Tag Archives: Education

Three ways to get started with computer science and computational thinking

Editor’s note: We’re highlighting education leaders across the world to share how they’re creating more collaborative, engaging classrooms. Today’s guest author is Tim Bell, a professor in the department of Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Canterbury and creator of CS Unplugged. Tim is a recipient of CS4HS awards and has partnered with Google in Australia to develop free resources to support teachers around the world to successfully implement computational thinking and computer science into classrooms.

My home of New Zealand, like many countries around the world, is fully integrating computer science (CS) into the national curriculum. This change affects all teachers, because the goal of standardizing CS education curriculum is bigger than CS itself. It’s not just about grooming the next generation of computer scientists—it’s about equipping every student an approach to solving problems through computational thinking (CT). This way of thinking can and must be applied to other subjects. Math, science, and even English and history teachers will need to teach CT, and many feel uncertain about the road ahead.

Progressing CS + CT education at the national level will only be successful if all teachers feel confident in their ability to get started. This first step can be the most daunting, so I want to share a few simple ways any teacher can bring CS and CT into the classroom.

1. Engage students as builders and teachers

CT is about building new ways to solve problems. These problem-solving methods can be implemented with a computer, but the tool is much less important than the thinking behind it. Offline activities create opportunities for students to explain their thinking, work with others to solve open-ended problems, and learn by teaching their peers.

My session during Education on Air showed some of these offline activities in practice. For example, playing with a set of binary cards, pictured below, can teach students how to explain binary representation.

CSUnpluggedActivity.jpg
Year 5 and 6 students learn about binary representation through a CS Unplugged activity

2. Build lessons around real-world examples

CS is practical—algorithms speed up processes so people don’t have to wait, device interfaces need to be designed so they don't frustrate users, programs need to be written so they don't waste resources like battery power on a mobile phone. Examples like these can help students understand how CS and CT impact the world around them. Consider discussing human interface design as it applies to popular mobile apps as well as real-world systems, like factories and libraries.

As Maggie Johnson, Google’s director of education and university relations, wrote last year: “If we can make these explicit connections for students, they will see how the devices and apps that they use everyday are powered by algorithms and programs. They will learn the importance of data in making decisions. They will learn skills that will prepare them for a workforce that will be doing vastly different tasks than the workforce of today.”

3. Connect new ideas and familiar subjects

Some of the most successful CS and CT lessons reference other subjects. For example, biology students can reconstruct an evolutionary tree using a string matching algorithm. Students might also apply geometry skills to Scratch programming by using their knowledge of angles to represent polygons with blocks of code. CS can also be combined with non-academic subjects, like physical education.

Google’s engineering director in Australia, Alan Noble, explained this interdisciplinary approach well: “CS combined with another discipline, brings with it new insights and new ways of approaching things. We call this ‘CS + X,’ where ‘X’ can be virtually anything. Universities around the world are starting to recognize this by introducing CS + X programs, where X can be any subject area, not just a science.The opportunities are endless. Students will be a whole lot more excited about studying Computer Science if they can combine it with their passion, their ‘X’.”

I’ve seen everyone from first-timers to PhDs use simple techniques to make CS and CT approachable—and fun too! A few simple exercises can spark students’ curiosity and support a bigger change.

Three ways to get started with computer science and computational thinking

Editor’s note: We’re highlighting education leaders across the world to share how they’re creating more collaborative, engaging classrooms. Today’s guest author is Tim Bell, a professor in the department of Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Canterbury and creator of CS Unplugged. Tim is a recipient of CS4HS awards and has partnered with Google in Australia to develop free resources to support teachers around the world to successfully implement computational thinking and computer science into classrooms.

My home of New Zealand, like many countries around the world, is fully integrating computer science (CS) into the national curriculum. This change affects all teachers, because the goal of standardizing CS education curriculum is bigger than CS itself. It’s not just about grooming the next generation of computer scientists—it’s about equipping every student an approach to solving problems through computational thinking (CT). This way of thinking can and must be applied to other subjects. Math, science, and even English and history teachers will need to teach CT, and many feel uncertain about the road ahead.

Progressing CS + CT education at the national level will only be successful if all teachers feel confident in their ability to get started. This first step can be the most daunting, so I want to share a few simple ways any teacher can bring CS and CT into the classroom.

