Written by Gabo Tse, BSD Education
Technology camps are a creative and inspiring way to expose children to a variety of real-world skills that will benefit them in the future. Not only will they be learning something new, but technology camps also allow children to explore areas of interest that they may not have experienced at home or at school.
In our current digital era, people of all ages use apps every day intrinsic to their ways of life in their daily lives. However, what is an app exactly? Why do people choose to build apps instead of websites? What does it take to build an app? What makes an app “great”? These are all questions that kids will have the opportunity to explore by attending App Development Camps.
Beyond simply learning how to code, creating a mobile app also encourages children to foster skills in a variety of areas. This includes tech-related skills such as programming, UX (user experience) design, UI (user interface) design, and soft skills such as creativity, resilience, computational thinking, and communication.
Let’s take a look at some of the real-word skills your child will learn if he/she/they enroll for an App Development Camp:
Throughout the process of building their app, children will encounter challenges such as their code not working, not knowing how to make their code perform a specific action, or not understanding specific parts of their code. This means that they will have to devise different solutions, whether that’s collaborating with their peers, researching online, or figuring out how to synthesize the coding syntax that they’ve learned to test a different approach.
Deciding to create an app means that developers must place themselves in the shoes of their users, and adopt a variety of perspectives. Developers must consider a number of questions, such as: “Will my app be easy to use?”, “Why will people want to use my app?”, “Who will want to use my app?” and “What problem(s) will my app help solve?”. The success of an app depends on the experience of its users, and kids will learn that app development is not about creating an app for themselves, but rather, apps can be solution and community driven, and are built to solve problems and help others.
At the end of a BSD App Development Camp, all the kids are required to present their app – what they built, why they built it, and how they built it. Not only does this allow them to reflect on their entire camp experience as a whole, but presentations help build confidence by showcasing their hard work, improve their public speaking skills, and demonstrate to them that their work is valued and recognized.
Technology is ingrained in nearly every aspect of our lives today. Learning to build apps is a fun, engaging, and unique activity that exposes children to a variety of disciplines, empowers them with digital skills required to succeed in the future and deepens their understanding of the world around them. They are able to socialize and make new friends in a fun and collaborative environment, and create an app that they can take home to show their friends and family that might even solve a problem for their community, or be a unique portfolio piece for a school, college, internship or job application in the future.
If you are interested in bringing our App Development Camps into your schools, let us know by contacting us here.
Written by Rachel Brujis, BSD Education
“… I do not publish nor divulge [methods of building submarines] by reason of the evil nature of men who would use them as means of destruction at the bottom of the sea, by sending ships to the bottom, and sinking them together with the men in them.”
Our aim is to give students the confidence and skills to work with the most powerful technology tools of their generation. And as Spiderman teaches “with great power comes great responsibility.”
This is a lesson that every inventor learns. Early inventors were often tied to military purposes. Leonardo da Vinci famously focused on defensive rather than offensive technology, and went as far as destroying some of his advanced designs to avoid what he believed would be the inevitable human destruction. This responsibility expanded to scientists focused on chemical warfare – the wife of the German inventor of chemical warfare ultimately committed suicide when she couldn’t convince her husband not to publish his results – and even DNA – as scientists feared their recombinant DNA experiments would lead to accidentally incurable pathogens.
As we have seen around the world in the last few years technology is not only ubiquitous, but more powerful than ever. A power at the hands of everyone. From a young age, then, we want to equip students not only with the technical skills to use tools but also the moral compass to use them for good. We call this teaching students to CARE – to be curious, adaptable, resilient and empathetic to the world around them.
We work with students to use technology in ways that benefit their communities. We have students that are building connected scales to measure and reduce waste at their schools and others creating websites to donate to people in need. Even something as simple as making virtual Valentine’s Day cards to show people some love can have a positive impact on others. In each case, our students look around themselves to see real problems and create solutions that really work for people in their communities.
