Can Technologist and Educator Agree on Digital Terms?

For non-technical people, the digital terms coding, computing, and programming are synonymous. Therefore the issue is irrelevant. However, each sector has its own collection of terms with distinct meanings and contexts. This is especially true when discussing technology, which is always evolving. For instance, “spam” isn’t edible, “bugs” are not insects, and an “Easter Egg” is not just used at Easter.

The meanings of coding and programming differ depending on who you ask and the industry you work in, leading to a state of confusion.  

As the Hour of Code week approaches, we have invited our VP of Education, Mark Barnett, and our CTO, Nickey Khemchandani, to reflect on the significance of digital terms, what counts in coding education, and how educators and technologists may benefit from collaboration.


What’s the difference between coding and programming in digital terms?

Nickey Khem: Coding is the translation of Code from one language to another. Coding doesn’t deal with complicated issues. Programming, on the other hand, is the act of producing code using algorithms and thorough analysis.

For example, Coding languages such as HTML and CSS focus on structure and designing an interface. As a programming language, JavaScript is used to develop functionality.

Mark Barnett: The difficulty with using these digital terms interchangeably is that they generalize roles that need diverse skill sets.

Does the misuse of digital terminology create a problem?

Which digital terms have had the most impact in the education technology industry?

We commonly use a computational thinking cornerstone called “abstraction” at BSD Education. This means you focus only on the important details while ignoring irrelevant information. 

In our project, “The People Who Inspire Me,” we guide students through the process of creating a single webpage. Students highlight three people who inspire them, but we break each step down into objectives. We also assist with HTML and CSS syntax. It allows students to focus on each component until the project is complete.

What needs to change in the educational system today?

NK: The digital curriculum taught in schools must be updated to be relevant. Students today live in a completely different world than in the 1980s and 1990s. More than ever, curricula should contain practical, real-world examples. In communication, for example, the use of social media must be incorporated. However, in some educational systems, the focus is mainly on historical techniques. 

MB: As Nickey said, curriculum relevance is an important component of change that must be addressed. With tech education, it’s best to teach children through projects. Project-based learning allows them to create something useful or functional rather than learning through textbooks or tutorials. For example, your first webpage or a virtual reality environment with sophisticated systems are both projects at BSD.

Should coding be for everyone?

MB: One amazing thing that Hour of Code has done is expose children all across the world to programming, even if just for one hour. Coding, like reading and writing, opens you new ways to share your knowledge, ideas, and voice with the world.

NK: Coding can be a form of creative expression, but it can also lead towards understanding new ways to break down problems into smaller steps and solve unique challenges. While we certainly don’t expect every child to become professional technologists, we want children to have some conceptual understanding of how the technologies that they use every day, work. 

What can educators and technologists learn from each other by collaborating?

MB: As a teacher, I believe my role is to assist teachers and students comprehend technology in manageable portions. To do this effectively, I need to understand technology well enough to foresee difficulties. Consulting experts is a great way to learn more about learning technology. At BSD, I regularly talk with Nickey, our CTO, to better understand technological concepts. We discuss big ideas, technical details, and our passion for sharing knowledge.

NK: My role is often to bring the latest and complex technology into the hands of individuals and in BSD’s case, teachers and students. This is, however, easier said than done as a lot of technology requires complex predefined understanding, which is not accessible to someone that well versed in technology to start with. 

This is where I really think the value of having educators on the team, such as our VP of Education, Mark helps.

As a result of our collaboration, we are able to incorporate the most up-to-date educational pedagogies and cutting-edge technology into our curriculum and platform. As a technologist, I have greatly benefited from educators’ ability to better explain digital terms, allowing us to reach more customers.

Conversely, technologists are always on the pulse of the latest happenings in several businesses. Educators benefit from shared research and development, from curriculum evolution to digital tools that increase student engagement.

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Whether you are new to coding or are a seasoned professional, we invite you to try a few of our coding projects during the Hour of Code. Mark and the Education Team at BSD developed 6 unique projects that guide students through programming with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to complete projects in a series called “Code is: Your Voice,” where students are invited to use code as a way to share what’s most important to them. So check them out and let us know what you think. 

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. 

Will Artificial Intelligence Substitute Teachers?