1. Engage students as builders and teachers

CT is about building new ways to solve problems. These problem-solving methods can be implemented with a computer, but the tool is much less important than the thinking behind it. Offline activities create opportunities for students to explain their thinking, work with others to solve open-ended problems, and learn by teaching their peers.

My session during Education on Air showed some of these offline activities in practice. For example, playing with a set of binary cards, pictured below, can teach students how to explain binary representation.

CSUnpluggedActivity.jpg
Year 5 and 6 students learn about binary representation through a CS Unplugged activity

2. Build lessons around real-world examples

CS is practical—algorithms speed up processes so people don’t have to wait, device interfaces need to be designed so they don't frustrate users, programs need to be written so they don't waste resources like battery power on a mobile phone. Examples like these can help students understand how CS and CT impact the world around them. Consider discussing human interface design as it applies to popular mobile apps as well as real-world systems, like factories and libraries.

As Maggie Johnson, Google’s director of education and university relations, wrote last year: “If we can make these explicit connections for students, they will see how the devices and apps that they use everyday are powered by algorithms and programs. They will learn the importance of data in making decisions. They will learn skills that will prepare them for a workforce that will be doing vastly different tasks than the workforce of today.”

3. Connect new ideas and familiar subjects

Some of the most successful CS and CT lessons reference other subjects. For example, biology students can reconstruct an evolutionary tree using a string matching algorithm. Students might also apply geometry skills to Scratch programming by using their knowledge of angles to represent polygons with blocks of code. CS can also be combined with non-academic subjects, like physical education.

Google’s engineering director in Australia, Alan Noble, explained this interdisciplinary approach well: “CS combined with another discipline, brings with it new insights and new ways of approaching things. We call this ‘CS + X,’ where ‘X’ can be virtually anything. Universities around the world are starting to recognize this by introducing CS + X programs, where X can be any subject area, not just a science.The opportunities are endless. Students will be a whole lot more excited about studying Computer Science if they can combine it with their passion, their ‘X’.”

I’ve seen everyone from first-timers to PhDs use simple techniques to make CS and CT approachable—and fun too! A few simple exercises can spark students’ curiosity and support a bigger change.

Source: Education


The CS Capacity Program – New Tools and SIGCSE 2017



The CS Capacity program was launched in March of 2015 to help address a dramatic increase in undergraduate computer science enrollments that is creating serious resource and pedagogical challenges for many colleges and universities. Over the last two years, a diverse group of universities have been working to develop successful strategies that support the expansion of high-quality CS programs at the undergraduate level. Their work focuses on innovations in teaching and technologies that support scaling while ensuring the engagement of women and underrepresented students. These innovations could provide assistance to many other institutions that are challenged to provide a high-quality educational experience to an increasing number of introductory-level students.

The cohort of CS Capacity institutions include George Mason University, Mount Holyoke College, Rutgers University, and the University California Berkeley which are working individually, and Duke University, North Carolina State University, the University of Florida, and the University of North Carolina which are working together. These institution each brings a unique approach to addressing CS capacity challenges. Two years into the program, we're sharing an update on some of the great projects and ideas to emerge so far.

At George Mason, for example, computer science professor Jeff Offutt and his team have developed an online system to provide self-paced learning for CS1 and CS2 classes that allows learners through the learning materials wore quickly or slowly depending on their needs. The system, called SPARC, includes course content, practice and assessment exercises (including automated testing), mini-lectures, and daily inspirations. This team has also launched a program to recruit and train undergraduate tutorial assistants to increase learning support. For more information on SPARC, contact Jeff Offutt at offutt@gmu.edu.

The MaGE Peer Mentor program at Mount Holyoke College is addressing its increasing CS student enrollment by preparing undergraduate peer mentors to provide effective feedback on coding assignments and contribute to an inclusive learning environment. One of the major elements of these program is an online course that helps to recruit and train students to be undergraduate peer mentors. Mount Holyoke has made their entire online course curriculum for the peer mentor program available so that other institutions can incorporate all or part of it to assist with preparing their own student tutors. For more information on the MaGE curriculum, contact Heather Pon-Barry at ponbarry@mtholyoke.edu.
MaGE Program Students and Faculty from Mount Holyoke College
At University of California, Berkeley, the CS Capacity team is focused on providing access to increased and better tutoring. They’ve instituted a small-group tutoring program that includes weekend mastery learning sessions, increased office hours support, designated discussions section, project checkpoint deadlines, exam/homework/lab/discussion walkthrough videos, and a new office hours app that tracks student satisfaction with office hours. For more information on Berkeley’s interventions, contact Josh Hug at hug@cs.berkeley.edu.

