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. 

Student Flexibility: How to Navigate When You Have Limited Resources

Earlier this year, a great example of navigating student flexibility was when I taught an online course called “Introduction to Digital Design.” Students made several different digital artifacts in class, like a Personal Webpage, a Blog, and a Video to share on the blog. The course was open to students all across Asia and the Middle East. Twelve students signed up for the class that met once a week for six weeks. The program’s intent was an after-school enrichment course. So I didn’t anticipate the wide variety of resources available to the students.

Two students from Hong Kong had their mini recording studios with green screens, stage lighting, and high-end laptop computers. Three other students living in Northern India were all siblings. They used one mobile device and did not have access to any other technology or devices. The rest of the students had a laptop at the minimum. As a result, I had to reconsider approaching the expectations for student flexibility, delivery, and final project outcomes.

Designing for Student Flexibility

Since that experience, I developed strategies focused on student needs and the different resources they may or may not have. Here are my top three techniques in designing for student flexibility.

Survey ahead of time

It can be helpful to gather some data about the resources available, skill ability, and limitations that students may have. I now send a survey ahead of time to collect information which helps me plan how to approach their needs. The survey also helps me plan which curricular materials to use and if I need to find alternatives before the class.

Provide Voice and Choice opportunities

In my example, where students had limited access to laptops, I had to help students find digital tools and resources that fit their needs. Allowing all students this same flexibility allowed more student choice in the tools and software they wanted to use. For example, this allowed the advanced students to use OBS studio with a green screen, while other students used a simple mobile video editor. This student flexibility approach empowers students to choose, allowing them to share their unique voices effectively.

Celebrate the differences

Instead of seeing a problem with students having limited resources, we turned it into an opportunity to share more about their circumstances, how they learn, their day-to-day lives, and how they know at home, leading to a cultural exchange between them. They became fascinated about the lives of their peers, and some even became online friends throughout the course. We learned about the customs, foods, and lives of people in India, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. In the end, students shared their final projects, and everyone celebrated the achievements of each individual.

My highest priority is to meet each of the students where they are and with what they have while providing a high educational value to each student. But, unfortunately, I couldn’t follow traditional teaching practices where I simultaneously teach the same content to the same students.

As a result, I confronted some changes to my course design and became flexible in my teaching practices. Each student completed the course work and produced fantastic results because I tailored the content to the needs of each student and allowed them the flexibility to choose their digital tools and outputs.

How Soon Should Students Be Introduced to Technology?

In my home, we have six screens between two adults (two phones, two laptops, one iPad, and one TV), and our toddler has already figured out how to access the Spotify and YouTube app on our phones.

I don’t encourage early exposure, but admittedly with a slight feeling of guilt, we are also facing the fact that technology is (indeed) all around us.

Our everyday lives are closely intertwined and supported by technology. Thus making it impossible to create a “tech-free environment” for our children.

However, that is not something we should strive for because appropriate and moderated tech use can positively benefit your child or student’s development. All in all, it is also beneficial to keep the following advice by the Office of Education Technology, the USA, in mind:

“For children under the age of two, technology use in early learning settings is discouraged. However, families can use technology in active ways that promote relationship development, such as using video chatting software to talk to relatives, friends, and families they cannot see regularly. Parents who are interested in using media with their children can start around 18 months with high-quality content, but should always co-view content and use technology with their children.”

We shouldn’t look at screens and devices as “threats” but as vehicles for further bonding and learning. So here are three tips for introducing and facilitating tech use:

Use tech with purpose

When introducing technology to children, we should try to take time to explain what the function is. This applies at home and in the classroom: “Let’s use Spotify on the phone to listen to music!” “We can watch this video on the TV to learn how to dance!”, “Let’s use the iPad to play a sorting game!”, “Want to make coffee for daddy by using the coffee machine?”

By explaining the purpose of each device, your child/student will gradually understand that the tech around us are not toys; instead, they are valuable tools to ease our everyday lives or help us learn! 

Use it together!

Research shows that when young children actively interact with an adult, the digital material can become a powerful learning tool. Especially when devices are used to promote social bonding. A great example is when they communicate with family and friends who live in a different country. This also applies to older children and students too! Use the tech together to bond and create opportunities for communication.

