ISTE 2019: A Wonderland for Education Innovators

By Jacquelin Fink, M.Ed., BGL‘s Vice President of Curriculum & Professional Development

As a long-time online educator and first-time ISTE Conference attender, I was blown away by the wonderland known as ISTE 2019. Like an amusement park for innovators in education, ISTE offered dazzling attractions as far as the eye could see. All around child-like joy sparked on the faces of 20,000 attendees, educators from around the world abuzz with the theme “Bold Educators Activate Change.”

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I had the great fortune to be a part of the Leadership Exchange, which was a small group of about 300 education experts, set apart from the crowd by our orange colored lanyards. Dedicated leaders from around the world gathered to engage in courageous conversations about equity, and to explore the landscape of a future in education that we can barely imagine – a future brimming with the possibilities of a tech-integrated system of education that prepares learners beyond the workforce. The kind of future in which global relations and interpersonal skills rise to the top of the value in human contributions to the world.Screen Shot 2019-08-13 at 10.26.53 PM.png

My luck began as I sat at a table with the ISTE author of  Innovation Age Learning: Empowering Students by Empowering Teachers, Sam Sakai-Miller. She has invaluable insight after 20+ years in the world of technology in education. Together, Sam and I worked through the Innovator’s Compass, a thoughtful model for answering big questions and solving problems. Throughout the conference, I was excited to see the orange lanyards of these fellow leaders, proud to part of a cohort of some of the most brilliant minds in education.

Screen Shot 2019-08-13 at 11.14.46 PM.pngLater I wandered through the wonderland of the Expo, falling down rabbit holes of the kind of technology I dreamed of as a child. Robots were everywhere at the ISTE Expo! From simple coding using color blocks to advanced AI capable of machine learning, there was a technology to meet any need or dream. The samurai block robots from ArTec caught my eye, and I was excited to learn that they offer a full curriculum as well as live student competitions. Swivl turned my head too, with its tracking capabilities that allow teachers to move more freely while teaching on camera – perfect for the animated, engaging style of BGL’s Learning Live program. There were also the familiar logos of some of our favorite Edtech providers, like Flipgrid, Edmodo and Peardeck amongst the giants Microsoft, Apple and Google.

Alas, I emerged from the magnificent Expo to a labyrinth of concurrent poster sessions, workshops, pop-up seminars, lectures, discussions and tech playgrounds. A favorite of mine was a session from the co-founder of  the interactive white board tool Explain Everything, Reshan Richards. His session, “10 Research-Driven Teaching Strategies, Augmented with Technology, That Leaders Should Use,” explored some of the fundamentals of teaching as they apply to the world of training and professional development. Most poignant in his animated, sincerely personable delivery of succinct, practical content was an idea echoed throughout ISTE: the most valuable asset to our future workforce, and future society, is our humanity.

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Many thanks to Rehshan for gifting me his book Make Yourself Clear. Just a few chapters in, I am reminded of the adage, “just because you can do a thing, doesn’t mean you should.” Technology should be integrated thoughtfully in consideration of the value that human interactions can bring. In other words, just because many jobs can be taken over by robots doesn’t mean that all jobs, or even all parts of jobs, are beneficial for robots to complete.

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Some of the best moments of ISTE came from the connections made with genuinely passionate, like-minded educators. I found just such a person in Todd Lash, research associate at the CSforAll Consortium, and presenter of “Making Computer Science Accessible to ALL Learners,” who is clearly committed to equity in access to technology. His work with students with special needs was particularly touching as the proud aunt and advocate of a nephew who is bravely fighting a kidney disease while navigating the complexities of his teenage years as a teen with autism. Through Todd’s encouraging work and words, I was empowered to continue as an advocate knowing that I’m not alone.

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I met Kasper Hua while signing up for PAECT, a nonprofit organization that supports educational technology in Pennsylvania, and we immediately connected after a brief language exchange and laugh as I practiced my less-than-fluent Mandarin. Over lunch at the Reading Terminal Market, I learned that Kasper and I share many views on inclusion, technology and equity in education. I now have a friend and ally in Kasper who echoes my hopes for a brighter, more inclusive future in education.

