First and foremost, we want to let you know how truly grateful we are to the parents/guardians of our students. You’ve searched the internet for our programs, told your friends about us and most importantly you bring your students ready to learn and have fun to our classes, camps and birthday parties.
As a parent, I know how difficult it can be to get my kids to the multiple activities that they participate in each week. Thank you for prioritizing our programs. You all are awesome and without you, we would not have had the opportunity to work with the next generation of technology builders.
Next, we feel so fortunate to be in the position to invest in the growth and development of the next generation. We truly believe that the people who are learning how to build with technology today will create the world changing innovations and inventions of tomorrow.
We’ve seen the creativity that these young people exhibit on a weekly basis. We know that they think about the world differently. Our experience with them confirms that being a digital native will prove to be a valuable asset in constructing a future where we will be better off through the development of solutions to really challenging issues.
On the one hand, we know that the perception is that they are just wasting time or they are incapable of socializing with their peers. The reality is they are already taking the 1st steps to reshaping their world with new ideas like a social network focused on space exploration. Over time, we expect to see more and more examples like this once students have the confidence to independently build and the ambition to make sure that their ideas have a place in the world.
This is one of the main reasons that we offer a wide variety of platforms for our students to learn. From 3D modeling to robotics & websites and mobile applications. We don’t know which domain they will choose to make their mark. But, we do believe that their capability for impact will be exponentially improved by their ability to build with technology.
So what are the ways that we are facilitating their journey and what areas do we still need to work on to empower confident, creative and independent technology.
In 2019, we made several product changes and structural improvements to better engage and develop our students capabilities within the technology domain.
Problem solving toolkit
First, we introduced the problem solving toolkit. This approach takes domain specific technology skills up one level of abstraction to enable a consistent methodology to be able to used across all of our platforms. Within the problem solving toolkit, students learn how to plan, build and debug. Not only are they getting better at generalized problem solving. But, they will also be able to utilize this approach for any new platforms and technologies they want to learn throughout their professional journey.
Beyond, our problem solving toolkit, we also introduced digital portfolios. These digital portfolios are a key pillar of student development. With a digital portfolio, students can keep track of the projects they build with us over time. With a focus on application, project specific work, our students will be able to aggregate their projects to see how they have grown and developed their skills. Digital portfolios also provide a key reference point should students want to leverage a problem solving method that was previously utilized.
Seasons + Showcases
Finally, we reframed the structure of our program away from a monthly to a seasonal model. This framework allows us to have enough instruction within a given time period for our students to truly make progress. We firmly believe that learning how to build with technology takes time that is gained through practice and repeated effort. The monthly model was short changing the amount of time needed and wasn’t enabling students to see how even in a short period of time, 10–12 weeks, they could build several projects and see the fruits of their labor.
In addition, the seasonal model also enabled us to host an all studio showcase event where the entire community could come together to celebrate our students progress. Not only is it important for students to work towards a seasonal based project, it is also important to learn from other community members and see what each other has built.
We are super excited for the continued evolution of the season + showcase structure during the coming years.
While we’ve made great progress over the past 12 months, there is more work to be done. Our goal is to continue to refine and improve our service so that we are the best educational solution to prepare the next generation to learn how to build with technology. So, what can you expect in 2020?
Historically, our project content has been captured on PowerPoint slides and PDF’s. While this is sufficient for instructional preparation and delivery, we want our students to have increased agency over their individual learning and development. While, we aren’t moving away from guided instruction, we do believe there is an opportunity to enhance the experience for our students. In practice, a web based curriculum will enable students who may work faster than others the opportunity to continue building a project independently versus waiting for the rest of the group to 'catch up'. In addition, those who may need additional review can go back and review content that was not quite understood the first time through versus feeling the pressure to speed up to remain on pace with the rest of the group. For both of these scenarios, learning can be short circuited.
One area that we will carefully monitor is that we don’t want projects to become simply copy/paste of the instructional content. Instead, we want to free students to work at their own pace while also enabling instructors the ability to better troubleshoot/debug project issues real time. Ultimately this will enable us to serve a larger number of students while more quickly understanding challenging modules in projects dynamically in a way that static content on slides does not effectively facilitate.
In addition to enabling dynamic customization and personalization of the student experience, we plan to more heavily invest in community based experiences for our students. We very much believe in the go fast independently, go far collectively philosophy.
While technology has often been a solitary or individualistic development exercise, we believe there are great opportunities to build community among the next generation early and often.
From field trips to technology companies or builder spaces to continuing to refine and improve our end of season showcase event and highlighting student projects, we are looking forward to new and different ways to build community among students and the parents/guardians that support them.
One of the areas that we have not done a great job in the past is explicitly giving insight into how students are progressing. Using a project based approach, we have preferred to focus on completing a project and each student picking up different lessons along the way. For a group of students working on a video game design project, this means that some students may have learned about conditional statements while others will have developed a design signature. We believe that this multi-outcome approach is still useful.
However, we also realize that if students are to have more agency over their educational journey, they need to better understand how they are progressing on key foundational dimensions. While we have different levels: Explorer, Developer & Hacker, we plan to give students better visibility into the areas they are doing well in and those that could use improvement. This increased insight will also enable parents/guardians to better support the educational journey of their students.
While we've made many changes this past year and we've got many more planned for the coming years, there are a few areas that will stay the same: great instructors, amazing projects, recognition/gratitude for the trust you place in us to help develop the next generation of creative problem solvers. Happy New Year & we're excited to see everyone back in 2020!