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Written by guest Kevin Pereira, Blu Artificial Intelligence
As a part time lecturer at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and my consulting work at Blu Artificial Intelligence, I’m often asked how AI will impact education in the future. We tend to see popular media pushing the narrative that AI will take over teaching. I take the opposing view. AI will not replace teachers. If anything, AI will become a new tool in a teacher’s toolbox. AI will free teachers from administrative burdens, give them insights on student development, and let them focus on what they do best – helping students grow.
The truth is that today we are still quite far away from having robots and AI surpassing human beings. However, AI does tend to perform very well at repetitive, structured and well-defined tasks. Hence the belief that AI will take away our jobs tomorrow in my view is quite far-fetched. If anything, we should think about task automation rather job automation. Most jobs are made up of certain tasks, each of which may or may not be easily automatable. We can each look at our own job, consider the tasks & skillsets that are hard to automate, and then focus on those areas for professional development.
Let us take teaching as an example. With the recent restrictions from COVID-19 a lot of the classes I teach have moved fully online. I started teaching in 2018 so I did the class in-person the year before. When I compare online and in-person, I find that student interaction is much easier to facilitate in-person. There’s very little “please unmute your mic”, or “can you repeat, you’re cutting out” and my personal favourite, “can you HEAR me?” with the entire class responding “yes, we can”. It is also easier to get feedback, both verbal and non-verbal, from students. Are they laughing with you or at you? Given my jokes, perhaps I should leave this question unanswered for myself.
This confirmed to me that human interaction is an important part of education. When I ask students for feedback on the class, almost all preferred an in-person class. This also jives with my views on tasks that are hard to automate. Generally, anything requiring human interaction is a challenge for AI because people react differently to the same stimulus. The fact that A+B does not always equal C is a problem for AI. AI has started to address this with larger data sets and training, but it is not easy.
The big question then is what does this mean for teachers? I believe AI will augment our ability to be productive. This means that teachers will work with AI tools to create better student experiences. For example, AI can take over structured and repetitive administrative tasks. Grading is a prime example, and it brings back some memories for me. When I was little, my mom, who has been a teacher most of her career, used to get me to help her mark her students’ multiple-choice tests. After bribing me with my favourite candy, I would happily read off “A,C,D,E,B…” into the wee hours of the night.
Today, we have Scantron sheets for multiple choice grading. Soon, with an area of AI called Natural Language Processing (NLP), AI tools will be able to ‘read’ free form text responses and do the grading. I can testify that student handwriting standards have dropped, but if we give the AI enough data (handwriting samples) this can be addressed. Students could also type their responses, which negates the handwriting problem. On top of this, machine learning tools can construct ‘student profiles’ from grades to track their progression and identify development areas.
I know that many teachers, whether they admit or not, are reluctant to work with AI, and that is totally understandable. The AI isn’t perfect and will make mistakes. To expect otherwise is setting ourselves, and AI, up for failure. However, the potential to free up teachers to do what they do best is something that I feel needs to be explored.
If you’re scared about being substituted by AI, please take solace from students today who say they can’t wait to get back to the classroom. They need you. With that in mind, all I ask is that you stay open to AI augmentation and its potential to help you and your students.
If you found this interesting and would like to discuss further, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevin Pereira is currently a Managing Director covering Financial Services for Blu Artificial Intelligence, a consulting firm that specializes in Artificial Intelligence.
After growing up in Hong Kong, he started his career in Private Banking with Citi in New York working within both the Investments and Relationship Management areas. He then moved back to Hong Kong and joined Bank of New York Mellon’s Asset Management business, where he helped to start a new group that specialized in products tailored to High Net Worth Individuals.
Post business school, Kevin worked at a technology startup in Myanmar that was building out internet infrastructure which included fiber optic, cell towers and data centers. In this role, he spent half his time with the Venture Capital firm in Hong Kong and the rest on the ground with the portfolio company in Myanmar. Kevin is also a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), where he teaches a full- credit MBA course titled, “Artificial Intelligence for Business Leaders”. He also lectures at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) where he teaches “Big Data in Finance”.
Kevin graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Economics with concentrations in Finance, Management and Marketing from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He also has an MBA from INSEAD.
In past issues, we have written about makerspaces and maker learning, and about why we feel that it can be an important part of the curriculum. After helping many schools around the world to develop and facilitate makerspaces, our Vice President of Education and makerspace expert, Mark Barnett shares his 3 key elements for successful maker learning.
After starting my own makerspace in 2013, a mobile makerspace in 2015 and helping dozens of schools all over the world design, use and teach in makerspaces, I have learned quite a bit about what works, what doesn’t and why. With a growing interest in maker learning, schools have made great strides in adding makerspaces to their schools and curriculum. Some of these schools have done a remarkable job and others have been left wondering what the hype is all about.
The way that I see it, is that maker learning is just one of many education interventions that a school can elect to facilitate. Other education interventions include social-emotional learning, project-based learning, or even curricular products for math and literature. To implement any of these strategies or interventions successfully, there are usually 3 main factors that contribute to the success or failure of implementation. Each of these factors requires thorough commitment, and even if only one area lacks in commitment, the whole intervention is likely to fail.
