A group of Amazing Grace Christian School students and their teacher will attend and present at this year’s SXSW edu Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas.
After a rigorous selection process, with an 80 percent submission rejection rate, the students’ projects were selected for the expo. Their presentations center on using technology in the classroom to enhance student learning through virtual learning and gaming concepts.
Student Scott Nguyen, a ninth-grader, will present a short talk on the business he started (Nguyen fixes computers with his dad), what makes learning relevant to his generation and how educators can better prepare students for success with virtual learning and video games.
“What I hope people take away is not so much that education is based on a bunch of check marks, it’s based on what you get out of it,” Nguyen said. “Like people can take tests and say that they learned something, but unless you truly experience it – something that virtual reality can help with – it adds to learning.”
Instructor Michelle Zimmerman and eighth-graders Jasmine Fernandez and Jennifer Fernandez will present a workshop at SXSWedu on learning design by kids, using Portal 2, a video game, in the classroom. The workshop is based on a three-year research project at Amazing Grace.
The group has presented their findings in the past at Emerald City Comicon, the Northwest Council for Computer Education and the International Society of Technology.
“One of my goals is to get students to be able to articulate their understanding and advocate for their own learning,” said Zimmerman. “When education is different from the norm, it is essential for people to understand not only how it is different, but what kind of learning outcomes emerge because of those differences.”
Amazing Grace is a somewhat out-of-the-box private school in the Skyway neighborhood that has a curriculum that is highly immersed in technology.
“What I love about having freedom to structure learning in this way is that we are still covering essential content, but it is not only relevant to the lives of young people, it is also produced to a level of quality that allows them to clearly communicate their ideas to a broader audience,” Zimmerman said.
Jasmine and Jennifer aren’t as nervous as they have been in the past because they’ve presented their workshop before at a high-profile conference.
“I hope that they learn you don’t just need a textbook to learn a specific subject,” said Jasmine Fernandez. “A lot of people wouldn’t typically think you could take a video game and apply it to schools and it could help students learn.”
Jennifer Fernandez said that the project has helped her in other ways too.
“I guess it helps a lot with talking about it in the real world because you can know a bunch of stuff and that’s good and fine, but you need to be able to share it with other people.”