Four Things To Consider When Developing EdTech Curriculum

Major world events frequently act as a trigger and catalyst to rapid innovation. As we experienced with Covid-19, schools and families have seen a surge in the adoption of different educational technologies. These include video conferencing tools, online learning platforms, and classroom management tools, etc. We’ve also increasingly seen innovative and effective teaching and learning activities created by educators for EdTech curriculum. 

Here at BSD Education, when we design our curriculum for our learning platform, we consider Student Engagement, Flexibility, Student Agency, and Simplicity when we design the content and activities across our content library.

Let’s explore each of these areas: 

Student engagement 

One of the most significant concerns with online learning is the level of student engagement. We know that when students are engaged, they are more likely to take away something from that time you spent together in class that day. To overcome issues of student engagement, just like designing any other products or services, we have our end-users in mind, and that’s our teachers and students. We ask ourselves, “What do they want to know about?”, “What can we share with them?” I firmly believe that engagement and enthusiasm are infectious in the classroom. If the teacher is engaged with the content and can connect and see the topic’s relevance on a broader scale beyond the classroom, students will be more likely to participate, lean in, and see how it connects to and impacts their lives. 

Flexibility

A flexible curriculum to allow for unexpected situations is another factor to be considered. Sometimes, classroom discussions may also lead to incredible learning opportunities. When we develop our curriculum at BSD, we allow room for teachers to design their lessons with our activities. We present bite-sized content to enable teachers to design their flow. The way they design their curriculum depends on the needs of their students. For example, in our TechFuture offering, resources for discussions, hands-on activities, and topical content are presented separately to allow our teachers to create a learning experience that suits them. In addition, education technologies and tools have allowed for more flexibility in course delivery.

Student agency

Closely linked with student engagement and flexibility in the curriculum is student agency. Through education technologies, we as educators can set up classroom activities to encourage student agency by offering pathways of exploration and learning new skills and topics. When designing the EdTech curriculum, we leverage the ease of information sharing capabilities and access to knowledge through learning systems. Our task as teachers is to become a facilitator of learning and exploration to create room for student choice and ownership in their learning journeys.

Simplicity

Curriculum resources should never be overly complicated. We set straightforward learning goals to help our teachers achieve their objectives regardless of topic, project, and activity as they develop the curriculum. Simplicity brings ease of use (better user experience) for teachers to focus more on the students rather than figuring out the tech or the content.

We have discussed some technical factors to curriculum development, but there are many other factors in consideration. The diversity of your students’ needs should always come first when designing and implementing a curriculum. The best approach is to try it out! Utilize education technologies to support your curriculum little by little, and always know you can reach out to your community to discuss all the creative possibilities!

Programming Languages Explained: Python vs. JavaScript / CSS / HTML

The differences, similarities, and why any form of tech education is important.

You’ve likely seen Python mentioned among other traditional programming languages, including JavaScript (JS) and CSS/HTML. In fact, JavaScript, HTML/CSS, and Python all fall in the top three languages that developers use in their careers, according to the annual Stack Overflow survey (2021). 

With Python’s increasing exposure, it’s important to understand how it relates to the other programming languages available, how it’s different, and provide perspective on where it fits in the classroom with your students. Let’s get started by first providing a quick overview of exactly what Python, HTML/CSS, and JavaScript are so you have a basic understanding.

Programing Languages

What is Python?

First released in 1991, Python is a general-purpose programming language that can be used in a range of applications, including data science, software development, and automation. According to Python.org, Python is an interpreted, object-oriented, high-level programming language with dynamic semantics. 

The programming language has been notably used to create Netflix’s recommendation algorithm and software that controls self-driving cars, according to an article by Coursera. The Python interpreter and standard library are freely available in source or binary form for all major platforms from the Python Web site.

A fun fact about Python, creator Guido van Rossum came up with the name while reading published scripts from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”.

What is HTML?

Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) is a coding language used to build websites. Specifically, HTML’s job is to label and organize content such as headings, paragraphs, lists and images, so that the web browser (e.g. Chrome, Firefox, etc.) knows how the page should look.

What is CSS?

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a coding language that pairs with HTML. It works by defining a series of rules for how the HTML should look (colors, spacing, etc). CSS is helpful for establishing the layout and personality of a website.

What is JavaScript?

JavaScript (JS) can be combined with HTML/CSS to bring websites to life. JavaScript is a versatile programming language that can be used for animation, dynamic apps, interactive games and more.

The Importance of Understanding a “Stack”

While JavaScript has been the most commonly used programming language for the past nine years, it’s important to mention that professional programmers are often fluent in several languages that make up what is called a “stack”.

A stack is a set of languages or frameworks that work together to accomplish common computing tasks. For example, HTML/CSS and JavaScript make up what is called a “front-end stack” because these languages are used to create what you see while on a website. Python, PHP, and SQL make up the “back-end stack” and are used to handle website databases and control how websites function with hosts and servers.

Differences and Similarities Between Programming Languages

When the question comes up, “which is better, Python or JavaScript?”, it really depends on what kind of computing tasks you might be interested in doing. Front-end developers (HTML/CSS and Javascript) spend more time working on the design, layout and the function of websites, while back-end developers (Python, PHP, and SQL) are concerned with security, networks and databases. No matter which language interests you the most, as a professional programmer you will need to study and learn the accompanying languages that make up your chosen stack.

When the question comes up, “which is better, Python or JavaScript?”, it really depends on what kind of computing tasks you might be interested in doing.

Why BSD Uses JS and HTML/CSS

At BSD Education, we feel strongly that any type of coding and digital skills instruction is vital to a student’s education and future in navigating our digital world. We have chosen the front-end stack as a part of our digital skills curriculum because it satisfies a range of interests, including design, layout, functionality, UI/UX, gaming, AI and VR. By learning three languages together to develop more interests, and ultimately more skills, students are provided a more complete learning experience that learning one language can’t match. This broad range of skills stretches beyond the keyboard and includes key computational thinking and critical thinking skills vital to learning in any other core subject.

In addition, when we think about the most powerful technologies that we use everyday, most of them operate in the web browser, which is what HTML/CSS and JavaScript are used for. Every website and web application that you have ever used were made using this front-end stack. 

If students are interested in becoming computer scientists, they may need to learn Java, Python, JavaScript, or other languages depending on the accreditation program. For example, Java has been the language of choice for the Advanced Placement college equivalent course that is available in many High Schools in the U.S. Many commonly used frameworks for Computer Science do not even list a specific programming language, but instead provide a map for concepts that are found in most languages, like algorithms, variables, control structures and modularity. Both the British IGCSE and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) publish curricular guidelines and standards that focus on computer science concepts instead of specific languages. 

What Fits for Your Classroom?

Ultimately when it comes to the Python versus JavaScript and HTML/CSS showdown, it really depends on what you want to do with your knowledge of programming and what goals you have as a developer. 

Whether you have no experience or are ready to take your tech education to the next level, BSD provides the support and intuitive platform to help you teach these front-end stack digital skills. In a matter of minutes using BSD, students will begin building their first website, create a mobile app, or even a fun game they can play with friends. BSD makes it possible for any teacher of any subject to incorporate coding and digital skills into their curriculum so students are future ready.

Contact us today so we can address your unique needs and develop a partnership that will help your students reach further and have an experience that will equip them with the skills they will need for tomorrow, no matter what career path they choose. 

What Are The Benefits of Technology in the Classroom?

You might be asking, what are the benefits of technology in the classroom? It’s fair to say that when I was in school, the use of technology in the classroom wasn’t widespread. There were no personal laptops for each student, no digital planners, no classes on coding or programming. I remember when the teacher would pull out the overhead projector for lectures. My school certainly wasn’t set up for the level of technology use that teachers were faced with recently.

