Written by Mo Qureshi, BSD Education
Earlier this month I was invited to present at the ACAMIS Spring Leadership Conference on Student Agency in Educational Technology Integrations. This article summarizes the key points from my presentation – definition and importance of student agency, concrete examples of student agency in action with teachers taking a lead in enabling this; and some tips school leaders can take back to school.
As Head of Learning Experience at BSD, a huge part of my job is to deliver professional development and coach teachers, as well as observe a wide variety of classroom settings. During coaching and classroom observations, I get the opportunity to see a wide variety of student agency in action.
But what is student agency? Eric Sheninger’s definition in his article, Student Agency: Moving from Talk to Action, captures the essence of what it’s about – “Student agency is about empowering kids to own their learning (and school) through greater autonomy. It is driven by choice, voice, and advocacy.”
Access to Internet-enabled devices in and outside the classroom has encouraged and allowed students to take control of their own learning. As educators, it’s now up to us to help students take responsible ownership of their learning as well as provide the right environment and support to nurture this.
In my visits to schools, I have observed that those which best promote student agency in technology settings have these common traits:
- They invest time and resources to develop clear and strong objectives and outcomes for teachers and students. After this is defined, choosing the right devices, infrastructure and software become easy.
- The school leadership supports the decisions made by the teachers and promotes buy-in from the teaching community. Developing agency in students is, in fact, starts with giving the same autonomy to teachers to make their own decision.
- They promote interdepartmental collaboration. Bringing together teachers with a wide range of skill sets and from different backgrounds helps bring out and inspires the best in everyone.
- They listen to the student and parent community and involve them in the decision making process.
Now, if you are a teacher who uses technology in the classroom and wants to develop agency in your students here are some handy tips:
- Give up control: When you bring in technology and the internet in the classroom you open the world of new possibilities. This makes it impossible for you to plan every detail of your lesson plan so I recommend carving in ample time for exploration and tinkering.
- Let students decide: It’s time for the end of term project presentations? Encourage students to be creative and let them choose what they want to do – shoot a video, create a website, even enact it or just stick to a slideshow – the choice is entirely up to them! Doing so helps build confidence and bring out students’ hidden interests and skills.
- Engage your students by asking for suggestions and feedback: Ask students to peer review their work by giving each other “three stars and a wish” – three things you liked about your colleagues’ work and one thing you wish they would do next time.
- Solve open ended problems: Ask big questions to solve big problems. Questions like – “how would you decrease traffic congestion in X city?”, “how would you improve the food and water distribute chain so everyone gets equal access to it?”, “how would you incentivise people to pay their taxes?”, etc. Asking such questions opens the doors to a series of follow up questions encourages students to gain a deeper understanding of how complex systems work, which in turn helps them to potentially discover the root cause of the problem.
- Be a coach or facilitator for learning: When it comes to technology, students need a supportive and experienced adult to guide them. They also need an environment where trying, learning-by-doing, and not being afraid to make mistakes is encouraged.
If you would like to see my entire presentation and would like me to share it with you, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Charlotte Brearley, BSD Education
Many schools recognize that bringing technology education into their offering is vital to ensuring the future success of their students. However, the practicalities of this can be challenging. Some common challenges we hear are: there is already too much curriculum to get through, staff find it challenging, and resources are too expensive.
Fortunately, there is more than one way to integrate technology learning into school life, so no matter what challenges may appear initially, you will find a way. We know all schools are unique with different objectives and challenges and, for this reason, we have outlined four approaches to integration that might work for you.
As a focused course
Technology can be taught as a stand-alone subject. This works well where a school is able to or has already carved out dedicated time, perhaps in a computing class or STEM class, with the sole objective of teaching technology. This approach ensures that students get the opportunity to focus purely on their digital skills.
In this space, we have our TechReady courses, which focus on bridging the gap between age-appropriate learning and developments in the real world, such as AI and big data.
