Derek Swanson, teacher of Technology at American Community School.
Derek Swanson, teacher of Technology at American Community School.

Derek Swanson is an educator from Colorado in the United States. He most recently lived in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. He asserts that his career in education stems from two inspirational teachers that he had in school, and also his desire to help future generations to become the leaders of tomorrow. He has been an educator for a decade and remains passionate about educating students at the American Community School.

What inspires you most?

I am following the development of Gazebo, from the Open Source Robotics Foundation. Gazebo is a software that provides a 3D world for robotics simulation. Additionally, I had the pleasure of visiting the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute, which is at the forefront of robotics technology.

What are your thoughts on continued professional development for teachers?

It is important to continue learning, particularly when it comes to technology. Keeping current with trends and embracing change is key to moving forward.

What are three key steps that other educators who are interested in implementing
a robotics program in their school ought to consider?

Creating a program does not happen overnight. Students generally have a deep interest in computers. Focusing their efforts away from consuming media to generating content and observable results from their computing devices helps to draw interest in computer science. Establishing an interest in students of the engineering process takes hardware and exposure to working with the hardware hands on. Having quantities of equipment that allows for two students per robot is key.

What are some of the ways in which you use iCt to help other educators to improve in their practice?

The faculty and staff at ACS have embraced the use of Google applications, which transforms the way the school conducts business. Motivating teachers and students with a movement to Google Classroom, which is a Classroom Management System, helps to extend learning opportunities for students, since there are class materials and help available beyond the end of the school day.

Share two technological gadgets that you must have in your classroom and why?

Two technological devices that are necessary are a computing device and consistent, reliable wireless internet connection. Having a computer and the web allows for the world to come into the classroom.

What advice would you give to other schools that are struggling with implementing the use of technology in their classrooms?

Having an action plan that expresses the goals that the technology implementation intends to reach, provide the resources the staff need to be successful, incentivize the technological learning (such as time savings, efficiency, or a level of automation) and allow time for the teachers to develop their technological skills. These all allow for greater success in technology implementation.

What is the best advice that you have received and how has this helped you?

The best advice I received was to inspire students to continue refining their own learning and to avoid directly intervening. Allowing the students to learn from their mistakes allows them to grow in the learning process. Testing and retesting their ideas allows for the students to make adjustments.

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