Technology and Creativity Go Hand-in-Hand for Learning Pathways Fellows

“We live in a technology-driven world,” says Ben Davis, the co-founder and Education Director at Bold Idea, “ and we believe that all students deserve the opportunity to be educated about how that technology works.”

Bold Idea is an organization that focuses on teaching students’ technology skills and mentoring young coders in the Dallas Area, equipping them with technical skills that will prepare them for the workforce. Founded in 2015, Bold Idea is dedicated to ensuring all students can gain these skills regardless of their background or demographics. “Right now, the opportunities for students to learn these skills are fairly limited, especially for lower-income students,” says Davis.

“It’s a no-brainer at this point,” Davis says of the importance of cultivating technical skills in students. “We can’t do anything today without running into technology.”

For Bold Idea, a fellowship with Learning Pathways was serendipitous. Before finding out about the fellowship, Bold Idea was already looking into instituting and extending a badging program for their students when an email from Big Thought came through. A major component of the fellowship is training fellows on how to use badges to encourage students and keep track of their achievements. “After the first session, I thought, ‘this is going to be exactly what we need,’” says Davis.

The fellowship, which runs for three months and is attended by several different educational organizations, works with fellows to train them on how to identify, measure and elevate 21st-century learning skills in their students. These skills are represented by Big Thought’s Creator Archetype, which outlines the competencies that make up 21st-century learning skills. The Creator Archetype “gave us a way to communicate the value of what we do,” Davis says. “[Specifically], we were able to see how our digital badge offerings aligned with the Digital Fluency domain and the Design Thinking domain.”

Creativity is at the heart of the Creator Archetype and the same can be said for Bold Idea. “It’s not just about knowing how to code,” says Davis. “It’s about knowing how to create things with code. That’s the end goal.”

The concept of Design Thinking particularly fits in with this goal, Davis notes. Design Thinking, which covers skills related to putting ideas into action, time management, storytelling and creative and mental agility, helps students push aside the idea that technical skills have nothing to do with creativity.

A major part of why having these skills is so important is because technology affects every industry. Digital Fluency is a grouping of transferrable skills that students who go through Bold Idea’s program can use regardless of the industry or career they pursue. This became particularly apparent to Davis during the COVID-19 pandemic when people and organizations were forced to become even more reliant on technology. For Davis, the pandemic “really brings into focus how important technology is in our world.”

While technical and creative skills are the primary focus for Bold Idea, the organization is also passionate about instilling one key quality in their students: confidence. “Confidence is a huge outcome for us,” Davis says. “We try to measure that each year in our students — how their confidence improves year-to-year through our program.” Davis also spoke to the importance of building confidence in their middle school-aged students, particularly middle school girls. “As they get older, if they haven’t had that exposure or ability to build their confidence in these skills, the likelihood of them pursuing them goes down pretty drastically after middle school.”

For Bold Idea, the fellowship with Learning Pathways helped them build a framework, through the badging system, that creates a tangible result for students, something that can help students build confidence. “Learning Pathways gives [students] a way to reflect on where they’ve come from and the work they’ve done. It shows them the pathway they’ve taken and the pathway going forward,” says Davis.

Along with adding new computer science courses to their program to give students additional choices, Bold Idea plans to further integrate Learning Pathway’s concepts into their badging program. “This has given us a framework for how we can develop our curriculum moving forward.”

To learn more about the Learning Pathways Project and to participate in the Learning Pathways Fellowship, click here.