The Art of Teaching is the Art of Assisting Discovery

The incredibly inspiring story of Aydan Meydan, a teacher from Bosnia Herzegovina, and the winner of the first ever Inspiring Educator Award at the Google Science Fair. I was absolutely blown away by the students and projects at this year’s event, but the highlight was meeting Aydan. Her passion is infectious– Share this with a teacher that has ignited the passion in you.

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Addressing the STEM Teacher Drought

VIP tour of the Computer History Museum

Embark Labs Teachers getting a VIP tour of the Computer History Museum

Recently, there are two topics circulating within the edtech community that I find interestingly at odds with each other.

The first is the announcement from the Mayor of New York City, the largest school district in the country, that all students beginning with elementary to high school will have access to computer science instruction within the next ten years. It’s an exciting and audacious goal, and one that I foresee many other regions/districts taking on in the coming months. (We have already seen similar declarations from Chicago and San Francisco.) While there are many challenges in implementing an initiative like this effectively, what stands out is the massive effort to prepare and support the number of educators needed to make this work.

The city (NYC) estimates that it will have to train close to 5,000 teachers to meet its pledge to provide the instruction at every level of schooling. Some might teach computer science exclusively, while others might be traditional elementary school teachers who will learn to incorporate it into the curriculum.

This leads directly into the other piece of news making the rounds on the edtech wire– we have a serious STEM teacher shortage. Earlier this month The Education Trust West released this detailed report on the Cracks and Disparities in California’s Math and Science Teacher Pipeline. While this report focused on CA, we know this is a problem facing many districts and states.

EdTrust-West Infographic

So, while many of us are excited by the prospect of better preparing our kids for the future by introducing them to computer science and coding, who exactly is going to teach them?

This challenge is something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about while building Embark Labs. We began as a program for kids to learn computer science in a hands-on, project based approach. While we create vibrant learning experiences for kids from diverse backgrounds to learn together, we quickly realized that in order to bring this program to more students we have to work more closely with schools and educators. Through an amazing partnership with the CalStateTeach Teacher Preparation program we are able to train pre-service teachers on how to introduce computer science (and more so, computational thinking) in a project-based approach. By working with teachers as they are getting their credentials we demonstrate how to build a climate of inquiry and culture of collaboration within their classrooms on day one.

During this past summer we trained 20 teachers and are on track to more than double that next summer. While Embark Labs provides educators with a pedagogically sound curriculum for teaching kids computer science, our bigger focus is to instill a level of confidence in teachers, building on their existing classroom skills and ability to differentiate instruction.

I’m hopeful as we see more announcements like those from NYC, SF and Chicago, that we will also see more teacher preparation programs think strategically about how they are preparing teachers to meet the demands of the modern classroom.

RemixEd K12: Mixing up #edtech

As part of my new initiative, TeacherSquare, I’m super excited to be partnering with edShelf to host our first educator focused hackathon, RemixEd: Build Tools for Schools which will take place Aug 4-5th at 500 Startups in Mountain View, CA. Building on the vision of previous Teacher Tech Talks, this event is designed specifically for teachers, as part of a larger effort to bring the educator and education startup communities closer together. Only current classroom teachers can submit ideas and Mike Lee, co-founder of edShelf, has been working with them to set realistic goals for what is possible to ‘hack’ together over the course of ~2 days. We have invited developers, designers and students (yay!) who are passionate about building tools for schools to form teams around the educators and their ideas and spend the weekend building something together. We have an impressive line-up of teachers as judges, as well as some of the best edtech entrepreneurs offering their support as coaches.

While I’m sure some interesting (and useful) tools will be created during the event, what really excites me is co-creating this experience to connect educators to the startup world, giving them an opportunity to inhabit a typical startup incubator space for a couple days and get exposure to their lingo and processes. This is a community-driven event and we are still looking for a couple more sponsors to support these efforts. If you’re interested in helping bridge the educator and edtech divide and getting involved as a sponsor, just let me know.

Some of our favorite edtech bloggers are going to stop by and I will be sure to share the highlights in a follow-up post. You can find out more about events like this @TeacherSquare and follow the progress over the weekend using #RemixEdk12.