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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."

[rebelmouse-image 19530869 dam="1" original_size="1200x759" caption="Photo by IC-RE/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]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.

[rebelmouse-image 19530870 dam="1" original_size="1280x960" caption="Photo by Globaloria Game Design/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]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."

[rebelmouse-image 19530871 dam="1" original_size="1024x768" caption="Photo by Brad Flickinger/Flickr." expand=1]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."

[rebelmouse-image 19530873 dam="1" original_size="1200x624" caption="Photo by John F. Williams/U.S. Navy." expand=1]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.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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via Pixabay

The show must go on… and more power to her.

There are few things that feel more awful than being stranded at the altar by your spouse-to-be. That’s why people are cheering on Kayley Stead, 27, from the U.K. for turning a day of extreme disappointment into a party for her friends, family and most importantly, herself.

According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.

“[A groomsman] called one of the maids of honor to explain that the groom had ‘gone.’ We were told he had left the caravan they were staying at in Oxwich Bay (the venue) at 12:30 a.m. to visit his family, who were staying in another caravan nearby and hadn’t returned. When they woke in the morning, he was not there and his car had gone,” Jordie Cullen wrote on a GoFundMe page.

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All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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10 laughably inconvenient things from the '90s that absolutely no one misses

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Inconvenient things from the '90s no one misses.

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This article originally appeared on July 2, 2019


Sadly, a lot of men go out of their way to avoid learning anything about a woman's period.

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