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While there was so much to learn from these sessions, the poster sessions were really a blast for me. Given BGL’s focus on delivering high-quality education over video conferencing technology, I was so excited to discover an entire row of other educators specializing in this same pursuit. When you’re on the cutting edge of technology, it’s a challenge to find others who are on the same level. TWICE impressed me with their global, philanthropic endeavors to encourage student collaborations, and eMINTS with their extensive library of teacher training videos.

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At BGL, we’re teachers as well as students, so I was happy to talk with Kiersten Greene, Professor of Literacy in the Elementary Education Department at SUNY New Palz and BGL collective contributor. She was presenting research findings on the preparedness of teachers for the real-world of teaching. Although the current state of affairs in teacher training programs is a bit bleak, it was inspiring to talk with others who are as committed to raising the bar as we are.

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We hear all the time about this exponential rate of change in technology that makes the future uncertain – an idea that can be as intimidating to teachers as it is to students. At ISTE 2019, we learned what an exciting time this is for us as educators as we get to be a part of changing the very fabric of what we call education. When we work together, share our knowledge, and become the leaders we want to follow, our students – and their students, someday are sure to be prepared for our changing world.

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As a Pennsylvania native, I would be remiss if I didn’t include some of the beautiful sights the City of Brotherly Love had to offer.

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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.

The Biodiversity Project: An International Student Collaboration

Students at Tsai Hsing have collaborated with students from all over the world on topics such as Confucianism in the modern world, surveys of the daily activities of students, student blogging, and good old fashioned pen pals. But, our science collaborations are extra authentic and precise since they mirror the way that scientists collaborate in the real world. Our Regional Plant Project was another successful example of this. By combining the power of technology with complex science experiments, Tsai Hsing students went on an educational journey in which they networked with students from two different continents, North America and Africa, to investigate how in-depth scientific concepts manifest in the natural world around them.

About the Schools

From the United States, Menlo School is located in Atherton, CA near San Francisco. About 800 students attend this school. Many students are involved in arts and athletics.

From Kenya, Nova Academics is located in Kikuyu which is near the country’s capital city, Nairobi. This is a high school with both a boys’ and a girls’ school in grades 9-12. Students at Nova participate in a rigorous curriculum that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship.

About the Project

Each school completed the same experiments – gathering information about local flora – and then students shared their results and compared them with the other schools. Classes were divided into small groups, each with access to the interactive educational platform, Edmodo. The first part of the collaboration was the creation of a virtual “get-to-know-you” video in which students introduced themselves, their schools and their culture to their global partners. After initial introductions, students began gathering and plotting data from their respective school campuses, followed by data analysis that addressed common questions and vocabulary. Ultimately, students shared and analyzed their findings with the other schools and created a culminating video.

Parts of the Project

  1. Introduction – an overview of the project
  2. Cultural Awareness – how to respectfully interact with people from cultures other than your own
  3. Science & Vocabulary – learn the vocabulary and important scientific information to complete the experiment
  4. Introduction Video – show the collaborating students what your campus looks like and tell them a little bit about yourself
  5. Campus Map – Create a map of the school campus including major water sources
  6. Scientific Process – learn how the steps of the experiment and data collection
  7. Collect Data – Access campus water source and complete readings! Take lots of pictures and collect information
  8. Analyze Data – look carefully at your data and compare it with your classmates’
  9. Share Data – post your data on Edmodo so that the collaborating students can see it
  10. Comparing & Conclusions – after reviewing the collaborating students’ data and comparing it to yours, what have you learned?
  11. Conclusion Video – create a video that summarizes what you learned and says goodbye to your collaborating partners

 

701 Biodiversity Project

In Distance Learning class, 701 investigated plants and ecosystems to determine the biodiversity of their ecosystem. According to a Menlo student, “Biodiversity is a term used to identify and describe the diversity of genes, species and ecosystems of a given region.” Each school started by dividing the campus into quadrants.

