Pivoting to a Virtual World in Education

EdTech Austin has been an advocate for technological solutions in education for years. Though this Covid-19 outbreak has upended our world, and caused innumerable issues, there are some silver linings, and those lie in the opportunity and change driven by this world-shaking event.

K-12 Education has been slow to adapt to the rapid change in technology and the digital world. Roadblocks such as lack of funding, teacher training, lack of workforce willingness to adapt to new technology, a large and complex bureaucratic system, and an overall lack of resources and investment in the education space mean that public education as whole is decades behind fields such as healthcare, communication, business, and other major industries.

This does not mean that there aren’t individuals and groups out there innovating and working to make a change. Creating products that serve the education space can be difficult, because of the limited ability to drive adoption and create a product that can bring in revenue quickly enough to support a growing business. There are those in both the public, nonprofit, higher education, and commercial sectors that are doing great things.

During out meetup in April, EdTech Austin, along with educators, innovators, and researchers stepped up to discuss how we are adapting to the abrupt pivot to online learning and talked about the tools and strategies our presenters use that can help us teach and learn in an online environment.

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The EdTech Austin April Virtual Meetup

Our presenters all shared valuable online resources, strategies, and even complete online curricula to enable teachers to connect and educate students digitally. Our presenters included:

  • Carol Fletcher Ph.D.- Director, Expanding Pathways in Computing (EPIC)
  • Tan Tran- Co-Founder and CEO, Gamesalad
  • Jackie Burniske- Director for K-12 Initiatives UTeach
  • Julia Barraford-Temel- Director, Network Success at Mouse
  • Chris Hanson- EdTech Support Specialist, Eanes ISD

Carol Fletcher is the director of Expanding Pathways In Computing (EPIC) which partners with WeTeach CS and TACC at the University of Texas at Austin. She shared that their curriculum and resources are currently available for free to any educator worldwide through the end of the 19–20 school year. The curriculum contains:

  • Instructional videos
  • Labs
  • Assessments & more

You get everything you need, using an online IDE, to continue to provide instruction in AP Computer Science, as well as training for teachers who want to learn and teach the courses. As a graduate of the teacher prep course, I an attest to the value and efficacy of the materials.

Tan Tran, a long-time patron of EdTech Austin, gave a demo of the amazing GameSalad Game Development engine he has developed for mid-skill learners who have outgrown coding basics but are not ready or confident enough for more complex text-based coding.

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The GameSalad Visual Development Platform

The platform not only provides a visual environment where students can create and develop video games using computational thinking concepts, GameSalad also has an entirely online learning platform that teaches students about computer science concepts alongside game development projects. The platform provides video tutorials and instruction along with classroom computer science materials. Through the end of the school year, GameSalad is offering free and reduced plans for their platform for students and families at home. Fill out this form to find out more!

Also hailing from the University off Texas at Austin was Jackie Burniske, the Director for k-12 Initiatives, presenting on resources and training for blended and remote teaching and learning. The website UTeachPD.org offers resources that teachers can take advantage of during their time at home to improve their capabilities blending digital learning into the classroom, as well as provide online learning for the current climate.

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Mouse.org Educational Nonprofit

Julia Barraford-Temel joined us once again to share what Mouse.org has created for teachers and learners. Their nonprofit provides professional development for teachers, as well as online courses through the mouse create platform.

The courses on the platform include more than 200 hands-on projects across 30+ competency areas, including design, circuitry, coding, games, sewable tech, and more. All of theprojects are aligned to the Common Core, ISTE and NGSS or K12 CS Framework for use in the classroom and in curricula.

They also have Mouse Open Projects that allows students to get started on Mouse’s learning content without signing into an account, educator guidance, or materials. Browse the courses here, or fill out their sign-up form in order to access free materials through Sept 2020.

Our last presenter was Chris Hanson, a technology support specialist from Eanes ISD in Austin. As an experienced educator in a technologically advanced public school system, he shared some of his insights and expertise around student data privacy.

Though not the most glamorous of subjects, this is one of the most relevant and important ones we face as we are pivoting to online and technology-centered education. There are laws being passed and issues that must be addressed before we can move forward. Learn more on his website about what you should know, and where you can find more information.

As education continues to pivot and grow, EdTech Austin will be at the forefront of change. We are looking for collaborators and presenters for our meetup on Wed June 17, and have a new website where you can find out more. Connect with us at edtechaustin.org

Authored by: Lindsay Walker. Learn more at https://walkerweb.me/

Helping drive innovation in education in Austin, TX and beyond!

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