Here are the 3 key elements of commitment required for maker learning (or any educational intervention):
Commitment to the tool or technology
For the case of maker learning, this means that the school must commit to tools, technologies and materials that support maker learning. Commitment in this element looks like:
Commitment to the pedagogy
Most educational interventions have an accompanying pedagogy that is best suited to support the intervention and maker learning certainly has its own pedagogy that includes tinkering, play, design thinking and constructionism. Commitment to the pedagogy looks like:
This final element is the most important one and from my experience, the one element that makes or breaks the success of a maker learning program (or any intervention)
It really is a simple formula to follow and it is easy to implement once you have thought through each key element. Typically when I work with new schools, we discuss all 3 key elements before deciding to do any work together to make sure that the school is prepared to commit to all 3 areas before any work is done.
Use these 3 keys to help guide you on the successful implementation of any educational intervention, and if you would like more information or have specific questions about maker learning and makerspaces, please feel free to reach out to me on twitter or email.
Written by Chris Geary, BSD Education
I write this in April 2020, amidst a world of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty by measure of any generation alive at this moment in time. During all this disruption and uncertainty, we can see the need for a strong foundation of technology skills even more clearly in learners for the future. This is a time in which we have all been forced to adapt in an instant to a new daily working and learning reality. I will discuss three considerations below for thinking about exposure to technology through education and its benefits.
Technology is big, complicated and incredibly varied. There is a place for everyone in technology from the artist to the engineer, and all in between. The breadth and depth of technology expertise and experience demands a level of focus, the scale and speed of evolution may not permit a “jack of all trades” to stay relevant. Instead, we must explore our interests and discover our true passion at an early age and learn how to work with others with complimentary abilities.
Everyone is embarking on a journey of learning that will last a lifetime. The knowledge to be relevant today, in the same area of expertise, will not be relevant in 5 years time not to mention in 25 years time. To be able to pursue a journey for a lifetime, learners need to gain a broad exposure to technology at the outset of their learning journey to make the most informed decision possible and set a sustainable direction. I am not saying that later in life it will not be possible to change, but it will become exponentially more difficult. The US K-12 CS Framework sets out a nice way to consider creating a learning journey for Computer Science (or Technology) learning across the school age spectrum, illustrated below.
Current market conditions show growing demand across industries resulting from continuing implementations of technologies and evolution towards automation. The World Economic Forum “Future of Jobs Report” states a net gain of 58 million jobs created versus jobs lost arising out of automation.
Other organizations like Cisco site shortages of people with networking skills, with demand out stripping supply significantly in places like South America, where connectivity is strongly linked to future prospects for economic growth. To have people in place to take up the rising tide of opportunity and benefit from it, technology needs to be presented for learning in a way that develops a desire to learn, otherwise the result may seem undesirable or even unattainable.
The learners that will take up these new jobs are in the early years of education now, but might also be with significant experience in legacy trades and having to return to learning to access a new direction. There is evidence across the age and experience spectrum, such as with the development of the Montessori system of learning that authentic experience and application in learning leads to much greater engagement.
Montessori observed this in young and individual needs learners as they engaged incredibly in learning through mimicking the activities of the real world rather than through attempting to relate associated learning through fantasy. The challenge is great, but it would seem rather than focusing on the content for learning itself, which in many cases is available in one form or another, the focus must be on the experience of learning for the different demographics of learners that feed the pipeline of talent required.
We can see from history that industrial automation in the past has led to job growth, however also that the job growth fuelled through this automation is led by the surge in accompanying demand that drives the commercial rationale for investing in automation, meaning what makes the investment financially viable. Therefore, at the point where the demand flattens to be consistent rather than growing, continuing automation that would be inevitable from this point will then create major attrition quite quickly in the roles that were created.
Historic models of education have performed poorly in leading learners to be adaptable and appreciate the transferability of their knowledge in a commercial context. This supports the importance of a) the critical importance on introducing learning to people at all ages through a range of real world contexts in which a consistent set of abilities apply; b) nurturing curiosity in learners to be as adaptable as possible by continuing cross-industry understanding through their ongoing self-learning.
Exposure to technology education and the learning of digital skills is certainly critical, but careful thought needs to be applied to deliver a strong foundation within people around the world to sustainably enable them to be successful throughout the changes and challenges that they will inevitably encounter throughout their careers.
If you’re interested in discussing more about technology education, or even want to explore ways on how you can do that with us, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Written by Nickey Khem, BSD Education
With the arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, there have been significant changes and disruptions to various industries. The advancement of technology in the past decade has transformed the way we live and work.
Some jobs will disappear as they become automated, like those in factories and administrative roles, while new jobs will surface to meet the disruptions brought about by Industry 4.0. Therefore, it is certain that we need to re-align our priorities in equipping our children with the digital skills needed to stay in pace in 2020 and beyond.
