NAYTEA PODCAST: Technology Reshape the World Education

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

NAYTEA Host Sharon Feng:

Thanks for join our EduX Interview today, today we will talk more about your story of education as well as your perspective on AI education.

Can you tell us more about your story of starting the career of education.


I actually didn't start in technology or computing. In college I studied History (UC Berkeley), but I knew that I wanted to share my knowledge of history with young people and became interested in teaching after some friends who were a year older than me started working in Saturday school programs to help kids in Oakland pass their entrance exams (SATs). After graduation, I became interested in filmmaking and video production, graphic design and other media, however teaching was always in the back of my mind.

I got my first job teaching in the same college preparatory program as my friends did while in college. It was a part time job and it introduced me to teaching as a career and life pathway. I soon quit my day job working at an office making copies and answering the phone and enrolled in a teacher preparation program. My goal was to teach history to high school students, but when I went to my job interview, I was told I was very much needed in the lower elementary grades teaching in Spanish, a language I am fluent in. I was not excited at first about teaching young kids, but I decided to give it a shot. After just a couple of days teaching (with no preparation or formal training) I realized I was meant to do it.

My original plan was to teach for 5 years and then move back to video production and media, but I actually ended up teaching for 14 years in elementary and middle school.

So a short answer would be, it chose me. 

2. challenges I have faced in education

Education is one challenge after the next. If you are not being challenged, you are doing it wrong, but I can talk about specific challenges that I think are relevant. First of all, there is the issue of inequality. In the United States as in may countries, a student's academic achievement is measured with standardized tests that don't always reveal the true knowledge or potential of a student, however teachers everywhere are being asked to produce results and higher test scores, which in turn results in teachers not teaching important things and focusing only on what is on the test.It makes education very narrow and does not allow for as much exploration, making mistakes, and divergent thinking. For me the challenge was, how do I create an atmosphere where students take risks, question their own assumptions, become critical thinkers, and become excited about becoming self-directed learners, when everything around me was telling me to just make sure they do well on the test. My kids did well on the test, and I wonder how much more I could have taught them if I had not been forced to teach narrow curriculum.   Relevant to STEM education, I would say a challenge is that the general US population is not very inclined to learn STEM subjects, which is why there is a big emphasis now to make sure we attract more girls and minorities. In the US, people proudly claim that they aren't good at math, or are ignorant of science, etc. This is a socially acceptable thing to say, and it promotes ignorance, instead of being an object of shame. Kids rank science and math lowest when asked what their favorite subjects are. Luckily, Computer Science is actually popular with students, more so than other academic subjects.  Finally, there are may rules and regulations in the US that limit what you can and can't do in education. Change moves slowly and the adults usually get in the way of change and innovation. It is hard to convince teachers to change their practices and introduce more innovation and technology into their instruction. They have a hard time giving up power and letting kids explore and let their curiosity drive their learning.

3. Future of technology:

Technology is at a point where it can really transform the human experience beyond our devices and toys. There will come a point where Artificial Intelligence will handle many of our current human jobs and tasks. We are already seeing AI composing music, creating images, writing scripts which at some point will be hard to tell apart from human-created artifacts. The younger students today will actually not even be concerned with programming in JavaScript or making apps.

They will be programming quantum computers, solving problems in medicine, economy, climate, etc. Computing power and AI together, along with research in biotech may reach a point where biological enhancements, generic selection and other advances lead to the creation of super humans, however this has the danger of being only enjoyed by a small number of people, which raises the question: will the new future super humans treat the rest of us regular homo sapiens fairly? or will they see us as second-class obstacles that must be removed. 4.  How will technology impact education. Education has already been impacted by technology, even if teachers are not implementing it themselves. The vast majority of the world's learners today are part of a digital culture that lives glued to mobile devices, laptops, etc. Their minds and attitudes are being shaped by up-to-the minute changes and happenings that connect us all globally. Teachers should be prepared to handle this beyond just taking their phones away in class, or seeing them as distractions to learning. My hope is that we can use technology to reshape the world, to gain insight about what works and what doesn't, to reach places that have no teachers, to provide accurate and current information to everyone and connect the worlds best brains together.

However there is also the possibility that technology in education is only used to reinforce bad habits and replicate the patterns of old. Where we see technology helping education is where it can be used to allow for more creative expression and innovation. Tools that allow students to create and represent their knowledge and learning in open-ended ways are better than apps that just do one thing or teach one subject. Now with COVID-19 the whole world is undergoing an experiment with virtual learning that I think might endure afterwards. Walls are breaking down, teacher are teaching courses in VR environments, teaching lessons on youtube and connecting with audiences far beyond the confines of their classroom. While there is no replacement for the personal connection that an in-person teacher can provide, this crisis has forces many reluctant teachers to adopt technology into their practice and conduct their classes online. I think when the world comes back to normal, there will be a great number of teachers who come out of this more effective users of technology. Teachers can be tutors from afar and don't have to be limited to teaching lessons during fixed time slots.  5.  What kind of teacher skills will teachers need to have. 

Teachers need to learn how to code soo they can be ready to support their students who increasingly are able to create computational artifacts to tell stories, conduct simulations, make presentations, gather and visualize data, and so much more.

A teacher should be prepared to at the very least open the space for this kind of learning without seeing it as a separate content area –– a less important one. Teachers should at least be able to create projects in Scratch, make presentations, know how to use YouTube and virtual hangout software, etc. 

Francisco Nieto is Curriculum Manager, Code Net at Google. He has over 19 years of experience hacking the education space and currently working with Code Next as Curriculum Manager. Francisco is a maker, web and mobile developer, STEM equity champion, curriculum designer, teacherpreneur, computer science teacher and advocate. Francisco has experience designing and launching new products, programs and schools.

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