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Students went to their assigned quadrant and carefully documented each species of plant they could find. They took pictures so they later could research the plants more closely. Fortunately, at Tsai Hsing Teacher Jimmy has many plants all over campus labeled with QR codes, so students could easily identify most species from the Tsai Hsing Field Guide. Students had to use their excellent English skills to translate the information so they could share it with the partner schools in a slideshow.

The slideshows that students created included a picture of the plant that they took themselves with their iPad, the scientific name of the plant, and a few interesting facts. They also created a bird’s-eye-view drawing to show an overview of what their quadrant looks like. Students did such a great job, they started to sound like real scientists!

By Kevin 38 & Joyce:

By Bernice, Jonathan and Anna 22:

By Tiffany 06 & James 30:

By Jenny 04 & Willy:

Students then took a break from science for a bit to explore the beauty of nature through poetry.

By Joanna:

 By Joyce:

As they identified the species of plants, students also counted them so they could calculate the biodiversity index. The biodiversity index helps explain how diverse an ecosystem is. Generally, the more diversity, the healthier the ecosystem. The results showed that Taiwan has quite a diverse ecosystem!

Here’s what a few students had to say about the biodiversity on the Tsai Hsing campus:

By Jasper & Nini:

Our quadrant is mediocrely biodiverse. I think the plants there are old and seem to be similar species, so it can be vulnerable if a really strong typhoon comes. More bushes or trees can be planted by the walkway. There are enough plant groups, but more contrasting plants will surely benefit the area. It would be stronger and look better.

By Gina & Kevin 45:

Our ecosystem isn’t really biodiverse, our quadrant only has three species and one of it is grass. Grass can be easily killed by people when we step on it. And the Duranta repens it doesn’t seems like it can easily be killed because we don’t see any insects on it. The celosia cristata looks strong, too. When our school find out that the grass is dying, we can’t go on them otherwise they will get worse.

Field Trip Live

At the start of the project, Teacher Jackie took students on an interactive field trip to her own yard in Los Angeles. Students were able to see the succulents and cacti famous in Southern California. They also learned about the scientific process they would use to determine the biodiversity of their campus.

To wrap things up, Teacher Courtney took the 7th graders on another Field Trip Live to the great Pacific Northwest, with a visit to the Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Garden in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. Before the Field Trip Live, students researched some of the local plants that they would see at the garden. During the trip, students got into teams and played a fun game to identify the plants. It was amazing to see how much students had learned about plants and biodiversity through the Global Plant Project!

 

By Alice & Carol:

By Tiffany 03 & Irene:

 

Student Conclusions

To finish out the project, students wrote conclusions not only based on their analysis of the data from the experiment, but also to reflect on the cultural exchange.

Conclusions About Tsai Hsing, By Julian:

I learned a lot from my teacher, they taught me many things about ecosystems. They gave me many information about making video and ecosystem. I also learned a lot from my classmates. They told me many vocabulary that I didn’t know.

Conclusions About Nova, By Carol:

We got to work with students in Kenya. I’ve seen their videos and their school is huge and full of different plants that I’ve never seen before. I think Nova is a great school and their students are very friendly. I’ll keep in touch with them for sure.

Conclusions About Menlo, By Alice:

The school ” Menlo” in San Francisco work with us for this plant topic. The students there are very cool and nice.Actually, I think I can’t understand their video because my English is not very well before I saw their video. And after, I just do it! I can know what are they talking about! I know my English is growing up! Thanks very much.

Final Conclusions, By Lynn:

This project is so interesting and I want to do it again. I had do this project before when I in sixth grade. I was so happy then and I had said I want to have different pen pals in seventh grade, and I really have now! We even have a video to talk to them. I love it so much!

Overall, students gained some great experience through this international collaboration. While they learned some valuable lessons about science, what they learned about the culture of their partners through sheer exposure is a special opportunity that they will always remember. Many thanks to all of the hard working students all over the world who made this project possible!

8th Grade Students Meet Rocket Scientist; Use Physics and Economics to Design Cars

The following was published in Tsai Hsing School’s bimonthly magazine as written by BGL:

Just a few years ago, self-driving cars seemed like science fiction. Now, Uber provides self-driving cars for public use in cities like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Google just announced their new fully-automated car company called Waymo. Given this recent progress, we can only imagine what cars of the future will be able to do.