Integrated into other subjects
Integrating technology can help make learning in other subjects more ‘real-world relevant’ or help bring subjects together to create exciting cross-curricular learning opportunities. Many schools do not have the available time to teach technology as a stand-alone subject so this enables integration without having to find lots of additional hours. It also allows you to align vital skills with the interests of your students. You can think about small or large scale technology projects and bring in different approaches depending on the topic that you are teaching. For example, why not get your students to create a blog instead of writing their next story in their textbook or perhaps you can think about using data visualization to demonstrate migration trends over time in geography.
At BSD, we have curated TechConnected projects that can be brought into any core subject. We focus on enhancing what is already happening in the classroom. This enables you to continue with your teaching almost as normal and simply bring in an activity that combines subject and technology learning. Through this approach, the subject becomes the context and the projects create a more engaging way for students to either learn the concepts of the subject or become a content vessel to present and reinforce what they are learning in the class.
After school activities
For those of you who do not have time during the school day to bring in technology learning, you can think about running an after-school activity focused on technology. In one of our previous issues, we explored why enrichment programs are so powerful and the benefits they offer students. Integrating in this way is an excellent starting point that can be built upon.
Out of school learning should be more open and exploratory so our Technovators program for after-school activities focuses on giving students the freedom to work with technology in a more creative way.
Do all three
Technology in the real world touches everything and impacts everyone. It cannot be isolated to one area or a group of self-selecting people and, in an ideal world, the school environment must reflect this. At BSD we advocate for infusing technology learning across everything so that students can make connections, follow their interests and understand how to use and apply technology to build solutions across contexts and you as a teacher can help enable this. We believe that regular exposure to technology in a range of different contexts is the best way to prepare students for using technology in their futures and to understand how to apply it in connection with their interests.
However, it is also clear that implementation across everything can rarely be the first step. Start with what best fits your school’s model and build from there. For more information about any of our curriculum offerings, contact us here.
Written by Gabo Tse, BSD Education.
BSD Education’s comprehensive teacher training and support, ready-made curriculum, and online-learning software platform (BSD Online) allow us to provide project-based technology education like no other! Our online platform offers projects with step-by-step guides which allow students to code and create a variety of projects including their very own website, 2D mini game, or even a mobile app.
One example of a great project is our Mathematics Trivia Game, which is currently available on BSD Online. It is one of the many projects housed under our TechConnected curriculum for students aged 8 to 14, and also includes tech projects for English, Science, Geography, Humanities and Languages. Our projects are
aligned to US/UK/IB curricula, and are also mapped to ISTE/CSTA standards.
Now let’s look at the Mathematics Trivia Game in detail:
What is it?
The Mathematics Trivia Game is a short 8-step project on how to create a trivia game. Using a list of multiple-choice questions, it is designed to test a player’s math knowledge. Students are guided on how to add their own questions, as well as program the correct answers that players need to provide in order to score a point.
What do students learn?
How can students use it?
This project is a unique and creative way for students to summarize their learning, or as a fun way to review for a test – students can even play each other’s trivia games to reinforce new concepts learned during math class!
After completing the project steps, students are offered the opportunity to further customize their Mathematics Trivia game – they can add more questions, add additional answer options, change the visual display of the quiz itself, and even change the topic of the quiz from math to history!
If you’re interested in bringing the Mathematics Trivia Game project into your classroom, or if you’d like more information on our tech curricula, feel free to contact us! We offer prep guides which assist teachers on how to use and teach this project in class without requiring any prior coding experience.
Written by Scott Peterman, BSD Education.
Continuing with our series of Reasons for Bringing Technology Learning into Subject Areas, today we look at how the right infusion of technology can transform student learning in any History class.
When students study history the typical end product is too often something static such as a diorama or poster. Despite schools recent embrace of technology, this too often ends up as internet research, video watching in history class.