As a part-time lecturer at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and my consulting work at Blu Artificial Intelligence, I’m often asked how artificial intelligence (AI) will impact education in the future. We tend to see popular media pushing the narrative that AI will take over teaching. I take the opposing view. AI will not replace teachers. If anything, artificial intelligence will become a new tool in a teacher’s toolbox. AI will free teachers from administrative burdens, give them insights on student development, and let them focus on what they do best – helping students grow.

The truth is that today we are still quite far away from having robots and artificial intelligence surpassing human beings. However, artificial intelligence does tend to perform very well at repetitive, structured, and well-defined tasks. Hence the belief that AI will take away our jobs tomorrow, in my view, is quite far-fetched. If anything, we should think about task automation rather than job automation. Most jobs are made up of specific tasks, which may or may not be easily automatable. Therefore, we can each look at our job, consider the tasks & skillsets that are hard to automate, and then focus on those areas for professional development.

Let us take teaching as an example. With the recent restrictions from COVID-19, a lot of the classes I teach have moved entirely online. I started teaching in 2018, so I did the class in person the year before. When I compare online and in-person, I find that student interaction is much easier to facilitate in-person. There’s very little “please unmute your mic,” or “can you repeat, you’re cutting out,” and my personal favorite, “can you HEAR me?” with the entire class responding, “yes, we can.” It is also easier to get feedback, both verbal and non-verbal, from students. Are they laughing with you or at you? Given my jokes, perhaps I should leave this question unanswered for myself.

This confirmed to me that human interaction is an integral part of education. Furthermore, when I asked students for feedback on the class, almost all preferred an in-person class. This also jives with my views on tasks that are hard to automate. Generally, anything requiring human interaction is a challenge for artificial intelligence because people react differently to the same stimulus. For example, the fact that A+B does not always equal C is a problem for AI. Artificial intelligence has started to address this with larger data sets and training, but it is not easy.

The big question then is what does this mean for teachers? First, I believe artificial intelligence will augment our ability to be productive. This means that teachers will work with AI tools to create better student experiences. For example, artificial intelligence can take over structured and repetitive administrative tasks. Grading is a prime example, and it brings back some memories for me. When I was little, my mom, who has been a teacher most of her career, used to get me to help her mark her students’ multiple-choice tests. Then, after bribing me with my favorite candy, I would happily read off “A, C, D, E, B…” into the wee hours of the night.

Today, we have Scantron sheets for multiple-choice grading. Soon, with an area of artificial intelligence called Natural Language Processing (NLP), AI tools will be able to ‘read’ free form text responses and do the grading. For example, I can testify that student handwriting standards have dropped, but you can address this if we give the AI enough data (handwriting samples). Students could also type their responses, which negates the handwriting problem. On top of this, machine learning tools can construct ‘student profiles’ from grades to track their progression and identify development areas.

I know that many teachers, whether they admit it or not, are reluctant to work with artificial intelligence, which is understandable. The AI isn’t perfect and will make mistakes. To expect otherwise is setting ourselves, and AI, up for failure. However, the potential to free up teachers to do what they do best is something that I feel needs to be explored.

If you’re scared about being substituted by artificial intelligence, please take solace from students today who say they can’t wait to get back to the classroom. They need you. With that in mind, all I ask is that you stay open to AI augmentation and its potential to help you and your students.

If you found this interesting and would like to discuss it further, please reach out to me at kevin@blu.ltd.

Technology Exposure and Delivering a Foundation for Sustained Success

I write this in April 2020, a period of tremendous change and instability for any generation. During this time of disruption and uncertainty, we can see the demand for strong technical skills in future learners. We’ve all had to quickly adapt to a new working and learning environment. I will discuss three considerations below for thinking about exposure to technology through education and its benefits.


Learners need to understand what their learning journey is going to look like

Technology is extensive, complicated, and incredibly varied. There is a place for everyone in technology, from the artist to the engineer and all in between. The breadth and depth of technology expertise and experience demand a level of focus. The scale and speed of evolution may not permit a “jack of all trades” to stay relevant. Instead, we must explore our interests and passions early on, and learn to collaborate with those who have comparable skills.

Everyone is embarking on a journey of learning that will last a lifetime. In the same field, knowledge gained today will be outdated in 5 years, much alone 25 years. To make the best decisions and define a sustainable course, learners require comprehensive exposure to technology at the start of their learning journey. It is still possible to change later in life, but it will be much more difficult. Teaching computer science is easy with the US K-12 CS Framework (or technology)

Current market conditions show growing demand across industries resulting from continuing implementations of technologies and evolution towards automation. The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report states a net gain of 58 million jobs created versus jobs lost arising out of automation. 

