Promoting learning with technology

Promoting learning with technology

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Wed 15 May 2024 12:37 PM

If you happen to be walking down the street in Los Angeles, you may very well find yourself face-to-face with a delivery robot. Technological innovations are changing the fabric of world societies at a mind-boggling pace. What once seemed futuristic is integrated into daily routines (“Hey Siri, is skydiving an Olympic sport?”). These innovations are just a drop in the bucket of the new technologies that are in use today. One thing is certain: younger generations will grow into adults with a different degree of technology affecting their lives than previous generations. With this in mind, the International School of Florence ensures that students have access to a rich and creative IT education and provides increasing support to both students and staff to navigate and improve their learning paths with technology.

Two examples of this are ISF’s participation in the International FIRST LEGO League Explore competition at the Junior School and a Robotics extracurricular activity at the Upper School. Fourth-grade teachers Mary Anne Runge and Michael Roberson, together with IT Integration Specialist Valeria Tosatti and PYP Coordinator Stefania Terrel, put their enthusiasm and teaching expertise into the challenge. Upon registering for the Lego competition, children dove into their projects, bringing in aspects of a STEAM collaborative educational experience and building excitement and commitment to problem-solving as they worked through the various stages of the process. Provided with official Lego kits, the students worked in teams to share their hobbies and interests, and think of ways that technology could be used to share these interests to the communities. 

This year’s theme of “Masterpiece” linked with the PYP Unit How We Express Ourselves through the central idea “Advancements in technology affect how people create and perform”. As the teams took ownership of their projects, the areas for learning multiplied. The Lego contest ensures a multidisciplinary approach and teachers support and facilitate the transformation. Stipulated by FIRST Lego League, there are six core values the students must keep in mind for the duration of the challenge: Teamwork, Inclusion, Fun, Discovery, Innovation and Impact. Students used an engineering notebook to keep a log and remain mindful of the core values and find examples of them throughout their learning journey. The final competition on April 13 included other local schools invited to participate. The excitement on the day highlighted how student curiosity can be ignited by a challenge. In this way, the quest for a solution and problem solving is much more of an adventure.

At the Upper School, IT Integration Specialist Yasemin Yalcinkaya also promoted a teaching adventure using technology innovation. In her extra-curricular activity, Robotics Club, students participated in a robotics challenge that took them to London for an international competition. The VEX IQ Robotics Competition requires students to design and program a robot to score points using the official VEX IQ robotics kit. Developing a solution encouraged creativity, teamwork, leadership, passion and problem solving among the team members. On the day of the competition, as the only school from Italy, the team proved flexible and collaborative with other teams as they helped one another fulfill the performance requirements. They demonstrated resilience and inclusion, forging friendships with fellow teams along the way. Their efforts did not go unnoticed. They secured the Judges Award and ensured their invitation to the VEX Robotics World Championship in Texas.

These collaborative project-based learning programs provide for profound educational growth experiences with tangible results. Through this project, students are learning in “concrete hands-on ways” while encouraging their social skills and having fun. According to Ms. Tosatti, “STEAM projects like FIRST LEGO league have multiple benefits: they develop critical thinking, increase curiosity and innovation, they foster collaboration between students and all this keeping students away from excessive screen time”. The final competition was more of a celebration as the students highlighted their educational journeys through posters, demonstrations and engaging in direct conversations with the Lego team reviewers. When speaking with the reviewers, students commented on the importance of listening to others, including others and working as a team.  As societies progress, the world will need more of these problem solvers in technology, and ISF is responding to this need.

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