However, the right infusion of technology can transform the existing curriculum of any history class into an active learning experience that exposes students to the real-world application of technology in different contexts and scenarios. When properly incorporated into history class, technology can empower learners to understand concepts such as continuity and change, cause and consequences, similarity, difference and significance. These critical thinking skills can then be applied to frame historically valid questions and create structured accounts including written narrative
Here are 3 examples of how technology can enhance history class:
Curiosity – Active Artifacts
With BSD’s TechConnected curriculum, students can forgo writing yet another research report and instead create their own interactive, virtual museum! Students can select and research an artifact then, use the design thinking process to draw connections to the people who used them. Students can then visualize the relationships and dependencies between their artifact and the time period, linking online content and resources. The project will culminate with students showcasing their Artifact research through a real web page they will individually build from scratch using HTML and CSS.
- Adapted from Haverford Ancient Egypt Project
Creativity – Interactive Timelines
Historical events rarely unfold in linear progressions. Big or small, the overwhelming majority of milestones throughout history are caused by a combination of direct and indirect actions taken by a slew of actors. Yet, more often than not history is taught in the classroom as one event after the next. One solution is too use technology to better understand the complexity of historical events with an interactive timeline where students can visualize the interconnections within the time period. Approaching history as a vibrant web of actors and actions can help students make connections, draw contrast and analyze trends that have directly influenced the world we live in today.
- Adapted from Book of BSD – Timeline Builder (History) Project
Critical Thinking – Separating Fact from Fiction
Understanding the difference between objective (cited) and subjective (uncited) research has always been a core piece of history class. While Student’s today have instant access to unlimited research and resource at their fingertips, it has also brought about an influx of bad information. At it’s best, this material can be viewed as subjective opinions but more and more we see the dissemination of misinformation for malicious intentions. One strategy we’ve found effective for reinforcing research best practices is to have students create their own digital scavenger hunt games. This fun approach empowers students to compare and contrast information, ask perspective questions, weigh evidence, develop insight into the complexity of different factors and better Understand the wider world.
- Adapted from Book of BSD – Fact or Opinion Scavenger Hunt Project
Written by Mike Dixon, BSD Education.
BSD works with core subject teachers around the world who are tasked with weaving technology into their classroom experience. In many cases, there are no guidelines for where to begin or metrics provided for measuring impact. To help navigate the challenges of tech integration, we’ve outlined 4 tips for creating meaningful technology experiences that will engage students and enhance learning.
1. Ditch the Gadgets
All too often, we see schools attempt to meet technology requirements by purchasing the latest smart board or 3D printer. There is a notion that learning naturally follows after the acquisition of these devices. However, even when a motivated English teacher elects for her students to use a 3D printer during her poetry unit, how can she be sure that learning is happening? Are students gaining real world technology skills? Is the presence of 3D printing enhancing the existing poetry curriculum? How can we be sure?
Inevitably, without regular professional development, tech support and integrated lesson plans, we find that these devices go under-utilized.
2. Embrace Computational Thinking
Counter intuitively, the key to successful technology integration is not technology! Rather, students must learn to think in a way that empowers them to use technology to create real world solutions. Computational Thinking is a method of problem–solving used by computer scientists that breaks down into Decomposition, Pattern Recognition, Abstraction, and Algorithm.
Let’s expand on the example above of an English teacher who aims to bring technology skills into her poetry lessons. The goal of this project is to analyze a poem and extract insights.
Decomposition – Students choose a collection of poems and identify specific properties within each work, such as author details, number of lines, rhyming schemes, syllables, tone, etc.
Pattern Recognition – The class determines various connections that can be made by noticing patterns across works. Do certain authors reuse specific metaphors? Do distinct vocabulary words appear only within the work of a defined time period?
Abstraction – Challenge students to decide which properties are important to solving the problem and which are not? If your goal is to determine whether or not a poem is a haiku, then syllables are quite important. Whereas, if you’re hoping to surmise the poet’s gender, then syllables may be irrelevant.
Algorithms – Using what they’ve learned, each student will now design a reliable method for extracting specific insights from a poem. Notice, that students have not necessarily used technology up to this point! The final product can take the form of a flow chart or survey that asks relevant questions about any given poem in order to determine something about it. Examples could be “Was this poem written by Emily Dickinson?” or “Is this poem a sonnet?” or “Was this poem written before 1900?”
