Education

User Story: Tosca Killoran on how to empower kids with awesome technology

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“I chose Piktochart because it is straightforward with an intuitive interface. I know that the kids already have the skills to use it.” – Tosca Killoran

While a whole generation of tech-savvy kids are using technology to share ideas and change the world, some school systems are still struggling to use technology for student empowerment and curriculum development. One of the reasons is that the natural fast-developing pace of technology is always ahead of the industry – in other words, the industry is always playin catch-up and the education sector is no different. We should note however, that every digital innovation is an open letter to schools to improve their infrastructure and curricula.

Tosca Killoran wants to help the situation by spearheading change. After 14 years of working as a Primary Years Programme (PYP) teacher, Tosca co-founded ED-ucation Publishing in order to advocate for youth empowerment, but she still wanted to help teachers use technology in innovative ways so she continued to teach, but shifted her practice into the role of a digital learning coach.

Change the world by introducing one technology a time.

At NIST International School, Tosca works with teachers and students to use innovative technology to challenge the boundaries of traditional learning.

Her mission is a challenge, as technology advances at such a rapid rate that it’s hard for teachers to keep current, but Tosca enjoys it!

“I am able to play with all these different tools and help teachers integrate them into their classrooms. For example, at NIST, teachers often work with a digital data collection process. I promote apps that aid the collection of data, organization of information and the final content creation that showcases student understanding.”

Success for Tosca is when the technology tool becomes invisible and the learning taking place becomes the focus.

Tosca teaching a class using digital aid.

Data interface in a nutshell.

Being a teacher and a tech geek, Tosca explores modern tools that students can use to create, collaborate and share. Through this process, she found that creating infographics is a very effective way for students to share their ideas.

Back in 2012, Tosca first wanted to use infographics to help with the dissemination of information for her own published research with Jeff Hoffart and Adam Bourret into Sustained Student Action in the PYP.

“I wondered how we would show the massive compilation of discussions and data that we had gathered in a way that teachers could access very quickly. The one thing that teachers all complain about universally, is we don’t have enough time, so infographics seemed the obvious choice. Often people think that they don’t have time to read a whole article but they will quickly scan an infographic. That quick glance lets them assess if the information applies to their practice and if they want to read further.

But teacher-researchers weren’t really using infographics at that time. It made sense to me that if infographics were all over Twitter, Pinterest, blogs, and the web then they should be used in actual peer-reviewed research. I wanted to push the traditional boundaries of data organization and sharing information. Infographics seemed a simple, logical way for teachers to interface with large amounts of data and keep current in with educational research.”

After playing with various infographic creation tools, Tosca and her colleagues chose Piktochart.

“It was super easy to use – exactly what I needed. It didn’t take me long to make the final product. And that was the beauty of it. I think it’s funny that the longest part of it was choosing the data I wanted to put into it, and not the creation process.”

Tosca's infographic for her peer review research with with Jeff Hoffart and Adam Bourret: "Sustained student action in the PYP: A multi-staged action research project"

Tosca’s infographic for her peer review research with with Jeff Hoffart and Adam Bourret: “Sustained student action in the PYP: A multi-staged action research project”

Empowering students by employing an ‘invisible’ tool.

Piktochart impressed Tosca so much that it sparked an idea: to use the tool to empower her young students.

“I knew if I could make infographics easily, my students could too! More than that, Piktochart was free. For teachers, that is huge! Even now, I recommend it to the teachers at my school and students are able to organize their data with professional looking, well designed infographics. This helps them clearly share their ideas with a larger global audience on blogs or social media.”

This year, one of the teachers who is using Piktochart with his students is Mr. Reid, a year four master teacher at NIST. His goal was to assist students in creating infographics to demonstrate their understanding of collected research into the Transdisciplinary Theme: Where we are in place and time, with a focus on ‘access to opportunities’.

“It’s very exciting to watch the kids going from their google doc on one side of their screen right over to their infographics and be able to simply transfer that data into easy visuals.

It’s also very exciting for the kids because they’re not getting stuck asking, “how do I do this?” or becoming frustrated. That means that it’s a successful tool. When students get overly frustrated, the focus shifts from conceptual learning to simply skill development on how to use the tool.”

The learning goes so well, almost effortless, because Piktochart is easy to use and therefore presents a quick learning curve. Because of that ease, it becomes ‘invisible’ and sets the stage for the real learning process.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejORdnyfbXY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ND4SXom3olg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwNilz6uQfs

“I chose Piktochart because it is straightforward with an intuitive interface. I know that the kids already have the skills to use it, as NIST is a technology infused school, the students are familiar with icons, and the skills of dragging, dropping, resizing and moving items around.”

Once the students have access to tools, such as Piktochart, they can express their ideas much more easily. And that’s exactly the goal of youth empowerment.

“At our school, we believe that technology is a powerful tool, one that allows us to connect with others around the globe. We want the skills to use the tool to not be the end of the learning process. Those skills merely set the stage for students to share ideas, become creators, join global conversations and help make changes in the world.”

For anyone thinking about trying Piktochart but is hesitant, Tosca has three words: “Have a play! Which is what I say with all technology. I think that most people are scared by what they don’t know, they may think it is daunting. But if you are willing to be a risk-taker, then you quickly see – it’s pretty fun!”

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