Burrell School District educators are working together to learn more about computational thinking, project-based learning, and other practices that will help them improve students' learning experiences.
Burrell's Business, Computer, and Information Technology department has partnered with the district's Technology Education program and MakerSpace/Tinker Lab to learn more about these different approaches to education, including integrating coding and bots in the learning process.
"Together, the three teams strive to provide BSD students experience with the skills necessary to be successful throughout their educational, personal, and professional journey," explains Dr. Melinda Kulick, a technology teacher who also serves as the district's Technology Integration Coach. "Future goals for the department include shifting to an immersive, student-centered, competency-based approach where students drive and take ownership of their learning. This approach hopes to seamlessly integrate into other disciplines for making real-world connections."
The Burrell teams have worked alongside Penn State New Kensington through ABC Create and the Digital Foundry to discuss how they can embed future-ready career skills in student learning experiences. The collaboration began through ABC Create in small pockets of optional STEM professional development. It has evolved into a guided path of thought and innovative curriculum development.
"ABC Create has pushed the department's thinking toward future-ready curriculum development driven by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) student standards in the areas of Empowered Learner, Digital Citizen, Knowledge Constructor, Innovator Designer, Computational Thinker, Creative Communicator, and Global Collaborator," Kulick said.
The process also has focused on the district's Science department for grades 6 to 12 to learn about the Pennsylvania Integrated Standards for Science, Technology, and Engineering, Environmental Literacy and Sustainability, or STEELS, standards. These standards promote consistency, coherence, and a cohesive K-12 integrated science and technology education approach.
This development program for educators is considered an ongoing initiative, Kulick said.
"It is critical for Burrell to invest in the learning experiences of our students to prepare them for whatever individual path their future holds," she said. "We must position students in K-12 in a way that allows them to identify their passions and dive into what that could look like for them."
The idea is to give students opportunities at a young age in school to explore areas they might have an interest in exploring.
"Beginning exploration with our youngest learners, Burrell's BCIT, Tech Ed, and Makerspaces understand the importance of preparing students for their future in whatever direction they choose," Kulick said.