It’s exciting to think back on how much has changed in the educational landscape since then! Since my high school graduation, social media use has skyrocketed, video conferencing has streamlined and improved greatly. Most students have personal laptops but also smartphones, iPads, watches, and Alexas provide any information they could possibly want to know.

Technology changes on a dime. As education continues to systemically evolve, we’re going to see the many benefits of educational technology come to fruition over the next few decades.

Read on!

Students are more engaged

“Bueller?” This scene from “Ferris Bueller” has to be the epitome of a bored, disinterested classroom. Whether out of a lack of interest in the topic or distraction, two things are happening here. They aren’t paying attention and they aren’t learning.

It’s been 35 years since that film came out and the classroom looks entirely different. Now teachers compete with a myriad of distractions that continues to evolve. So you may be wondering, how can teachers engage their students more effectively in the digital age? Well, I’m glad you asked! There are many ways to harness the positive power of technology and capture your student’s attention at the same time.

Meet them where they are – on devices, social media, websites, games – and bring this technology into your lessons, homework, projects. For example, their five-paragraph essay can become a blog. Now, not only are they more invested in what they’re learning but they’re building essential digital skills.

Part of increasing student engagement in any class is giving them an applicable reason for being there. Something they can relate to. Utilizing the interconnectivity of technology in the classroom helps you reap the benefits. Plus, your students are more likely to retain the information.

Incorporates different learning styles

There’s a big debate in education between the use of more personalized learning vs. a one-size-fits-all approach and it’s valid. When you have 30+ students in your class, it’s more difficult to create unique lesson plans that engage each student. Especially when you’re already overworked and underpaid as it is. We get it.

One of the many benefits of technology is that it provides an easier way to reach each student’s unique learning styles, playing to their various strengths and respond more intently to you.

  • If your student is more aural, it means they retain information better by hearing it. Some ideas for using technology to your advantage here:
    – Record your lessons! You can turn these into a private podcast that they can re-listen to as they study at home, use audiobooks. This helps you as well for any student that misses a class, they can be directed to your “podcast” and quickly get caught up.
    – Students can use an app like Me Book that allows them to listen to stories and record themselves reading.
    – Language teachers can make use of AI robots and chatbots to speak to students in different languages so they can practice as if talking to a real person.
  • Visual learners respond more to things they can see and are prone to retain more information if they can read/watch it rather than listen.
    – Try incorporating more graphic visuals aids to make the connection, or using more interactive videos in your lessons.
    – You can use technology like coding to allow student to visually code a website, or apps like Canva and Photoshop to create graphics that underline their classroom comprehension and level of engagement.\

Improves Collaboration

There are multiple benefits of technology is that it fosters a higher level of collaboration, not just within your classroom but on a global scale. It’s now easier than ever for students to work together with project management tools, video conference breakout rooms, social media, and even as simple as AirDropping files to someone in under a few minutes. This collaboration also works to the teachers’ benefit! If you’re grading papers, students can now see all of your notes and all communication can be kept in one space. Thus giving you more access to teaching students even outside of the school walls and time.

Embracing the global reach of the internet offers up exciting new possibilities for your students as well. Similar to pen-pals, maybe you have a sister school in a different country, and not only can the students communicate with each other as friends but they can also work remotely as teammates in completing a project. This would take a lot of planning of course, but the possibilities are endless!

Prepares Children for the Future

The single most important benefit of technology in the classroom is that it prepares students to be future-ready. We know that all students will need digital skills for their futures, but there are also many challenges when it comes to teaching digital skills.

At BSD Education, our goal is to prepare students for their undefined futures where artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and data privacy are all emerging topics with tremendous impacts on society. To accomplish this, we embed four approaches into our curriculum that have been identified as future proof and fundamental:

a) Computational Thinking
b) Design Thinking
c) Coding/Programming
d) Digital Citizenship

These are just a few of the many benefits to utilizing more technology in the classroom but I’d love to hear from you on how you use technology to boost student engagement or substantiate a lesson plan? Send me a message at bd@bsd.education or leave a comment below! We’d love to hear from you!

