Lab4U Talks. Episode 2: Building communities of practice while implementing Lab4U

In the previous episode, Komal spoke with Nathan about the achievement gap, and his experience as a teacher in the US and in Mexico. In this second episode we talk about how we could solve the problems in science education building a better future.

At Lab4U we are moving the needle to make sure students have access to quality science education. 

To make education accessible to everyone, Lab4U partnered with the US Embassy and CEMEX to launch a scholarship program for science teachers in Mexico, empowering them with tools to change the way they teach science remotely. 

Listen to this episode and learn how Nathan built a community of practice with science teachers making a difference in the lives of thousands of students during a pandemic. 

Episode Outline:

  • min. 01:30: Introductions
  • min. 03:00: How is Lab4U working with schools around the world
  • min. 05:30: Partnering with the US Embassy and CEMEX to empower the future of the workforce
  • min. 07:15: Lab4U scholarship program 
  • min. 08:40: Training and Professional Development 
  • min. 14:10: Communities of practice
  • min. 21:00: Building a better future and scaling a high impact program
  • min. 22:05: Learnings from this program and closing remarks

Technology is a means to an end, and not the object.

At Lab4U we believe in the power of technology to build a better future, but technology is a means to an end, and not the object. In Ed-tech, between technology and education, education comes first where pedagogy and instructional design play a key role in the way we change the paradigm of science education. 

Joining forces to empower the future of the workforce with CEMEX and the US Embassy

With the support of the US Embassy and CEMEX, Lab4U launched a program that sponsored a group of committed teachers from different states of Mexico. 

During the pandemic, a large number of teachers had to re-imagine the way they teach, communicate with their students and live their lives. If teachers were overburdened before, during a pandemic with remote teaching and distance learning, teaching science or any other subject, just got more demanding. 

To support the teacher community in Mexico, two sponsors in collaboration with Lab4U, decided to help a group of teachers, empowering them with tools so that they can teach science in an engaging way with technology and with a proper instructional design using inquiry-based learning. 

Lab4U Webinars

Lab4U provided different professional development sessions through webinars and Lab4Physics for their students.

With Lab4Physics students transform their smartphones into complete science labs, not just virtual labs through simulations, but remote science labs using the built-in sensors of smartphones and tablets. 

In this episode, Nathan Marks shares some inspiring anecdotes about teachers from different backgrounds and states of Mexico (some even from rural Mexico) who are currently teaching inquiry-based science to students through smartphone technology. 

App Lab4Physics

We know that many classes have gone online or hybrid, where technology plays a crucial role, however we understand that technology is not the silver bullet, because one can have a traditional theoretical class through Zoom or Meet or Google Classroom with the same powerpoint without the proper instructional design for an online lesson and expect a lot.

Nevertheless, at Lab4U we believe that pedagogy plays an important role in the learning process, be it in person, online or hybrid. 

At Lab4U we are supporting teachers to perform inquiry-based activities with their students as learning is much more significant, long lasting and meaningful when students have the chance to learn by doing. Nathan shares how even students from rural Mexico were able to experiment hands-on and take charge of their own learning. 

Nathan explains how the latter is achieved by hands-on experiments with a guided approach using inquiry-based learning, where we focus on the pedagogy as opposed to the traditional class. With this approach students lose their fear of making mistakes and that’s what experimentation is all about! At Lab4U we know there is pedagogical importance in uncertainty and error

In STEM areas there is generally a fear of these subjects being difficult, boring, and not for everybody and this is based on the traditional model that prevails in many schools, where students experience science as “second hand” where we learn about science, the work that others did but they are not actually engaging in the scientific process themselves.

Building communities of practice

However, Nathan explains that despite the challenges of distance learning and not having a physical lab space, getting students the access to a smartphone that is now a lab has been useful in shifting mindset and changing paradigms, having students taking the initiative to work beyond Lab4U’s lab report and participating in science clubs. 

The second insight Nathan shared was around building communities of practice between teachers, where they shared their experiences and learnings between peers. Here Lab4U is fostering and moderating these spaces. 

Nathan shared an anecdote of one of our experiments: Moonwalk 

Picture Description: Students sharing their experience using Lab4Physics during the pandemic. All photographs are shared with parents permits through the teachers.

In conclusion, Nathan shares the importance of pedagogy and communities of practice, and by the end of this episode, we share the impact that Lab4U’s implementations have in communities that need it the most.