Source: https://tech.ed.gov/earlylearning/principles/ 

The Three Cs

Each child, each family, classroom, and school is unique and should address tech use differently. An effective option is to observe your child/student’s interest and what engages them. Then make the decision that feels the most comfortable for you as a parent, teacher, or guardian. Lisa Guernsey, author of Screen Time: How Electronic Media—From Baby Videos to Educational Software—Affects Your Young Child, suggests referring to the Three C’s when facilitating tech use:

  • Content—How does this help children learn, engage, express, imagine, or explore?
  • Context—What kinds of social interactions (such as conversations with parents or peers) are happening before, during, and after the use of the technology? Does it complement, and not interrupt, children’s learning experiences and natural play patterns?
  • The individual child—What does this child need right now to enhance his or her growth and development? Is this technology an appropriate match with this child’s needs, abilities, interests, and development stage?
    (Source: https://tech.ed.gov/earlylearning/principles/

There is more research comprehending the impact of tech on our students fully, but for now, we can lessen our guilt over technology use in early childhood. There can be some good in it.  

For more detail and research, I recommend checking out:

Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8 (https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/position-statements/ps_technology.pdf)

Why Digital Skills Should be in Your Learning Loss Recovery Plan

The pandemic has affected all aspects of life, and the disruption felt by students is no exception. A phrase that has been top of mind lately is learning loss. An analysis by McKinsey puts the issue into measurable terms:

“Students in [the] sample learned only 67 percent of the math and 87 percent of the reading that grade-level peers would typically have learned by the fall. On average, that means students lost the equivalent of three months of learning in mathematics and one-and-a-half months of learning in reading.”

The American Rescue Plan earmarks 20% of a district’s new funds for learning loss recovery to address the issue. So while educators debate learning lost vs. students learning differently, many schools are looking at ways to make up for time lost. 

How do Digital Skills Become Part of the Solution?

Digital skills are well suited to be part of the solution. Digital skills like web, game, and app development are fun and engaging ways to reinforce math, English, science, and social concepts through real-world application. Another benefit of digital skills education is that it enhances cognitive skills such as computational and critical thinking, which can lift students’ abilities across subject matter — a vital benefit after an unconventional school year. (Further reading on the link between computational thinking and core subjects.)

As a digital skill teaching and learning solution, complete with projects designed for core subject integration, BSD Education can help reinforce core subject learning and develop transferable skills, assisting in learning loss recovery.

Digital Skills Reinforce Core Subjects

Mathematics and language arts have been pointed to as core subjects hit hardest this past school year. Yet, in many ways, digital skills empower someone to process information and communicate in our era. Said differently, digital skills are the intersection of math and language arts, where reasoning and problem-solving happen. 

To illustrate the point, we can look at a couple of BSD’s projects. A popular project this last year has been “The People Who Inspire Me,” which asks students to reflect on those who have impacted their lives. Students sew traditional writing and reflection processes with new digital components to build a website using industry-standard HTML and CSS. In one of BSD’s AI projects, “Digital Assistant,” students use JavaScript, and the link between math and programming becomes apparent. Students work with variables, conditionals, patterns, and percentages and use arithmetic operators, arrays, and random functions to program outcomes. 

From science to social studies, there are many cross-curricular learning objectives digital skills can support. I even have a teacher who modified our “Trivia Game Maker” to be a Spanish Quiz.

Creating Digital Products Captures Attention & Imagination

Classes always aim to be engaging, but this becomes even more important for learning loss recovery plans. That includes utilizing out-of-school time (afterschool, summer enrichment, extended school year), as the American Rescue Plan suggests. Learning digital skills is fun, and that makes them perfect for the task at hand. Allowing students to create is inherently engaging. Whether students are developing an AI chatbot, website, or platformer game, digital skills projects capture attention, spark imagination, and harness passion.

Agency is a core value of BSD’s evidence-based pedagogy. That means that each student finishes with a unique piece of work, not a cookie-cutter experience. Projects are designed with extension activities in mind and allow students to customize further or reenvision their work. Students stay engaged as they decide the direction to take their project and what to incorporate. My most successful lessons come from students’ refreshing ideas, going back to their work, and implementing something new. Through creating, students will entrench themselves in their learning loss and assist in their recovery.