Educators globally have been identifying essential digital skills for their curriculum to help make their students future-ready. After 7 years of working with schools worldwide to integrate technology education across all subjects, I’ve identified a list of 3 key digital skills I believe will play a crucial role in students’ development and success when they enter the workforce.
Traditionally, problem-solving involves applying a standard set of steps and processes which includes defining the problem, setting a goal, deciding on the best solution, and applying it.
However, these steps have become insufficient when trying to solve more complex problems that will be presented by the 4th Industrial Revolution. The problems faced now often change after a solution is provided, thus requiring to observe these changes and cycle back to reflect upon them.
A good process that is used on more complicated problems is the RATIO (Reflect, Analyze, Target, Implement, Observe) Problem Solving steps, which was introduced by the CoThink Academy.
Not only does this process allow us to better tackle complex issues and problems but it also introduces a deeper critical thinking skillset into the process by focusing on objectives and possible methods and tools to solve them.
This allows students to learn the important steps such as reflecting and observing which allow solutions to be iterated upon to match the ever-changing demands of the future workforce.
An example of RATIO being used in the workforce is how the manufacturing industry used it to tackle their bottling line and during the Observe phase, they identified issues that they had to cycle back and reflect upon.
An example of a future complex problem will be maintaining privacy as more of our daily lives become digital. With the advancements of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), our daily devices such as fridges can compile data, can we use this data collected about what is in our fridge and what purchases we are making to help reduce global waste?
For more than half of the jobs we see today, 30% of tasks are automatable. As technology rapidly evolves, previously revered breakthroughs are quickly forgotten, and specialized skill sets become obsolete. Creative thinking allows us to be agnostic to technologies and think outside the box when using them to tackle challenges they will face in the future.
Therefore an important skill for the future workforce facing technologies such as automation is creative thinking. Technologies such as automation are simply tools that can be seen to augment us, as opposed to replacing us. These tools heavily rely on our creative thinking to identify novel ways to use them to solve problems.
An example of this is how the retail sector is currently using automation to handle transactions currently but aims to use it to provide the sales teams information on their customers that will lead to more personalized customer experience.
To ensure a future workforce, we must be able to do what machines are unable to.
It is important to invest in the growth of people who are creative and versatile. And, who are eager to learn and will be flexible through each technological advance.
Outside of the usual tech skills, I believe it is important to look at transferrable or soft skills that allow us to collaborate and work with others as well.
Social and emotional skills, such as self-awareness, empathy, respect for other individuals
and the ability to communicate will be essential as classrooms and workplaces
become more ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse. Human interaction in the workplace involves collaborating as teams, with people playing off of each other’s strengths and adapting to changing circumstances. Such non-repetitive interaction is at the core of the human advantage over machines.
To acknowledge and respond to these global connections, schools can promote certain social and emotional skills that are considered to be related to cognitive skills, such as visual processing to allow students to practice solving logical problems in math visually to allow them to envision or comprehend the information.
Education may foster the types of attitudes and values, such as openness and respect for others as individuals, that students need in order to be more inclusive and reflective of more diverse societies that they will find when they enter the workforce of the future.
In addition to our experiences, research held by some of the leading industry experts identify the importance of these digital skills as well. An example of this is the research held by Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends Survey which showcases an increase in demand for digital skills.
If you’re interested in chatting more about future-ready skills, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! Or if you want to learn more about how you can bring digital skills to your classroom, check out our ready-to-use curriculum Technology Education here: https://bsd.education/offerings/programs-of-learning.
Written by Xyra Sace, BSD Education
It’s been almost 5 years since I’ve left high school and 4 years into working with BSD Education. As we mainly focus on helping educators bring technology education into classrooms (as a way to further prepare kids for the future with digital skills), I’ve been able to work with numerous educators, parents, business leaders, as well as students and kids. This has not only given me insights about the Education industry, teaching and student learning and experiences, it has also opened my eyes and shown me aspects that could have helped enhance my experience or any students’ experiences at school.
To be honest, I wasn’t very “good” at school. I would usually just have passing grades and wouldn’t pay much attention during classes, thinking what I was learning wouldn’t be used in the real world and that it would be irrelevant for my desired future career paths. I thought that especially in Math class, and failed almost every year. “When am I ever going to need to solve a bunch of equations finding x’s, y’s and using formulas like trigonometry ratios (SOH CAH TOA)?”.
Though I did excel in subjects in Humanities, like History and Languages. Yes, it is pretty ironic that I would think Math was of less use to the real world than History, but what helped me excel in it was that it was easier to imagine various scenarios that took place – through my History Teacher’s storytelling. He made us role play and reenact scenes to test our reactions or behaviors to find similarities and differences in how it had been during the Cold War for example. I loved and enjoyed it so much, History classes felt like playtime.
Math class was just not the same. The way our whole class was taught was that you had to remember a number of formulas to solve equations they gave, which looked a lot like this:
Image by IB Survival
(Wow, this still looks scary to me…)
Even though I didn’t think it would be helpful for me, like any other kid I wanted to “succeed” and do well for my future. I tried my best to revise as many formulas as I could, but I still failed most of the time.
