Written by Mike Dixon, BSD Education. The ISTE conference is a wonderful time of year where educators from around the world gather to discuss the latest trends and technologies impacting education. It’s a time to look forward to the new challenges and opportunities that face students with a positive attitude and an open mind. This year, BSD was fortunate to have the ISTE conference land straight on our doorstep, here in the city of Philadelphia. During the weekend leading up to the conference, BSD hosted nearly one hundred educators onsite at our office atop the String Theory School in Philadelphia. The teachers in attendance represented states from across the US as well as multiple countries including Nigeria, Singapore, and Brazil. Over the course of the day, teachers shared experiences, built their personal networks and engaged with interactive workshops, lead by the BSD team. Here are some of the highlights!
Written by Mo Qureshi, BSD Education Earlier this month I was invited to present at the ACAMIS Spring Leadership Conference on Student Agency in Educational Technology Integrations. This article summarizes the key points from my presentation – definition and importance of student agency, concrete examples of student agency in action with teachers taking a lead in enabling this; and some tips school leaders can take back to school. As Head of Learning Experience at BSD, a huge part of my job is to deliver professional development and coach teachers, as well as observe a wide variety of classroom settings. During coaching and classroom observations, I get the opportunity to see a wide variety of student agency in action. But what is student agency? Eric Sheninger’s definition in his article, Student Agency: Moving from Talk to Action, captures the essence of what it’s about – “Student agency is about empowering kids to own their learning (and school) through greater autonomy. It is driven by choice, voice, and advocacy.” Access to Internet-enabled devices in and outside the classroom has encouraged and allowed students to take control of their own learning. As educators, it’s now up to us to help students take responsible ownership of their learning as well as provide the right environment and support to nurture this. In my visits to schools, I have observed that those which best promote student agency in technology settings have these common traits:
- They invest time and resources to develop clear and strong objectives and outcomes for teachers and students. After this is defined, choosing the right devices, infrastructure and software become easy.
- The school leadership supports the decisions made by the teachers and promotes buy-in from the teaching community. Developing agency in students is, in fact, starts with giving the same autonomy to teachers to make their own decision.
- They promote interdepartmental collaboration. Bringing together teachers with a wide range of skill sets and from different backgrounds helps bring out and inspires the best in everyone.
- They listen to the student and parent community and involve them in the decision making process.
- Give up control: When you bring in technology and the internet in the classroom you open the world of new possibilities. This makes it impossible for you to plan every detail of your lesson plan so I recommend carving in ample time for exploration and tinkering.
- Let students decide: It’s time for the end of term project presentations? Encourage students to be creative and let them choose what they want to do – shoot a video, create a website, even enact it or just stick to a slideshow – the choice is entirely up to them! Doing so helps build confidence and bring out students’ hidden interests and skills.
- Engage your students by asking for suggestions and feedback: Ask students to peer review their work by giving each other “three stars and a wish” – three things you liked about your colleagues’ work and one thing you wish they would do next time.
- Solve open ended problems: Ask big questions to solve big problems. Questions like – “how would you decrease traffic congestion in X city?”, “how would you improve the food and water distribute chain so everyone gets equal access to it?”, “how would you incentivise people to pay their taxes?”, etc. Asking such questions opens the doors to a series of follow up questions encourages students to gain a deeper understanding of how complex systems work, which in turn helps them to potentially discover the root cause of the problem.
- Be a coach or facilitator for learning: When it comes to technology, students need a supportive and experienced adult to guide them. They also need an environment where trying, learning-by-doing, and not being afraid to make mistakes is encouraged.