Learning Digital Skills Develops Broad Cognitive Abilities

Teaching 21st-century skills means honing in on strategies that will have lasting impacts. These strategies include identifying computational thinking, design thinking, coding/programming, and digital citizenship as future-proof and fundamental. Computational thinking is the process of breaking down a problem to solve it. It includes decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithms. Steps for design thinking include empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping, and testing to create based on the needs and experience. In short, developing these abilities enhances someone’s ability to think and can help accelerate learning in the future. With the right approach, these skills are present in a digital skills education program. 

Website, app, and product development and design projects that utilize coding are ideal exercises for building future-proof skills. Our pedagogy accentuates these abilities and the transferable aspects of digital skills learning. It also includes the space to reflect on digital citizenship. Our curriculum is designed for all students, not just those who will become computer programmers. These disciplines have broad applicability across subject matter and are essential to many job functions in the working world. Meaning, these skills follow students throughout their education and careers.

Implementing a Digital Skills Program

Incorporating digital skills in your recovery plan enriches and reinforces core subject learning. It focuses students in engaging and imaginative ways and develops and enhances cognitive skills like computational thinking. However, although learning loss is a top issue as the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, other trends make digital skills highly relevant. Most notable is the shifting future of work. As another article from McKinsey suggests:

“In the digital era, educators need to expand their understanding of what it means to be literate in the 21st century: not replacing traditional learning but complementing it. As a result, computer programming and digital literacy are becoming core skills.” 

Of course, implementing a digital skills program can be challenging but it doesn’t have to be. BSD Education partners with educators to make implementing a digital skills program easy. We make it turnkey by providing all the necessary pieces: platform, curriculum, professional development, and highly responsive support. With the correct methods in place, educators can hasten learning loss recovery. Using digital skills, they can also encourage students to develop future-proof skills with a curious, adaptable, resilient, and empathetic mindset. 

Addressing the Digital Divide: Where Do We Go From Here?

There is a student I used to teach, who will remain unnamed to protect his privacy. He was a student a part of my STEM Honors class, and he always showed promising potential in coding assignments. Throughout my time getting to know him, I learned, like most of his classmates, he was highly motivated and believed in his academic prowess. Since the emergence of Virtual Learning, I’ve watched the challenges of adjusting to this time period change his motivation and diminish his belief in his ability to achieve academically. 

This year is his junior year in high school. When I was in high school, my junior year was the toughest, yet most rewarding year in high school; it was the year that determined my post-secondary success. Like most students who are attending an under-served school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year is his first time having a personal laptop and he is living with the expectation to thrive in a completely new learning environment. 

This experience for him and his peers has been devastating, traumatizing, stressful, overwhelming, depressing, and draining. However, he is resilient. But should he have to experience this much courage, independence, and pressure at his age? My grandma once told me, “you should never have to display that much independence”. 

What we all need is support. 

This past year has emphasized the importance of understanding what it takes to holistically support the academic success and personal development of our youth. Virtual Learning has forcibly engaged every stakeholder at every stage of a child’s development to acknowledge two important determinants of our future: 

1) What our children are learning

2) How they are using technology to learn.

When addressing the Digital Divide, I think it is crucial that we prioritize adequately informing and including every stakeholder in all planning and implementation processes for integrating technology and Digital Literacy into learning environments. Parents raising children, Students learning information, Educators teaching courses, Administrators leading schools, and Tech Professionals creating learning products ALL are the creators of our tomorrow. 

We are our support; and in this support, we all need the grace to adjust – as we do so rapidly.

There are a few key focus areas I’ve noticed in my local school system, of Philadelphia, that are a part of the disparities of the Digital Divide: 

Transforming School Systems and Policies

Due to the emergence of Virtual Learning, many schools had to rapidly adjust and revamp their systems and practices. This transition has revealed how much more critical attention needs to be given to what students are learning about technology, and how they’re learning to use technology. 

This can be achieved by making a greater investment in setting and implementing grade-level standards for Digital Literacy, as well as, training talent to uphold these expectations.

Information Sharing and Literacy

During this Virtual Learning experience, many parents, staff, and students have felt either overwhelmed with information or under-informed on certain aspects that have affected the learning process. For example, there have been scenarios where internet providers have had outages, but the change in service was not effectively communicated to families; which has resulted in students missing information and feeling helpless. 

There have also been moments where school administrations have made huge changes to their school’s Virtual Learning practices without adequate notice or input from families and staff; which has resulted in immense fatigue and disorientation. Some school districts may have not had these experiences, but this is what’s disproportionately happening in under-served communities. 

