Innovation for Banyan Brains

Written by Marty Perlmutter

The context of our proposed academic innovation initiative includes most importantly the social milieus and community values of Taiwan. Whatever we do must honor the communitarian spirit and intellectual style of that society. Whatever we offer must address the rapidly morphing climatological, technological and global-citizenship world students confront.

What passed for breakthrough tech in 2021 will be passe in 2025 and risible in 2030. Career goals that made perfect sense in 2010 are questionable today and may be more than ridiculous in a decade. We have an obligation to incorporate the roles and work styles of the midterm future in learning we provide now. Innovation that celebrates the past is not worthy of the title.

Our students are pursuing skills in communication and socio-political navigation. They are not technical nerds, which is a gift for the innovation team – because we can look beyond tech fashions of the moment to macroscopic trends that should inform learning experiences in the late 2020s.

Possible subject clusters:

  • Blockchain, NFT and Crypto
  • VR, AR, Immersive Environments and Gaming
  • Collaborative Investigation of Crowd-Sourced Data

Education for the Future

BGL educates global citizens. We promote perspectives that allow students to grasp foreign worldviews and play roles of adept collaborators on any continent. BGL advances the view that the future is unknowable but will doubtless grow from technologies and trends discernable today. Students can project roles and career paths based on investigations conducted in the current world. But we must not mislead today’s 12 year olds into believing the hot jobs of today will exist in future decades. The future will surprise us—that we know. It is folly to attempt what once was termed “straight-line projection.” The world offers many paths to students, none of them straight.

Predictability

In a society that prizes communitarian values and social conformity, what does “innovation” mean and how can it be practiced? One thing evident today in every field of endeavor is that current fashions, tools and methods will likely be the target of disruption or transformation. Value once calculated by adding to existing piles of money, information or product is today recomputed as it’s impacted by acceleration in connecting, extracting or transforming data. What does that tell us about likely directions for work in the future?

There are no “safe” harbors where work will remain constant for decades to come. Doctors and engineers require frequent upgrading of training today to remain employable. Lawyers are under profound threat from AI and software creation itself may become the province of disembodied intelligences that already loom. 

Direct human care looks like it might be a resilient field, but there are affordable, patient and responsive robots already serving sickly elders. They never require a sick day or a pay increase.

What are the careers of 2040? We don’t and can’t know.

So how do we help students prepare for a tumultuous future, immanent but mysterious…?

What capabilities are disruption-proof?

The capacity to invent, to innovate, to imagine something new is itself a teachable skill and one, like communication, that is unlikely to become obsolete.

Innovation as Curriculum

To serve the global-citizen learner-innovators of the mid-21st-century, BGL could do great service by guiding students to the known verge of technology, media and scientific exploration and imparting skills of thinking, planning, collaborating and team leadership that will remain valuable in any future milieu.

What are the most important skills we can convey? We already know that learning is socially constructed, so the capacity to collaborate in exploring and communicating is vital. BGL teaches that today. This project will investigate new tools for data collection and group collaboration, capabilities that inevitably will be part of any career. We will look at and work with the latest methods for recording and analyzing data, on any scale. We will study practical uses for immersive technologies, with an eye to applying these to future health, collective decision-making and commercial needs. We will consider entirely new forms of value creation, using crypto-currencies as a special case of blockchain technology. We’ll also look at practical uses of blockchain for record-keeping in health and education.

We will take our students to the verge of what’s being tried in VR, AR, AI, Crypto and Blockchain and peer over the edge, aiming to impart a style of collaboration and method of thinking that will yield what once was termed “reliable creativity.”

What will it mean to be a “creative thinker” in 2030 and beyond? Why might that be a valuable skill? Does being creative mean you can’t be a good team player? What sorts of groups and teams work best when the task requires inventing something new? What IS “innovation,” really?

Walking the Walk

We are embarking on a survey of the latest and greatest in educational technology innovations. We’ll learn about the best and brightest things being done on the bleeding edge of ed tech. We know that only culturally appropriate methods will gain traction and acceptance.

BGL is challenged to create a curriculum that is not only inventive, but enables its participants to grasp the meaning of innovation, glimpsing the limits of what is known and usable at the edge, and then bringing into collective use techniques and tools that are more than cool – they alter the way learning is conducted, the way teams are formed and, most importantly, the way students think. We might impact the way students visualize how to make a living, how to live a life, and how to lead in socially beneficial ways that improve the lives of all.

Digital Citizenship is a Literal Life-Saver!

