These struggling students finally found success in an unlikely place: their phone screens.

Ken Halla was a relatively new high school geography teacher when he got a particularly tough class to teach.

Many of the students were at-risk sophomores who had failed the year before. They were being forced to repeat a class they never cared for in the first place with a bunch of younger kids they didn't know.  This didn't make it easy to motivate or engage them.

Making things worse, the school — Hayfield Secondary School in Fairfax County, Virginia — was undergoing major renovations. This meant that most of the freshman classrooms were relocated to mobile trailers during the construction, which was isolating and distracting.


On top of all that, Halla had to deal with a lot of absences. Up to six students could be out at any given time — meaning that he knew it'd be nearly impossible to keep them all on the same page.

"You can’t teach traditionally if they’re not all there, and they’re not there on a regular basis," Halla explains. "So that was kind of my first wake-up call that we can’t do everything the same way."

Photo by IC-RE/Wikimedia Commons.

Halla had to find a way to pass them before they fell even further behind — and to do that, he would need to focus his attention more on individual students.

But there was only one of him and only so much class time to go around. And the more one-on-one time he spent catching up a student, the less he could supervise the rest of the class.

To top it all off, many students were starting to carry smartphones. This made them even more distracted and more inclined to say, "Well, why can't I just Google the answer?"

So finally, Halla dared them to try it.

Photo by Globaloria Game Design/Wikimedia Commons.

Halla used his students' smartphones to his own advantage — to keep them engaged while he was helping someone else and to teach them how to work in the real world.

"It was just using the technology to teach differently for different kids, or to have different paces for different kids, or whatever method you needed," he explains.

Halla began to record his lessons, which the students could watch on their phones during class time. During the class period, he would walk around the room to make sure the students stayed on task. He'd check in one-on-one with each of them to offer guidance, answer any outstanding questions, and make sure they were all keeping up — while the other students continued to learn on their own time, at their own pace, with their phones.

Now, if they needed to re-watch a video to understand a concept they didn't get the first time around, they could do that without holding back the rest of the class.

"It’s five minutes long, and [the student's] not embarrassed by asking me 14 questions — or more likely avoiding asking me 14 questions — and she’s getting the material and she’s getting successful," Halla explains. "That’s what counts."

Photo by Brad Flickinger/Flickr.

After his early success with that first class, Halla began to explore more ways to integrate video, media, and other smartphone technologies into his classroom.

At first, it was just "Smartphone Fridays."

But soon, he was letting them listen to music in the classroom too — though only if they could show that it was actually making them more productive.

He began to use Remind.com, which schedules, automates, and facilitates text-message tips, reminders, and other help between students and teachers (without actually giving up their personal phone numbers to each other). This kept a written record of assignments and communications that could be sent and received at times when it was effective and convenient — for students and for teachers.

By using technology, Halla had found a way to make teaching more hands-on, blending critical thinking with practical application, all without burdening himself even more. He would eventually come to refer to this approach as "using the cloud to individualize instruction" — which is the subtitle of a book he wrote later on the subject.

Photo by daniel julià lundgren/Flickr.

For Halla's students, classroom tech became their recipe for success by empowering them with responsibility and reward. That little bit of success can go a very long way.

One of Halla's proudest examples involved a student who had relocated to the U.S. from Pakistan just one month before the state exam after his home was destroyed in a flood.

Halla knew that if this new student didn’t pass, it would be yet another burden to weigh down an already difficult year — which, like Halla's sophomores during the school construction, had the potential to snowball into catastrophic results.

But through a combination of interactive videos, online guides, and one-on-one meetings, Halla turned that one long month into an unabashed triumph, setting the student up for a brighter future in his new home country.

“That would’ve never worked in my original class [before I started using technology]," Halla explains. "But because of that, he was able to get the material, he was able to master it, and he was able to make up for a bad year personally with one good result, which was well-deserved."

Photo by John F. Williams/U.S. Navy.

Technology in the classroom is still a new and changing field, and Halla is careful not to lose focus on the goal: "It all starts with the kids and where they best need to be served."

"We need to evolve and adapt to learning that best fits our kids — not the people serving, teaching, administering, and tutoring the kid," he adds. "If I thought for a second that technology learning was harming or was wrong, then I would be like, 'Nope, experiment failed.' But it doesn't. Thankfully, it helps them."

Recently, Halla left the classroom to start a new position as the e-learning coordinator for the entire Fairfax County public school system, focusing on expanding online classes and working with other teachers to integrate video, smartphones, and individualized cloud learning into their curriculums.

Once again, he’s seen tremendous results: enrollment is up and AP scores are already higher than the country’s average. Most importantly, the students are finding greater success in ways that work for them.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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