The CS Capacity team at Rutgers has been exploring the gender gap at multiple levels using a longitudinal study across four required CS classes (paper to be published in the proceedings of the SIGCSE 2017 Technical Symposium). They’re investigating several factors that may impact the retention of women and underrepresented student populations, including intention to major in CS, grades, and prior experience. They’ve also been defining an additional set of feature set to improve their use of Autolab (a course management system with automated grading). This work includes building a hint system to provide more information for students who are struggling with a concept or assignment, crowd-sourcing grading, and studying how students think about CS content and the kinds of errors they are making. The Rutgers team will be publishing their study results in the proceedings of the SIGCSE 2017 Technical Symposium. For more information on these tools, contact Andrew Tjang at atjang@cs.rutgers.edu.

The team consisting of Duke, NCSU, UNC, and UF have produced and plan to share tools to improve the student learning experience. My Digital Hand (MDH) is a free online tool for managing and tracking one-to-one peer teaching sessions (for example, helping to keep track of how many hours peer mentors are spending with mentees). MDH supports best practice in peer teaching and mitigates some of the observed challenges in taking peer teaching to scale. The team has also been working on ASCEND (Adaptive Student Computing Environment with Natural Language Dialogue), an Eclipse plug-in designed to facilitate remote synchronous peer teaching sessions. Students can share their projects with a peer teaching fellow (PTF) and chat as the PTF leads the student through a session. ASCEND helps instructors better understand current practice by logging all programming actions and textual chats in real time to a database. For more information on these tools, contact Jeff Forbes at forbes@cs.duke.edu.

Several of the CS Capacity principle investigators will be presenting papers on these new interventions and tools at the SIGCSE conference in March. Faculty from the CS capacity program will also be presenting a panel and roundtable discussion session called “New Tools and Solutions to Address the CS Capacity Crunch.” If you’re attending SIGCSE this year, we hope you’ll join us on Thursday, March 9, from 3:45-5:00 pm.

Given the likelihood that CS undergraduate enrollments will continue to climb, it is critical that the CS education community continue to find, test, and share solutions and tools that enable institutions to effectively teach more students while maintaining the quality of the education experience for students. Faculty from the CS Capacity program will continue to share their solutions and results with the community via CS education conferences and publications.

How online courses can help teach computational thinking and CS

Editor’s note: We’re highlighting education leaders across the world to share how they’re creating more collaborative, engaging classrooms. Today’s guest author is Rebecca Vivian, one of the keynote speakers from Education on Air, Google’s free online conference which took place in December 2016. Rebecca, a Research Fellow at the computer science education research group (CSER) at the University of Adelaide in Australia, shares professional development ideas for preparing teachers for a classroom focused on computational thinking and computer science.

These days, we need to prepare the next generation of students to be creators—not just consumers—of digital technology. As the demand for computer science and computational thinking skills increases, countries are integrating these skills into their K-12 curriculum. This year, Australia implemented a digital technologies curriculum, incorporating the teaching of computational thinking and CS into curricula from foundation level, and many other countries are rapidly following suit. But teachers need help to implement this type of digital focussed curriculum.

One of the ways we can support teachers in this area is via "massive open online courses," or MOOCs. In Australia, the computer science education research group (CSER) at the University of Adelaide, is partnering with Google to develop online communities and free MOOCs, where K-12 teachers can share their creative ideas and suggest professional development lessons. With these resources, teachers are learning to integrate computational thinking and computer science into their curriculum.

Since launching the digital technologies MOOC in 2014, we’ve been able to scale professional learning across Australia and introduce new learning styles such as algorithmic thinking, which teaches students to develop step-by-step solutions for problems they encounter. More than 7,200 teachers are engaged in this professional learning program and have shared more than 4,500 resources as a result of these MOOCs. The program isn’t just working for experienced CS teachers: Ellie, a 56-year-old grandmother and primary school teacher with virtually no technology background, created a lesson on binary and data resources after taking our first course. In late 2016, the Australian government decided to invest nearly 7 million dollars over four years to scale our efforts further and support remote and low-income communities.

