- FutureLearn – they have a specific section for teaching, and a sub-section from primary teaching or STEM education so you can easily find something relevant. The courses are often short (2-3 hours per week, for 2-4 weeks) and can be done flexibly and over a longer period of time if needed. We particularly recommend reading the comments – often the instructors ask other students to suggest activities and have gotten lots of ideas there.
- Twinkl – one of the best places to go for inspiration while lesson planning, it will give you ideas for new techniques to try and has all the materials ready to go in an instant. Again, it is really easy to sort by year group and subject so you immediately find something relevant to you. You do need to pay for access to the resources, but we often find it is a good source of inspiration to flip through the ideas in our subject area even if you don’t have a subscription.
- Pinterest and Instagram – while social media is often thought of us a time waster, there are tons of amazing education accounts out there showcasing real teacher activities in the classroom. Some of our favorites on Instagram include @thsfoundry and @steamexplorers.
- Technology providers – have a new technology that you want to use in your classroom but don’t know where to start? A lot of tech companies are more than happy to help you get started, whether it’s Raspberry Pi’s classes on FutureLearn or Google’s Teacher Center there are often a lot of free resources. And of course, if you use (or want to use) BSD’s curriculum we are always happy to help so just contact us here.
- It is on-going. Rather than a one-off workshop, we work with schools to embed regular professional development in teachers’ schedules throughout the term. This allows for spacing, and creates opportunities for application, reflection and improvement.
- It is differentiated. We work with schools that range from private schools in Hong Kong to public schools in Philadelphia so we have a lot of experience working with teachers with different backgrounds, cultures, languages and experiences. We tailor our PD to make it relevant in terms of context, while still emphasising the core skills that span borders.
- It uses innovative technologies. Just like students, teachers want an opportunity to use the latest technologies and tools. We always aim to bring in the latest technologies whether in software or hardware so that teachers can see what is possible, even while we build up their basic underlying technical skills.
- It focuses on the big skills. We know that technology will change, so in addition to the core coding skills, we also focus on the overarching computational and design thinking approaches we want students to learn. This way, even as the underlying technology changes, the objectives and many of the teaching techniques stay relevant. Our goal in every project is for students to use an approach that includes inquiry, planning, teamwork, iteration, empathy and design; and in this context, be able to figure out what technology is required to accomplish their goals.
- It builds a community of practice. We know that we can’t teach everything in one (or even many) professional development sessions so also actively work to build a community and get We work with a small group of interested early adopters, and focus on training and nurturing them to build their confidence. This helps them become internal experts and champions that push each other to try new things and act as informal mentors to new teachers that want to get involved.
1. Learn with your students. Your students will love the opportunity to drive the learning and at times act like the teacher. Frame it as an adventure to explore together: “Let’s explore together, I know that some of you may have had experience with it before, let’s take this opportunity to learn from each other and together.”
2. Use the internet as a tool. A lot of technology experts use YouTube to top up their skills – whether to learn a new code or create a new tool. Can you use YouTube creatively with your students to learn and build something? For some classes with older kids, this can be a great way to change the learning environment. Besides, who would say no to watching YouTube for homework?
3. Work in partnership. Remember the idea to make your students the teacher? You can assign students a role to make them part of the learning – whether it’s the CSS Superhero or HTML expert – this is a great way to build their capacity as experts and confidence teaching their peers a new skill.
4. It’s cool to copy. In technology, it’s not considered cheating if you copy! In fact open-source code is how a lot of programs are built. The role of the programmer or product designer is to bring together existing pieces to make something useful and they only build new things where they need to. Don’t be afraid to look online for inspiration for your design or code, and focus on encouraging students to think of new combinations that make something useful in the real world.
Problem-SolvingBuilding a 2D mini game with code means that children will commonly run into challenges with their game, such as points not being added correctly, a button not responding to a mouse click, or a character on the screen is moving up instead of down. Kids will quickly learn that encountering bugs is a common process when coding, and that they will need to be organized, adaptable, and resourceful in order to come up with a variety of solutions. This will include checking their coding syntax, researching by themselves online for a fix, or rearranging their code in a different way.
Design (User Interface and User eXperience)Building a 2D Mini Game encourages children to develop their skills in design. Children must think about how and where to place components – such as text and buttons – on the screen in a way that makes for a visually pleasing interface. They must also think about the emotionally rewarding and challenging aspects of their game that may encourage or discourage further gameplay. This design process helps to nurture empathy and adaptability in kids, as they will need to place themselves in the mindset of their players.