This can be changed by re-evaluating the effectiveness of communication channels, and equitably including key stakeholders as consultants throughout the process of information dissemination.

Tech and Wi-Fi Accessibility

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools did not account for whether their students had access to technology or Wi-Fi. Why is that? Yes, students were primarily learning in schools, but learning also happens at home; and for the past 25 years, access to information has primarily been provided through the Internet. 

This past year has revealed a better understanding of what students have access to, and how their homelife really affects their education. There are students in homes where their Wi-Fi isn’t strong enough to host multiple devices streaming at the same time; and the Chromebooks that many students rely on aren’t always able to handle processing multiple apps operating at the same time – such as Zoom, Nearpod, or Google Suite products. 

These limiting factors are critical aspects of our youth’s future success that have been neglected for too long, and it is important to address these issues equitably. 

There are many issues for our youth at risk if we as leaders in education and technology do not respond to these disparities quickly and equitably. One important thing that is at risk is our youth’s ability to properly cultivate and enfranchise themselves from having experiences during their youth. While being forced to stay home, and without adequate resources for many, this time period is diminishing the very essence of having youth; which is time.  

Time to have exposure to different areas to spark their interests; time to take risks or make mistakes; time to refine one’s aptitude to bounce back, try again, and learn how to take calculated risks. Time to create viable niche solutions to make a life for themselves. 

However, this moment in time also brings about a unique opportunity for all the youth to cultivate 21st-century skills that are essential to the future. If more youth are empowered to explore, take risks, and be creative with technology; they can exponentially grow from this experience. 

But with the Digital Divide widening daily, will all youth be a part of the world’s digital future? That is the question I think is important for us to ask ourselves as leaders, and act upon in our daily efforts to be the change we want to see in the world.

Research References: 

How Digital Education is Affecting Young Students

At BSD, we believe that all students should have a digital education, learn digital skills and apply them to a range of contexts. That is why we advocate for these skills to be taught across subject areas, topics, and age groups. Even though younger students may not label that they are learning digital skills, technology is now second nature. 

The educational focus is less on cultivating particular technical skills and more about creating digital familiarity during the early years. This includes developing ways of thinking (such as computational thinking and design thinking), and building a foundation for fluency. Teachers can do this in many ways, and students are never too young to start creating digitally.

Virtual Learning

The move to virtual teaching and learning was a real opportunity for younger students to start a digital education earlier. In addition, it has enabled educators to introduce technologies and digital skills from a very young age, which was not always the case. 

Children are growing up as digital natives, so they are often familiar with digital media earlier than ever. However, virtual learning did not always align early years education with children’s experience with technology in the ‘outside world.’ 

Digital Opportunities

While many students had excellent experiences, the prevalence of technology and opportunities to learn digital skills were hugely variable. These opportunities depended on a range of factors. Kate Gilchrist nicely summarises this in a blog for LSE: ‘teachers’ beliefs and attitudes towards the value of digital technology as part of learning was found to strongly relate to whether they used it or not in their teaching.

Early educators often lacked the IT skills, confidence, and knowledge of implementing skills relevant to the subject being taught. There is also a lack of adequate training, professional development, and technical and administrative support for teachers. Many of the curriculums investigated also did not include any provision for developing digital literacy.’ 

Historically, these factors have meant that not all students were exposed to this critical learning from an early age. As a result, when more technical skills are introduced later, students’ skill levels are at very different starting points. 

Virtual teaching and learning, however, have shifted this. This meant that many of the barriers outlined above have had to be overcome in the classroom. Educators have had to find a way to digitize their curriculum, and with trial and error comes confidence and knowledge.

While teaching young children virtually has its challenges, this educational experience is positive for developing children’s digital fluency and foundation. 

Critical Examination May Be the Most Important Digital Literacy Skill Yet

Digital literacy skills are not a new topic in education, though they seem to be at the forefront of concern, especially now, with terms like “fake news” and “AI-generated social media.” More than ever, we need students to possess strong digital literacy skills so they can make informed decisions, be competent researchers, and form opinions free of bias. Because of this need, digital literacy is now a common subject in k-12 schools around the world, even major education frameworks like the ISTE Student Standards have digital literacy baked into the themes. 

