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EdTech Innovation and the Role of Students

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The following is a guest blog post from school Principal Ken Willers (@21stCenPrinKW) whose School of the Madeleine was one of the first schools to implement Piper in their STEM curriculum.

Ed Tech Innovation must engage and inspire student-directed learning and result in some ‘meaningful’ or value-oriented outcome. 

When a student’s experience of an Ed Tech product results in creating something purposeful the following happens: 

  1. skills are acquired
  2. concepts are deepened 
  3. failed attempts are not interiorized as negative but serve as motivation to achieve one's desired outcome 

In other words, doing something over until it is ‘right’ sharpens skills, reinforces concepts and is a great lesson on the power of iteration.  

Innovative Ed Tech products must achieve these three opportunities for younger students. 

Bringing coding and robotics to students, as young as 5, in a platform that engages, teaches and provides ‘meaningful’ or value-oriented outcomes is in opportunity that offers student-directed learning to an age group that have very limited options. Students will acquire skills and concepts around coding and will continue to code until their desired outcome is achieved. All done in a playful, yet, engaging manner.

Innovative Ed Tech products must also introduce the students to authentic 21st Century Skills: collaboration, communication, critical thinking and most importantly creativity while solving real-life problems. 

As students partner and work together to build they are intuitively using all of the above skills. As they build what their ‘imagination’ desires (creativity), they have to work together and share ideas (collaborate and communicate). Most importantly, however, students have to think, troubleshoot and ‘code’ (critically think) in order to achieve their desired outcome. 

This is where students can play a valuable role in shaping innovation. Ed Tech Innovation should begin with student input--not just end up on a student device. 

When partnering with Ed Tech developers we apply these expectation to any EdTech product we are invited 'test-drive.' In the past, The School of the Madeleine has welcomed opportunities like this with Ed Tech start-ups to beta-test, build and pilot their products. Our most recent partnership was withpiper.com. Our students, under the direction of our Tech coordinator, partnered with the co-founders around building and testing their product with our kids and the experience was great.

We helped withpiper.com launch their Kickstarter campaign (http://abc7news.com/education/startup-uses-minecraft-game-to-inspire-future-inventors/541425/). They reached their 50K goal in 2 days and by the end of the campaign raised over 250K. We partnered with them to review the latest iteration last September and as principal I am still finding ways to assist them as they broaden their reach.

What's truly exciting about Ed Tech Innovation and a school/student partnership is the REAL Life influence students have in shaping a product in the REAL world. This is the ultimate forum for project-based learning is the opportunity Ed Tech Start-up can have in the classroom.

Ed Tech Innovation should begin with student input--not just end up on a student device. 

The truly authentic and innovative Ed Tech companies know this and they are the start-ups and visionaries who partnering with schools--like those I've referenced above who are partnering with the School of the Madeleine.

 


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