Over the past few months I had the honor of going through the process for the RVA Tech Innovation in Education Award sponsored by Trillium Technical. I was first nominated in January 2019, and was announced as a finalist on April 24th. All of the finalist were invited to the RVA Tech Gala on May 8th, which was held at the Richmond Convention Center. While, I did not receive the Innovation in Education Award, I left with a very valuable experience.
Most educators only go to events that are education-based. However, The RVA Technology Council predominately works with and recognizes a variety of businesses, but one award is presented to an educator. During the RVA Tech Gala I was surrounded by men and women in the technology business world. It was fascinating to hear how they are applying technology in a variety of business sectors. I met a start-up business that researched how to make and use biodegradable packaging for shipping products, a non-profit that created a website to help those in need, augmented reality being used by Dominion Energy to “place” and “move” utility boxes for power lines, and so much more.
On the flip-side, they were enthralled with how I work with my elementary students using the Engineering Design Cycle to implement projects. The common statements to me were, “Wow. I wish that I had something like that when I was in school!,” as well as, “And wait, you’re doing this with kindergarten through fifth graders?! Your students are going to be so much further ahead than I ever was.” You see, the thought holds true - we are preparing our students for jobs that don’t even exist yet.
In order to prepare them for these careers, we have to get them hooked onto STEM careers from the beginning. There’s nothing that says a kindergartner can’t learn how to code, and if someone tries to tell you that, I’m here to prove them wrong. Because, I have 150 kindergartners who can explain that a robot is able to follow directions in the order in which you give it, they can code sequences, and by the time they leave fifth grade they will be able to code even more advanced robots and script on Chromebooks.
Technology is an ever-changing field and it is our job as educators to navigate the expanding landscape for our students. We cannot be stuck in our ways just because it worked in the past. We have to be willing to try new things, expose our students to a variety of technologies, and bring to light the numerous STEM jobs that are available to them.
I always leave my students with a challenge, so I will challenge you with this - even though the school year is nearing the end, how can you find a new way to incorporate technology into a lesson, STEM challenge, or project in your classroom?