Organizations like Cisco cite shortages of networking skills in places like South America, where technology demand is outstripping supply significantly, and connectivity is strongly connected to prospects for economic growth.

People need to see technology in a pleasant way to be ready to profit from the increasing wave. Otherwise, the result may seem undesirable or even unattainable. 

The learners that will take up these new jobs are in the early years of education now. They may have extensive experience in legacy businesses and need to return to a new path to learn. Furthermore, the evolution of the learning system in Montessori has proved throughout the age and experience that real learning and application lead to higher commitment.

Young and special needs learners engaged in learning by copying real-world activities rather than attempting to connect learning through fiction. The technology challenge is great, but rather than focusing on the content for learning itself, which in many cases is available in one form or another, the focus must be on the experience of learning for the different demographics of learners that feed the pipeline of talent required.

Jobs and automation will rise while demand exists, but we must be ready to shift.

We can see from history that industrial automation in the past has led to job growth, however also that the job growth fuelled through this automation is led by the surge in accompanying demand that drives the commercial rationale for investing in automation, meaning what makes the investment financially viable. When demand flattens rather than grows, the inevitable automation will cause rapid attrition in the roles created.

Traditional educational models have failed to prepare students to adapt and value their knowledge in a business setting. This supports the importance of a) the critical importance of introducing learning to people of all ages through a range of real-world contexts in which a consistent set of abilities apply; b) nurturing curiosity in learners to be as adaptable as possible by continuing cross-industry understanding through their ongoing self-learning.

Exposure to technology education and the learning of digital skills is undoubtedly critical. Still, people need a strong foundation to be successful in their careers.

If you’re interested in discussing more technology education or even want to explore ways to do that with us, feel free to email me at chris.geary@bsd.education.

EdTech Tools Educators Should Try This School Year

Undoubtedly, the learning and development of digital skills is a big focus in Education this next decade. At BSD Education, we’re working to prepare students for a technology-driven future as an EdTech tool.

We aim to help them be consumers of technology and media and have the tools and skills to become innovators or creators. 

One of the best ways to slowly start bringing Technology into your classrooms is using fun EdTech tools that will help you or your students boost learning or teaching experiences. Check out the top 10 we thought you should try this year!

1. Formative

Formative is a great web-based app that allows you to give assignments to students and provide personalized and real-time feedback. You can use ready-made “formatives” or create your own to share with your students. You can then view student progress and answers in real-time and assess their learning and progress as they go.

To sum it up: an easy-to-use tool that simplifies assessment in your classroom.

2. Equity Maps

Equity Maps is a great iPad EdTech tool that enhances collaboration, helps you keep track of which of your students participate in class discussion and how much they are experiencing.

All you have to do is tap your students’ icons as they engage in the discussion. In the end, you’ll get summary analytics of how often each class member participated and how many were active participants. The instant feedback helps participants reflect and enables you to ensure that your classroom discussions are equitable and inclusive.

To sum it up: a tool to encourage honest dialogue and broader collaboration in your classroom.

3. Geoguessr

Geoguessr is a fun game that develops students’ global awareness, problem-solving, and research skills. The game starts by dropping the player into a random location on Google Street view. The player then has to figure out where they have been lowered to the closest possible point. Finally, students have to think about different types of information within the map that they can use to solve a problem, use initiative, and demonstrate perseverance.

To sum it up: an excellent EdTech tool that can be used as a class filler to develop a range of skills.

4. ProWritingAid

ProWritingAid does what it says on the tin – it’s a tool that helps your students improve their writing assignments, but not just with spelling and grammar. This tool looks at everything from sentence variety to the use of cliché!

All you need to do is write directly on ProWritingAid or upload a document, and you’ll get a summary report giving the strengths and weaknesses of the piece. You can then discuss this with your students.

To sum it up: a handy tool to help you give in-depth and personalized feedback on your students’ writing.

5. Creaza

Creaza is a tool that can be used to create presentations, mind maps, cartoons, and videos. Students can collaborate on their projects in real-time.