Check out Lab4U’s impact in its longitudinal study, a Randomized Controlled Trial published by the Inter-American Bank where the reports shows that students increase their interest to pursue a STEM related career

“What is this for?” publication iadb.org

Highlights of this episode: 

  1. Importance of inquiry-based learning during a pandemic 
  2. Building communities of practice with empowered teachers
  3. Inspiring students to love science and overcome their fear of making mistakes. 

We know STEM jobs are in demand and we need today’s youth to be tomorrow’s changemakers to solve humanity’s biggest challenges. We expect our work to transcend, supporting teachers and students to build a better future. 

We want to thank all teachers, students, parents, and sponsors like the US Embassy and CEMEX for being part of this mission. 

To learn more about Lab4U. You can listen Lab4U Talks wherever you listen to your podcasts: Spotify, Google Podcast, Apple Podcast  or you could listen to Lab4U’s YouTube Playlist

Visit us at: www.lab4u.co. You can also write to us at: [email protected] 

This episode was recorded in our homes working remotely.

Audio Production: Jose Ferrada, Lab4U. Distribution: Más Más

Music Credits: Cool Intro – Stings by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

Episode 1: Democratizing science education and reducing the achievement gap

How can we bring opportunity to every student, everywhere? It may not be easy, but it’s worth it.

In Episode 1 of the English edition of Lab4U Talks, we will be talking about equity in education and how education technology can be an equalizer to reduce the achievement gap.

This topic is close to our heart because at Lab4U we believe that talent is universal but opportunities are not, and through our work we want to be a part of bringing high-quality science education to all young people.

Your host for Lab4U Talks is Komal Dadlani, joined by Nathan Marks for this conversation. We’re not only colleagues at Lab4U, but Nathan is also a great teacher and human being who cares deeply about this topic and has dedicated his entire professional career to ensuring all children have access to a quality education.

In this conversation, we’ll discuss the unique contexts in which we work–the US & Mexico. We’ll also explore the opportunities–and some of the pitfalls–of education technology, and how we’re thinking about the best way to ensure that technological innovation can be integrated in the classroom, without losing sight of the importance of high-quality pedagogy and teacher support and training.

Episode Outline:

  • min. 2:43:  Introductions
  • min. 4:15:  Nathan explains his passion for education and past experiences as an educator
  • min. 6:20: Growing awareness of social and educational inequity
  • min. 8:55: Going deeper: how do we confront inequity in education?

Equity / Inequality in Education, vision from USA, Mexico and LatAm. 

In this interesting “point-counterpoint” from Nathan’s home state of Minnesota. The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul (and the state of Minnesota in which both are located) are often referenced as places that mix affordability, inclusion, and opportunity better than almost any other major metro area in the US.

Yet this is also a place that hides a significant achievement gap between white and minority students. Read more: Miracle of Minneapolis vs. Minneapolis’ White Lie

  • min. 10:54: Comparing the achievement gap in the US to the achievement gap in LatAm.

In contribution to that explanation:

The achievement gap in education racial segregation versus segregation by poverty

  • min. 12.10: Komal talks about these problems and Lab4U’s mission: democratizing access to quality education.
  • min. 12:55: The roots of inequality in education in the US

Some awareness and quotes:

  • min. 13:30: Nathan talks about the problem from school segregation and racial academic gaps that continue to affect students in the US today, decades after Brown vs. Board of Education.

Publications:

Is Separate Still Unequal? New Evidence on School Segregation and Racial Academic Achievement Gaps (by: Sean Reardon)

“In a 8 year study of data from all public school districts in the U.S. We find that racial school segregation is strongly associated with the magnitude of achievement gaps in 3rd grade, and with the rate at which gaps grow from third to eighth grade. The association of racial segregation with achievement gaps is completely accounted for by racial differences in school poverty: racial segregation appears to be harmful because it concentrates minority students in high-poverty schools, which are, on average, less effective than lower-poverty schools. Finally, we conduct exploratory analyses to examine potential mechanisms through which differential enrollment in high-poverty schools leads to inequality. We find that the effects of school poverty do not appear to be explained by differences in the set of measurable teacher or school characteristics available to us.”

Achievement gap between The rich and the poor, New evidence and possible explanations

Whither Opportunity?: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances. The Widening Academic Achievement Gap between the Rich and the Poor: New Evidence and Possible Explanations, Sean F. Reardon (Stanford)

Covid-19 and how this has affected schools, teachers and students.