Ultimately, we’ll measure our success by the impact that our students have and we want to give them every chance to make that a positive one. Our moral compass guides BSD and we aspire for it to guide the projects, tools and movements our students create too.
Source: Less Wrong
Written by Charlotte Brearley, BSD Education
1. Kids need digital skills to succeed in the future
Technology is already fundamental to every industry and this will only increase. We can’t ignore the way the world is going and the facts: computer-related employment will grow 22% by 2020 and 65% of children entering primary school today will do jobs that don’t yet exist.
For students to succeed in the future, it is therefore critical they learn digital skills. Some schools believe that this can be done through a computing class or an after school club, but in the real world technology touches everything and impacts everyone. It cannot be isolated to one subject area or a group of self-selecting people and the school environment must reflect this. It needs to be infused across everything so that students can make connections, follow their interests and understand how to use and apply technology to build solutions across contexts.
2. It increases engagement
As well as giving your students the skills they need to succeed in the future, teaching digital skills will increase engagement with your subject. Teachers we have trained have reported that students are more engaged in classes using BSD Online and our curriculum. It can enable a more interactive learning environment and helps make the learning more authentic. Students can struggle with the real world context of some topics and a common question is ‘Why are we learning this?’. Bringing technology into your subject and giving your students the opportunity to explore, build and create with it makes the connection to the real world much stronger and helps to pique students’ interest.
3. It develops vital soft skills
Point 1 highlighted the importance of learning technical skills to help students succeed in the future. However, the skills developed by bringing technology learning into your subject don’t stop there. Technology learning expands the mindsets of young people by developing ‘21st century skills’. By focusing on designing and developing real-world products, learning how to apply technology nurtures a range of critical competencies for young people. For example:
Communication and Collaboration
When working to create a solution or product, students often have to work together to combine complementary skills and must always consider whether the end product is actually going to work for the end user. Students therefore need to work with others to: determine who will do what; understand potential users’ requirements; request and act on feedback; and share information about what they have designed and built. None of this can be done without communication and collaboration skills.
Creativity links to building with technology in two main ways: Creativity in problem solving and creativity in design. When solving a real world problem, students need to think creatively about how to solve it using a technological solution. Once students have decided on the product or solution, they need to think about the best way to design it. Thinking about the end user, they need to consider user experience and user interface – nobody wants to use a poorly design product.
Computational thinking is about taking complex problems and breaking them into tiny pieces, which is exactly what students have to do when they are deciding how to use technology to provide solutions. In a rapidly changing future, students will have to solve problems constantly to adapt to the world around them.
Bringing technology learning into your subject is a win-win. It will make your classes more inspiring and engaging, whilst also giving your students the skills and competencies they need to succeed in their futures.
To find out how BSD empowers all teachers to bring technology learning into their classroom and give their students the tools of tomorrow, get in touch!
Written by Mo Qureshi, BSD Education
What is a micro:bit?
– 25 red LED lights that can flash messages and be used to create games.
– two programmable buttons that can be used to control games or hardware prototypes.
– an accelerometer, so it can detect motion and knows when the user is moving.
– a built-in compass which can be used to detect the direction and it can use a low energy
– a Bluetooth connection to interact with other devices and the Internet.
– power input and can be powered by a battery and additional sensors can be attached.
You can find more information about the micro:bit features here.
Students can use micro:bit to build a wide range of tools like gaming consoles, fitness trackers, wearables, autonomous vehicles, soil moisture and temperature sensors. In the process of programming a micro:bit and building tools with it, students develop skills like Design Thinking, prototyping, coding, experience working with materials and electronics, using hardware and collaboration. Let’s take a look at the skills students learn:
Design Thinking and Product Design
To build any functional tool, it’s of utmost importance to understand who the users are and to clearly define the problem – this is a direct application of Design Thinking.
While building tools with micro:bit, students will be encouraged to research and define who their user is, what the users’ needs are, and what problems their tool will solve. If students do not have this information, they will spend time researching.
