Written by Brandon Berthrong of BSD Education. Formative assessment is an essential part of the learning process, allowing teachers to assess students understanding of concepts and learning needs. Here are a few of our favorite tech tools that can help make assessments fun for students and easy for teachers:
Written by Brandon Berthrong of BSD Education. The Hour of Code is a world-wide grass-roots program built on the principle that everyone can code. They report that more than 640,000,000 people have participated in the program! While Hour of Code can be done any time of the year, during computer science education week (December 3-9th) organizations from all over the world come together to participate in the program. Participants can do projects on the Hour of Code website or through several affiliated programs, through which they’ll complete various code-focused activities and projects. The idea behind the program is to take an hour (though reportedly 87% of participants end up spending more time than that) to introduce people, particularly students, to the idea that they can code. While Computer Science can seem like a daunting field, through the hour of code students of all backgrounds are able to dispel some of the mystery surrounding it. There’s a lot more that can be gleaned from the Hour of Code than just code though. Teachers and educators can also use different aspects of the Hour of Code itself as a teaching tool.
The School Demonstrating Technology in ActionAs a school, it’s not just the participation, but also the way that you demonstrate your own use of technology in running your “Hour of Code” that can impart important concepts to the students.
- The way you share about your school’s participation within the school’s network as well as through external digital media can set a strong example about digital marketing, and conveying messages to different groups of people.
- Setting up video links and having students and staff in different schools work together during the hour of code can illustrate both the potential for and the power of collaboration in a digital age.
- Polling students about their experience and how it can be improved next year can make them think about user experience and the importance of data.
Students Demonstrating Technology in ActionAs well as participating, students can take simple steps themselves that reinforce the ways that technology is used in the real world.
- Students can get experience with principles of digital marketing through the sharing of their completed projects with both peers and parents.
- By interviewing each other before and after the program, students will be able to consider how the program can be improved for the following year, exposing them to user experience.
- If some students formed an Hour of Code Committee, they could present the feedback from the interviews, giving hands-on experience with data analysis.
- If you collaborate with another school, students could even compare the data from their respective schools.
Written by Xyra Sace of BSD Education In a recent article we released in Issue #7, we talked about the advantages of extracurricular activities like Technology Camps on student learning; how it helps students develop to become well rounded young adults and the real world skills students acquire in camps such as Game Development. Looking for Technology Camps for kids younger than 8 can be a challenge. Many organizations are trying to provide options for this age group because they see it as a business opportunity. However, there are a number of child developmental considerations when choosing programmes for younger children that should be taken into account. For example, children as young as 5 for will likely have difficulties in using a mouse, typing, remembering where the letters on the keyboards are, understanding the syntax of coding languages and let’s not forget the much shorter attention spans. For young kids, we would recommend keeping the phrase “Learning through playing” front of mind. It has been long understood, through practical experience as well as academic work by e.g. Lev Vygotsky and Maria Montessori, that learning through play is a critical element for young children to develop key skills in language, emotion, creativity and social interaction, it pulls together the logical and creative areas of the brain. In practical terms, we have found that introducing Technology with Lego Mindstorms to young kids is more effective than making them code early on. Even in children as young as 6 years old, we have found Robotics with Lego effective to expose them to both the principles and ideas of coding, like logic, and elements of engineering through robotics. The small parts in Lego Mindstorms challenge younger students developing motor skills and coordination. Here’s some of the key benefits of Lego Mindstorms and what kids learn and build in a Lego Mindstorms Camp: 1.) Boosts empathy and awareness In our camps, we ensure to kickstart it with a few intriguing questions: “What type of problems do you face in daily life?” “Are there more people who are facing the same problem?” and “What can we do to solve it?”. Prompting these questions helps young learners begin to consider their environment. This helps them think about the problems they would like robots to solve, these can be as simple as “retrieving an item across the room without having to leave a seat”. 2.) Nurtures Imagination and Creativity When entering the brainstorming process you’ll get a room full of energy and 100 possible answers, this is the time to introduce feasibility. For example, If you need to retrieve an item from across the room, “what will you need?” You will likely need something with wheels on it to move and arms to pick it up. “Do you have these resources available?”