Written by Charlotte Brearley, BSD Education Many schools recognize that bringing technology education into their offering is vital to ensuring the future success of their students. However, the practicalities of this can be challenging. Some common challenges we hear are: there is already too much curriculum to get through, staff find it challenging, and resources are too expensive. Fortunately, there is more than one way to integrate technology learning into school life, so no matter what challenges may appear initially, you will find a way. We know all schools are unique with different objectives and challenges and, for this reason, we have outlined four approaches to integration that might work for you. As a focused course Technology can be taught as a stand-alone subject. This works well where a school is able to or has already carved out dedicated time, perhaps in a computing class or STEM class, with the sole objective of teaching technology. This approach ensures that students get the opportunity to focus purely on their digital skills. In this space, we have our TechReady courses, which focus on bridging the gap between age-appropriate learning and developments in the real world, such as AI and big data. Integrated into other subjects Integrating technology can help make learning in other subjects more ‘real-world relevant’ or help bring subjects together to create exciting cross-curricular learning opportunities. Many schools do not have the available time to teach technology as a stand-alone subject so this enables integration without having to find lots of additional hours. It also allows you to align vital skills with the interests of your students. You can think about small or large scale technology projects and bring in different approaches depending on the topic that you are teaching. For example, why not get your students to create a blog instead of writing their next story in their textbook or perhaps you can think about using data visualization to demonstrate migration trends over time in geography. At BSD, we have curated TechConnected projects that can be brought into any core subject. We focus on enhancing what is already happening in the classroom. This enables you to continue with your teaching almost as normal and simply bring in an activity that combines subject and technology learning. Through this approach, the subject becomes the context and the projects create a more engaging way for students to either learn the concepts of the subject or become a content vessel to present and reinforce what they are learning in the class. After school activities For those of you who do not have time during the school day to bring in technology learning, you can think about running an after-school activity focused on technology. In one of our previous issues, we explored why enrichment programs are so powerful and the benefits they offer students. Integrating in this way is an excellent starting point that can be built upon. Out of school learning should be more open and exploratory so our Technovators program for after-school activities focuses on giving students the freedom to work with technology in a more creative way. Do all three Technology in the real world touches everything and impacts everyone. It cannot be isolated to one area or a group of self-selecting people and, in an ideal world, the school environment must reflect this. At BSD we advocate for infusing technology learning across everything so that students can make connections, follow their interests and understand how to use and apply technology to build solutions across contexts and you as a teacher can help enable this. We believe that regular exposure to technology in a range of different contexts is the best way to prepare students for using technology in their futures and to understand how to apply it in connection with their interests. However, it is also clear that implementation across everything can rarely be the first step. Start with what best fits your school’s model and build from there. For more information about any of our curriculum offerings, contact us here.
Written by Scott Peterman, BSD Education. Continuing with our series of Reasons for Bringing Technology Learning into Subject Areas, today we look at how the right infusion of technology can transform student learning in any History class. When students study history the typical end product is too often something static such as a diorama or poster. Despite schools recent embrace of technology, this too often ends up as internet research, video watching in history class. However, the right infusion of technology can transform the existing curriculum of any history class into an active learning experience that exposes students to the real-world application of technology in different contexts and scenarios. When properly incorporated into history class, technology can empower learners to understand concepts such as continuity and change, cause and consequences, similarity, difference and significance. These critical thinking skills can then be applied to frame historically valid questions and create structured accounts including written narrative Here are 3 examples of how technology can enhance history class: Curiosity – Active Artifacts With BSD’s TechConnected curriculum, students can forgo writing yet another research report and instead create their own interactive, virtual museum! Students can select and research an artifact then, use the design thinking process to draw connections to the people who used them. Students can then visualize the relationships and dependencies between their artifact and the time period, linking online content and resources. The project will culminate with students showcasing their Artifact research through a real web page they will individually build from scratch using HTML and CSS.