Maker Learning is a Mindset, Not a Space

I started volunteering in 2010 as a coach and officiator for local educational robotics competitions. Entering a world of deep and impactful learning, I soon realized it did not resemble any previous learning environments that I had been exposed to in my education. I began to wonder how we could inspire this learning to take place in classrooms. So, inspired by adult-oriented hackerspaces in Boston and San Francisco, I started a youth-focused Makerspace in San Antonio, Texas, outfitted with 3D printers, robots, laser cutters, and other equipment. We hosted maker learning summer camps and out-of-school activities, but teachers weren’t seeing the transformative classroom connections I was hoping for.

Maker Learning on the road

With some luck and a generous donation, I took the maker space on the road with a giant bus called the Geekbus. We took the maker space to schools instead of asking them to come to us, and it worked! We did workshops with students and teachers and shared new pedagogical approaches and interests in new technologies.

I have since continued to help schools all over the world start and grow educational maker spaces. I even host a virtual workshop series (Maker Educator Certificate) where I teach about the pedagogical foundations of Maker Learning as a mindset.

Changing your mindset

I have designed and expanded many maker spaces for schools over several years. In that time, I’ve also learned that the physical maker space is just a place where you keep “the stuff.”

When you keep all of the learning inside the maker space, it just creates another silo, where specific types of knowledge, tools, and materials are taught only to be used at certain times.

One approach to education is Transformative Maker Learning. The idea is that students can utilize various tools, materials, and equipment to facilitate learning. This way of learning spans across any subject and can take place anywhere.

What if students learned maths through the construction of playground equipment? What if they learned history through costume design and learned science through building models? This requires a mindset shift. It also necessitates high-quality professional development for teachers to feel comfortable and understand the impact of such types of learning.

To help teachers understand Maker Learning as a mindset, I have helped to develop four essential elements: 

  1. Purpose: Students have to be connected to “the why” of the project and feel an authentic connection to it.
  2. Condition: A conducive learning environment must set the stage for curiosity, wonder, and occasional failure/struggle.
  3. Assessment: Students must be able to demonstrate what they know or have learned, but must be empowered to show their learning through the use of a variety of tools, methods, and modalities.
  4. Reflection: Students must be able to reflect on their work and ask “what have I learned from this experience?”

These four essential elements do not require any physical environment or specific space. Instead, students can use them anytime and anywhere with tools or materials, which allows Maker Learning to flourish as a mindset instead of being isolated into one particular space.

Want to explore further? Here are a few more articles to help you learn about Maker Learning!

Bring Technology Into Your Subject in Five Ways

Last year saw a heavy reliance on technology to provide education and continuity to the classroom experience. But, as life gradually returns to normalcy, you might wonder how technology fits into your school structure as schools return to in-person. In short? Schools are getting back to normal but technology isn’t going anywhere. Bringing technology in your subject area doesn’t mean that you need to be an expert in coding or designing websites as a side hustle. Instead, it’s about innovative thinking and putting yourself in your student’s shoes.

A few more questions for you:

How are your students already using technology to understand the world they live in?
How can you, as an educator, provide the context digitally?
What are some strategies to bring more technology into your subject area to engage students?

We’re here to help! We’ve asked our Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Nickey Khemchandani, to share some of his favorite ideas to engage students with technology. Read on to see what he said!

Pick something your students don’t like.

For example, if students are disinterested in writing another five-paragraph essay, turn those essays into a classroom blog! They can share this not just with family/friends but in college portfolios and job applications, students can share. They’re building something that they can represent themselves with using a computer, but they’re also more engaged with homework.

Find an easy win that can be interactive.

Another great way of bringing technology in your subject is with math. Let’s say you’re teaching probability to your students – building a dice game online adds a layer of fun to the lesson while also teaching them critical mathematics and technology skills.

