Q&A: Dr. Kimberly Greene on How to Learn Alongside Your Child

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Dr. Kimberly Greene teaches at Brandman University in California. She’s a pioneer of the movement to integrate technology into education in meaningful ways. We caught up with the busy professor, entrepreneur, and young adult author to get her take on STEM education and how parents can learn alongside their children.


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My doctorate is in Educational Technology from Pepperdine University. We were the first such program in the United States and in fact, for several years, I was able to say I was the youngest person in the world with a terminal degree in Ed Tech… until some little runt a young gentleman at the University of Texas, Austin, completed his degree at the ripe old age of 28 (grin).


Kimberly Greene, tech in education innovator


What inspired you to choose a career in education?

I never chose education, I Forrest Gump’ed my way into it. I was helping out a neighbor by teaching Mommy & Me-type music and dance classes at her enrichment studio and was very surprised by how much I enjoyed both the teaching and the planning of the lessons. At the time I was dating a writer who was getting his credential as his fall back job and the more I helped him with his studies, the more I began to think that teaching just might be the right move for me. While getting my credential, I took a few experimental technology in education courses and truly fell in love with all that computers offered in the way of designing learning that was exciting and meaningful for the students.


What’s one valuable lesson you learned from your time as a classroom K-12 teacher?

My biggest take-away was that my role was to teach each child — to ensure that the learning served the student rather than trying to make the child fit the curriculum.


You’ve focused on blended learning. What is this, and why is it so important?

Blended learning is about opening up the experience of learning so that it goes beyond the classroom. I view it as staying true to John Dewey’s ideals that learning is not an escape from life but a part of it. The blend for me is about designing experiences that extend learning and expand it so that it’s more meaningful for the individual — be that through music or humor or videos or simulations that empower students to work at their own pace in a place where they are comfortable.


What is “authentic engagement,” and how can help kids learn more effectively?

Authentic engagement is the combination of the Affective (emotions, feelings, values), Behavioral (physical actions), and Cognitive (logic, analytical intelligence) domains of being all working in concert for an individual as they are focused on authentically doing something that has value — be it creating a poster or writing a story, or discussing how to solve a problem. The whole learner is involved in the process of doing/solving/creating because he/she is intrinsically motivated by the challenge/experience/desired outcome.


What’s your opinion of the state of K-12 STEM education right now?

I feel like we are only at the beginning of understanding what STEM offers in the way of rethinking the whole design of learning and it truly is moving into the realm of authentic engagement and learning through design and construction.


Any advice for parents looking for ways to encourage their child’s interest in technology or design?

I beg them to first read Mindsets by Carol Dweck and then prepare to learn alongside their child by trying to make stuff — real stuff. Build rockets and miniature bridges and elevators for doll houses and ramps with fulcrums for skateboards or scooters or bikes and be very loud about the fact that these will be iterative designs — that each failure should be celebrated as a step forward. Start with a general idea, do a bit of online research, sketch out a first design, and build. Repeat with more detail after every draft/version. I strongly encourage keeping with a blog or a video blog of the process — a living artifact to revisit both as you are working and after the fact… before you move onto the next exploration design project. This learning through doing and understanding that each disaster IS a part of the design and growth process. That is the greatest gift any parent could give any child.


Women today represent 18% of all computer science graduates. How can we close this gap?

Not to be glib, but the parent of every girl should do exactly what I just wrote above this question (first read Mindsets and then…). Allow girls that same freedom to explore and make a mess and fail and learn to learn through failure. That is what’s missing for so many young women. What kind of role modeling are the women around our girls really doing? I ask that as someone who was raised by her father so my only role model was the parent building and fixing and duct-taping. If we, as women, simply do ourselves, it sends a much more meaningful signal than if we lecture but then allow a traditional gender role message (girls don’t get dirty, girls don’t make messes, …) to be what our daughters see. The love of computer science isn’t about coding at age 4, it’s about finding the fun in design patterns and puzzles and enjoying being engaged in the process of solving a problem, starting with real-word, concrete stuff and then moving into abstractions.


You’re also a bestselling young adult author!? How would you describe your books?

Hmm… well I think my books are awesome!
My books are about finding your own voice and giving yourself the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. I wrote the first book while working as a studio teacher, the person who ensures kids on movie sets and tv shows gets their school-time. Talk about a lose-lose proposition; nobody likes the studio teacher. The kids are exhausted and don’t want to study, the director wants the kid working on his/her lines, the parents want the child to be making friends with the cast and crew and producers, and I’m trying to teach basic arithmetic to a 6 year old while also encouraging a 17-year-old to deconstruct the themes in Hamlet. I wanted to help the kids decide for themselves that getting an education that would empower them how to truly use their brains (think critically rather than simply do as they were told). This was the basic idea to start writing. However, it was when I went back to teaching public school and was hearing basically the same messages because reality TV had just become the big thing (“I’ll be famous for being me on TV so there’s no need to learn math”) that I really pushed to finish the book and get it published.


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image via Paul Bersebach, OC Register 

James Knutila Editorial Lead
James joined the Tech Rocket team in 2016. He writes about the intersection of technology, design, and education.
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