Technology and Children

Blog about new technologies and their impact on education, incorporating a focus on innovation and STEAM.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The "Kids know more tech than teachers" Myth

Ever since I started working with Educational Technology 30 years ago, there has been this fear that computers would replace teachers. And now, as we receive a generation of students who grew up with the technology, to the point where we joke that they are born taking selfies, there is a fear that teachers will lose control because the kids know more than they do about technology. But it has been my experience that this is simply not true.

Yes, they can use the intuitive interfaces easily, not being afraid of exploring and clicking happily away while they play their games before they can read or walk. They can spend hours on social media sending pictures and texting friends. But they still have to learn the most basic use of technology - how to develop healthy human relationships. And they need adult mentors to teach them. It starts at home with the parents, and then at school with the teachers. The screen actually isolates them from seeing the reactions on people's faces when they don't think before writing and may say hurtful things. They are not mature enough to understand the consequences of their actions, especially when those consequences are far off in some virtual land. They don't know how to do good research or evaluate if the news they are reading and forwarding is fake or not. Or if the sources can be trusted. The algorithms they interact with quickly learn what they like and reinforce their own ideas, not challenging them to think differently or look at different perspectives. They haven't discovered all the cool tools you have in your basic Office tools that can increase your productivity and help you learn even more.
More than ever, schools should integrate technology into their lessons and teach kids not only how to use the technology for learning, but also for developing social emotional skills and moral values. We want to build a healthy society in this digital age. The best way to do that is allowing the kids to practice in a safe environment, where caring mentors will guide them. And also find more time at home to stay off screens and just go play outside.
So, teachers, don't believe the myth that kids know more technology than you. You still are the expert on how to educate kids to become healthy and happy. Use the technology to help you do just that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

STEM? STEAM? STREAM? STHEAM? So many acronyms! Which one is right?

I have seen recently a lot of debate on whether to add another letter to STEAM, separate STEM from STEAM, discuss whether STEAM is an evolution of STEM or whether they are two completely different proposals. Should we include reading and writing? Humanities? These are all very valid questions. As different schools adopt this approach to rethinking their curriculum, it is important to understand the foundation of the ideas.
When STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) started being proposed, the idea was to promote a scientific education that would be investigative, contextualized, problem-based and hands-on, bringing in also the practical approach used by engineers (problem-solvers by nature!), making good use of the technology and not forgetting that any of this can be without the beautiful language of mathematics. As the choice of scientific careers was on the downfall, researchers and teachers were seeking paths to reengage the kids and get them excited about science again. A country can only grow when you have good scientists and engineers to build it.
More recently the Maker movement started to work its way inside the schools as well. Interestingly enough, this hands on approach brought in the Arts (artisans, artists) and the convergence of strategies was amazing. If you read Sousa and Pilecki's book "From STEM to STEAM", they bring in a solid foundation as to why the "A" has helped enhance even more the science and engineering projects.
I have been teaching science for 30 years, and for the last 5 years have been helping build STEAM curriculum in schools. When I first started looking at this project-based approach, I was looking at STEM as it seemed these 4 areas naturally converged and used similar methods. But in the middle of the process, we started working with the Arts teachers and the jump in quality was unbelievable. They brought in a perspective of bringing significance, communication, design and the humanity to the projects. They contextualized the use of science and engineering, and gave it meaning. We started not only looking at what we built and how, but also why we built it. We started looking at human-centered design. We were working at a whole new level of thinking about our curriculum, actually, thinking about education and our role as teachers. We started asking ourselves what kind of student did we want to leave our school after 12 years. Basically, when we changed from STEM to STEAM, we changed the principles behind what we believe teaching and learning is about. We began to look at education in a more holistic light, where it is getting harder and harder to compartmentalize the different subjects detached from real-life use and applicability.
So, no matter which acronym you adopt, the main thing is to give kids the chance to learn and use science, technology, engineering, arts and math to learn to grow, to become self-confident, autonomous, critical-thinkers, problem-solvers, responsible, reliable, resistant and happy, able to face any challenge life may bring them!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Teachers in the center of the Professional Learning Process #IMMOOC #LCInnovation Season 4