It was easy for me to compare myself to my classmates with our grades. I felt I lacked the intelligence they had. I was demotivated, disengaged and most of all, I felt hopeless. I started hating school.
Once every school year, my parents would be invited to visit school to attend a 10-minute Parent-Teacher’s meeting. They would discuss my grades for each subject and my general behavior in classes (Hey – I was still a good kid!).
My grades for Math and Sciences would often be highlighted as ( F ) for Failed, I couldn’t tell you how many times they told my parents that all I needed were to get more exercise books to practice more at home until I could get better at it, pay more attention during class and stop doodling on my homework.
My parents would agree to my teacher’s recommendations, and on the way back home would remind me how I’ve always been weak at Math and that I needed to improve on it for my future. They weren’t very involved or engaged in my education, but it was because they were also very busy with work trying to make ends meet, which I understood. Neither would I have wanted them to anyway because I was also scared of giving them reasons to be disappointed in me.
I then would turn to my eldest sister to help me as a last resort. I remember her spending nights trying to get me to understand basic algebra and most of the times, I just wouldn’t get it. As she wanted to give up on one of the nights, she decided to take out a sketchbook.
She drew out a building with multiple “apartment windows” where parts of an equation laid and told a story on how the different numbers and letters were neighbors and siblings, and how they “lived” and solved problems together – and I actually got it! I felt great for being able to really understand the story and solve the other similar equations she gave.
I don’t have an original copy of the sketch she drew, but it looked a lot like this:
I thought I would love Math from then on.
Looking back at it now, that learning approach was a sign that I could learn easier with pictures and stories. Maybe I wasn’t necessarily bad at school, It was just that I had a different learning approach, like many of us. If we were to base it on the 4 main learning approaches, I was (and still am) a visual learner. This meant that it was easier for me to understand concepts that I could visualize and illustrate relationships between ideas.
Image by Prezi
I didn’t know there were various learning approaches, finding this out after high school blew my mind and helped make sense of many things I’ve gone through in life.
I wish my Math teacher knew to help me in an approach that worked for me, I needed help. But I couldn’t blame them for not realizing this because they weren’t just teaching me, they were teaching a whole class of 30-40 students. They used what worked for most and it just wouldn’t be feasible to cater to each and every one of us.
My sister and I thought the stories were merely just another fun way of learning Math for me, so this finding was never communicated back to my parents or teachers. Plus what would my teachers also think or say If I was making random stories of equations at school?
I tried making more stories anyway, on my own, but still needed guidance in making sense out of them. So unfortunately, the learning method didn’t stick. I continued to struggle in school overall, and with other reasons and pursuits (we’ll visit these next time!) – I decided to drop out.
You might think it was pretty weird for me to decide to work with an Education company that mainly works with schools after hating my experience and dropping out. But to me, the hardship that I went through was great enough that I developed a passion for Education and have made it my life purpose to do what I can to continue improving and enhancing it – so more kids won’t have to go through what I did.
As I wrote this article and recalled my past experiences, I realized many points in my experience that could have been opportunities or ways to help me in my learning, particularly in the way parents and teachers can communicate and collaborate to build a solid, learning support system for kids and students, which studies prove.
So here are the main takeaways on what teachers, parents and guardians can do to help their kid’s learning experiences, from a perspective of a past student. It may sound obvious, but it’s those things that we usually take for granted and forget:
Re-Defining “Learning” and Roles
It isn’t emphasized enough that learning doesn’t just happen within the 4 walls of a classroom, for only 6-8 hours of kids’ days. Learning and “education” happens at almost every point in our lives, and anywhere – be it at school, home or even the supermarket. This is where parents’ involvement becomes essential to kids’ learning and growth.
Both parents and teachers share equal responsibility in helping their kids learn and meet their development goals. When parents are involved or engaged with their kids learning, kids are encouraged to not just talk about their experiences at school to help parents find areas of improvement, but also work with their parents to apply what they learn in school in a different context and environment – allowing them to further understand concepts and see how it is applied in the real world. This helps kids develop a love for lifelong, limitless learning.
More and Encouraged Communication
Teachers are the experts in teaching, parents or guardians are the experts of their kids.
In my case, you could find a few gaps in the communication between my teachers, parents and me.
Because my parents weren’t as involved or engaged in my learning, they were limited in finding ways to help my teachers help me. They didn’t know of what my sister and I found as the most effective learning approach for me. So this led them just accepting my teacher’s recommendations on what they thought best, rather than opening a two-way discussion on how to best help me achieve my educational goals.
Parents can support teachers anyway by providing more insights of their kid’s interests or behaviors as a way for teachers to leverage when they explore ways to effectively engage students for a smoother learning experience.
Teachers can also help parents be more involved by providing tips on how they can do so; from just talking to their kids more about how their school days went and opening conversations on what they love about it or areas they are struggling in, to doing homework with them. Here’s a great list we love of resources educators can use to enhance communication and collaboration with parents.
