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Recently, the littleBits team was lucky to have one of the co-founders of Google Drive, Jonathan Rochelle, speak in our New York City office. Jonathan serves as Director of Product Management of Google for Education. In this role he gets a unique opportunity to work closely with the education industry. As a personal fan of littleBits Jonathan recognizes how littleBits can enhance classrooms, and many of the points he made in his talk reflect our own beliefs about education.
For example, the team at littleBits believes that there are three unique ways that we can enhance classrooms:
1. Teach kids to experience, not to memorize.
For decades, students have been judged based on their scores to standardized tests -- putting educators in a position to “teach to the test” and students in a position to memorize instead of learn. Although this standard practice brought us this far, preparing students for jobs in future technologies, like machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), is simply not compatible with this way of teaching. Jonathan mentioned that technologies like machine learning and AI rely on experience; they work through problems creatively, while simultaneously collecting data. There are countless examples of this. Look at e-commerce websites. When you add an item to your shopping cart, most sites provides you with other suggested products to consider. Basically, the websites' machine learning algorithms leverage data from millions of similar shoppers who selected the same item you were shopping for and recommend new products that you might be interested in over time.
If we want students be able to take on 21st century jobs in the fields of AI and machine learning, wouldn’t it make sense to teach them in a similar format while they are still in grade school?
A great example of learning is littleBits' Code Kit. Third grade teachers (who have NEVER taught coding) can provide their students with real-world experiences to work through in order to complete an invention and successfully upload their code base. Utilizing this product is not about having a student memorize what inputs, outputs, logic, loops, or variables are -- but rather to experience the power of computer science principles for themselves and apply them to the real world. That's how we can enhance classrooms.
2. Help students discover their passion.
The world is rapidly evolving, and the education industry needs to find new ways to tap into students’ passions. We're under increasing pressure to encourage students to take up STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) careers so that we can lessen the gap the world is currently experiencing in qualified candidates for these types of careers.
For instance, according to “Career Builder’s 2016 - 2017 Employer Survey,” 68 percent of employers who were attempting to increase hiring couldn’t find qualified candidates to fill their open roles. This survey also showed that total open job postings for roles in careers such as “Web Developers,” “Information Security Analysts,” and “Industrial Engineers” were outpacing the actual number of candidates hired by nearly seven times! This demonstrates a massive gap in skilled workers for technically savvy jobs.
By having educators collectively utilizing littleBits in the classroom, we’re putting them in a position to lessen this skills gap dramatically in the decades to come. They are also now on a level playing field to help students discover a passion for a career in computer science or electrical engineering in a super fun and engaging manner. Take this teacher who informed littleBits via Twitter that their students prefer to forgo recess so that they can stay in the classroom and further their littleBits inventing and coding skills. This kind of powerful influence allowed a young fourth-grade inventor to unlock a new passion for game design. This fourth-grader is in a much better position to build the next big game after having used the littleBits Code Kit.
3. Use tools that are easy to implement.
It’s incredible to think how much a classroom can be enhanced by a teacher implementing some new and easy-to-use tools. With students and teachers leveraging Chromebooks in the classroom, they can now contribute to the more than billion assignments that have been submitted through Google Classroom to date.
With littleBits, all it takes is a 3rd grade teacher snapping two magnets together in front of a classroom for students to enter a new world of invention. Neither the teacher nor the student needs to have any background in circuitry, computer science, or electrical engineering to demonstrate and learn these said principles and concepts. The fact that teachers and students now have this kind of easy-to-use educational power at their fingertips has the ability to enhance classrooms.
It’s not far fetched to think that in the near future teachers might ask their students to submit their littleBits inventions and assignments through Google Classroom for grading. This given the ease of use of this workflow with something like the littleBits Code Kit which already has its assessment tools in Google Drive for teachers to use.
Here at littleBits we say that our programs offer infinite possibilities. Students can literally build, invent, and code anything they choose. Seriously see for yourself here!
As school gets back in session, we’d encourage teachers and administrators to enhance classrooms -- to embrace the idea of getting hands-on and to allow their students to truly experience what they might become in the future. By doing so students will unleash the inner inventor inside of them and develop a true passion for the technological world we live in.