Through both my own education and by what I have observed as we developed and launched ChalkTalk, I’ve always known that teachers are the unsung heroes of our world.

The last eight months spent adapting to the realities of COVID-19 have only confirmed that. Teachers have had to exert even more effort and are digging deep for creative solutions to serve their students. They are coming up with new ways to engage students for distance learning, and figuring out how to arrange classrooms safely and institute health protocols in schools.

Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

With distance learning, teachers are going the extra mile to…

Choosing Education as My Life’s Mission

My father grew up in a refugee camp wearing underwear my grandmother sewed together from UN donation rice bags and using street lamps to study at night. Through education and scholarships, he became a physician and ultimately worked his way up to become the Secretary-General of Healthcare of Jordan.

I witnessed firsthand how hard my father worked to overcome obstacles not faced by many of his peers, and I understood how access to high-quality education could open new doors for anyone who did not grow up with the benefit of privilege. …

As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to swiftly evolve and reshape almost every aspect of our lives; schools, teachers, students, and parents are all facing enormous impacts. Here’s how I see things changing in the coming days, weeks, and months ahead, and how ChalkTalk is planning to respond:

  • Stage I — Ad-Hoc Enrichment: This is what’s happening now. Schools across the country have closed, with many taking advantage of extended spring breaks to figure out the next steps. …

With so many demands on classroom time, preparing students for standardized testing is not the most rewarding way for teachers — or students — to spend limited instructional hours. But as the ACT and SAT move from individual efforts by college-bound students to state-mandated assessments for entire schools and districts, teachers and administrators are looking for ways to give students the understanding and test-taking skills needed to succeed.

Making the Most of Instructional Time

Teachers are in the classroom to share knowledge and spark a love of learning, and not to act as “test-prep” messengers. Knowing that, we created ChalkTalk to allow teachers to harness the…

“The reason I got into teaching? To help students maximize test scores,” said no teacher or administrator ever. Sharing a love of learning and helping kids unlock their innate potential is a much more likely answer to that question, of course. So when is it okay to make a pedagogical compromise and prioritize test scores over understanding? The answer: absolutely never.

Having established that as a core tenet, it’s healthy to revisit what is a “test” or an “assessment”. It is a set of exercises or a project that “tests” or “assesses” student understanding in one or more domains. Without…

Since its beginnings in 1926, the SAT spent most of its life as a daunting test of knowledge for college-bound students. Preparation for the SAT (and its competitor, the ACT) revolved around memorizing arcane vocabulary words and stressing out over trickily-worded math questions. Depending upon the selectivity of the universities that students were targeting, getting as close to that perfect score as possible was the singular task that many students focused on for the spring of their junior year. For wealthier students, this could mean expensive tutors or test prep centers. …

Stack of multicolored artists’ chalk
Stack of multicolored artists’ chalk
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on

The ChalkTalk Method has three key moving parts: whole group instruction, collaborative learning, then individual practice. Collaborative learning may well be the classic middle child that can be lost in the shuffle between the lecture and the individual student work. However, like middle children, this intermediary step is critical to the cohesion of the whole, and deserves just as much attention as its older and younger siblings (despite our childhood remote control wars, I’m pretty sure my older and younger sisters would agree with me on this 😅). The aspect that demands the most attention for this middle step of…

The First Wave of Personalized Learning

“No two students are alike so no two students should be learning the same thing or way.” That’s the key statement underpinning the $180 million raised by the NY-based Knewton since its founding in 2008. Knewton founder Jose Ferriera described his company’s concept in a 2015 story at NPR, “We think of it like a robot tutor in the sky that can semi-read your mind and figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are, down to the percentile.” A few weeks ago, Knewton was acquired for less than $17 million.

Meanwhile, Silicon Valley tech billionaires, including Mark Zuckerberg, poured $174…

Mohannad Arbaji

ChalkTalk Founder & CEO

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