Connecting teachers to share creativity and insight

The success of Australia’s MOOCs and online teacher community has proven the value of peer-to-peer professional learning. Teachers have embraced our “professional learning in a box” kits—slide decks of instructor notes, videos, and in-person activity ideas that they can customize to deliver professional learning sessions in their school or community. Teachers also love user-generated content in our online communities because they can interact with teachers who created them, and apply concepts they’ve learned online to their classroom.

Education on Air, which I participated in last year, works much like a MOOC by providing a space for people with a shared interest to come together and learn from one another, no matter where they’re located. In my breakout session, “Making Computational Thinking Visible: Classroom Activities and Google Tools,” I explained algorithmic thinking, demonstrated the way it applies to other learning areas, and shared tips on how Google tools can assist in introducing this framework to students. Teachers left the session with ideas they could implement the next day, including tips for engaging lessons that integrate algorithmic thinking, and ideas for applying this framework to other learning areas, such as experiment design.

Students need more than coding skills—they need to understand how technology changes the way we live, work and solve problems. The success to date of the digital technologies MOOCs in Australia shows that online courses can be a scalable way to empower teachers to incorporate computational thinking and CS concepts into the classroom. And by introducing computational thinking as a method of problem-solving to students, teachers can shape the next generation of STEM leaders.

Source: Education


How online courses can help teach computational thinking and CS

Editor’s note: We’re highlighting education leaders across the world to share how they’re creating more collaborative, engaging classrooms. Today’s guest author is Rebecca Vivian, one of the keynote speakers from Education on Air, Google’s free online conference which took place in December 2016. Rebecca, a Research Fellow at the computer science education research group (CSER) at the University of Adelaide in Australia, shares professional development ideas for preparing teachers for a classroom focused on computational thinking and computer science.

These days, we need to prepare the next generation of students to be creators—not just consumers—of digital technology. As the demand for computer science and computational thinking skills increases, countries are integrating these skills into their K-12 curriculum. This year, Australia implemented a digital technologies curriculum, incorporating the teaching of computational thinking and CS into curricula from foundation level, and many other countries are rapidly following suit. But teachers need help to implement this type of digital focussed curriculum.

One of the ways we can support teachers in this area is via "massive open online courses," or MOOCs. In Australia, the computer science education research group (CSER) at the University of Adelaide, is partnering with Google to develop online communities and free MOOCs, where K-12 teachers can share their creative ideas and suggest professional development lessons. With these resources, teachers are learning to integrate computational thinking and computer science into their curriculum.

Since launching the digital technologies MOOC in 2014, we’ve been able to scale professional learning across Australia and introduce new learning styles such as algorithmic thinking, which teaches students to develop step-by-step solutions for problems they encounter. More than 7,200 teachers are engaged in this professional learning program and have shared more than 4,500 resources as a result of these MOOCs. The program isn’t just working for experienced CS teachers: Ellie, a 56-year-old grandmother and primary school teacher with virtually no technology background, created a lesson on binary and data resources after taking our first course. In late 2016, the Australian government decided to invest nearly 7 million dollars over four years to scale our efforts further and support remote and low-income communities.

Connecting teachers to share creativity and insight

The success of Australia’s MOOCs and online teacher community has proven the value of peer-to-peer professional learning. Teachers have embraced our “professional learning in a box” kits—slide decks of instructor notes, videos, and in-person activity ideas that they can customize to deliver professional learning sessions in their school or community. Teachers also love user-generated content in our online communities because they can interact with teachers who created them, and apply concepts they’ve learned online to their classroom.

Education on Air, which I participated in last year, works much like a MOOC by providing a space for people with a shared interest to come together and learn from one another, no matter where they’re located. In my breakout session, “Making Computational Thinking Visible: Classroom Activities and Google Tools,” I explained algorithmic thinking, demonstrated the way it applies to other learning areas, and shared tips on how Google tools can assist in introducing this framework to students. Teachers left the session with ideas they could implement the next day, including tips for engaging lessons that integrate algorithmic thinking, and ideas for applying this framework to other learning areas, such as experiment design.