6. Thunkable


Mobile Apps have been a rage for over a decade now,
and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Thunkable is a free and easy-to-use online tool for building mobile apps using a simple drag and drop code builder. As you create, you can test the app in real-time on an iOS or Android device and tweak it as you go. In addition, less experienced students can choose to “remix” an existing app instead of starting from scratch.

6. Roblox


Creating games is a great way to learn a wide range of real-world
digital skills, like storytelling, art, design, programming, maths, etc. Roblox is an online platform for creating and playing multiplayer online games. As a teacher, you can take your students on a journey of creating their favorite online games. They can learn to develop games using Roblox Studio, test them with their peers, and publish them online for users to play on a computer, mobile device, or even Xbox. They can also choose to publish the game for free on the Roblox platform or charge them “Robux ”, the digital currency of Roblox. To support teachers, Roblox publishes resources like how to start guides and lessons.

7. Thinglink


Boost your classroom engagement by creating visual and interactive resources for your students. Thinglink makes it very easy for you to augment
images, videos, and online tours with extra information using simple-to-use hyperlinks. Create an educational treasure hunt for students or mix it up and let them create visual learning journeys for their peers.

8. MindMeister


Mind maps are a tried and tested method for people to take notes or brainstorm ideas effectively. MindMeister is an excellent
EdTech tool that takes this further by making mind mapping a collaborative exercise. Students can collaborate with peers in real-time in the classroom while a teacher explains concepts or works virtually from home when creating a group project.

9. Smiling Mind


Students (and all of us) can face a series of social and emotional challenges. To help them cope with these,
they must be aware of their mental well-being and learn practical ways to be mindful. Smiling Mind is a free, not-for-profit app that encourages mindfulness and better mental being in schools. It is specifically built for students and teachers and breaks down activities for 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-18, and adults. In addition, it comes with Professional Development training for teachers, classroom resources, and student workshops. 

10. Bonus – BSD Online


Of course, we would love it if you tried our online learning platform,
BSD Online. Through scaffolded guided exercises, BSD Online makes the teaching and learning of digital skills and coding easy, fun, and engaging. We suggest our Hour of Code Project – Life Under Water if you’re wondering where to start.

We’d love to learn what other apps or EdTech tools you’d like to try this year!! Feel free to share by tweeting us at @Educationbsd or tagging us on Instagram at @BSDEducation. We look forward to hearing from you!

Our Favorite Ways to Boost Student Engagement with Tech

At BSD Education, we are always exploring new ideas to help boost students’ engagement in the classroom. It is important to boost engagement levels because engaged students are more curious and motivated in any given subject matter. With a growing sense of curiosity and motivation, this can greatly elevate and improve their overall learning achievements and experiences. 

Can we boost student engagement with technology initiatives at schools and districts – for example, with increased computer lab time, 1:1 device programs, etc.? Just by introducing tech tools like smart screens, online quizzes and games will only boost engagement for a little while. What we want is to establish sustainable engagement that has a meaningful impact. 

Technology in the classroom doesn’t have to be a  distraction and burden for teachers. Let’s explore ways to take advantage of our students’ interest in technology as a vehicle for better student engagement. Here are 3 of our favorite ways in boosting student engagement:

  • “What’s in it for me (as a student)?”

Our students want to know how and why the content they are presented with is relevant to them. This concept is not new and has long been associated with social psychology (Frymier and Shulman). As educators, we are on the lookout to connect with students to ensure that their learning is relevant to them. Consider introducing a simple tech project where students can gain practical skills in digital design and coding through online learning projects, such as creating a reading blog, or creating a dynamic adventure game to showcase their understanding instead of a traditional book report. Students will feel accomplished with a new skill that they have practiced and are able to apply in other areas of study.

  • Change it up

When students get familiar and in a routine in your classroom, you might feel that you have your classroom management secured and that your classroom is running like clockwork, but it is also important to try something different from time to time to keep your students interested. You can pique your students’ interests if you introduce a new concept through an interactive tech project (that they can also code and build) instead of a more traditional approach, such as showing them a documentary.

  • Give them choice

Allow students to make a choice in the projects that they do and how they want to learn. When students are given the opportunity to have an active role in their learning, they will feel more compelled to listen, engage themselves and take ownership in their learning. Technology projects may not be suitable or interesting to all students,  but we shouldn’t take away the opportunity for other students to thrive through tech projects. Promote student agency in your classroom by giving tech projects as an option of creative learning and output.