By following the Computational Thinking process, students are thinking deeply about the core subject matter while gaining 21st century problem solving skills.
3. Leverage Real-World Data
Teachers know that students learn best when they feel that the learning applies directly to their real lives. Fortunately, it’s never been easier to illustrate real-world connections using real time data!
A classic word problem in math asks students to calculate the exact time and place that two trains traveling in opposite directions will pass each other. Perhaps the updated version requires students to plot the route using Google Maps and incorporate factors like train delays, weather, and holiday scheduling.
Consider a US history assignment that prompts students to write an essay about their favorite president. By leveraging 70 years of free detailed presidential approval ratings online, teachers can challenge students to map their chosen president’s approval rating to significant historical events and use those insights to make predictions about the future.
4. Share Student Work Online
Finally, one of the simplest ways to bring technology concepts into non-tech classrooms is by publishing student work online. Regardless of their future endeavours, curating an online presence is an unavoidable part of being a member of the innovation economy.
In addition to popular tools such as Github, Behance, and Linkedin, the BSD Online platform provides all students with a place for showcasing real-world technology projects that can be shared with college admissions and even directly to employers.
If you are a teacher or school administrator and have questions about integrating technology into your classroom, please feel free to reach out to BSD Education. We can help you prepare your students for the ever–changing challenges of tomorrow and engage them with projects that combine core subjects with 21st century technology skills.
Written by Rachel Brujis, BSD Education
<h1>… <p>… <body>? Does it sound familiar or like a foreign language to you?
This is the answer we usually get when we work with non-tech teachers to make technology part of their classroom.
Teaching is fun but can also be terrifying, especially when you’re doing it for the first time. Adding technology you may not be familiar with, to enhance your students’ learning experience, may even sound more intimidating. But don’t worry, we have come up with top tips to make this potentially daunting experience, easy for you.
1. Learn with your students. Your students will love the opportunity to drive the learning and at times act like the teacher. Frame it as an adventure to explore together: “Let’s explore together, I know that some of you may have had experience with it before, let’s take this opportunity to learn from each other and together.”
2. Use the internet as a tool. A lot of technology experts use YouTube to top up their skills – whether to learn a new code or create a new tool. Can you use YouTube creatively with your students to learn and build something? For some classes with older kids, this can be a great way to change the learning environment. Besides, who would say no to watching YouTube for homework?
3. Work in partnership. Remember the idea to make your students the teacher? You can assign students a role to make them part of the learning – whether it’s the CSS Superhero or HTML expert – this is a great way to build their capacity as experts and confidence teaching their peers a new skill.
4. It’s cool to copy. In technology, it’s not considered cheating if you copy! In fact open-source code is how a lot of programs are built. The role of the programmer or product designer is to bring together existing pieces to make something useful and they only build new things where they need to. Don’t be afraid to look online for inspiration for your design or code, and focus on encouraging students to think of new combinations that make something useful in the real world.
Written by Gabo Tse, BSD Education
In the current digital era, there is no denying that video games are among the most popular pastimes for people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. For children, many of them will tell you that playing games is one of their favourite hobbies! However, many have only ever experienced games as a player.
By attending a camp to Build a 2D Mini Game, not only will kids get to work on a project related to one of their interests, but learning to build a 2D mini game helps foster both tech skills and soft skills that will greatly benefit them in the future – both in school and beyond.
Let’s take a look at some of the real-word skills your child will learn if he/she/they enroll for an 2D Mini Game Camp here at BSD Education:
Building a 2D mini game with code means that children will commonly run into challenges with their game, such as points not being added correctly, a button not responding to a mouse click, or a character on the screen is moving up instead of down. Kids will quickly learn that encountering bugs is a common process when coding, and that they will need to be organized, adaptable, and resourceful in order to come up with a variety of solutions. This will include checking their coding syntax, researching by themselves online for a fix, or rearranging their code in a different way.