Students need more than coding skills—they need to understand how technology changes the way we live, work and solve problems. The success to date of the digital technologies MOOCs in Australia shows that online courses can be a scalable way to empower teachers to incorporate computational thinking and CS concepts into the classroom. And by introducing computational thinking as a method of problem-solving to students, teachers can shape the next generation of STEM leaders.

Source: Education


A Day in the Life: Computer Science Summer Institute/Generation Google Scholarship — Applications open


There’s less than a month left to apply for Generation Google Scholarships and CSSI,
so submit your applications now!

In today’s blog post, we’re giving you a look at a day in the life of Riya, one of our Computer Science Summer Institute (CSSI) students from this past summer. We’ll walk you through her schedule, giving any Generation Google and CSSI applicant a better idea of what the experience is like.

8:45am: I use my badge to get in and head into the classroom with my fellow CSSIers before class starts, where sitting on the tables I see boxes of donuts waiting for us!

9am: Class starts. This morning, we’re learning about object oriented programming in Python.

10:30am: Break for a snack (of more donuts and fruit snacks) and an icebreaker to wake us up.

10:45am: Head back into the classroom and go through a few Python Labs with my partner.

12pm: Lunch time. I head to the cafeteria with the rest of the CSSIers where they’re serving wings. I wait in line and of course have to head over to the panini station to make my own custom sandwich. We then head upstairs to the roof to enjoy lunch in the sun before playing a competitive game of baggo (beanbag tossing!). Afterwards, we go back down to grab a quick yogurt bowl and take it back to the classroom.

1pm: We trickle back into the classroom for the afternoon workshop. Each day, a new person comes to talk to us about different development topics. Today, we’re talking about Impostor Syndrome and how to address this issue.

2pm: Back to OOP in Python. We are working on coding a Ninja game!

3:30pm: We stop for a break where we play Google trivia. The winning students get Google swag — pillows, socks and android toys!

3:45pm: We finish coding the Ninja game and then are tasked with breaking up into groups and implementing a harder version of the Ninja game.

4:30pm: We break into smaller groups to work on the project, and a TA assists when we need help.

5:30pm: Exit survey and daily meme time! At the end of each day a meme is posted by Jessie, the lead for our Chicago site, and we fill out snippets to let the instructors and CSSI program managers know what topics we’re finding challenging, what we thought of the development workshop and overall how we’re doing.

6pm: Over and out. Heading home to get some rest and relaxation!

A big thanks to Riya for sharing her day!

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How three districts help their teachers learn and grow throughout the school year

Throughout the year, teachers are hard at work preparing lesson plans and improving their skills. And after school, on the weekends and during breaks, they also invest time in professional development, to expand their knowledge base and learn from their peers. We asked three school districts to share their best practices and programs to help teachers sharpen their skills and advance their careers. These programs can serve as inspiration for training programs throughout the school year.

Training for teachers by teachers
Okeechobee County School District’s professional development program, Camp IT, is democratic: for teachers, by teachers. At the two-day summer training camp, teachers brainstorm topics, such as how to use Schoology or Google for Education to engage students, and the 12 most popular topics, chosen by a vote, are explored throughout the day. This loose structure, which is often referred to as “unconference,” allows for personalized learning and more informal and interactive peer discussions.

“The more teachers can take charge of their learning, the more voice they will have because they’ll be learning what they’re passionate about,” says Michelle Branham, coordinator of instructional technology.

EDU_campit.jpg
Teachers at Camp IT talk in small groups about how they use technology in the classroom.

Camp IT’s informal and intimate setting encourages more teachers to lead and contribute to sessions. With groups of five to 10 people, teachers feel more comfortable sharing their expertise and advice than they would with a large room of people.

“When the program began six years ago, vendors led a lot of the sessions at Camp IT, but we’ve shifted to a teacher-led program because teachers take more away from peers who are teaching them than a vendor who hasn’t used the tool in the classroom,” says Shawna May, director of information technology.

Providing a flexible, personalized program with incentives
Seminole County Public Schools holds a two-week summer institute for teachers and administrators called “The Power of You.” The sessions focus on core subjects, like math and English, as well as the curriculum. If the school is rolling out new learning software, they’ll also host a session around how to use the tool in the classroom.