Attention to DetailThroughout the process of building their 2D mini game, kids will learn that they will need to be diligent, thorough, and focused when working on every aspect of their game. They must make sure that their coding syntax is correct, or map out the game flow and logic of to account for all the different scenarios that players will encounter. Technology camps are a unique, eye-opening, and engaging way for children to pursue their interests in a collaborative environment and make new friends, learn new skills, and be exposed to a variety of disciplines. At the end of a camp, children will leave with a greater appreciation of the technology that is so deeply ingrained in their daily lives, and will get to proudly showcase to their friends and family, a game that they programmed by themselves. The gaming industry is among the fastest growing industries today that will be even bigger in childrens’ futures. Learning to build games helps equip children with digital skills that are the foundation for exploring other areas of tech, such as app development, animation, graphic design, and web development. If you are interested in bringing our Build a 2D Mini Game Camps into your school, let us know by contacting us here.
What is Project Based Learning?Simply put, Project Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method through which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge. It is becoming widely used in schools and other educational settings, with different varieties being practiced because it supports students at all skill levels, meeting each student exactly where they are. Problems can be delivered based on what a student knows and doesn’t know, which customizes the experience to be unique for each student.
What are the benefits of PBL?Project-based learning can be a catalyst for transforming learning, helping students move from asking “what?” to also asking “why?” and “how?” In a traditional classroom, students often focus on memorizing facts to pass a test. However, research has shown that by organizing learning around meaningful goals, PBL can be an effective way to cultivate a “need to know” attitude in students—students are motivated to deepen their understanding in order to solve a problem that is meaningful to them. Concepts are better understood when students see a need for their use, make an authentic connection with them, because that need encourages them to apply what they’re learning to relevant situations, leading to a better sense of understanding. Researchers have also observed higher rates of students staying on task and paying close attention to the teacher and their peers.
Understanding the limits of Project Based LearningHowever, there are key characteristics that differentiate “doing a project” from engaging in Project Based Learning. While PBL has been increasingly embraced by educators in pursuit of ‘personalized learning,’ it is important to remember that without the right tools, it can still be just a buzzword. Preparing students to be lifelong learners capable of partaking knowledgeably in both civic life and a rapidly changing workforce, requires not just focusing on technology, personalization, or even coding, but the broader content and foundation at the heart of these experiences. Put another way, quality curriculum and instructional design is still the key to the long-term impact PBL can have on any student. A vivid example of these limitations is provided in the following passage from a 2017 Edutopia article: “As students learn to read, it is critical that they build a strong and wide foundation of knowledge. A learner’s background knowledge is a key ingredient in her ability to learn and absorb information from what she is reading and consuming. Accordingly, personalizing learning through technology will be most powerful when it is coupled with intentional, coherent and rigorous instruction… Yes, tapping into and developing children’s interests and instilling in them a sense of ownership of their education is important. Yet allowing them unbridled choice of what they learn, especially when they are young, means that in certain cases they will miss building that foundation… If students don’t have a working familiarity with a body of knowledge, a new passage on the topic—no matter how elementary it may seem and no matter how strong the reader’s fundamental decoding skills—will frustrate… Without at least a working familiarity with a topic, Google—where you have to generate the right question to ask—will only take you so far in the moment. That is because, as cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham wrote, “Every passage that you read omits information. All of this omitted information must be brought to the text by the reader.” This passage is an important reminder that how educators incorporate PBL and Technology into their curriculum, will really define the success of their efforts and long-term impact it has on students.
How does BSD use Project Based Learning?One of the best attributes of PBL is it’s versatility to be highly impactful for students in practically every learning context. For example, PBL is not only the foundation of all of BSD’s in-school curriculum, but also our out-of school-time (OST) curriculum as well. We do this not for convenience or even continuity, rather because it has proven itself to consistently be the most effective model for sparking & sustaining engagement for the vast majority of students we work with, regardless of their prior tech experience or interest level. PBL offers us the contextual framework to change students to shift their thinking from, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ to, ‘what problems do you want to solve when you grow up.’ By engaging in project-based learning units that have a strong career focus, students have the chance to see how concepts & lessons that may have previously seemed abstract directly apply and can be used in the working world. This offers students the chance to experience education through the eyes of artists, entrepreneurs, tech professionals and more. These clear connections to contextually relevant career opportunities creates excitement by encouraging students to strive to learn more in a subject and ultimately changes their experience of education from learning as a task to learning to achieve bigger and better outcomes.
- Competency – you learn something new about technology and the world
- Context – the activity is relevant and interesting, not a worksheet
- Collaboration – it connects you to your peers or the world around you