As I read Katie's book, it's almost as if she had been with me when we were designing our new STEAM High School curriculum back in my last school! I can totally identify with her points of view. I lived the experiences she describes and believe in teacher's voices being heard in the whole process of innovation. I could also see some places I, as their leader, could have done better. I identified myself with the open-ended professional development. Because the vision of what the curriculum should look like was so new, since we were the first ones to be doing it in Brazil so we had no model to follow, we were in a zone where even I was unsure of what the course would look like in the end. It was an amazing opportunity for growth, and it couldn't have been accomplished if we hadn't all worked together. 
When Katie asks:
  • How do you create more opportunities to connect and provide effective feedback to support those you serve?
One of the things I think was fundamental in our process was that we guaranteed weekly meetings for the teachers working in the project. One thing I learned was that having all 21 teachers together was counter-productive. The best model for these meetings was when we divided the group in teams of 4 or 5 teachers and had specific goals to meet. We planned out the lessons, tested them out, reflected on the outcome, improved, and then we would go to the rest of the team and try it out on them and get their feedback, so in the end all of us were prepared to teach that lesson. It optimized the use of our time and shared the responsibilities of the work. The balance Katie talks about between being too compliant training type and too open-ended is indeed very important. I lived those models. Another important aspect of the feedback was the documentation of the process. When we shared our ideas, one teacher of the team of authors would be the notetaker to make sure none of the ideas shared by the other teachers were lost. That allowed us to grow as a group and learn to trust and admire each other as we discovered each one's unique talents in this process. 
  • How might you create systems that minimize training and foster a culture of learning? What would you add or modify in the chart shared in chapter 9?
The chart in chapter 9 includes everything we did that turned out to be very effective. The one thing that I didn't see there that also was amazingly helpful to us when bringing STEAM to the School was offering opportunities for teachers to visit other spaces and see how the learning could be modeled in different environments (makerspaces). We looked at benchmark schools who were already doing what we wanted to do as inspiration for us. We took the teachers to conferences where they had the opportunity to participate in hands-on workshops that modeled the type of work we wanted them to bring back to their students. This field work really helped pass on the vision of the type of learning we wanted to bring to our school. 

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Schools in the Age of Artificial Intelligence #IMMOOC #LCInnovation

Continuing my reflection on what I am reading in Katie's book, I came across the chapter on teachers as learners (Chapter 5) and especially this part on rethinking traditions: (page 144) "As AI becomes increasingly capable of doing things that humans once did, jobs that require pattern recognition, following instructions, or recalling content are likely to be taken over by the machine. Yet these skills are the basis of what is taught in many schools today. Instead of setting up our students to compete with machines, we also need to focus on helping them develop the aspects that make humans unique." And she cites an article from the Harvard Business Review - In the AI Age, Being Smart Will Mean Something Completely Different by Ed Hess: "What is needed is a new definition of being smart, one that promotes higher levels of human thinking and emotional engagement. The new smart will be determined not by what or how you know but by the quality of your thinking, listening, relating, collaborating and learning. Quantity is replaced by quality. And that shift will enable us to focus on the hard work of taking our cognitive and emotional skills to a much higher level. Technology cannot replace the human connection, the relationship and the guidance and support that we are meant to provide do one another."

This is what I call a hard truth. It is very serious. It has been my experience as well that the more technology we use, the more we need to develop our human uniqueness. Deepen our social emotional skills, develop our critical thinking. We are free from rote tasks to be able to explore our humanity as never before, because we've gone beyond the survival level. Of course this isn't true for everyone. Many people are still figuring out what they will eat and where they will live. That is why it is even more so the responsibility of those who have access to another level of living to be prepared to progress and help even more those others in need. That's why we need to teach them to be sensitive to others, find a purpose and learn to contribute positively to improve life for everyone.