Students will also learn to think about their tools as a product, so they will not only consider how it works and what problem it solves but will also have to consider what it looks like and what the user’s experience will be i.e. how the user will use it and interact with it.
Prototyping and Testing
Building a commercially viable product is a resource intensive task. In the industrial world, it takes the combined effort of numerous experts backed with R&D, financial resources and time. Before a product is ready for commercial use, it has to go through cycles of prototyping, testing, feedback and improvements.
Using micro:bit to build tools, helps students learn invaluable,real world industrial skills of prototyping and testing. Using low cost and easily available materials, students can easily make multiple prototypes or modify their designs based on user feedback.
Most products or tools are built using numerous components and materials, the same is true for working prototypes.
While building products with micro:bit, students will have to consider:
– the users: who will use it and how
– the use case: where and in which situations will it be used
– the wear and tear: does it have moving parts or does it need to be carried around or is it exposed to air and water
– the safety for the products: are there any moving parts or open wiring
Based on the above the criteria, students may cycle through different materials based on cost, strength, flexibility, weight, portability, etc. In BSD’s robotics classes, students have used materials like cardboard, paper, acrylic, PVC and wood.
Basics of electronics
Micro:bit is powered by electricity, either via two AAA batteries or via a USB port. Students who use Micro:bit will learn how electricity works, how to wire different components together to create a circuit, how to ensure that device has the correct amount of electricity and what the electricity requirements are for different components like LED lights and motors or sensors like ultrasonic and moisture sensors.
A micro:bit comes equipped with 4 inbuilt sensors:
– light sensor: detects ambient light
– temperature sensors: detects the current temperature of the device, in Celsius
– accelerometer: detects the acceleration of the micro:bit; it senses when the micro:bit is moved and other actions like shake, tilt, and free-fall
– compass: detects the earth’s magnetic field, allowing it to detect which direction the micro:bit is facing
Connecting additional sensors to the micro:bit opens a world of opportunities. A micro:bit can be connected to sound, ultrasonic, temperature and moisture sensors. For example, a micro:bit powered plant watering bot will need light, moisture and temperature sensors.
Learn to code
Learning to code is more than a technical skill. Coding develops soft skills like Computational Thinking, attention to detail, collaboration, creativity and problem solving.
Teamwork and collaboration
As previously mentioned, building a product or a working prototype requires collaboration between numerous people with different skills and working styles. Similarly, to mirror real world professional situations, students in our classes are grouped together when developing a product with micro:bit. Every member of the team has to select a specific responsibility, decide on deadline, communicate progress with the team members and learn from each other.
Learning to make products or prototypes with micro:bit is a well rounded activity which teaches students technical skills like electronics, prototyping, testing, and coding. Students also gain transferable life skills like design thinking, communication and collaboration. Activities like this expose students to the emerging technologies they interact with every day, and encourages them to not just be consumers of technology but also creators of solutions while preparing them for technology first careers.
If you are using micro:bit in your lessons we would love to hear how you are using them and would love to feature your experience and your students’ products in our future newsletters.
Written by Charlotte Brearley of BSD Education
The P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning states that ‘Learning and innovation skills increasingly are being recognized as the skills that separate students who are prepared for increasingly complex life and work environments in the 21st century, and those who are not.’ It is clear that people can no longer rely solely on knowledge and so education must now focus on giving students the skills and attributes they need to succeed in a whole range of different contexts and situations.
The P21 Framework highlights creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication, and collaboration. Other lists include abilities and competencies like flexibility, self-learning and initiative. But there is one skill that is often missing – empathy.
Empathy is the action of understanding, being aware of, and being sensitive to the experience of another from either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an explicit manner. It enables people to identify the problems others are experiencing and then design solutions that actually meet their needs.
