News from TechTerra Education

January/February 2018

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CES 2018 – TechTerra’s Takeaway

CES 2018 was a colossal event. And as exciting as promised. Over 180,000 attendees and over 4,000 vendors made for the show of the year. Our team spent hours exploring new edtech tools. From the 100% autonomous shuttle, pictured above, to Scrabble-playing robots to new coding tools to virtual and augmented reality and so much more, it was mind-opening as always to see and handle the new products and to talk with the developers.

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Our take-away from the show is that companies are getting better at figuring out how their tools can fit student needs for STEM. Block-based code was popping up across learning kits. Makeblock is using another popular code, flow programming with their new Neuron Kit, electronic programmable blocks. The Robotis humanoid robot allows students to 3D print robotic limbs and code for authentic STEM learning.

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AI and machine learning had the greatest presence across the event. The award winning tool, the best of STEM winner, went to the companion dog. We see this technology becoming mainstream in schools through robots and devices collecting information and then learning and responding like human beings. All of our daily lives will soon be impacted by AI and machine learning. Educators need to be ready for the impact.

What’s New in the World from Bett and FETC

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At Bett, the biggest edtech show in the UK, and FETC the edtech conference to start the new year here in the US, we saw leading trends in the world of education. Schools on just about every continent are moving to personalized learning environments and encouraging active learning that incorporates 21st century skills.

In London, TechTerra Education was sponsored by the UK Department of International Trade to attend Bett. This gave us the opportunity to meet with developers from across the globe. Over the months ahead we’ll be sharing new learning tools from Denmark, Portugal, China, Australia, and the UK.

New learning tools we'll share include robotic arms that have multiple operational functions, like laser engraving, 3D printing, and lifting and fitting. We were excited to find NatureBytes, a company aligned with our own philosophy of taking digital tools into the outdoors. Their Raspberry Pi powered wildlife cameras capture wildlife in action and allow students to engage in citizen science authentic work. We’ll share the new teaching and learning resources created by our friends at Primo Toys, winner of the Early Years Content Bett Award. Look for much more to come.

At FETC we saw a focused trend to maker education and design process thinking for students. TechTerra Education supported the MegaShare event and introduced Kubo, a screenless robot from Denmark, programmed with tactile tag tiles to the participants.

Internationally, global competency for all students is being stressed. Understanding the world, its countries and people, issues and concerns is a priority for all educators . The inter-connectedness of all countries in communication, technology, and trade is a driving force to move students to become informed and participating global citizens.

A Family's Journey into World Schooling by Lucie Huang

Part Two – Volunteering at a Rural School in Nepal
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As part of our year long round the world trip, our family traveled to Nepal to experience the beautiful Himalayan mountains and to volunteer at a local school. It was the highlight of our trip so far. Through an organization called Friendship for Rural Development (Ford Nepal), we volunteered at an impoverished rural school in Chitwan County. Ford Nepal strives to improve the quality of rural live in areas of education, sanitation, environmental protection and cultural heritage preservation. During our volunteer stint, they placed us with a local family which deepened our immersion in Nepali culture.

Most people in Chitwan Province grow their own food, and the family we stayed with grew all their own rice, and owned chickens, goats and a cow. The family was incredibly warm and welcoming, and typical for this area, multigenerational. The parents, kids, and grandparents lived together under one roof. Their small home included an outhouse, a hose for showering, a single tap in the kitchen area providing water for cooking, and an outdoor pump for water for everything else. The mom and dad gave up their bedroom for us and cooked delicious meals. We ate together every day sitting on mats on the kitchen floor and enjoyed a variety of food including rice, millet, curried potatoes and cauliflower and soybeans. Although it is common for Nepalese to eat with their hands, the family thoughtfully provided us with forks.

The school where we helped teach English and math was a K-8 public school with just over 400 students and consisted of a large 2-story building with 9 classrooms, a teacher’s room, a second smaller building with 2 classrooms, and a separate library building. A lack of resources was very apparent. There were 6 computers for the 40 kids in each class. Teachers wrote with barely readable white board markers and, most surprising, kids were missing pages from their textbooks. The library, while large, was very musty due to a leaking roof. The books were all paperback in various states of disrepair. Our daughter worked on organizing the books, but we limited her time in the building because of the mold she was breathing. The kids were allowed to read the books in the library, but were not allowed to take them home for fear of the books not coming back.

The children were amazing. Although they did not have material wealth, they were full of enthusiasm, warmth and big smiles. We were told that many of the children attended school without breakfast or lunch, and the school provided the youngest ones with some puffed rice each morning. On days cold enough to warrant hats and scarves, many still wore plastic sandals and flipflops, but their good cheer was not diminished. Whenever we entered a classroom all the students stood up and loudly said “Namaste” with their palms pressed together. Namaste is a respectful greeting that roughly translates to “I bow to the divine in you”. Boys and girls sat on opposite sides of the classroom on benches that faced a long table. Our daughter was the “rock star” in residence, with all the kids wanting her in their classroom, and literally dragging her along with them.

The math concepts being taught were in line with the grade level curriculum at my daughter’s school, which was a nice surprise. The math teacher was especially great with kids and it was obvious that he enjoyed teaching as well as playing with them outside. Other teachers were more stern. The level of English proficiency was not very advanced, although it is taught from grade 1. When reciting passages in English class, the teachers instructed us to say one word at a time, rather than phrases, for the students to repeat.

One day in 5th grade math, I spied a tiny baby face hidden among the other kids. She was the two year old sister of one of the boys and sat so quietly next to her brother that I almost missed seeing her. He would whisper to her periodically. Midway through class, a group of pre-schoolers came to the room to get her. The boys passed the little girl to the front of the classroom, hand over hand, until she reached the front and tottered after the younger kids. It was so sweet to see the care the 5th grade boys took with her.

One thing that struck me about the children was how well they all got along. There were no cliques or bullying that was evident. At recess/lunch time, groups of boys and girls of all ages tossed a ball back and forth, or played a circle game where they sang and repeated the moves of a player one by one, similar to Simon Says. It was delightful to watch. I never witnessed any shouting, arguing or fighting the whole week we were there. At recess, the games were brought out and the kids played enthusiastically, regardless of round dice, or worn pieces.

I can’t say enough about how wonderful the kids were. They were so excited to have foreigners visit and give them attention. The teachers also appreciated our presence and implored us not to forget about them. They have captured our hearts and we will remember them always.

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Learn More About World Schooling

To learn more about world schooling check out this article, What is Worldschooling? 4 Different Approaches for Families from Kid World Citizen.
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About TechTerra Education

TechTerra Education programs are inspired and informed by Maker Education and Project Based Learning. Our mission is to insure STEM literacy for all.

What We Can Offer You

TechTerra Education conducts professional development and presents space and tool solutions for integrating STEM objectives, ideas and projects throughout curriculum. We bring our training to you so you can best serve your 21st century learners whether they are preschool age or young adults. Our extracurricular STEM programs are used after school, in summer sessions, and during the school day.

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