In the past few years, there has been a noticeable increase in programs related to STEM in education. The push toward bringing more opportunities to students is in preparation for the required skills of the future. According to the World Economic Forum, there is an increasing demand for STEM-related skills for the future, as it has been reported that the United States will need to fill 3.5 million STEM jobs by 2025. In our schools, we need to provide more opportunities for all students to explore STEM topics, however, there are gaps in the types and levels of the curriculum offered. Accessibility to programs may be a barrier and for some educators, knowing where to begin might also be an issue, as there are many options available. Blackbird is working to address these gaps and concerns.
What makes Blackbird different?
For many educators, there may be hesitation when it comes to coding programs because of a lack of experience or knowledge. In my own experience, I kept to coding programs that I knew and understood enough so that I could provide support for my students. However, I realized that I needed to open more opportunities for them to pass my own knowledge, or I was greatly limiting their potential. What makes Blackbird stand out is that all teachers can use the platform without any prerequisites when it comes to coding. Parents can also support students through this program. Blackbird made this program with teachers in mind, in particular, those who don’t have a background in technology and for use with all grade levels and content areas. They offer professional development online and many resources to support teachers as they roll this out in their classrooms.
The structure and scaffolded support of the platform makes it so all students and teachers can build skills at their own pace. It allows for differentiation and enrichment through the workshops and built-in supports available for students and teachers. The curriculum was made with a continuum in mind. Students work through modes of computer programming, then move on to completing guided projects, and then ultimately students have opportunities for more creative expression in a sandbox type of learning environment. It is initially structured and scaffolded and then the supports are removed as students build their skills.
There are ten stages with lessons for each stage. It is standards aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Math and English, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and Computer Science Teachers Association Computer Science standards. Blackbird integrates with Clever and Google through SSO. Teachers have a dashboard where they can track student progress including lessons completed, time spent on each, review errors and even send direct messages to students in response to their questions. The data is easily accessible to teachers, and the way the platform is designed, also leads to increased student engagement in learning. Teachers can give more meaningful, personalized feedback that will help to improve student achievement as well as build their confidence in learning to code.
Students begin by programming a simple game, building from the ground up and progressing with each lesson. Students can work at their own pace and as they progress, there are supports in place for them such as “Show Me” which highlights in red any errors in the code they are writing on their own. They can choose “Steps” to verify the steps in the program and see how the code works. Through the Teacher dashboard, teachers can see each student’s progress, any hands raised for questions and are able to support students as they work through each stage and lesson.
Blackbird Education Platform:
- Can be implemented by educators and parents – without any level of technical expertise required
- Integrated Learning Management System (LMS)
- Promotes student-driven learning
- Provides resources for educators including detailed student reports, class overviews, solutions page with answer keys
- Offers materials to get started including videos, checklists, course outlines, syllabus, PD resources
It was easy to see how students and teachers would quickly be able to get started with Blackbird as it is designed for self-paced learning whether in person or remotely. Educators and parents can create an account that offers several lessons for free as well as additional advanced levels for a premium price.
Because many jobs will rely on coding in the future, it is important that we provide students with opportunities to explore the possibilities and determine their interests in these areas. We must offer options that will lead to more authentic and meaningful experiences that promote the development of essential skills for the future. With the Blackbird platform, we now have the opportunity to provide more engaging and student-driven, independent, hands-on learning.
For more, see:
- Bringing STEM into Every Classroom Space
- The Importance of Understanding Technology, Coding & Computational Thinking
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