Given future jobs are likely to have a heavy reliance on problem-solving, empathy surely belongs on the lists of skills that students should focus on. But how do you develop someone’s empathy? Many people suggest it is something you are born with, that can’t be taught, but we disagree. Empathy can be practiced and, to some people’s surprise, it can be practiced when learning to use and build with technology.
How do you do this? Get your students to build solutions for real-world problems using technology.
Ask your students to think about a problem they encounter on a regular basis. Once they have thought about a problem for themselves, encourage them to consider whether this is a problem for other people and how this problem might affect different people in different ways to arrive at a specific problem that really needs to be solved. Let them spend real time on this. Once they have identified the specific problem, task them to create a solution that will work for and be used by a range of different people. To do this, they will have to demonstrate empathy.
As soon as you introduce a problem that affects real people, students have to really think about those people and understand their needs, often within a context very different to their own, before even being able to start to develop an effective solution. If they don’t do this and don’t demonstrate empathy, they will likely finish with a product that doesn’t solve the problem, does not present a solution to something people really feel is a problem, or perhaps solves the problem in a way that nobody will use.
There’s a reason why the best innovators are empathetic and problem finders: you can’t come up with new ideas unless you observe the world with fresh, empathetic eyes.
Empathy is a fundamental skill and mindset that all students need to develop. At BSD we build all our projects that students learn and create with to be real world and product focused. By bringing the real world into technology learning and getting students to build real products for real people and communities, you will give your students the opportunity to develop empathy.
Written by Mo Qureshi of BSD Education.
Roblox is a game-creation platform where students can design and upload their own games, as well as play other games in a multiplayer online environment. Roblox provides scripting tips and design elements through Roblox Studio – it’s free game creation platform to help budding designers create and contribute games and activities. Through the platform and its features, students develop skills like creativity, self direction, storytelling, coding, giving and taking feedback.
1. Learn how professionals build games
Using Roblox Studio to build games exposes students to real tools and techniques professionals use to develop games. Beginners who are keen to learn game design and haven’t learned to code yet can use the Roblox Studio’s game builder to create a game world of their own game environment, obstacles, difficulty levels and score systems.
Students with some experience or those interested to learn coding can use the coding language Lua to develop their own games on Roblox Studio. Coding a game gives the game developer control over the game dynamics and the ability to completely redefine the game, it’s movements and the game environment with fine precision. Coding the game also makes the game look and feel professional, and in this process students experience developing a game just like a professional developer would.
2. Learn to plan and think computationally
Building a game either by using a game builder or by coding it requires the game developer to think logically and systematically. In the planning phase, even before a game is developed, one needs to think about factors like the objective of the game, storyline, types of players to attract, obstacles players will encounter, difficulty levels the game will need and how players earn points.
When building the game, students will have to build each game component sequentially with great attention to detail. S/he will learn that a computer by itself isn’t intelligent so the instructions given to build each component have to be clear.
The best games are challenging yet fun with a compelling narrative and an objective to strive for. While developing the game and making key decisions like choosing the game character/s, difficulty levels, scoring system, etc, students will constantly have to ask themselves “why will a player start playing my game and continue playing it?”. The objective of the game with the narrative will help them answer this question.
During BSD camps, we have found that it is a helpful starting point to provide students examples of games with good narratives for inspiration. Then they spend up to one lesson writing down their game’s objective and narrative; then share this with their instructor and peers to get their feedback and improve it.
4. Self direction and creativity
Developing games is an inherently creative exercise. Students are engaging in imagining characters, worlds and experiences that don’t exist yet. Then they learn to use the right tools and techniques to bring their imagination to life.
To successfully build original games, students are given a high amount of autonomy, and are encouraged to test their ideas by building prototypes.
5. Problem solving
Working with technology tools and code requires students to be able to spot errors and solve them on their own. This methodical review develops their attention to detail, makes them process oriented and encourages self-reliant learning.
In BSD camps where there are always groups of students, they are encouraged to work in groups to solve problems collaboratively.