Teachers choose specific topics depending on what’s most useful to them, such as “How to Teach Visual Learners” or “How to Provide Valuable Feedback via Google Docs,” and have the flexibility to attend one day or the full two weeks. They also get a stipend to attend, and qualify for an additional stipend if they submit a reflection paper at the end of their professional development. For example, a teacher can turn in a sample lesson plan after learning about a new learning management system and receive the reflection stipend. “We believe strongly in reflection on implementation and practice,” says Beth Pocius, the district’s manager of blended and digital curriculum implementation support.

Showcasing teachers’ classroom success with technology
Martin County School District in Florida hosts a four-day program similar to Okeechobee’s Camp IT called CampTEACH. The program empowers teachers to lead sessions and share their skills, and gives them the chance to network with others in the district that they might not see during the school week.

“CampTEACH focuses on effective use of technology in the classroom and serves as a forum to highlight great strategies and techniques teachers are using and gives them the opportunity to share those with their peers,” says Douglas Konopelko, Coordinator of Digital Learning, a Level 2 Google Certified Educator and Certified Google Apps Administrator.

EDU_camp-teach.png
Douglas Konopelko leads teachers through a brief tour of Martin County School District’s digital resources.

Camp IT and CampTEACH differ in that Martin County invites educational partners, such as Promethean, Safari Montage and HMH, to lead sessions. This allows for enormous variety—the 2015 summer program featured 83 sessions—but the most-attended sessions are still those taught by teachers, who can share on-the-ground experiences and relate to their peers’ daily struggles.

For example, this year, Douglas Konopelko, along with Jessica Falco, Digital Learning Specialist for Martin County and a Level 2 Google Certified Educator, taught sessions about how to use  Google Apps for Education in the classroom. “When I was a high school science teacher and assigned students to do a presentation, they uploaded their presentations onto a flash drive and passed the flash drive back and forth,” says Konopelko. “Teachers who attended the session realized student presentations would be easier and more collaborative because students can work in the same document at home or school.”

“Teachers’ faces lit up when they realized the power of these collaboration tools,” Falco adds. "Through these trainings, teachers are now able to use Google tools that allow for students to create authentic products, work in real-time collaboration with their peers in one document and experience what Google really has to offer for the classroom environment."

These districts are just a few that are personalizing professional development for their teachers’ needs. We’re always looking for new sources of inspiration—share how your district provides teacher training opportunities by tagging @GoogleforEdu on Twitter.

How three districts help their teachers learn and grow throughout the school year

Throughout the year, teachers are hard at work preparing lesson plans and improving their skills. And after school, on the weekends and during breaks, they also invest time in professional development, to expand their knowledge base and learn from their peers. We asked three school districts to share their best practices and programs to help teachers sharpen their skills and advance their careers. These programs can serve as inspiration for training programs throughout the school year.

Training for teachers by teachers
Okeechobee County School District’s professional development program, Camp IT, is democratic: for teachers, by teachers. At the two-day summer training camp, teachers brainstorm topics, such as how to use Schoology or Google for Education to engage students, and the 12 most popular topics, chosen by a vote, are explored throughout the day. This loose structure, which is often referred to as “unconference,” allows for personalized learning and more informal and interactive peer discussions.

“The more teachers can take charge of their learning, the more voice they will have because they’ll be learning what they’re passionate about,” says Michelle Branham, coordinator of instructional technology.

EDU_campit.jpg
Teachers at Camp IT talk in small groups about how they use technology in the classroom.

Camp IT’s informal and intimate setting encourages more teachers to lead and contribute to sessions. With groups of five to 10 people, teachers feel more comfortable sharing their expertise and advice than they would with a large room of people.

“When the program began six years ago, vendors led a lot of the sessions at Camp IT, but we’ve shifted to a teacher-led program because teachers take more away from peers who are teaching them than a vendor who hasn’t used the tool in the classroom,” says Shawna May, director of information technology.

Providing a flexible, personalized program with incentives
Seminole County Public Schools holds a two-week summer institute for teachers and administrators called “The Power of You.” The sessions focus on core subjects, like math and English, as well as the curriculum. If the school is rolling out new learning software, they’ll also host a session around how to use the tool in the classroom.