Written by Lila Perkins, Teacher/Administrative Assistant Banyan Global Learning

I was born in 1997, which makes me an elder of Gen-Z. I was in the “guinea pig” group when it came to implementing technology in the classroom. While participating in the transition from chalkboards to smartboards, I couldn’t help but feel like I was running a race that only got faster.

Our teachers were learning in tandem with us students, meaning we had more agency as kids in our own online development. Every month my classmates and I were exposed to new bouts of technology advancements, and with those advancements came uncharted territory.

We did not have in-depth knowledge of the dangers of technology. 

This resulted in many of my classmates being exposed to things that we were not prepared to deal with. One wrong click and the screen would be filled with violence, gore, or adult content. Even with the implementation of parental controls, my natural adolescent curiosity propelled me to dig deeper into the internet’s crevices. Of course my parents warned me not to poke my nose where it didn’t belong… but my thirst for knowledge and entertainment (and, maybe a little bit, the forbidden itself) overwhelmed whatever small warnings I was given.

I had an innocent desire to absorb more of the world through this miracle technology. But because internet literacy was not stressed enough in school, I ended up watching and reading a plethora of things I was too young to comprehend. I wish I could take a lot of it back.

Now, at age 24, I worry for the kids of today. I feel I have a responsibility as a Gen-Z elder to protect them from the dangers and stresses of the rapidly evolving online world.

Upon joining Banyan Global Learning, I was ecstatic to get involved with the Digital Citizenship programs. For our youngest learners, these live virtual programs use a combination of live puppeteering and short videos featuring the same puppets. These vignettes have at least two parts–the first sets up a real-life digital problem while the second models a solution. In between, students are given the opportunity to practice their own digital citizenship skills as they articulate their own solutions to the problem. For our youngest learners, this means showing the puppet Tangie how to properly care for her digital devices and helping her friend Raz decide which links are safe to click on. For upper elementary students it gets more complicated: how can Sunny and her classmates build an online community? How does Olive find balance between screen time and school work? And how should we safeguard our digital footprint when the internet is forever?

After my first few sessions hosting and puppeteering, I realized that even the youngest students were able to make meaningful connections in a safe virtual classroom setting. Each lesson is infused with Social and Emotional Learning. Students leave understanding how the many facets of their online life can impact the emotional wellbeing of themselves and their peers.

Most importantly, even though these programs were for kids, I found healing for myself as well. Growing up with technology but without these kinds of supports, I’ve had to navigate the creation of digital boundaries on my own. 

The world we are leaving for these young learners is full of intense challenges, but I’m comforted by the fact that they are being given a digital toolkit to navigate this part of that world safely.

Action Project in Elementary Schools

Written by Alana Cayabyab, 6th Grade Teacher, Tsai Hsing School

In BGL’s 6th grade classes at Tsai Hsing School, we have been studying consumption issues. 6th graders surveyed one another to see which issues were the most important- such as overconsumption, climate change, overusing plastic products, overfishing, etc. Climate change and the overuse of plastic products were the top two major concerns for students.

In our curriculum Global Scholars, our final unit is to complete an action project. This inquiry-based project is purely driven by students’ interests. Students decided they wanted to focus on reducing plastic waste in our seas and helping to solve the issue of overfishing.

To understand more about the plastic problem in the ocean, students watched the documentary A Plastic Wave. This documentary is about a surf photographer and business owner who continues to see more and more plastic wash ashore on his home beach in the UK. He undergoes a journey to understand this issue better.

Along his journey, he learns how plastic takes centuries to break down and discusses with a scientist what a microplastic is and how microplastics end up in the marine food chain.

After watching this inspiring documentary, students had the opportunity to interview the filmmaker, James Roberts. Putting their strong speaking skills to use, students ask thought-provoking questions like, “what inspired you to make this film?” Impressed by their questions, James stated that the questions 601 students asked were much more profound than what most adults ask him.

This experience helped students further understand the behind the scenes of making a documentary. 

Deepening students learning about the ocean and the issue of overfishing, 601 students also had a special visitor to class, Professor Trujillo. Alan Trujillo wrote the leading oceanography textbook and was an oceanography professor for 30 years in San Diego, California. He also works as a naturalist for Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions guiding through Antarctica, Alaska, and more.

Students were able to take the lead in asking questions directly to Professor Trujillo. He shared a Taiwan-based resource, much like the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch List, of which seafood is sustainable and unsustainable to eat. Students further learned how important it is that we protect fish habitats, coral reefs, and create marine protected areas. Professor Trujillo explained that currently only 4% of all the world’s ocean is protected.

