to discuss what it means in cities when the traffic lights are out, for example:

And we can empathize with barbers in Kolkata…

… as well as teachers in Kolkata who decide the lessons must go on…

At TLC middle school, this event would be an opportunity to learn more about India and to have student questions about India direct the contours of our discussion. There are lots of directions a class could go with this story — and because our curriculum is skill-based, we have the flexibility to learn math (what percent of the world’s population is in India?) and science (how do electric grids work?) as well as geography (where exactly is Kolkata?) and history (how has it developed into a city of 14.1 million people — including the suburbs — since British colonial rule ended in 1947?) — all in the authentic context of figuring out what’s going on in India right now.

It’s an amazing time to be a learner.

* * *

Note: I’m visiting relatives in Boston this week. I don’t have internet access for my computer, and don’t want to download Google Earth on this computer I’m using to write this blog post — so I’m not showing what the place marks would look like.

On some level, I feel like students must feel at school — they don’t have the same access to computers that they have at home.  Why do so many schools make students power down and not have access to the valuable learning tools that are out there?

One of the big things we’ll do in the first weeks at TLC middle school is to help students learn to use technology respectfully and effectively. As we flew from RDU to Boston, I was struck by the idea that while I was flying at 30,000 feet…

I had the ability to look at the TV embedded in the seat in front of me, where I could see live coverage of the Olympics in London, where the Brazilian women’s volleyball team had just called a time out in its match against the United States on Monday:

We live in such an amazing world — it’s time that schools caught up in terms of technology use.  With 1:1 access and small classes of students who learn to be effective and respectful digital citizens, TLC will show what’s possible in today’s learning environment.


About Steve Goldberg

I teach students at Research Triangle High School (RTHS) about US History. RTHS is a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning. The blog posts here reflect my own personal views and not those of my employer.
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