We, as educators, have to take a good hard look at the materials we are using to teach, the lesson plans and the strategies, and ask ourselves if these are truly helping the student to learn and become smart as Ed Hess defined in his article. For them to learn this, we need to provide them with the opportunity to practice this in a safe, guided environment. No better place than the school!

When we implemented our STEAM curriculum in my last school, we created opportunities for students to learn to listen to each other and give each other feedback as they developed their projects. We also created opportunities for them to self-evaluate and talk about their learning experience. We used simple tools such as a poster which was built as a class activity where they built a "shared contract" of the values we would strive for. Then, at the end of the quarter, based on that contract, students would receive a sheet with three emoticons drawn on them: a big smiley face, a big neutral face and a big frowning face. They then had to write down where they saw themselves in terms of the values they had committed to. On the back they justified their choice. The teacher would then sit down with them and talk about why they thought they had done well or not. They also used this tool to put down where their group was in terms of that value, and share with each other their point of view. It was interesting to see how each one saw the group in the process. It was a simple tool but very powerful in terms of teaching kids how to talk to each other, listen actively and think critically about their own responsibility in their learning process. Since we were dealing with High School students, this was all very new to them. They had never learned to reflect deeply on how they were learning and collaborating with others, or building their relationships. For me, this is one of the most important things we incorporated into the PBL, because it's when they were learning to be more human, more mature, more caring and more unique.

Monday, March 05, 2018

What Conditions are Critical to support learning and Innovation? #IMMOOC #LCInnovation Season 4 Episode 2