Teachers choose specific topics depending on what’s most useful to them, such as “How to Teach Visual Learners” or “How to Provide Valuable Feedback via Google Docs,” and have the flexibility to attend one day or the full two weeks. They also get a stipend to attend, and qualify for an additional stipend if they submit a reflection paper at the end of their professional development. For example, a teacher can turn in a sample lesson plan after learning about a new learning management system and receive the reflection stipend. “We believe strongly in reflection on implementation and practice,” says Beth Pocius, the district’s manager of blended and digital curriculum implementation support.

Showcasing teachers’ classroom success with technology
Martin County School District in Florida hosts a four-day program similar to Okeechobee’s Camp IT called CampTEACH. The program empowers teachers to lead sessions and share their skills, and gives them the chance to network with others in the district that they might not see during the school week.

“CampTEACH focuses on effective use of technology in the classroom and serves as a forum to highlight great strategies and techniques teachers are using and gives them the opportunity to share those with their peers,” says Douglas Konopelko, Coordinator of Digital Learning, a Level 2 Google Certified Educator and Certified Google Apps Administrator.

EDU_camp-teach.png
Douglas Konopelko leads teachers through a brief tour of Martin County School District’s digital resources.

Camp IT and CampTEACH differ in that Martin County invites educational partners, such as Promethean, Safari Montage and HMH, to lead sessions. This allows for enormous variety—the 2015 summer program featured 83 sessions—but the most-attended sessions are still those taught by teachers, who can share on-the-ground experiences and relate to their peers’ daily struggles.

For example, this year, Douglas Konopelko, along with Jessica Falco, Digital Learning Specialist for Martin County and a Level 2 Google Certified Educator, taught sessions about how to use  Google Apps for Education in the classroom. “When I was a high school science teacher and assigned students to do a presentation, they uploaded their presentations onto a flash drive and passed the flash drive back and forth,” says Konopelko. “Teachers who attended the session realized student presentations would be easier and more collaborative because students can work in the same document at home or school.”

“Teachers’ faces lit up when they realized the power of these collaboration tools,” Falco adds. "Through these trainings, teachers are now able to use Google tools that allow for students to create authentic products, work in real-time collaboration with their peers in one document and experience what Google really has to offer for the classroom environment."

These districts are just a few that are personalizing professional development for their teachers’ needs. We’re always looking for new sources of inspiration—share how your district provides teacher training opportunities by tagging @GoogleforEdu on Twitter.

Four tips for project-based learning in the connected era

Editor’s note: As part of our ongoing celebration of students and teachers, we’re highlighting leaders across the world to share how they’re creating more collaborative, engaging classrooms. Today’s guest author is Claire Amos, one of the keynote speakers from Education on Air, Google’s free online conference which took place in December 2016. Claire, deputy principal at Hobsonville Point Secondary School outside of Auckland, New Zealand, shares how schools can adopt project-based learning to encourage students to think about the connected world.

What do “Ender’s Game,” science, gamification and history have in common? At Hobsonville Point Secondary School, our English teacher and science teacher put their heads together to design a class around the future of gamification, looking at influences from literature and the study of war.

In an increasingly connected world, it’s important for students to understand how seemingly different topics converge so they can be prepared for future education and careers. One way to teach these connections is through project-based learning—blending topics to remove the silos that typically exist between different subjects. That was our goal when Hobsonville opened in 2014, and since then we’ve learned a lot. Here are four tips for schools interested in project-based learning for the connected era.

Encourage reflection on learning

Many students start the school day by visiting their homeroom, where teachers call roll and make school-wide announcements. But the first class of the day should be spent teaching students to reflect on what they’re learning. At Hobsonville, we take a “learning hub” approach to homeroom, in which students meet in small groups with a learning coach for the first class three times a week. During this time, students set goals, reflect on successes and challenges, organize their priorities and get the mentoring support they need. Just 10 or 15 minutes, a few times a week, helps students get a more holistic view of their education.

Work with other teachers

Your fellow teachers are your greatest asset—make sure you’re communicating and joining forces when you can. At Hobsonville, we combine two subjects and teach students skills across the disciplines. Last semester, a science and PE module explored the physics of skateboarding. In an English and art module, students designed the school magazine. If you don’t have the expertise from teachers to explore a creative topic, bring in a guest speaker.

