PBL World Day 5: Fast-Changing World Demands Innovation, Iteration in Education

Jaime Casap (@jcasap), Global Education Evangelist for Google, opened his keynote on the final day of the conference with a personal message about the power of education to change lives.

Growing up as “a ghetto kid” in Hells Kitchen, New York, learning English as a second language, he found his way with help from teachers who helped him understand math, express his ideas, and discover his creativity. A generation later, his own three children have grown up assuming that college and other opportunities are in their future.  “Their sense of what’s possible is completely different [from where he began]. That’s the power of education.”

After visiting schools around the world, Casap doesn’t think education is broken. Rather, today’s systems are overdue for “a culture shift,” he said, emphasizing innovation and iteration. With the world’s information at our fingertips and “technology wrapped around the core of our lives,” the key question for educators isn’t whether to leverage technology, but how.

Participants who have been at working on PBL planning during the conference might have heard a familiar phrase in Casap’s remarks. Rather than asking kids who they want to work for in the future, he asks, “What problem do you want to solve?” That can be the entry point for a compelling project.

Casap also made a strong case for teaching students to collaborate. “Google is a project-based organization,” he pointed out, with no one working in isolation. If Casap tried to tackle major undertakings without engaging others, he added, “How long would I keep my job?”

One of those new initiatives is a partnership in Phoenix, Ariz., to launch a high school that builds students’ fluency--in coding. (When he’s asked what second language he wants his own kids to learn, he says, “I tell them Python.”)

Casap will unveil new Google resources for educations in the coming days, when he attends the ISTE 2015 conference in Philadelphia. “This is the most exciting time I can imagine in education,” he said.

Throughout a talk that referenced a range of digital tools, Casap continued to come back to the critical role of the teacher to guide learning. “How do we convert information into intelligence? That’s the role of the teacher today,” he said. “Technology is not a silver bullet. Great education is the silver bullet.”

Casap will take his message to the White House next month when he speaks at the Reach Higher summit. Reach Higher is an initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama to inspire all students to complete their high school education and pursue post-secondary options.

It’s a Wrap

The final day of PBL World featured workshops by a range of organizations that promote global education.

Among the attendees was Nikki Turner (@global_pirates), first-grade teacher from Porter Ridge Elementary in Indian Trail, North Carolina. Originally from England, she has taught and lived around the globe. Turner was recently named the Global Educator of the Year by VIF (@VIFprogram). She will be attending the iEARN conference in Brasilia, Brazil, later this summer as part of her recognition.

What does global education look like with her first graders? “We look to each other first,” she said, to understand one another’s perspectives. “We learn that what makes us different makes us special.” She brings her British heritage into the classroom, too, encouraging conversations about the world over cups of tea. Those relationships set the stage for student collaboration, teacher collaboration, and effective technology use to connect learners.

If you couldn’t get to Napa, Calif., for PBL World this year, check out the conversations that have been bubbling all week with the Twitter hashtag #pblworld. Watch conference keynotes and Google hangouts that have been posted in the PBL World community on Google+. And start making plans to attend next year!