Look for a student who’s already an evangelist with technology.

You do not have to bear the burden of carrying all of the technology weight into your classroom. Usually, your students are already pushing for it. Find an evangelist in your classroom and have them bring technology into their assignments. For example, using technology to build a website instead of writing a paper will inform how to start implementing more tech across your subject.

Talk about social media in your classroom.

Your students are already involved and having conversations about it, so you should too! They’re using platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram, and how they potentially create social media posts around your subject areas will give you insight into their understanding of the subject. One of the best ways to interact with social media is to have them build a campaign, just like you see with Coca-Cola or Netflix, to get them to create a movement around your subject topic.

Build online portfolios

One of the best things a student can do in your subject is to represent your subject with technology. If they start taking pieces of the topic, they learn and add them into a shareable portfolio. So you can have essentially a handbook of all of the issues they’ve engaged with and can now share as notes for future students taking that class or (depending on the topics/skills) they can add to an online portfolio that prepares them for collegiate and professional futures.

What is Design Thinking and Why Is It So Popular

Design Thinking is a professional process that engineers and designers use to ideate, prototype, and test new inventions, ideas, and products, emerging in K-12 education as a strategy for use in the classroom as well as a tool used for total school improvement.

SparkTruck inspired me to later create my own mobile Design Thinking vehicle called the Geekbus. Since then, I have gone on to teach Design Thinking to students and educators all over the world.

So, what is Design Thinking? I highly recommend this quick video introduction to get acquainted.

There are 5 main steps to Design Thinking:

1. Empathy

2. Define

3. Ideate

4. Prototype

5. Test.

The first step is the most impactful because it requires designers/students to consider the needs of the customer/user. This allows for the development of crucially needed social-emotional skills.

In contrast, the Engineering Design Process does not include this step and goes straight to the ideation and the problem-solving stage without careful consideration of the needs of the people involved. 

There are many ways to gain empathy for the customers/users that you’re designing for, but the best way is to speak directly to them through interviews to ask about their needs, pain-points and to get advice about what they really want and not just what we think they want.

If interviewing customers/users isn’t a viable option, you can brainstorm through empathetic thinking to imagine scenarios where people would use your idea and how they might respond to it.

Design Thinking can be used to create and make products, processes, events, organizations, and even food! The process is adaptable to many situations and once you have some practice with it, it can become a culture-changing practice that can be transformative at whole-school levels.

While Design Thinking can be a useful and practical tool for many situations, it also has limits. One criticism of Design Thinking is that it becomes a crutch and doesn’t help to cultivate what the d.school is calling Design Abilities.

Their 8 Core Design Abilities are: 

  • Navigate Ambiguity
  • Learn from Others
  • Synthesize Information
  • Rapidly Experiment
  • Move Between Concrete and Abstract
  • Build and Craft Intentionally
  • Communicate Deliberately
  • Design your Design Work

If you want to read more about these 8 Core Design Abilities, I recommend that you read the d.school’s description of each ability and the need for an approach that moves beyond Design Thinking.
Design Thinking has left a lasting impact on me and my work, which continues to this day in my work as an ed-tech leader and curriculum designer at BSD Education.

At BSD, we use the Design Think process to develop a new curriculum and to build new features on our custom coding platform. If you want to learn more about our approach at BSD, check out our certified curriculum design process.

How To Teach Adaptability In Your Classroom

You may not know this but, as of this year, 65% of our students are preparing for careers that don’t even exist yet. While educators discuss the importance of adaptability. It’s also known as “future-ready” and “the future of work,” but the reality is that it’s largely uncertain. So how can we prepare students?

We do this by cultivating adaptability in the classroom.

The pandemic put students’ natural adaptability to the test as it shook up their learning environments with an overnight evolution of technology. The unpredictability of education last year was criticized despite heroic efforts of teachers and students to adapt quickly. It serves as a reminder of our students’ uncertainty when they look ahead to their futures – from kindergarten to senior year.