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That’s exactly what Tsai Hsing’s 8th Grade Bilingual Program students did in the Car Design Project for their Distance Learning class. Students explored physics concepts while letting their imaginations run free to design automobiles with innovative features. Concepts that the students explored include acceleration, friction, traction, and aerodynamics. For each element of the car – from materials to fuel sources to shape – students worked in groups to apply what they learned to a design they felt would compete for automobile sales in a free market.

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At the start of the project, students interviewed a real-life aerospace engineer, John Morelli. As a Structural Analysis Engineer, Mr. Morelli tests other engineers’ designs to determine if they will be successful or not. Specifically, his team determines if a design will blow up! He explained how large teams of people work for a long time to engineer things like airplanes, missiles and rockets. Students were surprised to learn that his current project would take up to five years to complete, even with over 200 people working together!

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Students then designed their cars. Every student had a role in the group: Leader, Engineer, Writer and Artist. These roles are similar to what is required to design a product in the real world. The Leader made sure everyone else did their jobs. The Engineer became an expert in science and led the application of physics concepts to the design. Meanwhile, the Writer took notes and wrote the team’s plan. Finally, the Artist drew the car according to the Engineer’s design and created a model that would entice consumers to buy the car. Everyone then worked together on create a “Sales Pitch,” which is a presentation that salesmen give when they are trying to sell a product.

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Teams accounted for motor & fuel, frame materials, body type, and tires when making their design. Each car was rated in four areas: speed, safety, green (environmental impact), and cost. Like in real life, teams needed to prioritize one of these factors over others. For example, if students wanted a very fast car, they had to either choose an inexpensive conventional motor with bad environmental impact or an expensive electric or hybrid motor like the ones used by Tesla. If they wanted a green car, they needed to choose between slow, inexpensive engines and fast, expensive ones. If they wanted a safe car, the needed to choose between inexpensive but slow and heavy materials or one that are expensive but fast and light. And, they needed to make these decisions using their knowledge of science.

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For example, when examining material types, students had to apply their knowledge of chemistry to understand the difference between aluminum, steel, titanium and carbon fiber. While carbon fiber looks cool and is super strong, it’s very expensive. But some teams built it into their designs to make their cars safer, thinking that consumers would pay extra for the safety and fuel efficiency.

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An example of student work:

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For example, when examining material types, students had to apply their knowledge of chemistry to understand the difference between aluminum, steel, titanium and carbon fiber. While carbon fiber looks cool and is super strong, it’s very expensive. But some teams built it into their designs to make their cars safer, thinking that consumers would pay extra for the safety and fuel efficiency.

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To decide on a body type for the car, students learned about aerodynamics. Students understood intuitively that a sports car cuts through the air to go fast while a SUV sacrifices speed and beauty for safety (whereas a crossover tries to accomplish both!).

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Finally, while choosing tires, students considered both the materials as well as the type of traction. Although it may be fun to have the soft rubber sports tires, they wear out so quickly that they’re very expensive and bad for the environment.

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Near the end of the Car Design Projects, students went on a Field Trip Live to the California Science Center where they were able to direct Teacher Seth to exhibits that illustrate the physics concepts they used in their project. Students were able to see a comparison of types of materials, watch aerodynamics in action, and move a small solar powered car with the power of a light bulb. They used this new information to change or confirm their car designs.

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After visiting an exhibit about alternative fuel types, Teacher Seth answers Jacky’s question, “Can cars add wind power in the future?”

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Will asks David, “What is the coolest car you’ve ever seen?” David wows the class when he tells us about the exotic Pagoni car, which he once saw on the streets of Los Angeles. They can cost up to $4 million USD!

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The final step of the Car Design Project was the “Sales Pitch.” Each group prepared a presentation and had two minutes to convince their classmates that their car is the best. Each group chose an unique designed that was customized for a particular audience. In the end, Izzie, Wendy, Lauren and Tamia worked together to create the best car design. Congratulations! And a job well done to all of the hard working students in 801.

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