Globaloria Creator Idit Harel Caperton Discusses Her Recent Visit To East Austin College Prep
I caught up with Dr. Idit Harel Caperton, President and Founder of World Wide Workshop, the inventors of Globaloria, while she was in town from New York City for the SITE Conference and SXSWedu 2012. Seated on a bright turquoise couch in the frenetic halls of the Austin Convention Center, we talked about her impressions of her most recent visit to East Austin College Prep (EAPrep) where she participated in giving a special tour of the school’s Globaloria program to SITE attendees.
“It was a fantastic experience for us because people are always talking about how education in other countries is better,” Dr. Caperton said. (She asks me to call her simply Idit; it’s an Israeli Hebrew name.) “20 people came, they were from many nationalities — Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Holland, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, China and Israel, to name a few — and they all seemed very excited to meet Globaloria students and faculty and to learn about what East Austin College Prep is doing in the community.”
EAPrep is the first charter school in the world to integrate the Globaloria network and daily curriculum as a school-wide teaching and learning opportunity. All EAPrep students take Globaloria just like any other core subject, math or English, and will do so every day for 7 years until they graduate in the 12th grade.
Globaloria started five years ago by the World Wide Workshop, and was structured to teach students how to design and code social-issue and STEM games, work in teams, and figure out many digital literacies along the way..
“Today,” Idit tells me with pride, “it’s a vibrant network with 2000 students and educators in five states, and growing.” AMD Foundation introduced Idit and her Globaloria invention to Southwest Key CEO Dr. Juan Sanchez in the summer of 2009. “Today, East Austin College Prep is a shining star in our network. It’s an inspirational model for a full integration that can shape a school’s STEM culture.”
One reason Idit and her team love working with EAPrep, she says, is because, “the school is a start-up, and so we’re all entrepreneurs together who’ve gone through the challenges of moving from an idea to a fully operating school, with faculty and leadership in place, and maybe one day, even a chain of schools. Globaloria is a core piece that fits well with EAPrep’s college preparation vision and drives STEMing of each and every student.” She adds, “Southwest Key, World Wide Workshop and AMD Foundation and the AMD volunteer employees formed a great partnership to change the game of education here, together.”
According to Idit, visitors at the SITE tour were able to witness the amount of learning students can accomplish in two years by visiting Teresa Valdez’s newly inducted 6th graders, and then Nyssa Arcos Evans’ more seasoned 8th graders who, thanks to the Globaloria program, have been immersed every day for two-and-a-half school years in learning innovation, computational languages, collaboration and communication skills.
“I can really see the STEM culture being formed here in front of our eyes,” Idit said. “Both teachers and students are becoming more and more comfortable. I also see how the Principal, Marisol Rocha, really gets the value of this way of teaching and learning and this level of problem solving for kids who come from homes where the parents don’t fully understand the value of engineering education, networked learning, or STEM. Marisol told our visitors yesterday that she sees results in the kids’ academic performance and test scores, and observes their comfort and fluency with innovation and technology. That’s simply amazing.”
“It’s not just that they’re using computers to do worksheets,” Idit adds. “Marisol talks a lot about how they use computers to come up with their own ideas. Every time I hear her speak about her faculty and students, my heart gets happy. As the creator of Globaloria, I work with so many principals and educators, and she rocks.”
But it can’t be all roses. I asked Idit to identify any challenges.
“Everybody thinks the challenge is the students, because they often come to EAPrep below grade level, and many of them are English-language learners, and the Globaloria digital curriculum is not a traditional test-prep curriculum, and it is professional and so demanding, including learning digital communication skills, lots of reading and writing in English, plus learning a new and complex computer programming language. But the kids are alright. They get it. The toughest challenge, since 2009, has been to recruit compassionate and amazing teachers who are committed to this new way of digital teaching and learning.”
Which is great for aspiring Digital Learning teachers, because, as Idit says, with EAPrep growing to 500 students by adding 5th and 9th grades in the fall, the school is now recruiting new Globaloria teachers to be trained this summer.
Before we depart the bright turquoise couch at the Convention Center, Idit says to me, “From my humble perspective, all EAPrep graduates should be able to attend and speak here, and win the top awards at SXSW and other high-end tech conferences. The global tech and creative industries need all of them badly!”