As educators, we should also ensure the content and learning objectives are presented clearly so that the chosen tech activities are meaningful and have immediate value to your students. When it is done right, technology can enhance student interest and understanding, as well as open opportunities for student agency and creativity.  

What strategies do you use to spark your students’ engagement and interest in their learning? Let us know by tagging us at @educationbsd on Twitter or find us on Linkedin.

The Evolution of Technology and Education – Full

Technology has become ubiquitous and intrinsic to every aspect of life. However, rather than the demands of what we need to create, it is the impact of what has been created that is driving change. Automation is the singularly most defining influence of technology in the workforce moving forward over the next 50 years. In this article I am not going to further define the potential stages of automation and its relationship with the evolution of machine intelligence and beyond. Simply put, automation is the means through which roles traditionally undertaken by humans have the potential to be replaced by technology. In theory, we will have the technological capability to replace all roles, but this is diminished in terms of both time and realization when you simultaneously consider implementation and validation, economics, and socio-political considerations.

What we are seeing now and will continue to witness in the coming decade is that automation is replacing the most sequenceable and repetitive tasks and is therefore changing the relationship of the person doing that job with their industry. This means that if the person does not evolve their skill set, then their value to the economy is diminished.

At the same time, we are seeing that roles requiring significant managerial, judgement and interpretation capacities are furthest from the sphere of automation so in essence are becoming increasingly valued. The breadth of data interpretation and implementation of technology that has to be  overseen and led at a managerial level is, however, dramatically increasing the necessary digital skill set requirements of this group.

Existing roles in the workplace, having been pushed up and down have left behind a need for workers to take on enhanced roles with different skill sets. My illustrative situation here is a manual laborer, previously working on a production line whose manual role has been replaced by a robot. The laborer, however, has a wealth of experience as to how the production line works and how different issues that occur on the production line will have an interdependent effect on other areas of the production process. The laborer now oversees a group of machines that do his / her former role monitoring data and information, making adjustments to production and communicating with the humans in other parts of the process to be aware that all the machines are operating in the optimal fashion to facilitate production. 

Whilst the laborer’s work is still based upon the knowledge of production, the skills through which the laborer now works involve data analysis and interpretation, critical thinking, and communication and collaboration with coworkers. This example is deliberately simple in this situation in reference to a single laborer. As we progress up the scale of seniority in companies, we will find that the range of technical capabilities held by an individual or understood by and individual as being present within their broader team will become increasingly demanding.

Aligning to this, McKinsey’s study from May 2018 illustrated the effect that skill shifts will have in the way that people use skills during their working time.

So what does all of this mean for schools and broader educational institutions in their capacity as organisations that contribute pivotally in preparing people to join the world of work? It means that the development of social and emotional skills and technology skills is a critical part of learning for students. It is simply not possible to continue to consider that educational needs of people are being met where traditional systems of education are failing to prepare students with technology and social emotional readiness as a forefront consideration in the ongoing development of educational programs. 

Considering the real world implementation of these skill sets as illustrated above, where educational institutions focus on implementing educational technology and technology education programs across schools they should be doing it with the development of “digital skills” in mind. So what does this mean?

I see digital skills as a more broadly defined skill set than hard technology skills alone encompassing technical skills, soft skills and values in a combined model as below. The world of technology is colossal and evolving quickly and is therefore becoming exponentially more complex than an individual can grasp on an ongoing basis by themselves. The technical skills a student learns at schools won’t be the same required 20 years into their careers which is why it is important to focus on transferable skills and values. 

It is really important that educators allow a range of experiences for learners to find the area of technology that is their strength and their passion, something that they will have a willingness to follow, be curious about and learn resiliently for the rest of their lives as it continually evolves. At the same time, developing the empathy to recognise the strengths in others that students can collaborate with, and valuing where they cover the gaps in what students themselves lack will be critical to be adaptable to challenges that arise.

It is important to note here that there really isn’t a right answer when it comes to selecting particular technologies like programming languages or software a learner will be exposed to. There are always a number of technologies available, the merits of which can be argued for or against. What I have recognized in observing what students achieve and how they apply what they have learned around the world is that the ability to create content, understand design and user experience, and analyze and interpret data really become the key abilities that are most critical to nurture.

