“Rather than teaching students to just use technology, I want them to create the very same technology they use.” – Pat Yongpradit, USA
For Pat Yongpradit, a 2011 Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum
participant and a 2010 Microsoft Partners in Learning Worldwide Innovative Educator, teaching computer science is about much more than programming. Yongpradit believes that, to make technology education meaningful, there must be a higher purpose. Although they’re still in high school, his students build technology to support social causes and understand that what they do can actually impact society in a positive way. As it turns out, working toward the betterment of the community also significantly impacts achievement. Yongpradit’s students were among the first to participate in the Imagine Cup competition when it was opened to high school students, and they’ve since racked up an impressive list of wins.
Yongpradit is also committed to ensuring that all students, regardless of gender or other
classification, are given the opportunity to advance in the field of computer science. In fact, he founded the Springbrook Women in Technology (SWiT) club to show girls how diverse and interesting technology and computer science can be. Once a month the girls get together to work on projects, like programming games or using the 3-D educational programming kit Alice. The club has tripled in size since its founding, and many more girls are signing up for advanced classes.
Yongpradit’s passion for his work is evident on his blog profile, which states, “Who looks forward to Mondays? I do.” His enthusiasm is contagious, and today he shares with us his education philosophy and his somewhat conflicting views on the advantages of being “always connected.”
Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?
I hope that my work promoting game design for social causes, mobile phone programming, and women in technology has advanced innovative practices in education, specifically computer science. Rather than teaching students to just use technology, I want them to create the very same technology they use.
I want them to do it for a social purpose because whether it is creating a game to teach autistic children how to recognize emotions or solving math problems using your body’s movements, I want them to know that they can use what they are learning in school to impact their society. As for women in technology, it isn’t really about women or minorities; it’s about giving everyone who desires so, a chance at learning a skill that is at the forefront of technological innovation. How else is the US going to fill all the information technology jobs that make up one of the fastest growing fields in our country?
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
We’ve doubled the number of computer science course offerings at my high school and the number of teachers teaching computer science. Next year, one-third of the students in AP Computer Science, a second level course, are female. In the three years that high school students have been allowed to enter the Microsoft Imagine Cup, my student groups have been finalists twice, and each time they were the only high school students in the competition. Last year they placed second, beating university students from around the country. We have 20 to 25 students participating per year. One of my students placed first in the Kodu Cup, a game programming competition for young students. A group of seven students won the NFTE World Series of Innovation in Mobile Game Design. Several students have published apps to a worldwide mobile app marketplace and have even made money. Dozens of students, including many girls, have gone on to studies in computer science and engineering at top US universities.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
You can always make something that students enjoy into a learning experience, so don’t be afraid of starting with what students find interesting. As adults, we don’t take well to things that don’t interest us, so why should we expect that of students? If you are a technology teacher, let parents understand how many tech-related jobs there are available and will be available when their children enter the workforce.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
Instead of standard computer programming labs, my students create games for the Windows Phone, use Xbox 360 controllers in making games for the PC, and the Kinect sensor to control games with their bodies. In my class, it is about using the newest technologies to create other technologies.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
Generally, it is the battle between breadth and depth. My state’s technology education standards include 140 objectives, which is an obstacle to in-depth study. The biggest obstacle to computer science is the fact that many states consider it purely as an elective and that it does not contribute to graduation. It can be argued that it shouldn’t be mandatory, but it should at least contribute to a student’s credit requirements. In my school, it has been difficult to get the word out to students in school that there is a sequence of courses that will teach you how to make robots, program games, and design mobile applications which might be difficult at times, but is worthwhile in the end.
What is your country doing right to support education?
The Common Core is a set of national standards for math and English that are about depth and rigorous thinking.
The Next Generation Science Standards cover a lot of different sciences, and also evoke a lot of depth of thought. Unfortunately they don’t currently include much about computer science.
What conditions must change in your country to better support education?
Standardized testing that is more than just multiple choice. Easier said than done.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
Not technology. Sorry technology lovers. It’s educational practice and how we structure school. It really comes down to how teachers teach and how the school experience is structured. A great school to look at is a charter school in San Diego called High Tech High, where some of my favorite people in the education profession work (Larry Rosenstock, Margaret Noble, and David Stahnke).
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Hang out with the best, learn from the best, and then keep on learning.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
Students are flocking to social networks, communicating their opinions on blogs/forums, and are connected to a world wide web of thinkers. The trend that is getting in the way of learning is always being connected. I dare kids to just sit and think for a while. They start fidgeting after 30 seconds.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
After saying that being “always connected” is an obstacle to learning, I still will say that a computer with mobile Internet access is the best educational tool a kid can get because of all the ways it can be used to access knowledge and create.
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About Pat Yongpradit
Birthplace: Takoma Park,Maryland
Current residence: Silver Spring, Maryland
Education: B.Sc. Neurobiology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec
M. Ed. Secondary Science, University of Maryland
Website I check every day: www.biblegateway.com
Person who inspires me most: Jesus
Favorite childhood memory: Pulling pranks in 8th grade
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): India
When was the last time you laughed? Why? I was watching another teacher’s son’s youtubechannel (OneKindOfAdam) and he did a skit about only being considered a friend by a girl he likes because he can speak Klingon and still plays with Pokemon.
Favorite book: Bible
Favorite music: OldSchool Rap and Reggae
Your favorite quote or motto: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” 3 John 4
Partners in Learning Global Forum 2012
Microsoft Partners in Learning celebrates the world’s most innovative educators and school leaders for bringing technology to life in the classroom and impacting millions of students.
Join the online Global Forum Community now and connect with the finalists on the Partners in Learning Network!
Microsoft Partners in Learning hosts national and regional events throughout the year that recognize innovative educators and school leaders. These competitions culminate in the Partners in Learning Global Forum.
This year’s Global Forum will take place in Prague, Czech Republic from November 28 – December 1, 2012. The Global Forum – with the theme, “Your ideas matter” – will bring together more than 500 of the most innovative teachers, school leaders, education leaders, and government officials from 75 countries.