Jun 28 2018

ISTE 2018: Cisco Uses Animation to Inspire Students to Enact Global Change

The cartoon series encourages K12 students to use critical thinking and entrepreneurial spirit to solve real world problems through STEM.

Edgar Ochoa’s middle-schoolers in the Roosevelt Elementary School District in Phoenix took their science, technology, engineering and math learning to the next level when they became Global Problem Solvers and tackled serious issues in their community and beyond.

Students in Ochoa’s seventh- and eighth-grade history classes beta tested Cisco’s free STEM program, which officially launched this week at ISTE’s 2018 Conference & Expo in Chicago.

“Once we let their imaginations fly, the results were unbelievable,” Ochoa said. 

Animation Encourages Students to Expand Their Minds  

Global Problem Solvers: The Series is an animated series of three- to five-minute episodes that encourages students to use technology to become entrepreneurs and create a better, more sustainable world.

“We used animation that we thought would appeal to them,” said Mary de Wysocki, Cisco's senior director of Corporate Affairs. “Digital skills are not enough to thrive in a digital economy. We don’t know what the jobs are going to be. We need to help students become resilient and think on a global scale. They need future job skills like critical thinking, problem solving and creativity.” 

Cisco partnered with experts from Arizona State University to develop the core material for the program. Five schools in Arizona, including Ochoa’s, piloted the program with 600 students participating. Cisco also piloted the program in French schools.

Phoenix Students Use IoT to Clean the Ocean

As part of the Global Problem Solvers program, Ochoa’s students tackled a number of hot topics. One group of boys pitched building a water purification system for an entire town.

“These are boys who weren’t normally very motivated, and it sometimes led to behavioral issues,” Ochoa said. “This project was perfect for them. Students are highly engaged. They are taking on goals. This really sparks the passion in students, particularly those who don’t always demonstrate that passion in traditional assignments.”

Ultimately, the students’ main project became developing an Internet of Things device that governments could send out into oceans to clean up litter and debris.

“Then the kids started thinking, ‘What if this device goes into the ocean and throws off the ecosystem? What if it harms the wildlife?’” Ochoa said. “So they dressed it up as a sea turtle.”

Global Problems Solvers Is an Easy Sell to School Admins

Once he brought the idea of doing the Global Problem Solvers program to his principal, it was an easy sell, especially since it would get teachers from all subjects involved, Ochoa said.

Creating a business plan went seamlessly with Ochoa’s economics unit. Students were writing, working out math and science problems and collaborating in teams. Ochoa was especially happy that the animated characters in the series are so diverse with a varied skill set. “The kids from all different backgrounds can see the heroes in themselves,” he said.

For more of the latest stories out of ISTE 2018, check out our conference page here.


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