A way that can also help parents and teachers help their kids’ learning is to encourage them to open up. We need to avoid seeing kids’ struggles as “failures” and reprimanding them for it. Kids want to make their parents and teachers proud, and if we don’t offer them a positive environment to learn, fail, and try again, they will only be inclined to keep their struggles to themselves – which doesn’t help anyone in the end.
Holistic, More Frequent Feedback
The 10-minute Parent-Teacher meetings once every school year is just not enough. A student’s learning journey cannot be summarized into 10 minutes, neither can it be fully expressed through a bunch of grades and numbers. It’s not the same for every school, but there are ways we can improve how these meetings are run and what they usually cover.
Now more than ever has it been much easier for teachers or parents to reach out to each other with Technology, be it via email, phone or any other channels they agree to use. Teachers can help make these meetings more productive and actionable for example by sending report cards before the meeting, and discussing the kids’ overall interests, behaviors and attitudes in person on top of where kids have performed well, why certain grades have been and how else to improve it. This encourages an open conversation about the overall learning and development of the kids.
I hope that a part of my story can also show you the importance and power of teachers and parents communicating and collaborating to create a solid, learning support system for kids. Feel free to discuss with me or any comments you have at email@example.com!
Written by Mo Qureshi, BSD Education
There is no doubt that the learning and development of digital skills will be a big focus in Education this next decade. As we hope to prepare our students for the technology first future and help them move past being just consumers of technology and media to having the tools and skills to become innovators or creators.
One of the best ways to slowly start bringing Technology into your classrooms is using fun EdTech tools that will help you and/or your students boost learning or teaching experiences. Check out the top 5 we thought you should try this year!
Mobile Apps have been a rage for over a decade now and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Thunkable is a free and easy to use online tool for students to learn how to build mobile apps using a simple drag and drop code builder. As you create you can test the app in real time on an iOS or Android device and tweak it as you go. Less experienced students can choose to “remix” an existing app instead of starting from scratch.
Creating games is a great way to learn a wide range of real world digital skills, like storytelling, art and design, programming, maths, etc. Roblox is an online platform for creating and playing multiplayer online games. As a teacher you can take your students on a journey of how their favourite online games are created. They can learn to create games using Roblox Studio, test it with their peers and can even publish it online for users to play on a computer, mobile device or even Xbox. They can also choose to publish the game for free on the Roblox platform or charge them “Robux ”, the digital currency of Roblox. To support teachers, Roblox publishes resources like how to start guides and lessons.
Boost your classroom engagement by creating visual and interactive resources for your students. Thinglink makes it very easy for you to augment to images, videos and online tours with extra information using simple to use hyperlinks. Create an educational treasure hunt for students or mix it up and let them create visual learning journeys for their peers.
Mind maps are a tried and tested method for people to effectively take notes or brainstorm ideas. MindMeister takes this a step further by making mind mapping a collaborative exercise. Students can collaborate with peers real time in the classroom while a teacher explains concepts or can work virtually from home when creating a group project.
Image via MindMeister
5. Smiling Mind
Students (and all of us) can face a series of social and emotional challenges. To help them cope with these it is important they are aware of their mental well being and learn effective ways to be mindful. Smiling Mind is a free, not for profit app that encourages mindfulness and better mental being in schools. It is specifically built for students and teachers and breaks down activities for age groups 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-18 as well as adults. It comes with Professional Development training for teachers, classroom resources and student workshops.
6. Bonus – BSD Online
Of course, we would love it if you tried our own online learning platform BSD Online. Through scaffolded guided exercises, BSD Online makes the teaching and learning of digital skills and coding easy, fun and engaging. Wondering where to start? We suggest our Hour of Code Project – Life Under Water.
Image via BSD Education
We’d love to learn what other apps or technology tools you’d like to try this year!! Feel free to share by tweeting us at @Educationbsd or tagging us on Instagram at @BSDEducation, we look forward to hearing from you!
At BSD Education, we are always exploring new ideas to help boost students’ engagement in the classroom. It is important to boost engagement levels because engaged students are more curious and motivated in any given subject matter. With a growing sense of curiosity and motivation, this can greatly elevate and improve their overall learning achievements and experiences.
Can we boost student engagement with technology initiatives at schools and districts – for example, with increased computer lab time, 1:1 device programs, etc.? Just by introducing tech tools like smart screens, online quizzes and games will only boost engagement for a little while. What we want is to establish sustainable engagement that has a meaningful impact.
Technology in the classroom doesn’t have to be a distraction and burden for teachers. Let’s explore ways to take advantage of our students’ interest in technology as a vehicle for better student engagement. Here are 3 of our favorite ways in boosting student engagement:
Our students want to know how and why the content they are presented with is relevant to them. This concept is not new and has long been associated with social psychology (Frymier and Shulman). As educators, we are on the lookout to connect with students to ensure that their learning is relevant to them. Consider introducing a simple tech project where students can gain practical skills in digital design and coding through online learning projects, such as creating a reading blog, or creating a dynamic adventure game to showcase their understanding instead of a traditional book report. Students will feel accomplished with a new skill that they have practiced and are able to apply in other areas of study.