Design (User Interface and User eXperience)
Building a 2D Mini Game encourages children to develop their skills in design. Children must think about how and where to place components – such as text and buttons – on the screen in a way that makes for a visually pleasing interface. They must also think about the emotionally rewarding and challenging aspects of their game that may encourage or discourage further gameplay. This design process helps to nurture empathy and adaptability in kids, as they will need to place themselves in the mindset of their players.
Attention to Detail
Throughout the process of building their 2D mini game, kids will learn that they will need to be diligent, thorough, and focused when working on every aspect of their game. They must make sure that their coding syntax is correct, or map out the game flow and logic of to account for all the different scenarios that players will encounter.
Technology camps are a unique, eye-opening, and engaging way for children to pursue their interests in a collaborative environment and make new friends, learn new skills, and be exposed to a variety of disciplines. At the end of a camp, children will leave with a greater appreciation of the technology that is so deeply ingrained in their daily lives, and will get to proudly showcase to their friends and family, a game that they programmed by themselves.
The gaming industry is among the fastest growing industries today that will be even bigger in childrens’ futures. Learning to build games helps equip children with digital skills that are the foundation for exploring other areas of tech, such as app development, animation, graphic design, and web development.
If you are interested in bringing our Build a 2D Mini Game Camps into your school, let us know by contacting us here.
Written by Scott Peterman, BSD Education
A growing chorus of employers are voicing frustration about job applicants who are technically proficient, with touted high grades and test scores but lacking in key skills such communication, decision-making, and problem-solving that are necessary to successfully do the jobs they have applied for. In order to effectively address this mismatch, educators are increasingly embracing a combination of project based learning and personalized learning in order to better prepare students for careers in the 21st century.
Project Based Learning (PBL) blends content mastery, meaningful work, and personal connection to create powerful learning experiences, in terms of both academic achievement and students’ personal growth. PBL can be transformative for students, especially those who lack access to out of school time educational opportunities such as workplace internships.
Project Based Learning offers students the opportunity to actively engage in activities that provide real-world relevance and a direct application for what they’re learning. For example, students can solve problems that are important to them and their communities. At it’s best, PBL leads to deeper understanding and greater retention of content knowledge, with students better able to apply what they know to new situations thanks to a personal connection to their academic experience.
Let’s dive a little deeper to better understand how project-based learning leverages technology and how it intersects with personalized student learning.
What is Project Based Learning?
Simply put, Project Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method through which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge.
It is becoming widely used in schools and other educational settings, with different varieties being practiced because it supports students at all skill levels, meeting each student exactly where they are. Problems can be delivered based on what a student knows and doesn’t know, which customizes the experience to be unique for each student.
What are the benefits of PBL?
Project-based learning can be a catalyst for transforming learning, helping students move from asking “what?” to also asking “why?” and “how?”
In a traditional classroom, students often focus on memorizing facts to pass a test. However, research has shown that by organizing learning around meaningful goals, PBL can be an effective way to cultivate a “need to know” attitude in students—students are motivated to deepen their understanding in order to solve a problem that is meaningful to them.
Concepts are better understood when students see a need for their use, make an authentic connection with them, because that need encourages them to apply what they’re learning to relevant situations, leading to a better sense of understanding. Researchers have also observed higher rates of students staying on task and paying close attention to the teacher and their peers.
Understanding the limits of Project Based Learning
However, there are key characteristics that differentiate “doing a project” from engaging in Project Based Learning.
While PBL has been increasingly embraced by educators in pursuit of ‘personalized learning,’ it is important to remember that without the right tools, it can still be just a buzzword. Preparing students to be lifelong learners capable of partaking knowledgeably in both civic life and a rapidly changing workforce, requires not just focusing on technology, personalization, or even coding, but the broader content and foundation at the heart of these experiences. Put another way, quality curriculum and instructional design is still the key to the long-term impact PBL can have on any student.