  • min. 15:27: Education during a pandemic, remote learning and the importance of technology in a “global emergency mode”
  • min. 16:54: Education technology in times of COVID-19

1.5 B students have been affected with school closures during COVID19 according to UNESCO

Brookings (brookings.edu), estimating the impact of COVID-19 school closures on student outcomes: The impact of Covid-19 on student achievement and what it may mean for educator 

  • min. 18:30: Important distinctions in times of COVID-19
  • Difference between asynchronous and synchronous online teaching 
  • Difference between homeschooling and “home-staying remote-schooling
  • Importance of instructional design for online lessons

This crisis has changed the way we do many things, but it may provide new opportunities

  • min. 21:55: We need to invest in infrastructure and teacher training and support:
  • Educational options
  • Wifi and Universal internet access
  • Support teacher in fast changing environment 

Without a doubt, we must invest in technology, but for Lab4U, technology is not the most relevant. We must also consider infrastructure, pedagogy and educational methodologies and teacher support.  

We look forward to talking about more related topics in an upcoming episode.

Thank you for listening! Also you can listen Lab4U Talks:

Lab4U’s YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/3gn3KaE  

Visit us at: www.lab4u.co or you can also write to us at: [email protected].

Here in this blog you can read our note podcast teaser or episode 0.

This episode was recorded in our homes working remotely. Audio Production: Jose Ferrada, Lab4U. Distribution: Más Más

Music Credits: Cool Intro – Stings by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/…)

Re-imagining science education: New Podcast Lab4U Talks, by Komal Dadlani

Hello everyone, my name is Komal Dadlani and I am the CEO and co-founder at Lab4U where our mission is to democratize science and change the way science is taught.

Transforming smartphones in science labs

At Lab4U we are transforming smartphones and tablets into completo science labs, leveraging and taking advantage of the built-in sensors that mobile devices already have so that every student and teacher around the world can have a lab in their pocket.

We believe that behind great education technology, there needs to be great content and pedagogy, at Lab4U we are developing inquiry-based instructional material and we are supporting teachers through professional development.

Re-imagining science education

We are launching Lab4U Talks, a podcast to share our experience in education, science and technology while giving new perspectives on the problems of science education and hopefully sparking some dialogues that could be of interest to our community of science educators. 

One of the keys to educational transformation is to increase scientific literacy and develop 21st-century skills to prepare our youth for the future of the workforce and STEM related careers, at Lab4U, we truly believe that talent is universal but opportunities are not, that is why we want to empower teachers and students to be part of the change wherever they are. 

In this podcast when talking about science education, we will focus on topics and questions that we are passionate about, such as:

  • What is inquiry and why is it important?
  • What is scientific literacy and why is it an important part of good informed citizenship? Especially when we have to develop critical thinking when it comes to decision making. 

Pandemic, also a educational crisis

We started this podcast at a historic moment: during a pandemic that represents not only a health crisis, but also an economic, social, and educational crisis where more than 1.5 billion students have been affected by the closure of schools.

Almost overnight, the entire educational system has been forced to rethink the way we teach and learn. 

As we experience the shift to a post-pandemic world, we want to shine a light on the opportunities and challenges that education technology poses focusing on methodologies that can ensure that student learning is more significant than ever. 

Many have talked about homeschooling, which is when parents or guardians take charge of the education of their children at home and what we are seeing now goes beyond that, since it is “Home staying remote schooling”, that is.

Online learning vs. emergency remote teaching

We stay at home and there is an educational institution that is making the effort to teach us remotely, we have educators sending material, teachers on Zoom video call or some other video conferencing tool, an effort that we deeply admire.

During this pandemic, we also ask ourselves, is this “online learning” or is it really emergency remote teachingwithout a proper instructional design?

Can we take the same power point presentation that we used in the classroom and use it on zoom call for example?

Here we must speak about instructional design and pedagogy and how can we effectively apply different methodologies such as active learning, inquiry-based learning, project based-learning and much more.

This is just a peek at the many science and education-related topics we hope to address in Lab4U Talks

We hope that these insights will be useful for you in your day-to-day work with your students, children, or educational communities. 

At Lab4U, we are passionate about science education and we are excited to share our passion with you.

We hope you enjoy this podcast as much as we enjoy producing it.

Thank you for listening!

Here in this blog, you can read our note podcast episode 1.

Visit us at: www.lab4u.co or write to us at: [email protected]

Audio Production: Jose Ferrada, Lab4U. Distribution: masmas (++)

Music Credits: Cool Intro – Stings by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/…)