Shark Tank! Project-Based Learning over Video Conferencing

Shark sightings were reported in BGL’s 7th-grade Learning Live classes this past December! Our students participated in an entrepreneurship competition modeled after Shark Tank, the popular television series where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to savvy investors. Inspired by the show we launched our students head first (pun intended!) into an ocean (again!) of product development and high-pressure pitching. They absolutely loved it.

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Here’s how we did it: the students first developed a product idea in a short timeframe with a specific framework: the product had to be original (to the best of their knowledge), marketable and realistic. We worked through business terminology and concepts focusing on marketability, pricing, and profitability. We watched and analyzed product pitches to analyze what works and what doesn’t. Using their newly acquired business terminology and knowledge, students then created a presentation or demonstration for their product idea. They pitched their idea to their classmates via a presentation/demonstration and the classmates voted on whether the product was worth funding. Five finalist groups from each of the 7th-grade classes moved to the final to face the sharks!

Our sharks consisted of a former CFO, COO and executive vice president of IBM Global Services, a computer vision research engineer, and a product manager. They considered our students’ pitches carefully and asked pointed questions within each of their respective expertise (finance, computer engineering, marketing). The students were definitely in “unfamiliar waters” as they sunk or swam. Abner, Gene, and Ian were ready when they were asked about the product liability for their small-space-living-problem-solving “Double Sofa Emergency Alarm System Toaster Clock”. Their fire retardant material was water-resistant/stain-resistant and even had a built-in alarm system that called the authorities for help (whether or not you used the automated wifi connected communication). Oh, it also detected earthquakes and sounded the alarm but still made you breakfast. 

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All of our Tsai Hsing future business leaders discussed financials of their products on the fly (and in American currency no less!) and demonstrated their ability to negotiate. They thoroughly impressed our sharks, who said they would fund at least half of the products pitched. Their leader, who was a real-life former Shark Tank type of guy, refused to tell us who was the best saying he could not discount the exceptional work of the others by only choosing one as a standout. 

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The final round of innovative products also included Ann’s OPhone that not only solar-charged and downloaded any app with ease but also improved your eye health. Ann even had medical endorsements! Meanwhile, Eve and our other Ann offered up non-melting ice cream to a panel of hungry sharks. Their ice cream was a scientific breakthrough using a low calorie, all-natural and completely safe proprietary ingredient that lowered the melting point. While the girls created ice cream, Ian and Jordan prepared a savvy new shopping app that was cleverly promoted with an exceptional presentation that even included their new company website and social media accounts – all with usable barcodes. 

Not to be outdone, HC proposed a new currency just for students. The currency would work just like Taiwanese dollars but would be given to students from their teachers for things like good behavior and high grades. HC furthered that the money would expire two years after graduation. This would allow students who worked hard to gain a positive start in life. Our former CFO was intrigued but wanted to know how HC made money on the product. HC replied, “You have a credit card, right?” and explained that he would assume the credit card company role and keep a small percentage from all transactions. Since the projects had to be realistic but not real, HC was able to explain that he already had funding approved from the Taiwanese government in an effort to promote domestic spending and to retain the best local talent in Taiwan for the first two years after their graduation. This would help to solve a major problem facing Taiwan right now: a brain drain to neighboring China where economic opportunity can oftentimes be greater than in Taiwan. This was perhaps the greatest example of achieving one of the project’s goals: to create innovative solutions to some of our most pressing real-world problems.

Read more the successes of our Learning Lives distance learning program on these blog posts!

Join the Big Dayta Project: International Collaboration for K12 Students

Big Dayta is growing and we invite you to spread the word! 

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Big Dayta is a collaborative international project that was started in 2015. It has over 900 student participants to date. We provide resources for teachers to use Big Dayta, including an idea guide (all of aligned with Common Core standards for Math and ELA). Recently we’ve developed introductory presentations for teachers to use in the classroom (check out our previous blog post for links and details). In the coming months we’ll be developing a Project Based Learning (PBL) unit for middle school. This will enable teachers to customize the basic project for their students’ interests. We will also be providing worksheets for teachers who want to use Big Dayta for a one-off lesson of a single period that asks Common Core-aligned questions. The sheets update numbers automatically as more students join Big Dayta. 