Despite this, a recent study has shown that students still struggle with basic digital competencies. For example, students were “asked to evaluate Slate’s home page, where some tiles are news stories and others are ads (set off by the words “Sponsored Content”), two-thirds of students couldn’t tell the difference.”  The same study elaborates further by saying “students displayed a tendency to accept websites at face value. Ninety-six percent failed to consider why ties between a climate change website and the fossil fuel industry might lessen that website’s credibility.”

With these troubling findings, it seems as though our current digital literacy education isn’t enough to prepare students for today’s communication minefield. For this reason, I propose that “critical examination” should be the most important lens at which to look at digital literacy. 

When reading articles, watching videos, and viewing other forms of media I often ask students to pull out their magnifying glasses and deerstalker caps to investigate as Sherlock would. Here are a few questions that I would ask them to consider when examining media:

Critical Examination Questions

  1. Who paid for the publication and what effect does that have on the authenticity of the information?
  2. Who is the target audience and how does the media appeal to its audience?
  3. Does the author or producer make money each time you read or view the media and what influence does that have on you reading or viewing the material?
  4. Is the medium trying to persuade your opinion or paint a false impression?
  5. Does the medium cite any references or other works that can be verified?
  6. Can you fact check any of the claims or facts?
  7. Can you find another source that claims the opposite?
  8. Does the medium contain any advertisements, and if so, is it made clear that the medium contains advertisements?

These questions are designed to provoke critical thinking, investigatory discrimination, and inquiry so that students can make inferences and informed decisions about the content that they consume. Critical examination is not just a skill for the classroom, it’s a life skill that you hone over time, making one a conscientious consumer. 

The questions provided are just an example of critical lenses that can be applied to digital literacy, what other critical examination questions might you use with your students? Please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or email.

6 Tech Practices to Improve Student Experience

We’ve had no end to the fantastic technology helping us along as the education landscape changes. However, as engagement and learning experiences have shifted, so have the ways we interact. Here are six tech practices in my classrooms that have improved the student experience this past year.

1. Be available outside of class (reasonably, of course)

If one of my students is showing interest outside of class, I want to meet them with the same level of zeal. So I check our online class chat as prep, which shows the students that go the extra mile that I’m there to work with them even when I don’t see them. And for the students that need a boost, I can review their work and get back to them before the next class, setting them up for better success for when we meet next.

2. Make specific tech practices meaningful through comments on work

Excellent job, and Keep it up are nice and all, but bookend the critical stuff when it comes to the student experience. When I call out specific aspects of a student’s project, I demonstrate that I can tell their work apart from their peers. When I make suggestions that inspire and guide, students are given a greater sense of direction. Commenting on a live document, referencing that individual line of code, or linking to additional resources, helps me integrate this practice with technology and goes beyond the traditional red marker on paper. 

3. Email reminders

The occasional email to students can go a long way in improving the student experience and helping them succeed in class. For example, I have an in-person class that will occasionally meet online during snow days. After some absences and class link confusion, I decided a quick email might do the trick, and like magic, they now all show up.

4. Encourage, but don’t enforce, varying types of virtual participation

I’ve had virtual classrooms with students ranging from Kindergarten to 12th grade, and the variety in types and amount of interaction has been just as wide. Your school requirements notwithstanding, I aim to be approachable regarding things like “cameras on” and verbal participation. Virtual hand-raise or Zoom chat might not just be easier for you to manage, but the preferred way to speak up from the student. But if an AFK turns into an MIA, I’ll call them out on it. There’s a balance of comfort and accountability that’s important to maintain.

5. Share screen collaboration

This year, some of my most successful periods have been when students share their screen, which I suppose is the new “standing in front of the class.” The level of individual engagement and class collaboration exceeds expectations when my students share what they’ve been working on. It’s even better when we do a bit of “bug hunting” and solve the coding mistake in a student’s project. I’ve had the same results when projecting student work for all to see in an in-person or hybrid class.

6. Virtual backgrounds and other goofiness

Sometimes the right background, emoji, or filter sets the mood just right, especially on a Friday. Your mileage may vary, but you know your kids best, so consider bringing some fun to a virtual class when needed. Just ensure them that you’re here live and not a cat.

Since online space has become an educational platform, we must utilize its strengths to work for both teachers and students for continued success. So, if you have class tips and tech practices that improve the student experience, let’s keep the conversation going! Contact BSD here. We would love to hear from you.

How Digital Education is Affecting Young Students

As BSD students, we believe all students should master digital skills and apply them in many situations. That’s why we suggest teaching these skills across subjects, topics, and ages. Even if younger students can’t express it, technology is already second nature.

