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

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.

Courtesy of Creative Commons
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After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

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There have been many iconic dance routines throughout film history, but how many have the honor being called "the greatest" by Fred Astaire himself?

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, known collectively as the Nicholas Brothers, were arguably the best at what they did during their heyday. Their coordinated tap routines are legendary, not only because they were great dancers, but because of their incredible ability to jump into the air and land in the splits. Repeatedly. From impressive heights.

Their most famous routine comes from the movie "Stormy Weather." As Cab Calloway sings "Jumpin' Jive," the Nicholas Brothers make the entire set their dance floor, hopping and tapping from podium to podium amongst the musicians, dancing up and down stairs and across the top of a piano.

But what makes this scene extra impressive is that they performed it without rehearsing it first and it was filmed in one take—no fancy editing room tricks to bring it all together. This fact was confirmed in a conversation with the brothers in a Chicago Tribune article in 1997, when they were both in their 70s:

"Would you believe that was one of the easiest things we ever did?" Harold told the paper.

"Did you know that we never even rehearsed that number?" added Fayard.

"When it came time to do that part, (choreographer) Nick Castle said: 'Just do it. Don`t rehearse it, just do it.' And so we did it—in one little take. And then he said: 'That's it—we can't do it any better than that.'"

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

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A disturbing joint report by USA Today and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found that tens of thousands of pets have been harmed by Seresto flea and tick collars. Seresto was developed by Bayer and is now sold by Elanco.

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The EPA has known the collars are harming humans and their pets but failed to tell the public about the dangers.

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