This week we had two questions to prompt our reflection. So here goes...
How might you create or improve your innovation ecosystem that is described in Chapter 2?
To improve the innovation ecosystem, you should start by building a shared vision, starting from the administrators and including all the people involved (teachers, students, support staff, parents). You have to decide what you think education is about and what the role of the school is. You have to know where you want to go so you can think about the roads you will need to build to get there. And you have to know why you are doing this, who it is for! As Katie says: “We can have the latest technology or the best curriculum, but if we are not obsessed with who learners are, how to best serve them, and how to partner with them to move forward, we can fail to make the impact that we desire and are working so hard to achieve. Part of being learner obsessed is ensuing that the teachers have time, support, and trust to do what is best for learners and their classrooms and throughout the school.” (page 51) I love how she is calling attention to the important role of the administrators in making this possible. Many times, we are putting so much weight on teachers to change and forgetting that we are inserted in a whole ecosystem that needs to be involved. Teachers are only a piece of that puzzle. As Katie cited in page 60 Gene Wilhoit’s The Vision: “Teachers teach more effectively when they work in professional cultures where their opinions and input are valued. In such environments, administrators support teachers as they exchange ideas and strategies, problem-solve collaboratively, and consult with expert colleagues.” I love this sentence (page 64): “Empowered teachers empower their students.” Administrators empower teachers so they can empower their students!
Another aspect I have found is challenging when bringing in this change is thinking about assessment. In page 60 Katie states that “What you measure and value influences the type of learners and citizens your systems are designed to create.” She also points out that “To truly integrate new learning, it is critical to carve out time to allow for trial and error, collaboration, and especially coaching and feedback.” That is not what was happening in the school until recently. It is one of the hardest aspects for educators to think about (teachers, parents, and, why not, the students themselves!) in light of this new approach. Until now we associated assessment to grades that measured concrete chunks of knowledge that students spat out after “memorizing” the content they should learn. It was an end product, not a process. If we are to change the ecosystem, we have to rethink how we assess the process and what we measure in learning. We must redefine what we consider “success”. Katie sums it up pretty nicely in page 85: “If we are honest, anything that is worth doing and learning takes time, feedback, critique, and multiple revisions to improve. To maximize learning opportunities, not only do we need to allow room for mistakes, but we need to create a culture that relies on learning from others and build in opportunities to reflect, revise, and improve.” That is what I see as significant education!
What does your ideal classroom look like? What examples do you have that you can connect to the learner-centered experiences described in chapter 4?
Katie talks about building a desired graduate profile. When we first started planning our STEAM curriculum, we had a Saturday workshop for all the teachers involved. There we did some hands-on activities to build our “ideal” student. Basically, we built the person we wanted him/her to become as an outcome of the experiences he/she would have with us. It was a great experience because it not only gave us clarity of who we wanted our students to become, but it also helped us communicate this to the other stakeholders who were not participating as intimately in the process. It was also an opportunity for the teachers experience as students the type of hands-on activity we wanted them to later do with their own students.
This was the result:
We did something very close to what Katie described in the Significant Learning strategy for building a shared vision of what we want our classroom to look like and what type of student we want to graduate. (pages 104-105) And our conclusion was also very similar to hers, where she describes: “Most often, the learning and growth required productive struggle, risk, guidance, and mentorship.”
 So, we designed lessons using Project Based Learning as our methodology, looking at our curriculum and bringing the lessons into a context that would be close to student interests. Our goal was to reach what Katie describes in page 106: “When we focus on learners and connect to their interests, needs, and goals, we can create experiences that spark curiosity, ignite passion, and unleash genius.” That’s what we aimed for.
As we designed the challenges and then the lessons that would help the students reach their goals, we were studying books such as The Innovators Mindset, From STEM to STEAM, Invent to Learn, Social Emotional Learning Handbook amongst others to help build our own list of characteristics that would define the learning experience we were designing. I loved Katie’s summary of the “10 characteristics of learner-centered experiences: personal, agency, inquiry, collaboration, authentic, critique+revision, productive struggle, goals+accountability, models, reflection.” (page 107) Ours was pretty close to that as well. We called this list the essence of what we believed STEAM should be (it was the “soul” of the curriculum). Our list included: autonomy and protagonism, critical thinking, design thinking, hands-on solidary learning, contextualized peer learning, entrepreneurial attitude and creative attitude.  But we incorporated many of the characteristics in Katie’s list into our lesson plans. We found that having models, allowing time for critique and revision and making sure to include time and activities for reflection made a huge difference in students’ perception of their own learning process and helped them understand this new culture of learning. We had to make their learning process explicit to them so they could bridge the gap between what they thought they knew about education and the transformations we were bringing them.
To finish off this post, I’d like to comment on what Katie wrote in page 114 – “Build the Foundation, not the Ceiling (loved this!!!) – The best teachers do not use a single approach or follow one curriculum; they create the context and experiences for diverse students to learn and grow.” That’s what is so amazing about designing these experiences – you just add the starting point. It’s beautiful to watch the students taking off from there and reaching for the sky! That’s what teaching is all about!!!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Why is innovation in education necessary? Or not? #IMMOOC #LCInnovation

This post is the first of a series of posts related to the #IMMOOC Season 4 on Innovation in Education. Here we reflect on the readings (in my case I am reading Learner Centered Innovation by Katie Martin). Each week we receive questions to prompt our reflection, and those will be explored here. So, let's go to the questions related to the Forward and Chapter 1: 

Why is it critical to spark curiosity and ignite passions in learners? 

Katie mentions that teaching to the tests and standards are making kids bored with school, they feel unattached, disconnected from what they do in class in relation to what they do out of school. If you are in a classroom, you probably have felt this as well. Kids distracted, doing the basic to get by and "get a grade", counting the minutes for the bell to ring so they can get out of there. We end up getting caught up in the curriculum and assignments, the bureaucratic tasks of teaching. But we don't want to fall into the trap of getting compliance as Katie says. Here I quote her: "When we empower learners to investigate how to make an impact on the world, we inspire problem solvers and innovators."(p.5)

We want to see our students become successful, happy and to find their purpose. We want them to dream. We want them to make an impact locally and globally. We want them to be ready for any challenge and emotionally mature. We want them to be able to find their place in the world and leave their mark. We want them to be able to look at others in need and find a way to help them. We, as teachers, have many dreams for them. And the school system and curriculum, as is, is not getting us there anymore. 