During the early years, the educational focus is less on cultivating particular technical skills and more about creating digital familiarity, developing ways of thinking (such as computational thinking and design thinking), and building a foundation for fluency. It is never too early for students to begin creating with digital tools and abilities.

The move to virtual teaching and learning this year is therefore a real opportunity for younger students to start this journey earlier as it has forced educators to introduce various technologies and digital skills from a very young age, which was not always the case. 

In fact, children who are digital natives have grown up with a variety of technologies and digital media. However, prior to the advent of virtual learning, early childhood education did not necessarily match with children’s outside-of-school digital experiences.

Whilst many students had excellent experiences, the prevalence of technology and opportunities to learn digital skills were hugely variable and depended on a range of factors, which are nicely summarised by Kate Gilchrist in a blog for LSE: ‘teachers’ beliefs and attitudes towards the value of digital technology as part of learning was found to strongly relate to whether they used it or not in their teaching. Teachers lacked confidence and ability in using IT skills connected to the subject taught. There is also a lack of adequate training, professional development, and technical and administrative support for teachers. Many of the curriculums investigated also did not include any provision for developing digital literacy.’ 

As a result, when students learn more technical skills later in life, their proficiency levels can vary greatly.

Virtual teaching and learning, however, have shifted this. Educators had to overcome many of the above challenges to work with students now. Educators have had to find a way to digitize their curriculum, and with trial and error comes confidence and knowledge. Whilst teaching young children virtually has its challenges, this educational experience is positive for the development of children’s digital fluency and foundation. 

Ensuring Your Students’ Data Privacy in Online Classrooms

A global pandemic has forced schools to adopt technology to power classrooms and teach students. But, unfortunately, the data privacy supplied via online learning tools is ignored to solve these problems.

Many countries have laws designed specifically to protect the data privacy of students. As an example, in the United States, there is The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which is a federal privacy law that gives parents certain protections to education records, such as report cards, transcript of records, family information, as well as class schedules. However, parents should be aware that non-public primary and secondary schools are not covered by FERPA.

Here are some privacy insights and ideas to consider in our new ‘normal’ to secure our students’ protection and security.

Verify that your children’s online classroom tools meet your local privacy rules.

Something else for parents and educators to consider is the type of learning resources used in online classrooms. Yes, Many easy-to-use platforms are available for free to all educational institutions, but nothing is truly free. In this case, free access also means free access to collect and disseminate information or data. You might remember it wasn’t that long ago when random strangers started jumping into online classrooms. 

Always check data privacy policies before introducing a new tool/website/platform at school if they have access to Personally identifiable information (PII).  

Normally, schools typically rely on IT administrators or technology integration professionals to help secure sensitive data. In online classrooms, students (and teachers) log in remotely, with little to no security control. Adding to this complexity, the devices used are also personal, making any group security near impossible.

Ensure that students’ personal data is not susceptible to unauthorized use. Teachers, administrators, and parents must personally protect all personal devices.

Personal devices connected to school systems or platforms risk exposing student data. Apply strict BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) regulations that require security restrictions on devices before granting them access to any protected environment.

Given all of that, it’s important to note that collecting data is not a negative thing. Besides counting students and recording grades, data collecting helps schools improve their curricula and educational systems. Data will continue to be important in advancing education in areas like personalized learning. There is no requirement to maintain data privacy linked to students or teachers.

For example, When using BSD Online, users may rest assured that their data remains unidentifiable. We only collect private information that our customers willingly give us, such as name, email address, and school affiliation. Other data collected is pooled to improve our services but is not shared outside BSD unless required by law. Unfortunately, this is not the standard for many online companies and users are unaware of how their data is collected and shared. As we go more digital with classrooms and schools, data privacy will be critical to protecting all the individuals in the education system.  

When it comes to your children or student’s education, when everyone has rushed to virtual learning, it is crucial to step back and ask questions about the educational tool they’re using. Is your data anonymous? Is this “free” program sharing my data? 

Education is on the cusp of incredible innovation with technology and how students can learn and engage with the material. With new tools, teachers can be even more creative, and for the most part, this is an exciting time for the future of education. But as we adopt technologies into our classrooms and embrace innovation, we also need to take a moment to consider how these tools affect the safety and data privacy of everyone involved but especially our students.