When students get familiar and in a routine in your classroom, you might feel that you have your classroom management secured and that your classroom is running like clockwork, but it is also important to try something different from time to time to keep your students interested. You can pique your students’ interests if you introduce a new concept through an interactive tech project (that they can also code and build) instead of a more traditional approach, such as showing them a documentary.
Allow students to make a choice in the projects that they do and how they want to learn. When students are given the opportunity to have an active role in their learning, they will feel more compelled to listen, engage themselves and take ownership in their learning. Technology projects may not be suitable or interesting to all students, but we shouldn’t take away the opportunity for other students to thrive through tech projects. Promote student agency in your classroom by giving tech projects as an option of creative learning and output.
As educators, we should also ensure the content and learning objectives are presented clearly so that the chosen tech activities are meaningful and have immediate value to your students. When it is done right, technology can enhance student interest and understanding, as well as open opportunities for student agency and creativity.
Mark Barnett, Lead Educator at BSD Education, recently presented and attended the annual UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development conference. The event was aimed at solving big issues in education that gave Mark insightful takeaways from the conference about the most important trends in education that will propel us forward in the coming decade.
Looking back over the last 10 years of trends and movements in K-12 education, we have seen a rise in new technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Coding, Robotics and Makerspaces; with a heavy emphasis on building student agency with tech skills.
However, the trend that has evolved over the last 10 years which may be the most important of all doesn’t even involve tech. It is Social Emotional learning, empathy and what many call “soft skills development”. You may have even seen a shift to social emotional thinking in your own schools with mindfulness programs, empathy building projects or school-wide behavior management programs that focus on restorative practices.
This past December, we attended the Transforming Education Conference for Humanity at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development in India and heard from experts all over the world who were implementing and practicing ways to develop social emotional learning for students and teachers. One of the main takeaways from the conference was that by introducing social emotional learning to students, many institutions have reported overall positive results, including better academic performance, improved attitudes, behaviors and relationships with peers, as well as deeper connection to school, fewer delinquent acts and reduced emotional distress (student depression, anxiety, stress and social withdrawal).
While at the conference, we spoke to Dr. Tara Lynn Fraiser who researches and develops K-12 social emotional learning programs at Emory University in collaboration with the Dalai Lama. She described the importance of providing opportunities for social emotional learning to be as vital as the development and acquisition of academic knowledge and skills. She also spoke about how social emotional learning programs can help to deter anxiety and stress in the classroom for both the teacher and the students. A common theme that we heard at the conference was that teachers also need to develop these skills for themselves to help facilitate deeper connections. Many social emotional programs like those developed at Emory focus on developing capacity for the teacher. Teachers, take note! Don’t feel bad about taking that extra time for yourself at the spa, gym or lounge.
While at the conference, we were able to see evidence of social emotional learning at work by hearing students speak at various panel discussions, workshops and poster sessions. We met 3 young engineering students from a school in Visakhapatnam (India) who had been working on a semester-long project to use empathy as a way to solve problems in their local community. They met with local farmers to learn about issues with irrigation and planting and then made prototypes of technologies like remote digital soil moisture monitors and robots that could help the farmers with seed propagation. By focusing on understanding the farmers’ problems through empathy, the students were able to design solutions that effectively solved the problems in a compassionate way. Developing empathy like this has been made popular in tech education through using the Design Thinking Method which starts with empathy as a foundation for understanding the need of people along with a social or technical problem.
We at BSD believe in developing social emotional capacity as well and feel that social emotional learning should fit together with any skill development. This is why we have designed all of our curriculum around our philosophy of CARE. We want to grow students to be:
Curious – always seeking to learn new things.
Adaptable – never afraid to try something new.
Resilient – willing to start again and learn from challenges.
Empathetic – thoughtful about how their technology impacts the world.
The CARE philosophy that is baked into our curriculum helps students develop the right mindset to use technology to solve difficult problems. We help students develop self-esteem, empathy and skills they need to shape their futures by carefully designing lessons that require students to ask difficult questions, reflect on their learning and think about solving big problems. Our CARE philosophy extends to teacher’s needs too, by providing comprehensive lesson notes, guided practice and even professional development. Though, you will have to get your own spa package for that extra level of self care.
If you are new to social emotional learning or just want to learn more, we recommend this getting started guide. Feel free to start a chat with me at @BarkMarnett on Twitter or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about Social Emotional learning, or anything on Education!
Written by Xyra Sace, BSD Education
If you could be a superhero, which superpowers would you want to have? Superman’s strength and eye beams? Elsa’s ability to create and manipulate snow? Scarlet Witch’s reality-warping powers? There are so many types of superpowers that we see in movies and fairytales that get us excited and wonder about alternate universes.
We often forget that we, too, can be superheroes with superpowers in our own ways, right here on Earth. We may not be as “cool” as Superman with beams shooting out of our eyes but we have to remember that these superpowers aren’t what makes a superhero.
