Teaching Students to Design the World They Live In

Gina Tesoriero in her own words | A Network50 Spotlight

By Gina Tesoriero

When people speak about underrepresented groups in STEM they are usually talking about women and minorities. However, students with special needs are also vastly underrepresented in STEM fields! In order to level the playing field it is essential that we provide the support needed to women, minorities, and students with special needs so they have access to careers in STEM.

During my 10 years of experience teaching students with special needs in NYC public schools, it became quite clear to me that I needed to teach students to design the world that they live in instead of letting the world design them, which is very different from the education that I received.

I needed to provide students opportunities that would prepare them for their future; with instruction that was tailored to the diverse academic and emotional needs of each individual student that would engage them in the skills needed for a wide variety of career paths.

My students faced obstacles with academics and behavior regulation but that didn’t mean that they lacked specific interests or abilities. I thought that incorporating technology was the answer. I tried to individualize learning using the many different educational computer programs that were available such as MyOn and Khan Academy. I thought since students were using computers they would be engaged. This was not the case. I constantly had to monitor students and prompt them to return to the website that they were asked to be on instead of the games that they wanted to play.

At the same time I was interning with Mozilla’s Hive NYC and was learning the importance of inspiring web creation instead of consumption. I started to modify the focus of the work students did on computers. Instead of answering math questions on a computer screen, students were designing their own math games using Scratch. Instead of having students typing their reports on Google Docs and going through peer and teacher led revision cycles, students were creating web pages using Mozilla Thimble and asking for feedback on their writing to make sure their webpage was perfect.

Similarly, instead of watching educational video and taking notes, students were doing extensive research so they can remix their own education videos using Mozilla Popcorn. Because of this shift in my teaching practices, learning became a success instead of a struggle.

Students story boarding at Mozilla’s Maker Party

All students have something amazing to offer this world. It is our job as educators to teach students in a way that will magnify their strengths while helping them overcome obstacles. Preparing students for STEM fields means engaging students in the work of scientists, web designers, and engineers.

Meet Gina!

Gina Tesoriero is a networked education activist and an advocate for web literacy and digital inclusion. She currently works as a Special Education Teacher at the new York City Department of Education. She has been active in the internet health movement as a Hive NYC member, Club Captain, and MozFest volunteer. She is a member of our first cohort of “Network50.”