A vivid example of these limitations is provided in the following passage from a 2017 Edutopia article:
“As students learn to read, it is critical that they build a strong and wide foundation of knowledge. A learner’s background knowledge is a key ingredient in her ability to learn and absorb information from what she is reading and consuming. Accordingly, personalizing learning through technology will be most powerful when it is coupled with intentional, coherent and rigorous instruction… Yes, tapping into and developing children’s interests and instilling in them a sense of ownership of their education is important. Yet allowing them unbridled choice of what they learn, especially when they are young, means that in certain cases they will miss building that foundation… If students don’t have a working familiarity with a body of knowledge, a new passage on the topic—no matter how elementary it may seem and no matter how strong the reader’s fundamental decoding skills—will frustrate… Without at least a working familiarity with a topic, Google—where you have to generate the right question to ask—will only take you so far in the moment. That is because, as cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham wrote, “Every passage that you read omits information. All of this omitted information must be brought to the text by the reader.”
This passage is an important reminder that how educators incorporate PBL and Technology into their curriculum, will really define the success of their efforts and long-term impact it has on students.
How does BSD use Project Based Learning?
One of the best attributes of PBL is it’s versatility to be highly impactful for students in practically every learning context. For example, PBL is not only the foundation of all of BSD’s in-school curriculum, but also our out-of school-time (OST) curriculum as well. We do this not for convenience or even continuity, rather because it has proven itself to consistently be the most effective model for sparking & sustaining engagement for the vast majority of students we work with, regardless of their prior tech experience or interest level.
PBL offers us the contextual framework to change students to shift their thinking from, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ to, ‘what problems do you want to solve when you grow up.’
By engaging in project-based learning units that have a strong career focus, students have the chance to see how concepts & lessons that may have previously seemed abstract directly apply and can be used in the working world. This offers students the chance to experience education through the eyes of artists, entrepreneurs, tech professionals and more.
These clear connections to contextually relevant career opportunities creates excitement by encouraging students to strive to learn more in a subject and ultimately changes their experience of education from learning as a task to learning to achieve bigger and better outcomes.
Written by Charlotte Brearley, BSD Education
Enrichment programs are after school activities designed to give students the opportunity to try new things and explore and develop interests outside of the classroom. Activities can range from sports to cooking, from drawing to coding. All you need is a passionate teacher or external instructor, who can run an activity that aligns with the interests of your students. Another option you can consider is to challenge your students and get them to run their own activity. For example, we have worked with a student at the South Island School in Hong Kong to start an after school code club. It’s been incredibly successful and he now has a waiting list!
Enrichment programs are not just something that fills time between school and home though. They have a huge number of benefits and provide opportunities for students to further their interests from the classroom or to try something totally new. They help students develop a love for learning in their own time, expand their mind and gain skills that will help them in their academic and professional careers. Learning outside the classroom also gives students the opportunity to experiment and take risks with no implications. They are not being graded or compared to their peers and so students can try things out and learn from their mistakes. This in turn will build students’ confidence as they learn new skills and immerse themselves in new experiences.
Although activities may take place outside the classroom, their benefits will follow your students into their studies. According to “After School Programs in the 21st Century: Their Potential and What It Takes to Achieve It” published by Harvard Family Research Project, many studies “repeatedly underscore the impact of supporting a range of positive learning outcomes, including academic achievement, by affording children and youth opportunities to learn and practice new skills through hands-on, experimental learning.”
These benefits are all true of our experience at BSD. We offer programs at our own space in Hong Kong and at a large number of schools in both Hong Kong and Philadelphia. As after school programs are in a student’s own time, we know it’s important to provide an educational but also fun and sociable environment. We particularly focus on collaboration and teamwork as our programs often bring together students from a range of different backgrounds and age groups. As a result, we have found that students participating in enrichment activities not only build technical knowledge, but also develop vital future skills such as working collaboratively with new people, problem solving and presentation skills. You can found out more about what we offer here.
Enrichment programs are a great way to encourage students to follow their passions, develop new interests and build new skills. You should think about the activities you can offer and inspire your students to try something different.