Empower students to lead community-based projects

Every semester students at Hobsonville choose a theme—like sustainability or robotics—and work with community partners to solve a related problem or design a product that will help people. For example, one group of students set out to make walking to school safer by creating wearable technology that lights up when students hold hands in a chain. Tying projects to the community creates lasting connections with organizations and helps students see the impact of their work on the real world.

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Partner with professionals to act as mentors

Every student should have a learning coach that guides them throughout their education. Invite alumni, professionals in the community and researchers to mentor your students and partner with them on projects. Students at Hobsonville have worked with a range of leaders including the founder and CEO of brain-sensing technology company Thought-Wired, a native food and beauty expert, and a young woman who is encouraging girls to pursue coding. It’s a win-win: These professionals mentor the students, and students help the professionals advance their businesses. Students not only learn how to apply their skills in the professional setting—they learn how to think beyond themselves.

It’s our job as educators to help students see the natural overlap between academic subjects, and to connect these lessons to everyday life. And through project-based learning and thinking creatively about lesson plans, we can make it happen.

Learn more by watching Claire’s recorded talk from Education on Air.

Four tips for project-based learning in the connected era

Editor’s note: As part of our ongoing celebration of students and teachers, we’re highlighting leaders across the world to share how they’re creating more collaborative, engaging classrooms. Today’s guest author is Claire Amos, one of the keynote speakers from Education on Air, Google’s free online conference which took place in December 2016. Claire, deputy principal at Hobsonville Point Secondary School outside of Auckland, New Zealand, shares how schools can adopt project-based learning to encourage students to think about the connected world.

What do “Ender’s Game,” science, gamification and history have in common? At Hobsonville Point Secondary School, our English teacher and science teacher put their heads together to design a class around the future of gamification, looking at influences from literature and the study of war.

In an increasingly connected world, it’s important for students to understand how seemingly different topics converge so they can be prepared for future education and careers. One way to teach these connections is through project-based learning—blending topics to remove the silos that typically exist between different subjects. That was our goal when Hobsonville opened in 2014, and since then we’ve learned a lot. Here are four tips for schools interested in project-based learning for the connected era.

Encourage reflection on learning

Many students start the school day by visiting their homeroom, where teachers call roll and make school-wide announcements. But the first class of the day should be spent teaching students to reflect on what they’re learning. At Hobsonville, we take a “learning hub” approach to homeroom, in which students meet in small groups with a learning coach for the first class three times a week. During this time, students set goals, reflect on successes and challenges, organize their priorities and get the mentoring support they need. Just 10 or 15 minutes, a few times a week, helps students get a more holistic view of their education.

Work with other teachers

Your fellow teachers are your greatest asset—make sure you’re communicating and joining forces when you can. At Hobsonville, we combine two subjects and teach students skills across the disciplines. Last semester, a science and PE module explored the physics of skateboarding. In an English and art module, students designed the school magazine. If you don’t have the expertise from teachers to explore a creative topic, bring in a guest speaker.

Empower students to lead community-based projects

Every semester students at Hobsonville choose a theme—like sustainability or robotics—and work with community partners to solve a related problem or design a product that will help people. For example, one group of students set out to make walking to school safer by creating wearable technology that lights up when students hold hands in a chain. Tying projects to the community creates lasting connections with organizations and helps students see the impact of their work on the real world.

MOE Hobsonville Point School 65.jpg

Partner with professionals to act as mentors

Every student should have a learning coach that guides them throughout their education. Invite alumni, professionals in the community and researchers to mentor your students and partner with them on projects. Students at Hobsonville have worked with a range of leaders including the founder and CEO of brain-sensing technology company Thought-Wired, a native food and beauty expert, and a young woman who is encouraging girls to pursue coding. It’s a win-win: These professionals mentor the students, and students help the professionals advance their businesses. Students not only learn how to apply their skills in the professional setting—they learn how to think beyond themselves.

It’s our job as educators to help students see the natural overlap between academic subjects, and to connect these lessons to everyday life. And through project-based learning and thinking creatively about lesson plans, we can make it happen.

Learn more by watching Claire’s recorded talk from Education on Air.