Building more skills in adaptability while they are students provides them with long-term benefits as they get older. It’s especially true when they need to pivot their skillsets or learn technology at a moment’s notice. This kind of necessary adaptability was felt by many teachers around the world and in multiple industries.

Teachers have a unique opportunity to build students’ confidence in softer skills like adaptability and resilience, which undoubtedly complement harder, professional skillsets.

It helps students adapt to new situations and develop new skills more quickly. Plus, adaptable students are more likely to have higher self-confidence and satisfaction in their lives.

Teachers have a collective responsibility to prepare their students to embrace and adapt to challenge and change. To better prepare them for the future of work, we’ve collected a few of our favorite strategies for fostering adaptability. 

Teach Resilience

Adaptability and resilience go hand in hand! Resilience is the ability to overcome challenges positively. But it’s also a mindset that our students should develop early in life.

If something negatively impacts your student – whether it’s falling behind on grades or not getting into the college they were hoping for – they’ll rely on their resilience. It will help them find creative ways to push forward and improve. This skill will be incredibly beneficial to your students in a world where technology changes on a dime.

Teachers can help to foster this by encouraging them to find creative solutions to their problems and provide a safe environment to explore new ideas.

Promote Self-Regulation

As they grow into adulthood, students will need to learn how to manage their emotional thinking, especially when facing challenges.

Adaptability is a teachable skill that gives them the ability to handle unexpected situations without evident frustration. In addition, teachers can reinforce this skill by educating students on setting achievable goals, scaffolding, and other classroom activities. 

Dispel the Fear of Failure

No one likes to fail, and for many people, the idea of failure is devastating. It can be debilitating for students and adults alike. However, there is always the risk of failing when a situation starts to change. Fear of the unknown and not wanting to do something that won’t be as successful as keeping the status quo.

But it’s important to remember – and teach students from a young age – that success comes from failing and learning from it. Educators can teach this through recognizing effort, building community among peers, asking questions, taking risks, and self-reflection.

By not being afraid of failure, students will be more motivated to learn and find exciting solutions to changes in an uncertain future.

Encourage Continuous Learning

Learning and developing new skills is something we experience throughout our lives, but when applied to a future workspace where change is rampant, this willingness to know is what keeps you a few steps ahead.

Teachers can build this excitement for education with their students by indulging their curiosity and even displaying their enthusiasm in a subject. In addition, taking the metrics of education can often encourage students to see a lesson in a new light.

Adaptability is something that they will carry with them throughout their lives and help foster critical thinking and creative problem-solving. 

It’s not possible to prepare students for every eventuality, but educators can foster adaptive skills. They can also teach students how to respond to challenging, changing situations in positive ways. With adaptability, students will grow into adulthood able to keep pace with unexpected situations and find professional success.

Learning Acceleration through Summer and After-school Programs

Making up for Learning Loss During the Pandemic

With classroom seats to be filled with students once again this fall, there is a sense we’re turning a corner. Although schools aren’t “normal,” reopening is upon us. And the opportunities to recover from learning loss due to the pandemic are now possible.

Learning acceleration is vital in recovering what learning that was lost during the pandemic. A task that will require schools to innovate in their approach to students. According to research by McKinsey & Company, students “lost the equivalent of three months of learning in mathematics and reading,” according to research by McKinsey & Company. Brittany Jenkins, the founder of We Are Tech, argues the impact of learning loss is more profound for communities of color. See this post where she outlines three ways to address the growing divide. 


On average, students “lost the equivalent of three months of learning in mathematics and one-and-a-half months of learning in reading.”

McKinsey & Company

Simply put, students are behind, and now comes the time to help them recover. So how do we create environments for successful learning acceleration? 

The After-school Solution to Learning Loss

This year, schools have limited resources to address learning loss, especially when summer and after-school programs significantly impact learning. Currently, K-12 students spend more than 80 percent of their waking hours learning outside of school. In contrast, according to the Afterschool Alliance, more than 10 million students nationwide rely on after-school programs. 