A superhero, in the most basic definition, is someone who helps solve problems for or with other people. They use their innate or acquired abilities and what they know to contribute to the community however they can.
Whether you’re a teacher who inspires and teaches students the knowledge and skills they need, a pilot who ensures everyone’s safety, or a parent who nurtures the growth and development of their kids, we have all been superheroes making solutions for various scenarios and issues we see and encounter.
In our digital world, we’ve seen numerous possibilities with Technology. We’ve built electric cars to better our air pollution, bullet trains that can take you from countries A to B in 2 hours, apps that allow you to stay in contact with anyone at any time, and many more. Technology has allowed us to solve many problems, to be superheroes and use our superpowers to make an impact. And the best part about it is anyone, at any age and any time can learn it.
For this Hour of Code, we found it to be the best opportunity for you to unlock the Superpowers of Technology with your students and learn the basics of code in just an hour!
We’ve released a free, step-by-step project that you can access on our learning platform BSD Online, at any time from December 9th, as well as this article/guide to show you how easy it is to run in the classroom.
“Life Below Water”
The 15-step project focuses on raising awareness of Life under the sea by building a basic webpage about it that they can share with family and friends.
Learn Coding languages (Superpowers):
HTML and CSS. These are real languages developers use that allow them to build websites and games.
BSD Online can easily be accessed on any browser, preferably Google Chrome. It is fully equipped for teachers and students and has been used by hundreds of teachers to integrate Technology Education into their classrooms and subjects.
Head to BSD Online at https://app.bsd.education/
Under “Life Below Water” under “Projects”.
After opening the project, it will give you an introduction to the importance of protecting our seas and oceans. Feel free to use this as a thought-provoking starter with your students!
It will also show you what your students will be able to make by the end of the project.
BSD Online has 3 main parts –
The Instruction Panel
You may find step-by-step instructions here. You will find “Glossary” buttons where it shows interactive flashcards introducing certain concepts and examples of code.
To complete a step, you and your students will need to read the instructions, follow it, and ensure all objectives are met. Click on “check objectives” to do so. It helps confirm if the right code has been inputted and whether you can move on to the next step.
The Coding Panel
This is where you and your students will input your code. The instructions will mention which “lines” (the numbers on the left) to write code in, and which languages to use (between HTML and CSS).
For guidance, code that does not need to be changed will be locked. BSD Online will direct you to the line you need to add code in.
The Output Panel
This is where you and your students will see the results of your code. It can be refreshed every time a step is completed or by pressing the green circular button on the bottom right.
You and your students can also customize your own settings to personalize your online learning environment. You can change the size of the text, use dark or light mode, toggle auto-refresh output panel and more.
Go ahead and finish all 15-steps with your students! If you come across any problems or issues, feel free to email us directly at email@example.com.
At the end of the project, it will give you a summary of all the coding and design concepts learned. You may also check out the output result on desktop versus mobile.
On the instructions panel under Summary, the project also allows you to bring it to “Sandbox Mode”. Sandbox Mode is where you and your students can independently further customize your projects with the concepts you’ve learned. All code is unlocked.
Here’s a student project that was winter-themed to raise awareness of the effects of Global Warming in Antarctica!
If you would like to save your project, BSD Online will prompt you to create an account. Go ahead and “Use Your Google Account” if your school uses Gmail or create one with Email Address and Password.
Feel free to share it with friends, families and colleagues through your unique project link or QR code!
We hope you and your students enjoy unlocking the Superpowers of coding and inspire you to create and build various solutions! Send us you and your students’ completed project links at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag us on Twitter or Linkedin with #BSDSuperpowers2019, and we could feature your work in our social media and next newsletter!
Written by Chris Geary, BSD Education
Technology has become ubiquitous and intrinsic to every aspect of life. However, rather than the demands of what we need to create, it is the impact of what has been created that is driving change. Automation is the singularly most defining influence of technology in the workforce moving forward over the next 50 years. In this article I am not going to further define the potential stages of automation and its relationship with the evolution of machine intelligence and beyond. Simply put, automation is the means through which roles traditionally undertaken by humans have the potential to be replaced by technology. In theory, we will have the technological capability to replace all roles, but this is diminished in terms of both time and realization when you simultaneously consider implementation and validation, economics, and socio-political considerations.
What we are seeing now and will continue to witness in the coming decade is that automation is replacing the most sequenceable and repetitive tasks and is therefore changing the relationship of the person doing that job with their industry. This means that if the person does not evolve their skill set, then their value to the economy is diminished.
At the same time, we are seeing that roles requiring significant managerial, judgement and interpretation capacities are furthest from the sphere of automation so in essence are becoming increasingly valued. The breadth of data interpretation and implementation of technology that has to be overseen and led at a managerial level is, however, dramatically increasing the necessary digital skill set requirements of this group.