When you spark curiosity, you teach kids to continue exploring, learning, pushing their limits. When you ignite passions you are on the track for helping them find their purpose. This is the true role of education. We want to look at the whole human being, not just their academic skills. The world today is asking for this. Society has changed. The job requirements have changed. How we relate to people has changed. We need to change as well.  

How have you embraced the evolving role of the educator? What would you add or revise in the graphic shared in chapter 1?

I have been exploring best practices ever since I started teaching. Even though I was a very compliant student, I knew that most of my friends did not learn that way. I saw them struggle and knew we had many ways of learning that were not being explored. Since I always explored the use of technology in my classroom, I was always trying out new strategies to make the best use possible of these technologies that allowed me to have students participating actively in the learning, and not just sitting back and listening to me speak. I also believed learning should be fun, that we remember better experiences that are attached to emotions and fun. 

As I studied more and more the role of technology in education, I realized that it was the teacher who was the most important piece in the classroom.  As Katie says in page 11: "People, not programs or tools, drive change in schools." I also agree with what she says in page 20: "Learning is messy. Today's technology provides easy access to  answers, but if we focus only on the answers and not on thinking, questioning, and solving, we rob students (and ourselves) of great learning experiences. Perhaps, more significantly, we fail to develop the critical behaviors that will empower them (and us) to be life-long learners." This expresses exactly how I see the use of technology in the school.

As for the graphic in Chapter 1, it has been my experience that it captures the most powerful ideas needed for true innovation in a school. When I was designing a new STEAM curriculum at my last school, I was working with 21 teachers who would have to teach the classes. I decided to co-design the course with them. Everyone was involved in the process, from start to finish. And it was truly an empowering process. Everyone felt engaged and took ownership. In the end, I had a team of partners who were as engaged as I was in making the new curriculum work. And it was not an easy adaptation, because we went from classic lab classes with the teacher in front to Project Based Learning where the teachers became partners in learning. They sat down beside the students and modeled learning for them. They also became community developers as the students chose their projects and needed to make connections with the community in order to be able to research and apply their ideas. Parents became more involved. But one of the most powerful ideas this graph brings is the idea of the teacher as an Activator. It took a while for some teachers to understand that the students now needed them more than ever, even though they were not just transmitting information as before. They couldn't just leave the students to struggle on their own, they had to provide feedback, help students set goals, verbalize and monitor their own learning. This, I think, was one of the hardest parts of the new role the teachers were taking on. It's a thin line between empowering students to become lifelong learners and abandoning them in their learning experience. 

Katie's concluding thoughts summarize exactly what my experience has shown me (page 41): "Learners have more access than ever to information through technology. As such, the role of the educator has and will continue to shift. No longer do students need to access teachers for content, but they desperately need teachers to guide them as they develop the skills, knowledge, and dispositions to be lifelong learners and critical consumers. students need teachers to help them make sense of information so that they can create new and better ideas that will move us all forward. As teachers, your greatest power comes from knowing your learners."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Novo modelo do Laptop de US$100

O Nicholas Negroponte não parou o seu projeto. Eles continuam inovando e contribuindo de forma fantástica para o desenvolvimento de uma ferramenta para incluir crianças no mundo digital.

Para ver a reportagem completa sobre o lançamento desta nova idéia, visite o link

O que eu gostei deste modelo é que não só ele resolve problemas de fragilidade de teclado, mas também trabalha com o conceito de colaboração, facilitando o uso por mais de um usuário simultaneamente. Mais uma vez vemos um projeto que pensa em tecnologia sem esquecer da pedagogia. A filosofia educacional está inserida no design, algo que não se vê em computadores normais, feitos para a indústria e empresas.

O conceito de comercialização também é includente. Todos podem ter um. Você compra um para você, e paga por um que será dado para uma criança carente. Ninguém fica sem!

Estarei aqui torcendo para que dê tudo certo, e já estou na fila para comprar o meu! :-)