Meet Sarah Costello

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CIRCL perspectives offer a window into the different worlds of various stakeholders in the cyberlearning community — what drives their work, what they need to be successful, and what they think the community should be doing. Share your perspective.


Sarah Costello is a Technology Teacher at San Francisco Day School, and a summer IISME Fellow working with CIRCL.

How did you get started in cyberlearning?

I first became interested in cyberlearning in the summer of 2012 when I did contract work for TenMarks Education, an Amazon-based online math company. It was there that I realized technology is the future of education. I decided to pursue my masters in Educational Technology through CSU Fullerton and have been passionate about EdTech ever since. Now, through my 2nd! summer IISME (Industry Initiatives in Science and Math Education) position at SRI International with CIRCL, I am hoping to continue to contribute to the cyberlearning community by sharing what I learn with other educators.

As I’ve watched students use technology, my perspective on cyberlearning has evolved. I am now a Technology Teacher at San Francisco Day School in San Francisco, California. I have the unique opportunity of spending time with students each week, enhancing their curriculum with technology based activities, along with working closely with teachers to help guide their exploration of technology use in the classroom. I help run a competitive robotics team which made it to the regional championship in their first year! Competing in the FIRST Lego League with my robotics team, we had specific missions to solve. Our team had the freedom to solve the missions in our own creative way. There were many ways to solve one problem; it was fascinating watching the students each come up with solutions, share and collaborate with their peers, try and retry, failing many times before coming up with a unique solution that worked for them. I saw my students grow through the uncomfortable, sometimes frustrating process of not getting something right the first time. Their sense of accomplishment and pride was obvious! That passion and desire for learning is what I want to ignite in each one of my students.

What would you like people to know about you?

I would like people to know that I am innovative, creative, and passionate. I believe that children are the future of this world and as an educator, I need to cultivate each of their unique talents through meaningful learning experiences. I love having my students create animations, screencasts, and build robots and program them, because while they are doing these things, they are learning how to think on their own. I strive to challenge them to problem solve and think critically. If they aren’t challenged to do this, they won’t learn how to do this. My role should be to help students gain the skills that will prepare them to be real-world ready and become successful learners. As an educator, I work to help children discover who they are in this world and to feel valued and loved. I encourage children to own their education and become active learners. By being aware of who they are as individuals and how they are most successful, I am able to give them the tools needed to help them achieve their own goals.

Right now, I am particularly interested in the maker movement since I believe so much of the preparation for the real-world and learning how to learn can be accomplished through making. To be honest, I am new to the world of making, and often catch myself saying “I’m not a maker.” However, I have recently challenged myself by taking classes at the TechShop in SF to learn about laser cutting and designing my own 3D object to print. I feel lucky to work in a school that is dedicated to the making philosophy on student learning and to creating a positive, innovative, learning environment for our students. I hope to bring my new found personal passion for making–along with my knowledge on student learning through making–into my school as we open our new Design Space (a Makerspace at our school) this fall!

What should the cyberlearning community be doing?

The cyberlearning community should continue to communicate with educators about research-based learning experiences. Social media can be used to inform educators about professional development opportunities and resources for the classroom.

What makes you wake up every morning and want to work in this area?

The students! Technology is a tool to enhance the learning experiences of our students. I appreciate the cyberlearning community being focused on using and/or creating these tools for research based learning activities in the classrooms. It’s exciting to see ideas that might be in our classrooms of the future. Often, as an educator, we have too many pressing day-to-day things that need to get done immediately and we are not left with much time to imagine what might be possible.

How would you like to contribute back to the cyberlearning community?

I want to stay connected. As an educator, I can easily get swept up in my school year, but I think it is important to maintain these relationships I am building with researchers. I want to continue to contribute to research and bring my expertise to help invent the future for classrooms. I want to bring cyberlearning into my classroom. I want to use research-based tools and ideas to give my students meaningful technology experiences. I would love to give feedback to researchers on lessons and technologies I use to improve cyberlearning for all learners.

I especially want to stay connected with researchers studying the Maker Movement and how students learn through the art of making. My goal for myself is to be a role model for my students. I want to create engaging computational thinking activities. I want to inspire their passion for making, and engage them in better understanding their own identity.