Annual Report 2019-2020
Walden's Technology Program: Nurturing Empowered Changemakers and Responsible Creators
In our 50th year, nothing embodies Walden’s practice of enthusiastically seeking cutting-edge research while staying devoted to our founding principles more than our technology program. Our commitment to wisdom grounds us in what we know about childhood and children, while our promise to nurture wonder ensures that we are always reflecting and improving our practice. Through a two-year process, we have developed a technology program that centers childhood and the highest-order, uniquely human thinking skills of collaboration, empathy, and creation, while developing students’ skills in design thinking and computer science.
Beginning in 2018, Walden embarked on a three-year cyclical review of our technology program. Curriculum Director Kelli Dawn Holsopple convened a Faculty Tech Wonder Action Team who collected ideas from our faculty and expertise from our parent community, visited like-minded schools, and reviewed current research. Through this process, we articulated that at Walden, with our emphasis on mindfulness, social justice, and laying a foundation for wisdom, technology will be conscientiously incorporated into a child’s learning as a tool for critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. Technology will be taught through three central strands: The Walden Wonderlab, Integrated Technology, and Digital Citizenship.
Through this comprehensive approach, we are preparing our students to become critical users of technology and innovative, compassionate creators. We want students to view technology not as something to passively consume, but as a tool that can help us create, collaborate, think critically, and communicate. A recent New York Times article titled, “How to Prepare Preschoolers for an Automated Economy,” quotes engineers, technology experts, and educators in expressing the sentiment that the rush to teach computer coding to preschool-aged children is misplaced. Instead, preparing children for an unpredictable future should focus on allowing them to play, to build, to collaborate; in essence, to develop the human qualities that machines can’t replicate like empathy and problem solving. Walden has been centering these human qualities for 50 years, and we look forward to our next 50 years of wisdom and wonder.
While we didn't know it when entering the review of our technology program, the timing of the study and the consequential refinement of our approach and methods has been serendipitous, setting Walden up for a successful pivot to virtual learning that kept children's needs, inquiry, creativity, and CoMMUNITY at the center.
Following the Wonder Action Team’s research, Walden worked with instructional technology coach and progressive educator Maria-Constanza Pizano to design our Wonderlab and formulate our curriculum. Over the summer of 2019, thanks to generous donations from Dr. Carl and Linda Moy and the 2019 Walden Gala Raise a Hand donors, we were able to transform our former desktop-based computer lab into a traveling set of student laptops and begin construction on the brand-new Wonderlab. The old music room was renovated to become the Wonderlab, equipped with spaces for developmentally appropriate maker materials, electronics, low-tech prototyping stations, and a green screen. The Wonderlab will also be equipped with high tech materials such as film-making equipment, creative robotics, and 3D printers.
The Wonderlab represents one of the three central strands of our technology program, whether we are in-person or learning remotely. In the Wonderlab, students are introduced to the mindsets of being a builder, maker, and design thinker: empathizing, ideating, prototyping, testing, and refining. In K/1, technology class is screen-free, giving students design challenges with 3D materials such as wooden blocks that grow their brains and bodies and lay intuitive foundations for physics, engineering, and mathematics concepts. In 2nd and 3rd grade, students continue design thinking and also use a block-based coding program to program physical robots. In 4th and 5th grade, students explore digital content creation, incorporating Tinkercad to create 3D inventions, stop-motion filmmaking, and editing with a green screen. In 6th grade, students learn the coding language Python, a user-friendly, practical, and expressive computer programming language.
In the Integrated Technology strand, students use the materials and technology they have explored in the Wonderlab within the curriculum itself, to enhance projects in science, social studies, math, and language arts. Technology becomes a tool to communicate and express their learning. Whether they will design a robotic moving model of a green transportation system in their "LA River of the Future" project or film a stop-motion film for the California History Museum they are creating, students at Walden will use technology in context.
Digital Citizenship empowers students to see themselves as responsible users of technology and the internet. They learn to critically consume media, monitor their digital footprint, practice respectful communication online, and locate and verify reliable sources of information. Exploring bias and stereotypes in media begins in Kindergarten with a study of gender stereotypes and continues through the grades in our social emotional learning, social justice, social studies, and human development curriculums.