The effect of this phenomena is that automation is now effectively squeezing the workforce at the middle causing the shift as described in the diagram below:
Existing roles in the workplace, having been pushed up and down have left behind a need for workers to take on enhanced roles with different skill sets. My illustrative situation here is a manual laborer, previously working on a production line whose manual role has been replaced by a robot. The laborer, however, has a wealth of experience as to how the production line works and how different issues that occur on the production line will have an interdependent effect on other areas of the production process. The laborer now oversees a group of machines that do his / her former role monitoring data and information, making adjustments to production and communicating with the humans in other parts of the process to be aware that all the machines are operating in the optimal fashion to facilitate production.
Whilst the laborer’s work is still based upon the knowledge of production, the skills through which the laborer now works involve data analysis and interpretation, critical thinking, and communication and collaboration with coworkers. This example is deliberately simple in this situation in reference to a single laborer. As we progress up the scale of seniority in companies, we will find that the range of technical capabilities held by an individual or understood by and individual as being present within their broader team will become increasingly demanding.
Aligning to this, McKinsey’s study from May 2018 illustrated the effect that skill shifts will have in the way that people use skills during their working time.
So what does all of this mean for schools and broader educational institutions in their capacity as organisations that contribute pivotally in preparing people to join the world of work? It means that the development of social and emotional skills and technology skills is a critical part of learning for students. It is simply not possible to continue to consider that educational needs of people are being met where traditional systems of education are failing to prepare students with technology and social emotional readiness as a forefront consideration in the ongoing development of educational programs.
Considering the real world implementation of these skill sets as illustrated above, where educational institutions focus on implementing educational technology and technology education programs across schools they should be doing it with the development of “digital skills” in mind. So what does this mean?
I see digital skills as a more broadly defined skill set than hard technology skills alone encompassing technical skills, soft skills and values in a combined model as below. The world of technology is colossal and evolving quickly and is therefore becoming exponentially more complex than an individual can grasp on an ongoing basis by themselves. The technical skills a student learns at schools won’t be the same required 20 years into their careers which is why it is important to focus on transferable skills and values.
It is really important that educators allow a range of experiences for learners to find the area of technology that is their strength and their passion, something that they will have a willingness to follow, be curious about and learn resiliently for the rest of their lives as it continually evolves. At the same time, developing the empathy to recognise the strengths in others that students can collaborate with, and valuing where they cover the gaps in what students themselves lack will be critical to be adaptable to challenges that arise.
It is important to note here that there really isn’t a right answer when it comes to selecting particular technologies like programming languages or software a learner will be exposed to. There are always a number of technologies available, the merits of which can be argued for or against. What I have recognized in observing what students achieve and how they apply what they have learned around the world is that the ability to create content, understand design and user experience, and analyze and interpret data really become the key abilities that are most critical to nurture.
I illustrate the digital skills set that I believe schools need to be focusing on developing in thinking about how technology is being implemented and applied in their schools below:
My final comment on the evolving role of technology education revolves around the planning of the learning journey. So much of digital skills education is implemented on a piecemeal basis – short activities off the shelf without progression or interdisciplinary relationships properly considered. This would not be the case in the teaching and learning of mathematics or science and so should not be the case for digital skills. It does pose a greater challenge to educators as an area of learning that is not as well understood as the learning of more traditional subjects and enquiries. However, given that the world of work will not wait, technology is evolving ever faster and not to become any simpler, the longer that such effort is delayed and addressed, the higher the mountain to climb will become.
Whether introducing a young child to learning with and about technology for the first time, or re-skilling an adult learner, you must initially build confidence and self-awareness. I refer to this as the “primary” phase, although it is age agnostic, as all learners are generally coming to the learning of digital skills for the first time. This is the phase to experiment and discover interests, as broad a range of applications of technology as possible and a tool kit of projects that the learner is confident and able to re-use regularly.
The second, “middle” phase is the time to deepen understanding of both the learner’s own skills and abilities that have become most refined and interesting, as well as those of the peer group around them. It is notable that for community based learners, the library commons movement is promoting the capability of library spaces as enablers of circulation of individuals within them. The practice of networking amongst people is an excellent key to communication.
The final phase, that I call the “higher” phase, is really the point in learning at which the portfolio of work begins to turn towards demonstrating capability in relation to real or fictitious scenarios of the world of work.
As digital skills are largely uncertified and untested, they are most effectively demonstrated by sharing what you can create within a portfolio of work. This gives everyone an incredible opportunity to show their skills as value is placed on what you can do rather than where the skills were learned or how the person performed on one test.
Technology is driving the changing state of the workforce and the skill shifts across industries that are accompanying this. The change is already here which should compel educational systems to robustly and immediately implement digital skills learning that will prepare people at all career stages to be successful because of change not incase of it.
Whilst job automation might appear daunting, and will certainly require adaptation at all levels, it by no means tolls a deathly bell for humans in the workforce. Economically and socially, countries need the humans and the machines producing side by side.
The learning process for digital skills requires reflection on, understanding of, and empathy for others. The judgements, considerations and interactions that define us most strongly and clearly as humans are what will most enduringly be of greatest value to us in an automated world. So perhaps in light of all of this, the greatest impact of technology in both the world of work and of education will eventually simply be to make us focus on and value what it is that makes us most human after all.