. 3.) Introduces engineering Lego Mindstorms encourages kids to build with more variety like gears and levers. It promotes engineering where students can take the various plastic pieces to construct robots, buggies, or devices, while ensuring they can physically “move” or “operate” together to successfully and repeatedly perform a task e.g. making sure none of the pieces fall when the robot moves from a spot to another. Some people opine that the best way to stimulate the maximum creativity in robotics is to first take away the option of using the wheels! 4.) Emphasizes teamwork Building a robot is not easy for kids to finish alone. We encourage them to go in groups to accomplish robots together, even to seek help where they can observe adults nearby or in their class. We help them identify their strengths, as well as start to think about ideas like delegation and having a team leader. One kid can be in charge of putting the pieces together, while another can be in charge of coding the robot. 5.) Teaches programming concepts When building a robot, it is important kids are aware that computers don’t and can’t think for themselves. All technology is based on code, no matter how complex it is. Lego Mindstorms runs on a visual programming environment, which is intuitive for kids because they simply need to imagine what their robot will do, and drag-and-drop plain language blocks into correct sequences using logic. There are on screen technologies to do this like Scratch, however they lack the physical interaction and immersive multi-sensory experience that kids get in creating and using a robot. 6.) Camps are a great opportunity to Improve presentation and public speaking skills At the end of any technology camp, we find it’s a critical capstone event for kids to be able to present their product. Presenting a solution is just as important as making a solution! It is the culminating part of reflection on their experience, reinforcement of their learning and demonstrating important soft skills and pride in their work. Here we have used Robotics as our example. However, the benefits of play based learning will be quite consistent in any camp that is science or technology based. You can be certain that your children will have a lot of fun and be highly engaged to light the spark to learn even more in the future. If you’re interested in bringing our Technology Camps or After School Programs into your schools, let us know here or request a demo.
Written by Brandon Berthrong of BSD Education. Personalized learning is a topic of ever-increasing importance in today’s educational environment, and code fits perfectly within its ideals. Personalized learning is all about tailoring the learning experience to the needs of students, allowing them to gain more out of education by focusing on things that interest them and using learning styles that best suit their needs. Code offers a unique opportunity to allow for structured and yet personalized learning. Ultimately, the way you learn to code is by completing projects. Just as there is an immeasurable number of applications for code, there are a huge number of application connected project scenarios out there for students to get the practice they need. Moreover, in programming, there is rarely only one way to solve a problem. This lack of definite right answers means that learners are able to flex their own creative muscles, engaging their minds in figuring out how to reach the desired outcome. This lends itself strongly to personalized learning, as even if a class of students at school is all working on the same project, each student can focus on solving the problems in a way that best suits their interests. More advanced students can try more complicated solutions, while other students can focus on building the basics and developing a better understanding of how fundamental elements work and interact. As an example, if a class was doing a simple project like creating a poster with HTML and CSS, some students might create a poster with a solid background, blocks of text, and maybe an image. More advanced students might instead add changing background colors, embed videos or make elements of the poster interactive. Every participant can make the poster about something they’re interested in or something they are learning, adding another element of personalization, keeping students more engaged. Projects like building websites, video games, chatbots, to-do-lists, random generators (of characters, world’s, numbers, names…), bots, data tracking programs, etc all allow incredible levels of customization. Enabling students to do things that interest them while, still working towards a common goal, connects strongly to the foundations of personalized learning. The type of project-based learning that is essential to learn code allows students to practice their creative thinking skills while also producing concrete products they can be proud of. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Written by Brandon Berthrong of BSD Education. While the discussion about modern games and their effect on today’s society is still an ongoing debate, the incredible potential of the medium to teach a range of skills, especially in education, is impossible to ignore. Much of this potential is tied to the immense versatility of video games themselves. Video games are one of the most flexible types of entertainment around, more so than movies, books, or music. Their ability to tie multiple disciplines together, their flexibility of form and purpose, allows them to fit an ever-expanding range of situations and demand a range of skills and competencies of their users. In a classroom setting, games allow the learner to take in information at a personalized pace and without much social pressure. In a traditional classroom setting, it’s often the case that students are rushed past a concept that the rest of the class grasps quickly, leaving them without a solid understanding of important material. Conversely, a student might quickly grasp a concept, but then is forced to wait while others catch up, making it extremely likely that they’ll check out and either stop paying attention or begin causing disruptions for others. Games can allow for each player to progress at their own pace, doing much to alleviate this issue. In addition, students are able to learn concepts in a setting that takes off the social pressure of performing in front of the class; instead, they can focus on understanding the concepts presented without being judged by their peers. The whole concept of a video game is built around creating an experience that makes the player want to keep playing. Rather than being passively talked at or asked to read through materials, games ask the player to overcome challenges through the active use of their brains, making for a platform that allows students to quickly apply concepts or learn new ones. For instance, The Republia Times is a free web-game in which players are tasked with writing headlines for a newspaper; the catch is that, through the titles, they have to toe the line between sentiment and bias. The game asks students to use their creative writing skills and forces them to balance multiple agendas while also opening up the possibility of discussions on relevant issues regarding media and free speech. There’s also Cell Command, a web-based game where students control various organelles inside an animal cell. Through the game, students are able to build an understanding of cell functions and how each part interacts while staying actively engaged in the learning process. With Kahoot! you can create a game using a pre-made template, then play it solo or as a group. Students can also make games themselves, allowing them to test each other on material covered, an ideal way to retain information. Teachers can even assign games as homework; you can probably see how students might prefer playing a trivia game to filling out a piece of paper. Fortnite, a popular battle-royal game, has a team mode that encourages students to work as a group, creating strategies and building their teamwork to beat other teams of players. In doing so they’ll have to learn to work with other people, how to effectively communicate to accomplish a goal, how to deal with failure and fix mistakes constructively. Really, at their core, most games offer the player a series of rules and problems then ask them to use their minds to overcome challenges within that framework. Maybe that challenge is how to solve a puzzle, how to maximize the efficiency of a system, or how to out-maneuver another player; regardless, players are being asked to learn new skills and think about things in new ways. Video games do tend to be a fairly divisive topic; some claim that they encourage young people to retreat from the world and their fellow humans, depriving them of essential social skills. Others claim that playing video games offers a wide range of benefits, from improved hand-eye coordination to enhanced strategic thinking, and that through online games players build essential skills in cooperative problem solving and teamwork. That’s a bigger discussion, and because this is real life we’re talking about, they’re probably both right. When used correctly though, video games offer a way to make kids excited about learning and engaged with the material, all in a way that allows for an experience tailored to suit their learning style. While you can have too much of a good thing, when used responsibly, today’s video games can be an incredible asset for building a variety of skills. For more ideas on how to use video games in your classroom, check out this link.
Written by Brandon Berthrong of BSD Education Why do we refer to coding languages as “languages”? While it’s easy to pass off as just a phrase, the term is actually remarkably fitting; understanding why can help broaden and deepen our understanding of both coding and our spoken languages. Here are just 5 of the interesting ways coding is like a traditional language: 1. IT’S USED TO SHARE INFORMATION. First, and perhaps most basic, coding and languages are both used to share data. In our daily interaction with other people, whether over the internet or in person, we use language to convey our thoughts, feelings, and intentions. At its core, code is doing the same thing; when you write code, you’re basically talking to the computer and telling it what you want. It could even be argued that much of the time, the computer then takes those instructions and in turn uses them to communicate with other people through web pages, video games, apps, etc. 2. THEY HAVE RULES AND GRAMMAR (OR SYNTAX). Rules and grammar are an essential part of language. Without rules and the framework they provide, our languages would not be able to convey meaning as effectively as they do. The same could be said about code. If you get the rules wrong in code, the computer can’t understand what you’re trying to say. 3. THEY ARE EXTREMELY VERSATILE. While code does have very specific rules, much like traditional language those rules also allow freedom. We can use spoken language for a huge variety of purposes: we use it to share thoughts, request things, and generally to communicate. We can even use language to make music or play games with it. Code has its own flexibility. For all its exacting rules and specifications, it can be used to solve different problems in a variety of ways. While some methods might be best suited to certain instances or contexts, as long as it follows the basic rules there generally isn’t one “right” answer. 4. THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT LANGUAGES Mandarin and English are very different languages. They have different grammar, and methods of speaking or writing. While they ultimately fulfill the same purpose, some ideas might be easier to express in English, and some ideas might only be fully appreciated in Mandarin. The same is true of code. While one language may be able to solve a variety of different problems, another language might be able to do it a little better. Some languages can converse fluently with data, some are right at home giving a robot instructions. In the same way that learning a new spoken language allows you to communicate with new people in new ways, learning new programming languages allows you to deal with problems in different ways. 5. YOU WON’T BECOME FLUENT IN A DAY If you really crunch, after a day of study you might be able to say hello, ask for the bathroom, and maybe order from a restaurant in a foreign language. But to really understand a language takes practice. While learning a new programming language is generally faster than picking up a foreign language, ultimately the same principles apply. After a day or two of study you can create some cool projects and build a base understanding of the rules, but you won’t be able to build an expansive piece of software. While that can be discouraging, it’s also what makes learning so rewarding. Learning a new programming language, whether it’s your first or fifty-first, can allow you to think about old problems in new ways and accomplish things you couldn’t before. While they may look very different on a page, when it comes down to it coding languages and spoken languages share many similarities. In comparing the two we allow ourselves to see both things in a slightly different light, to understand new aspects of the familiar; and maybe that slight shift in perspective makes us reconsider an oft-occurring problem or particularly vexing issue, allowing us to find a better solution. Ultimately, it’s by making changes in the way we think and developing new ideas that we change a world, a country, or even a classroom.
The lack of representation of girls and women in STEM-related subjects and careers is regularly reported on the news and social media. You’ve probably seen the stats, but just as a reminder:
- Microsoft research found that by the time they’re in college, 58% of female students believe that jobs requiring programming and coding are “not for them”
- A girl guiding survey in the UK found that fewer than 10% of girls aged 7 to 10 said they would choose a career as an engineer or scientist
- Only 1.4% of Nobel Physics Prize winners have been female
- Make sure they are represented in displays, presentations and resources
- Follow inspiring women on twitter and share their stories with your class
- Many of the leaders and team members at BSD are female, performing key roles in a fast growing international technology company. To highlight a few: Charlotte Brearley is the Chief Operating Officer with global responsibility, Eva Yeung is a Director in our Education Team and a key strategist in our educational vision, and Gabrielle Iorio is a key leader responsible for the growth of our Business in the United States. We would be more than happy to connect you with Charlotte, Eva, Gabrielle or any of our broader team to share their stories with your class.
It’s that time of year when students are (already) starting to think about their subject choices for the upcoming year. We know with technology, especially computer science or coding, that students can often be put off by some commonly held misconceptions. We have put a few points together below that can help you demystify or debunk these, and drive more participation in your school’s technology programme.
- You need to be good at math to be good at coding To be a good coder you don’t need to have in depth knowledge of mathematical concepts (like trigonometry, algebra or calculus). Once you have understood the basics of the code, to be a good coder you need to be able to consistently follow a process, think logically and solve problems methodically within the bounds of the code’s capabilities. Being a strong problem solver is something that in the world of work and as adults we have to do every day, so coding and technology is a great way for students to learn something really relevant for their future.
- It’s monotonous and boring Anything built with code is about thinking and working creatively. This normally means taking an initial concept, seeing if people like it and then making adjustments to get it just right. It is far from being monotonous, but really relies on students using their existing knowledge and taking new approaches to create technology that can assist or enhance the world around them. The beauty of anything made with technology is that the results are often instant and clear for the creator to see.
- You need to memorize and know all the code There are hundreds of coding languages, so this means that no coder can know everything all the time or even try to remember it all. To get around this, coders regularly look up new syntax and snippets of code and borrow from each other. Coding is a very active community with an ethos of people with different skill levels working together and helping each other out.
- Coders don’t socialize much Useful technology tools are always created by teams where people with different primary interests and abilities work together performing different tasks. For this reason, coders and technologists need to collaborate and communicate effectively with others, sometimes across time-zones, cultures and national borders which makes coding and technology a very sociable activity.