- Adapted from Haverford Ancient Egypt Project
- Adapted from Book of BSD – Timeline Builder (History) Project
- Adapted from Book of BSD – Fact or Opinion Scavenger Hunt Project
Written by Mike Dixon, BSD Education. BSD works with core subject teachers around the world who are tasked with weaving technology into their classroom experience. In many cases, there are no guidelines for where to begin or metrics provided for measuring impact. To help navigate the challenges of tech integration, we’ve outlined 4 tips for creating meaningful technology experiences that will engage students and enhance learning. 1. Ditch the Gadgets All too often, we see schools attempt to meet technology requirements by purchasing the latest smart board or 3D printer. There is a notion that learning naturally follows after the acquisition of these devices. However, even when a motivated English teacher elects for her students to use a 3D printer during her poetry unit, how can she be sure that learning is happening? Are students gaining real world technology skills? Is the presence of 3D printing enhancing the existing poetry curriculum? How can we be sure? Inevitably, without regular professional development, tech support and integrated lesson plans, we find that these devices go under-utilized. 2. Embrace Computational Thinking Counter intuitively, the key to successful technology integration is not technology! Rather, students must learn to think in a way that empowers them to use technology to create real world solutions. Computational Thinking is a method of problem–solving used by computer scientists that breaks down into Decomposition, Pattern Recognition, Abstraction, and Algorithm. Let’s expand on the example above of an English teacher who aims to bring technology skills into her poetry lessons. The goal of this project is to analyze a poem and extract insights. Decomposition – Students choose a collection of poems and identify specific properties within each work, such as author details, number of lines, rhyming schemes, syllables, tone, etc. Pattern Recognition – The class determines various connections that can be made by noticing patterns across works. Do certain authors reuse specific metaphors? Do distinct vocabulary words appear only within the work of a defined time period? Abstraction – Challenge students to decide which properties are important to solving the problem and which are not? If your goal is to determine whether or not a poem is a haiku, then syllables are quite important. Whereas, if you’re hoping to surmise the poet’s gender, then syllables may be irrelevant. Algorithms – Using what they’ve learned, each student will now design a reliable method for extracting specific insights from a poem. Notice, that students have not necessarily used technology up to this point! The final product can take the form of a flow chart or survey that asks relevant questions about any given poem in order to determine something about it. Examples could be “Was this poem written by Emily Dickinson?” or “Is this poem a sonnet?” or “Was this poem written before 1900?” By following the Computational Thinking process, students are thinking deeply about the core subject matter while gaining 21st century problem solving skills. 3. Leverage Real-World Data Teachers know that students learn best when they feel that the learning applies directly to their real lives. Fortunately, it’s never been easier to illustrate real-world connections using real time data! A classic word problem in math asks students to calculate the exact time and place that two trains traveling in opposite directions will pass each other. Perhaps the updated version requires students to plot the route using Google Maps and incorporate factors like train delays, weather, and holiday scheduling. Consider a US history assignment that prompts students to write an essay about their favorite president. By leveraging 70 years of free detailed presidential approval ratings online, teachers can challenge students to map their chosen president’s approval rating to significant historical events and use those insights to make predictions about the future. 4. Share Student Work Online Finally, one of the simplest ways to bring technology concepts into non-tech classrooms is by publishing student work online. Regardless of their future endeavours, curating an online presence is an unavoidable part of being a member of the innovation economy. In addition to popular tools such as Github, Behance, and Linkedin, the BSD Online platform provides all students with a place for showcasing real-world technology projects that can be shared with college admissions and even directly to employers. If you are a teacher or school administrator and have questions about integrating technology into your classroom, please feel free to reach out to BSD Education. We can help you prepare your students for the ever–changing challenges of tomorrow and engage them with projects that combine core subjects with 21st century technology skills.
Written by Rachel Brujis, BSD Education You’ve decided you want to learn a new technique for the classroom. Now comes the tough question: where to go? How many times have we found ourselves combing through various MOOCs, teacher Instagram accounts, university continuing education courses, and online teacher resource guides only to realize that a full hour has gone by and we still haven’t come to a decision? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! To make it easy for you, we have created a quick guide on some of our favorite resources for finding new techniques you can try in your classroom.
- 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.
Written by Rachel Brujis, BSD Education Did you know that 79% of teachers that use BSD have no experience with coding or teaching technology? We design our programmes specifically for these teachers to get technology into the classroom so kids’ tech exposure is not just confined to an hour a day in a tech or computer science class (don’t get us wrong though, we LOVE these types of classes!). This way, it’s more similar to real-world where technology is entwined into every part of our daily life. We also believe that every teacher is capable of teaching students the basics of technology and coding, at the very least. So how does it work in practice? Based on our experience, here are five key take-aways on designing a PD programme that works.
- 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.