My wife, Tatiana, and I have a son named Gabriel and a dog named Sasha. We are a Colombian-American family living in Austin, Texas, USA. About 25 years ago, I started to become an educator when I taught English to Spanish speakers in Colombia. Since then I've been an elementary lead teacher, elementary and middle school English language arts teacher, high school English as a second language teacher, technology integrator, design teacher, and technology coordinator. I've also worked in Venezuela and China. After 25+ years of experience in four countries, I have become a proponent of learning driven by personal interests and needs.
I believe learning happens best when it is deep, personal, and lifelong. To make this happen, I strive to create learning experiences that are driven by real-world problems, inquiry-based, hands-on, and iterative with technology-driven solutions. Teaching and learning with technology gives me hope, because I believe technology can make life better and tap into the future. Collaborating with talented people, both students and colleagues, inspires me, because I learn from the fresh perspectives and different approaches that others share. The one question that drives all of my work: Why does this matter?
Learning Experiences I Value
3D Augmented REality
The director of admissions wanted to improve her school tours. She wanted to engage prospective parents and show them how teachers and students turn on the learning at both campuses. To meet this challenge, my design students designed and printed a 3D replica of the main campus. Their stretch goal, which they didn't realize, was to integrate augmented reality into this experience. They wanted someone to put their device over a room or area of the building in the model which would trigger an event that shows through photos or videos what learning looks like in that specific room. The students collaborated with their math and design teachers, an architect, and, their client, the director of admissions, to create their 3D replica. They collaborated on this project as a team and employed an agile method of development.
I want learning experiences to be useful. They should help students develop the skills and knowledge they need to be happy and productive. So, I often tell parents about what we're up to and then I ask them if they see any real-world applications for their children. I also did this when I coached FLL robotics and learned that competitive robotics teams look a lot like teams at work out there in the real world. To start with, we're both solving problems. In robotics, we do this through engineering, programming, and research. It takes a lot of collaboration to move forward. Failure has to be an option for growth. Success is often achieved in iterative steps and when all the team players leverage their particular skills to achieve the team's goals. So, I frequently asked parents of players if they saw collaborative, hands-on problem solving in iterative ways where they work. All of them gave me a resounding, 'Yes!" I found that very encouraging. Now we need to get our schools to look like this as well.
To learn more about digital citizenship, I challenged students to create a digital citizen village in Minecraft. To succeed, students needed to create eight digital dilemmas throughout the village, one for each of the following areas of digital citizenship: information literacy, privacy & security, self-image & identity, creative credit & copyright, cyberbullying, internet safety, relationships & communication, digital footprint & reputation. Players who entered the village would find dilemmas to explore. The decisions players made when facing dilemmas would lead them to either negative or positive consequences. At the end, players could evaluate the consequences of their decisions and choose to explore the same choose-your-own ending dilemma or any of the others in the village. This was a very powerful learning experience for students, because not only did they have to teach someone about digital citizenship, they also had to use their digital citizenship skills while building their village in Minecraft. They also had to collaborate heavily and use design thinking -- analyze the problem, develop some ideas to solve it, create the solution, and evaluate its effectiveness -- to get this off the ground.