Now we want to spread the word about the project and its resources, and that’s where you come in! Follow us on Twitter @BigDayta where we’ll be announcing new resources and reaching out toteachers and others in the education field who are not in the classroom. 

Big Dayta is a chance for educators to make use of human curiosity to motivate deep data exploration and dramatic skill development. Check out the Big Dayta website for more information. Follow us on Twitter @BigDayta and reach us by email at BigDayta@gmail.com

 

Lingoloop Jr. Launches at Tsai Hsing School

Here at BGL we’ve always been proud to subscribe to the tenet that there is no one-size-fits-all model for education. Students have different abilities, different needs and different learning styles and education needs to adapt to accommodate all students.

It is in this vein that BGL is proud to announce the launching of Lingoloop Jr. at Tsai Hsing School.

 

Unlike other online small group conversation classes like VIP Kid and Tutor ABC, Lingoloop Jr.’s expert tutors customize each lesson based on the abilities and interests of the students. This immersive technique ensures that the learning experience is on-level, fun, and memorable.

Check back here for updates on our students’ progress!

 

Building a Remote Culture: Using VC for an All-Staff Meeting

A challenge facing an increasingly dispersed, literally global, workforce is how to create a workplace culture when the work “place” is virtual. How does one foster water cooler talk when there’s no water cooler?

One way is to use video conferencing, an ever-improving alternative to meeting in person. Here at BGL we don’t put air quotes around the word “meet” when we say it was nice to meet you over VC. We’re firm believers that as video conferencing services improve, they approach real life interaction.

Into this culture stepped Marty Perlmutter, a new hire for BGL, who arrived just in time to attend our all-staff meeting over VC. Below is his reflection on the experience.

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“Normal”

From Marty:

If there’s one technology (besides VR) that resolutely remains disappointing surely it’s video conferencing. Harnessed to education, video conferences are often frustrating, customarily begin with dead air as hosts struggle to make the kludge work, almost never convey a sense of intimacy among participants, choke when more than a dozen folks are involved… The causes of dismay are as numerous as there are vendors – Skype, GoToMeeting, WebEx. Their names legion, their costs impressive, nearly all raise the question of their own existence, to quote one wag.

So it was with surprise and not a little delight that I shared a video conference with 28 distant participants on three continents in the annual all-team meeting of Banyan Global Learning. The system didn’t sputter. The breakout rooms worked. The darn thing operated without a single oops for an hour. Most importantly, I came away feeling I’d actually met these strangers, had begun to have a feel for them, laughed and spoke with them, and felt intrigued by the mission we shared. The presiding person paired us swiftly for breakouts. All sessions worked as planned. There was real conversation and sharing. Wonder of wonders!

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“Goofy”

Zoom was the platform. Unlike large Skype calls, we didn’t have to default to audio-only as the works choked. Videos of speakers were spotlighted. Thumbnail video of all participants persisted, and these were useful. We didn’t do tricks with graphic roll-ins but had video clips that were relevant for discussion. 

I came away convinced this system would be useful in a teaching application, as is the practice of BGL. For classroom purposes, BGL provides links to text, video, podcasts, graphics. After just 55 years of patient (and frustrated) waiting – since the premiere of “video telephone” service at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 – we may be ready to roll.

Now, the challenge becomes the instructor’s: Can you keep this experience engaging and informative? Can you catalyze interaction among participants? Can you track the progress of participants? Perhaps most important, can you forge learning circles, subgroups of students, who’ll be motivated to work together to investigate topics and collaboratively construct their understanding? 

Recent evidence is encouraging.

Next Vista Project: Winners and Reflections

BGL‘s 8th grade students from Tsai Hsing School recently participated in the international Next Vista Competition. Next Vista inspires students to become teachers by creating informational how-to videos. Below, students reflect on the process and the media-development skills they refined through their Classroom Live experience. 

But first, let’s take a look at the video by Andria and Justin which won the competition! (And, you can see why.)

 

Here is Andria’s reflection on the process:

A few months ago, our teacher announced that all of us THSH DL students were going to participate in a global competition. The context, simply put, was to compete to see who could make the best “How to” video.

I remember when the teacher was explaining the rules to us. I could feel the cogs in my mind running, searching for what type of interesting thing I could do this time, searching for what idea could leave my classmates in awe. Such events always excited me; I liked to do my very best to see if I could surpass even more people than before when it comes to using my artistic talent. Seeing amazed, smiling, even shocked expressions always brought me unexplainable joy.