6. Learn to code
Learning how to code makes the students literate in 21st century skills and develops mindsets and behaviours like computational thinking, attention to detail, collaboration, creativity and problem solving. It empowers them to create their own tools and products using technology. It’s more than just a technical skill!
7. User testing and feedback
After creating the first version of the game, students are asked to demo their game and share it with their peers for testing and feedback.
While their peers are playing their games, they are advised to observe how they play the game and request feedback. Based on their observations and peer feedback, students determine the priorities to improve their games.
This testing and feedback cycle is not limited to one time, it is repeated as often as needed to make the game perfect.
8. Digital citizenship
While developing and customizing their game, students will need to search for resources like images and tutorials online. They learn about image selection and audience appropriate content, copyright, royalty free images and the importance of crediting the work of others properly.
There is an overwhelming amount of evidence in education for the power of the real world to capture the minds of young learners. At the same time, no one can dispute the incredible popularity and fascination that children and adults share for fiction. Roblox has achieved a exceptional balance of creating a platform that has succeeded in marrying fantasy with reality in a platform that has the tools to introduce the real world through a user friendly package, intuitively constructed and able to maintain the focus of curious young imaginations.
All Your Questions on the “Hour of Code” Answered
What is the Hour of Code?
The Hour of Code is designed to show that anybody can learn the basics of code and to broaden participation in the field of computer science and technology.
When is the Hour of Code?
The Hour of Code takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week. This year Computer Science Education Week will be from 3rd to 9th December. But you can host an Hour of Code all year-round by registering on the Hour of Code website.
Why is the Hour of Code important?
Learning to code helps develop problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. Coding requires attention to detail, patience, and develops computational thinking skills and creativity.
There must be more to the “Hour of Code” than picking up skills?!
The skills are really not what we think is important about the Hour of Code, and you have likely already heard and read all the information extolling the virtues of the mindsets and methodologies of technology development before.
The important part about the “Hour of Code” is about giving as many young people the opportunity to try creating technology for themselves.
Why is it important to try creating with technology?
It’s true that most students won’t become programmers, and the reality is that only a small minority of jobs are even full-time programming jobs.
The important point is that all students will not only be using technology in their jobs in the future, but that it will be a fundamental requirement to become employed in a majority of cases.
Trying to create with technology is critical for everyone to have equal access to opportunity in the future.
How can understanding technology start a student’s pathway to opportunity?
Understanding the building blocks of technology, learning to code as we say, is a huge help in being able to understand the world around us and how technology is used and applied. Through this, it’s easier for young learners to think about what their greatest interests are for the careers that they will pursue in the future, as well as the technology that will evermore surround and be ubiquitous to every aspect of their lives. Identifying interests is an important first step to developing the passion to pursue them.
Why is technology so crucial to equal opportunity in the future?
For many years, the aspirations and dreams of young people have often been predicated on their grades, having a degree and even sadly the name or brand of the institution where they studied.
Fortunately, a world that is being driven by technology can be a world of innovation and creativity. You might have heard of the “Innovation Economy”. This will be driven by technology. Through technology, opportunity will be driven not by where it was learned or what grade was achieved, but by what has been delivered and whether it is something people like or choose to use. Opportunity in our future technology reality is not even about being present, people will be able to deliver from anywhere.
What unifies careers and access to opportunity for as many people as possible and particularly those that struggle to realise their dreams because they are in underserved communities, is technology. The ability to create it, apply it and solve problems for others with it.
Without experience of technology at a young age, without the ability to try to create, write a little code even, the door to these opportunities might never seem open and the reality of success might seem unattainable and distant.
The “Hour of Code” being experienced by everyone is not about groundbreaking new discoveries during an hour next week, it’s about levelling the playing field, making a future with tech seem less frightening and more attainable, and laying the groundwork for everyone to have the opportunity to all work towards groundbreaking and exceptional futures together. For the simple chance of realising this, an “Hour of Code” is an excellent investment.
What do I need to know to join the Hour of Code?
