Educating Syrian refugees in Jordan

Principal Maha Salim Al-Ashkar had to apologize to a Syrian mom because she was not able to enroll her child at the primary school in the suburbs of Amman, Jordan.

“I don’t have space,” she told the mother. This Syrian crisis has added tens of thousands of students to Jordan’s overflowing classrooms. Khawla Bint Tha’alba Elementary School for Girls was no exception.

However, the mother would not give up. She had already been rejected from many schools so the principal compromised with her.

“I will register your daughter, if you bring a chair for her,” the principal concluded.

From then on, Principal Al-Ashkar refused to deny any refugee student from the school she’s headed for 10 years. Parents bring plastic chairs with their children so they would have a place to learn.

“After I accepted a large number of Syrian students, there was an increase in the numbers,” she says in a video produced by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). “The main problem that we faced is that the Jordanian students already filled the school’s capacity.”

Khawla Bint Tha’alba Elementary School for Girls has 356 students with 65 Syrian students thanks to the principal’s efforts. However, the problem is not solved here. Though students are receiving an education, it is quite tough to integrate them into the classroom. Many of them faced traumatic experiences and need special counseling and care.

“We had some Syrian students with psychological trauma,” Ms. Maha says. “One of the students came from an area that had been bombed, so she was fearful. There is another student who lost her father.”

USAID funds schools like this in Jordan. They support instructor training and remedial programs.

Many advocacy organizations are calling this Syrian civil war one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. It has resulted in more than 4.8 million Syrian refugees around the world. Most refugees flee to neighboring countries like Jordan, a country in which about 635,000 Syrian refugees currently live.

“I really love my school, and I also love my students,” Principal Maha says. “And I think love is giving as much as you can, by helping and supporting them to take away their hurt.”

Article via Mashable, March 08, 2016

Photo: Jordan Camp Host to Thousands of Syrian Cross-Border Refugees via United Nations Photo [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Law firm takes new approach to technology training

Being knowledgeable about technology and programs that clients rely on lawyers to use daily is extremely important, but providing the training necessary to gain that knowledge can be somewhat difficult. The goal is to make sure that every lawyer has the adequate knowledge to fully serve their clients, but you don’t want to bore those who already know all the relevant information. Additionally, you want to be able to prove to your clients that their lawyers know what they’re doing. The firm Keesal, Young, and Logan have devised a training program that accomplishes both tasks. After realizing that information technology is important to client satisfaction, the director of information for the firm, Justin Hectus, decided to implement the Legal Technology Assessment.

The Legal Technology Assessment , or LTA for short, is a tech competency test developed by D. Casey Flaherty while working at Kia Motors. By implementing the test, lawyers could test out and bypass certain areas of instruction. Additionally, because the assessment highlighted the areas in which each individual required further education, individuals were able to complete their training in a third of the time. An associate at Keesal, Young, and Logan, Sean Cooney, explains that, “group training is often inefficient because everyone has a different familiarity with whatever program is being used. The individualized training allowed us to skip anything that is redundant.”

The LTA not only identified weak areas for Keesal, Young, and Logan but also measured how effective their tailored program was. After the training program was completed, the average LTA score was improved by almost 40%, which Keesal, Young, and Logan can now use to tout their personnel’s tech competency. Additionally, combining the LTA and specialized training resulted in the trainees implementing what they learned into their work. For example, another associate, Erin Weesner-McKinley, relates that, “some tasks that I previously delegated can now be done with the click of a button, and I have a better understanding of other tasks which I still choose to delegate to nonbillable personnel or colleagues with lower billing rates.”

Article via Legaltech NewsNovember 25, 2015

Photo: Computers via Duane Storey [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Inneract Project offers free courses on design in technology to students

Inneract Project, an organization established by Yahoo designer Maurice Woods in 2004, will be holding a panel discussion next month titled “Valuing Diversity in Design and Technology” in San Francisco. The panel will include a variety of leaders in technology that focus on sharing their skills with young people in minority populations.

Woods founded Inneract Project with the intention of helping underrepresented students learn about design in technology. Based in San Francisco, the organization offers three free programs: Youth Design Academy, an eight-week course for middle-school students, Learning Labs, one-day educational events for students and parents alike, and Designed, a video series that follows designers.

Design is vital in the implementation of any technology being used by a broad consumer base, and as a result, designers today are in high demand.

“Technology needs to be considerate of empathy, of how people learn and how people use devices, and that’s design,” said Woods. “That’s what designers do. Without that, it’s hard for the consumer to be able to digest and understand that technology.”

Maurice Woods also speaks about using “cultural context”—the idea that kids learn based on their surroundings outside of school—when planning programs for students. He states that minority students are familiar with music and sports, which is why Inneract Project will soon introduce a basketball program in which kids can design jerseys and logos, thus learning design in a context they’re familiar with.

Each of Inneract Project’s programs contributes to Woods’ mission to “see kids succeed and get into design and tech fields.”

Article via TechCrunch, November 1, 2015

Photo: Minority Serving Institute Partnership Program via Sandia Labs [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Georgetown professor encourages students to make access-to-justice apps

Professor Tanina Rostain teaches the course “Technology, Innovation, and Legal Practice” at the Georgetown University Law Center. A fundamental part of it is a competition in which 4 teams of 3-4 students work together to design apps that advocates and lawyers can use to explore intricate areas of the law. The class has seen tremendous growth over the course of just 4 years.  With technology being a pivotal factor in today’s legal world, this course is ideal for law students who are interested in hands-on learning about the accessibility of important justice matters.

What began as a small project slowly spread out throughout the U.S. with involvement from organizations such as the Alaska Legal Services Corp and the U.S. Department of Justice. Its focus is centered on law as “an institution to help people”. One particular app, ADA2Go, was designed for people with disabilities to ascertain their rights in various situations.

Mark O’Brien, the executive director and co-founder of Pro Bono Net, says “Tanina has mastered getting students to do something that’s nonintuitive—the creation of specific apps during the course of a semester and delivering them to legal aid organizations and others for use.” Rostain herself said that “these apps are adaptable to a lot of paying legal work, and they’re going to proliferate.”

With the number of apps being created, the scope of the “access-to-justice” idea is already on its way to impacting many people in this profession and consumers themselves.

Article via ABA Journal, September 23, 2015

Photo: EP via European Parliament [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]