My final comment on the evolving role of technology education revolves around the planning of the learning journey. So much of digital skills education is implemented on a piecemeal basis – short activities off the shelf without progression or interdisciplinary relationships properly considered. This would not be the case in the teaching and learning of mathematics or science and so should not be the case for digital skills. It does pose a greater challenge to educators as an area of learning that is not as well understood as the learning of more traditional subjects and enquiries. However, given that the world of work will not wait, technology is evolving ever faster and not to become any simpler, the longer that such effort is delayed and addressed, the higher the mountain to climb will become.

Whether introducing a young child to learning with and about technology for the first time, or re-skilling an adult learner, you must initially build confidence and self-awareness. I refer to this as the “primary” phase, although it is age agnostic, as all learners are generally coming to the learning of digital skills for the first time. This is the phase to experiment and discover interests, as broad a range of applications of technology as possible and a tool kit of projects that the learner is confident and able to re-use regularly.

The second, “middle” phase is the time to deepen understanding of both the learner’s own skills and abilities that have become most refined and interesting, as well as those of the peer group around them. It is notable that for community based learners, the library commons movement is promoting the capability of library spaces as enablers of circulation of individuals within them. The practice of networking amongst people is an excellent key to communication.

The final phase, that I call the “higher” phase, is really the point in learning at which the portfolio of work begins to turn towards demonstrating capability in relation to real or fictitious scenarios of the world of work. 

As digital skills are largely uncertified and untested, they are most effectively demonstrated by sharing what you can create within a portfolio of work. This gives everyone an incredible opportunity to show their skills as value is placed on what you can do rather than where the skills were learned or how the person performed on one test. 

Technology is driving the changing state of the workforce and the skill shifts across industries that are accompanying this. The change is already here which should compel educational systems to robustly and immediately implement digital skills learning that will prepare people at all career stages to be successful because of change not incase of it. 

Whilst job automation might appear daunting, and will certainly require adaptation at all levels, it by no means tolls a deathly bell for humans in the workforce. Economically and socially, countries need the humans and the machines producing side by side.

The learning process for digital skills requires reflection on, understanding of, and empathy for others. The judgements, considerations and interactions that define us most strongly and clearly as humans are what will most enduringly be of greatest value to us in an automated world. So perhaps in light of all of this, the greatest impact of technology in both the world of work and of education will eventually simply be to make us focus on and value what it is that makes us most human after all.

Technology Education Trends That Took Over 2019

At the end of every year,  our Education team dedicates time to research new developments and technology education trends to ensure we create cutting-edge, sustainable, and up-to-date roadmaps for our future curriculum.

In 2019, the world of technology saw many new releases and updates, some of which can directly impact and transform Education. 

Here’s a list of trends we found that you should also stay updated on:

1. Digital Citizenship:

Digitalization has increased student and teacher access to information, yet, there is no guarantee that information online and associated search results are accurate and factually correct. With the ubiquity and variety of social media platforms, it has become easier to disseminate false and inaccurate information. To counter this, we’ve seen schools and education program providers create activities and lessons to teach about digital citizenship, with specifics around fact-checking, countering misinformation, having civil dialogues online, and general good online behavior. 

ISTE Student standards define Digital Citizenship as students having the ability to “recognize the rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.”

For instance, a school in France has begun teaching lessons on information to trust on social media platforms like Twitter. The International Baccalaureate (IB) has also announced a new course called Digital Societies, which will teach about fake news, social media algorithms, and privacy.

2. Genius Hour:

Genius Hour – “is a movement that allows students to explore their passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. Additionally, it provides students a choice in what they learn during a set time during school”.

The last few years have seen a growth in teachers giving their students more control over their learning. Teachers play a facilitator of knowledge or a learning coach, and students select, define, and lead their learning. One strategy is to introduce Genius Hour in the school timetable.

3. Teaching Empathy:

In an ever-changing world with growing global connections, being empathetic will help students become more understanding, compassionate leaders and solve problems with sustainable, human-centric approaches. Lauren Owen states these three benefits of empathy in education

  • Builds positive classroom culture. 
  • Strengthens community. 
  • Prepares your students to be leaders in their community.

