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Problem-Solving a New Future: How Tech-Up Serves Learners in BC

In 1957, the BBC aired a program that became one of the most famous April Fool’s Day tricks of all time.

The camera sweeps across the countryside of southern Switzerland in black-and-white, showing the fruits of an early spring and dozens of women plucking limp pieces of pasta off the leathery leaves of tall shrubs.

The narrator recites the story of the annual spaghetti harvest: “The last two weeks of March are an anxious time for the spaghetti farmer. There’s always the chance of a late frost which, while not entirely ruining the crop, generally impairs the flavour and makes it difficult for them to obtain top prices in world markets.”

Science World’s school support team uses this footage in a Tech-Up workshop on Digital Literacy, designed to help prepare students to identify reliable sources and critically analyze content.

Sandy Eix has developed programming at Science World for over 24 years. As Director of STEM Learning, she oversees Tech-Up, an outreach program that is part of CanCode, a Government of Canada initiative to get more kids across Canada learning about coding, computational thinking and digital literacy.

Though CanCode’s original goals centred on helping to prepare the next generation for the jobs of tomorrow, Sandy says the concept of digital literacy is very relevant and urgent today: “Understanding how to safely and appropriately use tech is a huge part of our reality right now. And you need your science lens to evaluate the reliability of information you find online.”

Since April, 183 teachers and 70 students have received new online Tech-Up programming through pro-d workshops and student challenges in coding, computer programming and digital skills. In one day alone, 50 learners across BC were engaged remotely in online learning.

In this new era of online and remote learning, Science World is working to support students and teachers as they navigate their new learning landscapes.

New Problems, New Solutions

Sandy believes in computational thinking as a problem-solving strategy that can help us face the emerging realities of the future.

“Everybody," Sandy says, "regardless of what their reality is right now, is faced with really complex problems. We can’t solve these complex problems in one bite. We need to cultivate the clarity to break the problem down into simpler ones that we can solve.”

Sandy is passionate about delivering Tech-Up programming because she has seen her own team benefit from its impacts; the workshops facilitate an adaptability, a willingness to experiment and try new things, and a creativity in the face of challenges.

In addition to weekly online workshops, the Tech-Up team have also developed several multi-lesson kits for both teacher-led and independent online learning on topics like computer programming, computational thinking and math.

In 2 weeks, over 25 teachers from across BC requested these kits for their schools. One grade 6/7 classroom in Roberts Creek is already finalizing their programming projects (coding an interactive storytelling experience) with the support of our Tech-Up team.

Tech-Up is delivered across the province and receives additional support from Finning. Sandy says Tech-Up’s outreach in more northerly communities speaks to Science World’s mission to increase interest and knowledge in science for all learners in BC.

At a Tech-Up workshop in Dawson Creek, Science World was able to deliver training and resources to a teacher who had previously thought he’d never be able to teach coding in his classroom. “That’s pretty powerful,” Sandy says.

The goal of Tech-Up is not to turn everybody into an accomplished computer programmer or a scientist, Sandy says. “But we do need a citizenry who understand how science works. And we do need a citizenry who understand how computers function and how our digital world functions.”

“If every student in the province had a good understanding of what computational thinking means, that would be a fabulous goal for Tech-Up. And we are doing our level best to reach as many students and teachers as possible.”

Since our closure, over 250 teachers and students have participated in pro-d workshops and student challenges through Tech-Up’s new online outreach.

"We have an amazing group of eager, enthusiastic learners who are totally missing school right now. We have been using the virtual learning space to the best of our ability (even making the Science World ice cream) and trying to carry on with our Tynker labs. We didn't get to go on our overnight camping adventure, but I am pretty sure this would be a great boost to our morale!!! Thanks for offering these workshops!!!"

"WOW - thank you so much! I signed up because "Coding" sounded scary and you made it so NOT SCARY! Thank you!”

“Thanks Science World! I appreciate the ongoing support from you guys.  BC teachers are lucky to have you in their corner.”

Online Resources for a New Future.

Science World's Tech-Up program is currently offering free weekly online professional development workshops and student challenges for Grade 4-9 students across BC.  Come learn some skills for the future with us!