However, the grouping bothered me. I thought about being in a group alone, since I”d already decided on what I was going to do— an art tutorial— and it wasn’t easy to do it with others. In other words, I’d end up doing all the work if I was grouped.

By the end of the period, I was grouped with Justin, a boy with quite fluent English. He asked me if he could join me since he was sick of doing all the work during past projects, since he’s also the type to carry his teammates’ burdens on his shoulders. Not giving much thought, I accepted, letting him do part of the speaking in our video. Perhaps his voice could help our video, I thought.

This project contained three important steps, all of which I was confident of: drawing artwork, speaking English, and digital editing.

-Filming-

It took some pondering to find out where I could set my camera, or rather, my phone. Professional setup didn’t exist in our small home. My solution? Tape! Tape fixes everything and is the solution to everything. Yep, that’s right; I taped my phone onto my lamp, setting the camera to time lapse. My phone was on fire by the time I finished filming all my 40 minute art progress.

-Script-

While I did that at home, I wrote the script for the video at school. The teacher had opened a “Next Vista Storyboard.” I made sure that it was simple and easy to understand, so that people of all ages could understand, even the students in my class that hadn’t been learning English for long. I assigned Justin some lines to read, while I read the others, and the both of us spoke together during the opening and closing. We recorded in the Voice Memos app in the hallway to make sure there were to disturbances. Of course, earphones were required, and there was still a bit of background noises, but it got covered once I added the background music.

-Editing-

Next was the editing. I’ve edited videos for computer class, other competitions, PowerPoint homework that actually didn’t require so much work but I did so anyways, and just for plain fun, such as my sister’s birthday, so I was also confident in these abilities. I used Corel Video Studio, a software my sister downloaded in her computer long ago.

This software was professional but not too complicated, easy to understand and not hard to use. I’ve learned to use most of the abilities by clicking around myself and asking my sister for help in the past. After this event, I’ve gotten even more familiar with this software!

My account has multiple failed uploads I didn’t get to delete after submitting. One has misspelled captions. One has a missing credit. One has cut audio. It took a while to get a version I was content with, and it’s still imperfect. But of course, there’s no such thing as perfection, so I’m not worried! If perfection existed, we wouldn’t be able to improve after reaching the highest point. What fun would there be in that?

Thanks to all my free time, my strong determination, Google Drive, and the plug that was placed conveniently next to my computer (my phone kept running low in battery), it didn’t take long for my video to be finished.

I think a very crucial part of my success is how I loved what I was doing. I literally sat in front of my computer for a whole day with no rest, only editing the video, not being able to move, since I didn’t want to end my progress.

Of course, along the way, most of my classmates gave me funny looks when they noticed how hard I was working. They saw this assignment as “another one of those things” while I saw this as “an important opportunity.” Just this fact made me surpass all others. People just don’t understand the pride of gaining a new achievement. Until now, as I type this article nonstop, my classmates are playfully judging me as they take their break time.

I do not regret doing so though. Winning this contest made me very happy, and even until this day I think it’s one of my biggest achievements. I’m happy that one day, I’ll look back to this day, and I’ll think to myself, “Oh, I’m so glad I worked so hard on the contest during eighth grade.”

To the people who are working hard or going through a hard time, don’t stop just yet. I’m sure your hard work will pay off soon! What other people think isn’t important, your ambitions are far more important!

I will never forget this moment of my life.

 

And, here are some more reflections from the class:

Ring:

This time is our second time to participate this contest. This contest is about making a teaching video. We make a video of cheesecake. It is really happy that we can make a food video. Although it takes a long time to make it. But we learn that make dessert needs more patient. Making a cheesecake also spent a lot of money of ingredients and models. It is also needs focus of measuring the ingredients. But when you eat it in the very end you will get a sense of accomplishment. It’s really fun to make, but you should think about your budget is high or low.

 

Ryan:

What is the Next Vista competition? This contest is mainly about showing people videos that can teach you things. People could choose the article whatever they want. Example like, teaching people how to shoot a basketball. I have done a video about how to do push-ups. My teammate did many push-ups and I just recorded him. I thought it was a really easy job, but in fact it wasn’t. We had to make a credit and add words in the videos. The audio and volume need to make sure it’s clear and perfect. Although we didn’t get any reward, I am still happy with our video because we finally did it!