Want to introduce empathy in your classrooms? Read guide by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

4. Managing Screen Time:

After investing in devices for each student or shared instruments in a classroom, teachers, parents, and schools have been trying to balance how their children use these devices. It is essential to find a happy medium between a child’s offline and online time. Children still need to play outdoors, interact with real people, and navigate the world around them. However, using technology is also key to learn digital skills like communication, learning collaboration, and planning. Teachers can find this happy medium by asking if the use of the device is appropriate, meaningful, and empowering. Here’s a handy set of strategies by Common Sense Media to help you manage your students’ screen time effectively.

5. Maker Education:

We’ve seen Makerspaces or plans of creating one emerge at almost all the schools we work with. There are some schools creating unique spaces for Maker Education, while others modify their Libraries, Art Rooms, or Science Labs to include a Makerspace.

Maker Education allows students to develop a wide range of knowledge and skills and the opportunity to innovate, create real-world applications for classroom concepts, and learn from failure.

Are you planning on starting your Makerspace? Here are five things we learned from running our own.

What exciting trends in education and technology did you come across this year? I’d love to hear from you! Please share it with me at mq@bsd.education or tweet to me at @msaifq

Introducing Artificial Intelligence in the Classroom

Growing up when sci-fi ruled the world with fictional narratives of intergalactic space travel, robots, and Artificial Intelligence; my 12 year old self would be disappointed that we can’t be served breakfast by AI robots in a biodome on Mars by now. While science hasn’t quite delivered those sci-fi dreams, the emergence of AI has definitely arrived and left us wondering, “what now?”  Artificial Intelligence is a booming field of study with lots of controversy and confusion; especially for educators and schools. Questions that we have heard from schools and educators are:

  • Should we even teach AI?
  • How do we get started with AI?
  • How can we install JavaScript libraries for neural networks (like ML5)?
  • How can we ensure security and privacy with AI deployments?

As you can tell from the questions, there are varying groups from users that know quite a bit about AI, to those that are just interested in learning more. Let’s break it down in an easy-to-understand way and answer these questions so you can make informed choices about implementing AI for your students and schools.

AI is here, whether we like it or not. Our philosophy at BSD Education is to empower learners with the skills and knowledge to make AI technology solutions that also respect users by reflecting on empathy and ethical concerns of AI development. We do this by providing students with real AI software to work with in guided projects that teach students how to, for example: install JavaScript libraries (like ML5) for Natural Language Processing or how to set up an AI system that can make predictive sounds with a drum machine. Lessons that we teach are coupled with classroom activities on topics about the critical issues of bias in AI algorithms, security, privacy, current research in the field of AI and more. 

We strongly feel that adding the ethical implications and empathy of understanding how AI is being used is vital to prepare students for the not-so-distant future of advanced AI robots and intergalactic space travel. This is a message that we purposefully weave into our curriculum because we value the teaching of empathy as a critical skill needed to prepare conscious global citizens who will be charged with building the future while using technologies like AI.

Don’t know where to start with AI at your school? That’s okay, it’s a complex subject that requires careful consideration and understanding. To answer the first question “should we even teach AI?”, I think that students should be taught about AI, and then, when ready, how to use AI and how to program using AI tools.

If you are looking for a great intro to AI and the ethics of AI, try this free and open-source resource from MIT that teaches middle school students about algorithms and how sites like YouTube, Spotify and Netflix use those algorithms to suggest new content to users. This could be a great starting point for a discussion about AI in your classrooms that can be easily implemented and taught.

If you want to dig deeper into the ethics of AI and current research on bias in algorithms, check out the work of the Algorithmic Justice League and start by watching this video about racial bias in AI facial recognition. It is important for students to understand the harmful side effects of some AI software that are currently in use.

Starting conversations with students about the social implications of AI leads to a better understanding of the subject and allows room for critical conversations about the future of technologies like AI.  By inviting students to explore ethical concerns and dilemmas, we are opening the door for conversations to be about humanity just as much as it is about the technology.

So whether you are just dipping your toes in the water with AI or you’re ready to start a project with AI libraries and pre-trained neural networks, it is best to approach the issue by painting the full picture of the technology and the social implications of AI by exploring these topics with fellow educators and students. Want to learn more and join the conversation? Join the #AIEthics chat on Twitter and catch up with what you have missed so far, here. 

If you are interested in learning more about our AI curriculum offerings from BSD Education, please reach out to us here or reach out to me at mb@bsd.education.