Written by Xyra Sace of BSD Education
In a recent article we released in Issue #7, we talked about the advantages of extracurricular activities like Technology Camps on student learning; how it helps students develop to become well rounded young adults and the real world skills students acquire in camps such as Game Development.
Looking for Technology Camps for kids younger than 8 can be a challenge. Many organizations are trying to provide options for this age group because they see it as a business opportunity. However, there are a number of child developmental considerations when choosing programmes for younger children that should be taken into account. For example, children as young as 5 for will likely have difficulties in using a mouse, typing, remembering where the letters on the keyboards are, understanding the syntax of coding languages and let’s not forget the much shorter attention spans.
For young kids, we would recommend keeping the phrase “Learning through playing” front of mind. It has been long understood, through practical experience as well as academic work by e.g. Lev Vygotsky and Maria Montessori, that learning through play is a critical element for young children to develop key skills in language, emotion, creativity and social interaction, it pulls together the logical and creative areas of the brain.
In practical terms, we have found that introducing Technology with Lego Mindstorms to young kids is more effective than making them code early on. Even in children as young as 6 years old, we have found Robotics with Lego effective to expose them to both the principles and ideas of coding, like logic, and elements of engineering through robotics. The small parts in Lego Mindstorms challenge younger students developing motor skills and coordination.
Here’s some of the key benefits of Lego Mindstorms and what kids learn and build in a Lego Mindstorms Camp:
1.) Boosts empathy and awareness
In our camps, we ensure to kickstart it with a few intriguing questions: “What type of problems do you face in daily life?” “Are there more people who are facing the same problem?” and “What can we do to solve it?”. Prompting these questions helps young learners begin to consider their environment. This helps them think about the problems they would like robots to solve, these can be as simple as “retrieving an item across the room without having to leave a seat”.
2.) Nurtures Imagination and Creativity
When entering the brainstorming process you’ll get a room full of energy and 100 possible answers, this is the time to introduce feasibility. For example, If you need to retrieve an item from across the room, “what will you need?” You will likely need something with wheels on it to move and arms to pick it up. “Do you have these resources available?”.
3.) Introduces engineering
Lego Mindstorms encourages kids to build with more variety like gears and levers. It promotes engineering where students can take the various plastic pieces to construct robots, buggies, or devices, while ensuring they can physically “move” or “operate” together to successfully and repeatedly perform a task e.g. making sure none of the pieces fall when the robot moves from a spot to another. Some people opine that the best way to stimulate the maximum creativity in robotics is to first take away the option of using the wheels!
4.) Emphasizes teamwork
Building a robot is not easy for kids to finish alone. We encourage them to go in groups to accomplish robots together, even to seek help where they can observe adults nearby or in their class. We help them identify their strengths, as well as start to think about ideas like delegation and having a team leader. One kid can be in charge of putting the pieces together, while another can be in charge of coding the robot.
5.) Teaches programming concepts
When building a robot, it is important kids are aware that computers don’t and can’t think for themselves. All technology is based on code, no matter how complex it is. Lego Mindstorms runs on a visual programming environment, which is intuitive for kids because they simply need to imagine what their robot will do, and drag-and-drop plain language blocks into correct sequences using logic. There are on screen technologies to do this like Scratch, however they lack the physical interaction and immersive multi-sensory experience that kids get in creating and using a robot.
6.) Camps are a great opportunity to Improve presentation and public speaking skills
At the end of any technology camp, we find it’s a critical capstone event for kids to be able to present their product. Presenting a solution is just as important as making a solution! It is the culminating part of reflection on their experience, reinforcement of their learning and demonstrating important soft skills and pride in their work.
Here we have used Robotics as our example. However, the benefits of play based learning will be quite consistent in any camp that is science or technology based. You can be certain that your children will have a lot of fun and be highly engaged to light the spark to learn even more in the future.
If you’re interested in bringing our Technology Camps or After School Programs into your schools, let us know here or request a demo.