3 keys to cultivating the maker mindset

When we dreamed of starting construction on a space where teachers and students alike could cultivate a maker mindset, our goals went beyond creating a dedicated makerspace. We wanted to empower our community, assure students that they were valued as individuals, and offer them opportunities to develop empathy and agency as problem-finders and creative problem-solvers.

We knew we could accomplish this with a designated space that celebrated creativity, emphasized process over product, and highlighted the importance of reflection. We set out to design a space where students could not only develop a design thinking philosophy, but integrate this maker mindset into their core studies.

Related content: 9 ways schools can create better makerspaces…Read More

5 edtech accelerators that are changing K-12

Five powerful edtech accelerators are influencing the skills and needs of K-12 students and educators, according to a new CoSN report released during the advocacy group’s 2019 conference.

These edtech accelerators are major disruptive shifts in the status quo that redefine the future of education and accelerate the pace of technological change. They vary in speed, speed, the report notes, with some suddenly appearing and others gradually becoming more important over several years.

The five accelerators are: learners as creators; data-driven practices; personalization; design thinking; and building the capacity of human leaders.…Read More

6 lessons our district learned from our move to blended learning

Temple Independent School District (ISD), which is located north of Austin and south of Waco, Texas, has a very diverse student population. More than 75 percent of our students are economically disadvantaged and our ethnicity is comprised of roughly equal distribution of African-American, Hispanic, and Caucasian. Like other similar districts, we meet our students’ needs through enhancing instruction, building strong relationships between students and their teachers, and creating opportunities for students to take ownership of their learning. Despite our success, this wasn’t something that happened overnight.

For years, we’ve been working toward blended learning because we felt it would be the answer to meeting the needs of our students. In 2015, Temple High School was chosen to be a Raising Blended Learners pilot site through Raise Your Hand Texas. For the next two years, we had 13 teachers experiment with innovative instructional models and new ways to leverage technology to enhance instruction. After the pilot, we saw how blended learning could help meet our students’ needs. Our teachers in the pilot learned to differentiate instruction, had more time to develop meaningful relationships with students, and helped students take ownership of their learning.

Blended learning for everyone

We’re now in our first year of a district-wide blended-learning initiative. We are proud of the progress we’re seeing already and we have learned a few things along the way.…Read More

5 ways technology can help students develop a strong moral compass

This past July, educators from the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County arrived in the impoverished Mbekweni community in Paarl, South Africa to help open a first-ever library for the 1,500 students of the Langabuya School. They also delivered a stock of solar-powered reading lights designed and built by Schechter’s sixth graders.

Having learned about the compelling needs of this resource-challenged community, Schechter’s students helped purchase 1,000 English-language books, printed 500 in the students’ native language of Xhosa, and supplied simple solar-powered devices for Langabuya students—many of whom do not have electricity at home—to check out books and read them at night.

The natural extension to Schechter’s values-based global framework is the fall 2018 opening of the hands-on Popkin Innovation Lab, named after its generous alumni donor. The lab is equipped with cutting-edge technology that will empower students to solve real-world problems. They will learn to design, build, prototype and test potential solutions using a range of tools, including a sand blaster, a laser cutter, and a 3D printer, just to name a few.…Read More

Inspiring students to become global problem solvers

Last year, my district—Roosevelt (AZ) School District—was asked by Arizona State University’s (ASU) department of innovation and entrepreneurship to pilot a new educational program for middle school students. I was initially skeptical but curious to learn about this new type of learning experience, especially given the tagline: Global Problem Solvers.

Words like “inspire,” “global,” and “problem solver” make every teacher’s ears perk up. Not only are educators obsessed with getting kids to think critically and tackle real-world problems, we also want projects that motivate all students, because we know that some students don’t show interest in conventional assignments.

The road to creating agents of change
In the summer of 2017, ASU held a week-long professional development (PD) program for Cisco’s Global Problem Solvers (GPS) program with teachers from five schools in the Phoenix metro area to familiarize us with the intent and implementation of the program. I teach social studies, and our middle school’s math and science teachers joined me.…Read More

7 computational thinking strategies to help young innovators fail forward

Computational thinking has been trending, but what is it, really?

Simply put, computational thinking is a method of reasoning that teaches students how to solve real-world, complex problems with strategies that computers use. Computational thinking and the design thinking process are frameworks for problem-solving to help address the need for 21st-century skills across our nation’s K-12 school system. While computation governs the world around us, computational thinking as a teaching and learning framework is a new concept for many.

These skills are becoming progressively important due to the constant evolution of technology and its place in our economy. An increasingly automated workforce means students who have had exposure to tech-thinking will be more likely to succeed.…Read More

Why design thinking isn’t just for techies

I was really intimidated when I first heard about design thinking. I also had a lot of questions: What is design thinking? Isn’t it just for techies? How is this relevant to my elementary school-level classroom?

The epicenter of design thinking is the d.School at Stanford. According to the d.School, “… design thinking is a methodology for creative problem solving. You can use it to inform your own teaching practice, or you can teach it to your students as a framework for real-world projects.” Founded in 2004 by a few Stanford professors including faculty director David Kelley, the d.School offers courses to all students at Stanford, no matter their major. They also have made their approach available to a variety of industries, including education.

Schools often assume that design thinking is a “techie thing” and send their edtech coordinators and directors to design-thinking workshops. Although design thinking has been adopted widely by the tech industry, its approach can be applied by any organization that wants to adopt a way to solve problems empathetically and collaboratively. In schools, design thinking complements inquiry- and project-based approaches to teaching and learning.…Read More

Beyond design thinking in education and research

What the heck is ‘design thinking?’ I can’t seem to find a concise definition, Forbes reports. It feels like a buzzword catch-all phrase. Since I write about edtech, I’m constantly encountering authors, speakers, and experts who claim that bringing design thinking into the classroom can transform education. I read the phrase on educational blogs all the time but I don’t really know what it means. Perhaps it is too vague, too ambivalent, too general. I wanted to have a clear sense of just what folks mean by design thinking, especially in regards to education…

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