- Coding is only for boys Coding is a skill and a toolkit that is relevant for everyone. The very first coders in the world and some of the most influential coders have been women. For instance, Ada Lovelace is considered the world’s first coder, Grace Hopper developed the first compiler for programming languages and Marissa Mayer was one of the first programmers at Google. You can find some ideas for encouraging female students to take on the challenge of technology in this article by our COO, Charlotte, here
Written by Eva Yeung, BSD Education We have prepared a little treat for you this Halloween! The Education Team at BSD understands how precious your time is as a teacher – parent-teacher interviews are coming up, the assessment period is approaching, reporting is just around the corner – before you know it, you are already being asked to prepare for the next academic year! To help you stay ahead, we have scoured the internet for the most insightful and interesting edtech content (blogs, articles, and podcasts) to help you stay afloat in the rapid changes and tides (driven by tech) in education. *The 6 sources below are listed in alphabetical order their place on the list is no indication of preference 1.Cult of Pedagogy (https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/category/technology/) Jennifer Gonzalez is an experienced female educator who shares a wealth of insight into the world of education through podcasts, blogs, and videos. Cult of Pedagogy is a great general resource for getting inspiration on learning theories and classroom management. The section “Technology” is our favorite part (for obvious reasons). Gonzalez is pragmatic in her recommendations and through her “interviews [of] educators, students, administrators, and parents about the psychological and social dynamics of school” we always feel re-energised and inspired to get back into the classroom to try something new. Recommendation: “When Your School Is Short on Tech” https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/low-tech-school/ 2.EdSurge (https://www.edsurge.com/) EdSurge is one of the more well-known edtech sources out there. There is a lot of content here though, so our favorite way to catch up with EdSurge is through their weekly mailing list, where the week’s key articles are summarized. EdSurge has a community of educators, techies and entrepreneurs to share news, information, trends and research about what emerging technologies and how it can (or cannot) support teaching in learning in K-12 and higher education. Recommendation: “YouTube Launches $20 Million Fund as Part of ‘Learning’ Initiative” (https://www.edsurge.com/news/2018-10-23-youtube-launches-20-million-fund-as-part-of-learning-initiative) 3.EdTech Digest (https://edtechdigest.com/) A great site again for cool tools, interviews, and trends to get inspired and stay up-to-date with various opinion pieces. With edtech thought leaders in the tech sector and academics, EdTech Digest offers insights, updates, interviews into the rapidly evolving world of educational technology. EdTech Digest also conducts EdTech Awards annually, so this is also a place to find recommended resources. Recommendation: “Busting the Myths of the “Digital Native”” https://edtechdigest.com/2018/10/22/busting-the-myths-of-the-digital-native/ 4.EdTech: Focus on K-12 Magazine (https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/) EdTech: Focus on K-12 is an online magazine that is part of CDW, which is a leading multi-brand technology solutions provider to business, government, education and healthcare organizations in North America and the United Kingdom. The articles are a curated set of contributions by educators and tech leaders in education. In this context, EdTech: Focus on K-12 provides an interesting repository of implementation solutions and discussions faced by educators and tech integrators, such as suggestions in classroom setup, technology professional development for teachers etc. Recommendation: “Facebook Launches Communication App with K–12 Students in Mind” (https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2017/12/facebook-launches-communication-app-k-12-students-mind) 5.Hello World (https://helloworld.raspberrypi.org/) Hello World is a digital (and printed) publication by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The magazine is published three times per year and it’s available entirely free as a Creative Commons PDF download. The magazine is a curated collection of interviews, case studies, and opinion pieces, as well as practical tech lesson plans submitted by other educators. The most recent issue discusses the challenges of ethics in computing and creation in the classroom. Recommendation: Issue 6: https://helloworld.raspberrypi.org/issues/6 6.The Tech Edvocate (https://www.thetechedvocate.org/) The Tech Edvocate (Matthew Lynch) covers a wide range of topics from gamification, online learning to childhood development with tech to name a few. This is a well-rounded source of articles and discussion pieces to find out more about the trends in edtech and what’s up and coming the the world on tech that will help boost student agency and engagement. Recommendation: “10 AMAZING HACKATHON IDEAS” https://www.thetechedvocate.org/10-amazing-hackathon-ideas/ For a list of top accounts to follow on Twitter to stay up-to-date, click here to read our suggestions from issue 5