The number of students and hours spent in after-school programs presents an opportunity, with research highlighting their effectiveness. This research reveals how critical they can be in accelerating learning for students. According to the Expanded Learning and Afterschool Project, regular after-school program attendance can lower dropout rates and increase attendance, close achievement gaps for low-income students, improve performance in the classroom, and increase social, emotional well-being

Build Meaningful Programs through Tech Education

While the general value of after-school programs is hard to argue, the quality of such programs is critical. Schools that integrate coding and digital skills learning can ensure learning loss is effectively addressed.

Digital skills are part of the solution. Digital skills like web, game, and app development are fun and engaging ways to reinforce core subjects through real-world application.

Another benefit of digital skills is enhancing skills like computational thinking, which can lift students’ abilities across subjects. This is an important benefit after an unconventional school year.

Addressing Learning Loss through Future-Proof Skills

Enhancing learning acceleration in core subjects allows schools to emphasize STEM careers and TechEd through OST programming. However, according to a recent iD Tech survey, 65% of parents with children in online or hybrid schools don’t believe the STEM offerings their child received during the pandemic meet their standards of quality, engaging activities. 


65% of parents with children in online or hybrid school don’t believe the STEM offerings their child received during the pandemic meet their standards of quality, engaging activities.

iD Tech

Recognizing the need to future-proof their students, the Elementary Institute of Science (EIS) partnered with BSD Education. This partnership aims to integrate digital skills in their Steps-2-STEM after-school program

One aspect will be expanding access to high-quality tech education, which will be made available through the partnership with BSD. Additionally, EIS provides STEM experiences that foster critical thinking and technical skills that encourage students to pursue STEM careers.

“This partnership with BSD will help level the playing field for many students who haven’t accessed these increasingly more important digital skills,” said Jim Stone, Executive Director at EIS. “Closing the digital divide is about more than hardware; it’s about creating digital literacy for everyone, and this partnership will help make this happen.”

A Partner for Learning Acceleration

Addressing learning loss due to the pandemic will take time and can’t be addressed through a single action or solution. However, quality summer and after-school programs will significantly reduce the impact of learning loss and helping students move forward. In addition, with the integration of tech education and digital skills, students can accelerate their progress. 

Coding and other digital skills seem daunting, but teachers don’t need any tech experience to get started with BSD’s curriculum. Instead, we allow educators with expertise to increase their capacity and continue to innovate. Contact us today to develop a partnership that will help your students reach further and be future-ready.

Meeting The Needs of Today’s Learners with Constructionism

If you have been around the ed-tech scene anytime in the past 10 years, you have probably encountered popular products like Lego Robotics, Scratch, App Inventor, or Pi-top, and have even seen the rise of educational makerspaces. All of these popular approaches to education have something in common. They all stem from a common root in an educational pedagogy called constructionism. If you are interested in the roots and history of constructionism, I recommend that you read my three-part series on the topic.

If you have never heard of constructionism, it can best be described as a way of learning where “knowledge is not simply transmitted from teacher to student, but actively constructed by the mind of the learner. Children don’t get ideas; they make ideas. Moreover, it suggests that learners are particularly likely to make new ideas when they are actively engaged in making some type of external artifact, which they can reflect upon and share with others” (Kafai and Resnick 1996). In the 1960’s Seymour Papert and his colleagues at MIT first developed and researched how constructionism can benefit children through learning to program digital turtles in the first programming language for children called Logo. This early work led towards using a democratic approach to education where students can lead their learning, tinker, and explore meaningful projects.

Pappert’s successor at MIT, Mitchel Resnick is keeping constructionism alive and well to this day, through his contribution of the 4 P’s: Projects, Passion, Peers and Play. While rooted in constructionism, the 4 P’s are what continue to drive how students use Scratch and other similar tools. Constructionism has gone on to inspire many educators and school systems around the world, including us at BSD Education.

