Sunday, June 30, 2013

Foster Learning

So, here's the vision... Children in foster care (including kin homes and children formerly in care) are matched up with students two years older.  They work together over the internet, using technologies like Skype and Scribblar, for math coaching.  The children in care get a consistent coach who stays with them throughout their schooling, and after two years can become coaches themselves.  The coaches collect hours towards their community service requirement, or can choose to be paid an hourly rate.  Lead teachers work with the coaches to ensure a high-quality, positive experience for every student.

A collection of details and a few questions I anticipate will be frequently asked:
  • Students will ideally be in Grade 6 or 7 when they begin.  We want to help with the transition to middle school, and also catch girls before any distaste for math or disbelief in their abilities kicks in.
  • Coaches will ideally be in Grade 9 when they begin, although they can be older.
  • Students need not be behind in math.  We will have plenty of enrichment activities for students who excel, so that they gain the experience of writing contests and talking about math with other good students.
  • Coaches need not be good at math.  Part of good coaching includes modeling how to find out about a topic.  Coaches will also find their own performance in math improves as they study the subject in depth with their students.
  • Traditional 1-on-1 tutoring will be a portion of the coaching.  However, that will be balanced with group sessions for two to four students to work collaboratively on an activity that covers multiple grade levels. 
  • We'll start with math and expand into other subject areas according to demand and the availability of lead teachers.  Science is the obvious next subject.
  • Coaches will receive extensive training, both before they begin and throughout the program.  They will stay current through the online forum on the website.  Training will include information on the unique needs of students in foster care to ensure that the appropriate sensitivity and respect is maintained.
  • We are starting with children in foster care because of our experience as foster parents.  We are familiar with the typical educational experiences foster children may have, for example; missing school for meetings, court dates and family visits,  periods of stress and upheaval when school is a low priority, and changing schools mid-year.  We are also impressed and inspired by the resilience and spirit of the foster children we've had the pleasure of working with.
  • A nominal hourly rate will be charged for coaching; possibly $12/hr for 1-on-1 and $6/hr for group activities.  Advice and assistance will be available on the programs that pay for tutoring for children currently in care, and how to apply.  Coaches will be paid the student minimum wage, $9.60/hr.
What we need to do now:
  • Recruit students for September 2013.
  • A small amount of funding is needed to buy and host a webdomain ( is available), set up the forum software, buy a pro license for Scribblar, and a pro license for Wolfram Alpha. I would also like a classroom license for
Medium-term goals:
  • Secure outside funding so that coaches can be paid even if there is a shortfall in coaching revenue, and to provide an honorarium for Lead Teachers.
Long-term goals:
  • A larger amount of funding would allow us to supply students with refurbished, used computer equipment so they can participate in the program.
  • Potential partnerships with programs such as JUMP Math and IXL.
  • Data collection to test our interventions and activities and measure how well our program is ultimately helpful in improving educational outcomes.
  •  Research or develop software that can be used on the iPad to encourage student involvement.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nope, still not me

The person with my name who signed up for Tumblr using my email address the other day has uploaded a profile picture.  It turns out to be of her dog, so it's not very helpful in tracking her down.

Oddly enough, she still hasn't activated her email address.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Nope, not me

I have never heard of this website, which appears to be for a photographer.

I certainly didn't sign the guest book.

One of the other versions of me has forgotten her email address again!

Sunday, June 23, 2013


My first name is on the unusual side; people have to be told how to pronounce and spell it, and still often get it wrong.  It peaked in the 1990s with 421 babies per million getting my name, which is still not a very large number.

Granted, my last name is common.  It still mystifies me, though, that there not only seem to be at least six people in the US with my full name, but that they regularly get their email addresses wrong and put in mine instead.

Today's email is typical.  At 3am one of my alter egos signed up for Tumblr, using my email address instead of hers.