 

Sophia:

Next Vista competition is a competition of teaching videos. We can post any video that teach the watchers how to do something. My partners and I decided to make a video that is about how to make a bow.

First, we decided on what we will say, and what are our scenes about. I think this was the most difficult part, because it was hard for me to create something like a play. After we finished the script for the video, we started filming. Luckily, everything went well. My partner and I filmed quickly. Next, We added some subtitles, music and credits to make the movie more clear. Then we finished. During the filming, I think the challenge was that I deleted one section of the video! I decided to use the screenshot to film it again.

I am happy about my video, because I think it was clear. This video made me learn that being a teacher isn’t easy.

Field Trips Live: Apple Campus in Cupertino, California

Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area was a place of quiet fruit orchards until sometime in the 1970s when the semiconductor industry took off. At the time silicon was a major component of semiconductors which were used in machines like calculators, computers and most electronics, hence the new name for the area to the west of the SF Bay. 

BGL’s Learning Live seventh graders at Tsai Hsing School read our original iBook, Joyce Visits America, in which a girl from Taipei visits the San Francisco Bay area to learn more about where the technology which informs her life is created. Most of the students in 701 and 702 have been to an Apple store, and most use at least one Apple product. Before the FTL, students explored the Bay Area virtually and decided to focus their explorations on Apple since in addition to being one of the largest corporations in the world it is such a part of global daily life. Students learned about the history of Apple from its early days in a garage in Los Altos to its Cupertino headquarters.

Former CEO Steve Jobs was obsessed with Apple products exhibiting good design, and Apple’s Cupertino headquarters reflects what happens when design is considered in its entirety. Jobs believed that even the best software needed its hardware to be elegant and environmentally and people friendly. During the FTL, students learned about the many ways Apple tries to be environmentally friendly and/or sustainable. They learned that Jobs insisted that only 20% of the land at the new headquarters be built. This left 80% for greenspace. There are over 9,000 fruit trees – cherry, apple, apricot and plum. This last is of historical value, too. The land on which the campus was built was once a plum farm where the Glendenning family dried the fruit until it became prunes; these were shipped all over the world. Today, the drying barn is a feature of the campus. Clearly, the campus requires a lot of water. All of the water used to take care of the grounds is reclaimed wastewater. The balance of the landscaping consists of drought-resistant and indigenous plants.

This pursuit of perfection in design extended to the invention (by others) of a new type of glass for the front windows of Apple stores and another new kind of glass for its donut-shaped headquarters in Cupertino in which all the windows are curved. Why is the building circular anyway? Our students researched and conjectured: perhaps because circles have no end. Or, because there’s no “best” most important place around a circle? Or it may have had to do with Steve Jobs’ engagement with Buddhism and the enso, or circle, drawn with one stroke. The enso symbolizes creation, strength, elegance and one-mindedness, all things which factored into Jobs’ design thinking.

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By Daniel L. Lu (user:dllu) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69553418

 

Looks a bit like a mothership from a science fiction movie from the future, doesn’t it? In fact, it is the largest office building in the world at 2.8 million square feet and sits on 175 acres. Four stories are above ground and three are underground. Yet all of its power comes from renewable energy. Even though 12,000 people work there with parking for 14,200 cars, more than eighty percent of the land is green space. You get a sense of how large the campus is in a short video set to the Mission Impossible theme.

During the Field Trip Live in the visitor center, the classes saw a scale model of the entire Apple campus. When Teacher Courtney hovered her hand over a part of it, that part was revealed in more detail through Augmented Reality (AR). Students were in awe of this relatively new technology that will soon become mainstream and were eager to learn more. 

After the FTL, students had a few questions about the experience. Chief among them was wanting to know what happens to all the old Apple products when people replace them. Google searched led them to learn  that Apple not only reclaims water on its campus, but reclaims and repurposes parts of the iPhone and other hardware it makes.

To apply what they learned, students reflected on the most interesting aspects of the FTL and came to the conclusion that the AR experience was of greatest interest. After their visual and virtual experience, students experimented with AR on their own iPads using the iMeasure app. This app enables the user to measure objects and spaces using AR. For many, this was the first of many times they will use their iPad to learn from augmented reality.