We were recently awarded a product certification from Digital Promise called the Research-Based Design Product Certification where our pedagogy, theory of action and methods were put under scrutiny to determine if our approach to using constructionism as a foundation for learning meets the rigor needed to help close the digital learning gap for today’s students. If you want to learn more about our pedagogical approach and methods, you can see and download our Curriculum Development Process to learn more.

Seymour Papert once said that constructionism “presents a grander vision of an educational system in which technology is used not in the form of machines for processing children, but as something the child himself will learn to manipulate, to extend, to apply to projects, thereby gaining a greater and more articulate mastery of the world, a sense of the power of applied knowledge and self-confidently realistic image of himself as an intellectual agent.” 

At BSD, we take this seriously and design projects that allow students to find meaning, explore new concepts, and actually learn to code in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. We value the opportunity for students to learn to use real code instead of using obfuscated technologies that leave the inner workings in a black box. This empowers students with the knowledge of how the websites, games, and apps that they use everyday work and function. If you want to see how our projects are structured, feel free to try one of our Hour of Code Featured Projects.

How Online EdTech Platforms Can Strengthen Formative Assessments

Incorporating formative assessments in your classroom to see how students learn in real-time can often feel like an impossible challenge. While understanding your student’s comprehension is necessary, a teacher has many questions and concerns when implementing formative assessments. 

  • How do you find the time to incorporate these assessments?
  • Do you truly know your students understand the key topics?
  • Which students are ready to move on and which ones are not?
  • Are these assessments framing the next lesson?

Integrating the right tech education platform can take the guessing game out of formative assessments and provide teachers with a quick, easy, and accurate gauge of vital student comprehension. The lack of complicated grading systems or point levels, but rather a focus on genuine understanding, allow teachers of any subject to feel confident their students are learning and developing coding skills. With this comprehension, they will hold onto throughout their education life and into their careers. 

Outside of the importance of knowing what your students are learning, here are three benefits of incorporating formative assessments through tech education:

Free Up Time

It sounds counterintuitive to think adding formative assessments would decrease workload, but that is the case with the right platform. Instead of developing mechanisms to gauge student comprehension, teachers can use a tech education platform like a classroom management system.

For Alicia Johal, Middle School Robotics Teacher & Assistant Director of Center for Innovation at the San Diego Jewish Academy, the real-time assessments offered by BSD Education in the classroom have opened the door for her to productively engage with students. In addition, these assessments let her do what she does best – teach.

“I can go in at any time of the day and check and see what project a student is on, what step they are on, how long they’ve spent on that step, and see how they are doing in the class,” said Johal.

Improve Dialogue and Collaboration

Students use an online, self-guided platform, while teachers like Alicia use the platform to accurately understand where to help them. This identifies possible issues students are having, but it also increases dialogue and collaboration between teachers and students.

“I’ve never talked to my students so much while they’re coding, and that is powerful,” said Johal. “Not only for their comprehension, but they are also talking about it. That sort of dialogue is so powerful, and I think that’s why they remember more than what I see them remember with other programs.”

Increase Student Engagement

Providing instant feedback for a student through formative assessments plays a significant role in maintaining student engagement. For Alicia’s students, the consistent feedback and progress displayed have helped them focus and overcome obstacles.

“They’re getting these little prompts after each step when they do it correctly, and I feel like it’s an intrinsic motivation,” said Johal. “They see their progress and movement within each class period. I’m always surprised that they don’t get bored or complain, and I think it’s the interface. Being able to see how they’re doing all the time makes a big difference.”

As classroom sizes grow, utilizing time efficiently has never been more critical for teachers. Tech education and BSD can empower educators of any subject or experience level to incorporate practical formative assessments that ensure students walk away with digital skills they can use for the rest of their lives. 

Learn how you can partner with BSD Education today and begin helping your students develop 21st-century skills.