In the end, 601  students have really been inspiring with taking the lead on their learning in this Action Project. It is amazing to see them embrace more sustainable lifestyle choices, such as using reusable cutlery and tupperware with them to restaurants to bringing reusable grocery bags to the store.  The more awareness 601 students cultivate about some of the issues we face on our planet, the more they spread awareness to their families and communities.

May we continue to foster students’ critical thinking so that education serves to have students participate in the transformation of our world. 

Life Cycle of a Lesson: Applying the Pre-Mortem Strategy to Lesson Planning

Written by Donald Joyce, Elementary Teacher, Tsai Hsing School

No matter how long you’ve been teaching, we’ve all had lessons that went completely off the rails. We thought the lesson was going to be awesome, we were really excited to teach it, but it just didn’t click with our students. We scrambled to get the lesson back on track, but frustrations took over and disaster ensued.

After the lesson, we spent some time reflecting about what went wrong. (That’s what good teachers do!) After a little while, we were able to get over it, and promised ourselves that we wouldn’t make the same mistakes again. (Hey, there’s always next time, right?)

What if we spent some time before teaching our lessons, thinking of all the ways our lessons were going to fail?

This is the idea behind a pre-mortem.

Essentially, a pre-mortem is a deliberate attempt to envision all the ways a product could fail before it’s launch into the marketplace. If one could effectively see the factors that would inhibit the success of a product, one could take specific steps to prevent them…thus increasing the likelihood of that product’s success.

When we as teachers teach a lesson or a unit of study, and things don’t seem to go right, we reflect on that lesson…this is a post-mortem.

Over the past few years, after learning about how businesses use pre-mortems to help them plan and launch successful products, I’ve tried to adapt this strategy to my teaching practices. When I have planned out my lesson or unit of study, and I feel it’s ready to go, I don’t stop there. I go through my lesson plan or my slides with a different mindset. I try to envision all the ways my lesson was going to fail.

Pre-mortem Guiding Questions:

1. How will I handle potential classroom management issues?
This is often the main cause of a failed lesson.

 

2. How will I manage the lesson if we finish early or later than expected?

You will want to be flexible with timing so students don’t feel bored or rushed.

3. How will I connect the lessons material to my student’s prior knowledge?
If connections aren’t made to prior knowledge, students may feel lost from the onset.

4. How will I support my students with the specific language demands in the lesson?
Students may need to be pre-taught vocabulary, be given word banks, or provided with sentence frames to help them be successful.

5. Will the lesson be engaging for my students and allow them to share their ‘voice’?
Am I aware of my students’ interests and did I provide opportunities for self-expression?

6. How clear are my learning goals?
Will the students understand why we were learning this material and what we were trying to accomplish?

*Remember, you should be asking these questions before your lesson.

Award for Outstanding Live Virtual Programs

For the second year in a row, BGL is proud to receive the Pinnacle Award for Outstanding Programs from CILC. We received the award when our live virtual field trips received 100% positive reviews for the entire year.

 

Outstanding Live Virtual Programs

Glenn Morris, CILC Executive Director, lauds the coveted Pinnacle Award as “representing a consistent recognition by the CILC community for engaging learners across the globe. An honorable feat, the program evaluations by teachers for teachers helps to build a culture of collaboration and criticism, empowering teachers and inspiring learning.”

Live virtual field trips challenge students to think critically while creating authentic connections with unique people and places. Outstanding educators – including Jacquelin Fink, Courtney Dayhuff, Travis Moyer, Fifi Huang and Lauren Estella – curate content that is so captivating it’s easy to forget we’re learning remotely. Especially rewarding this year were our series of programs on digital citizenship and social and emotional learning which directly address the challenges of our time. The staff at Banyan are so very proud of the work we’ve done across America and around the globe. We are excited to add new field trips this year to Colombia and China!

CILC is the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration. Their mission is to support, advance and enhance lifelong learning through the use of collaborative technologies and innovations.

“CILC places great value on its Content Providers, nearly 200 of the very best cultural organizations and talent from around the world. They make it all possible by connecting students to unique subject matter, artifacts, and experiences. Representing museums, science centers, art galleries, zoos, aquariums, musicians, authors, and more,  many of our providers play important roles in collecting and preserving histories and cultures and in helping to advance critical scientific research and innovation.”