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Spotlight On: Brian McDonald – Discovery Festival Edition

Brian McDonald teaches Technology at the Bulkeley Middle School and at Rhinebeck High. He was born and raised in nearby Wallkill and attended SUNY Oswego for his bachelors in Technology Education. He has been with the RCSD for the last 4 years, lives in Poughkeepsie, and is currently working on his Master’s degree in Multicultural and Humanistic Education. During Summers, he directs a Technology-based summer camp.
Brian is also one of the spearheads of the upcoming RSF Discovery Festival.

RSF-Brian-McDonald

What drew you to the world of technology?
The ability to use my creativity to solve problems. We all have things in our life that we complain about, get frustrated with, and wonder “why doesn’t it work?” In engineering, we have the ability to address those issues, collaborate with other minds to create new ideas, and create solutions to these problems. It is one of the hardest yet most rewarding processes someone can go through.

The Discovery Festival is getting everyone excited. Without giving away any surprises, what do we all have to look forward to this year?
One of our focuses this year is around making. With that in mind, we have cooked up a lot of different activities and demonstrations that involve people in the process of doing and making. One exciting aspect we are hosting this year is the technology, innovation, and design showcase, where students can show off emerging consumer technology (a.k.a the cool toy they just got) or they can create a design that will be the new idea of tomorrow! They will have a chance to publicly showcase this on the day of the festival.

Speaking of the Discovery Festival, tell us how you came to be involved, what you wish to accomplish with it, and how you see it fitting in with your educational goals in the classroom.
I had several activities and demonstrations at the last Discovery Festival. After having my own fun as well as seeing how much fun the students had, I knew I had to be a part of it. With this year in mind, I wanted to focus on the celebration of making things–either being a part of the making process, or creating things yourself. Innovation is driven by the “do-it-yourselfers” and by people who create the ideas that they make. Also, being that we are constantly making designs and coming up with ideas in the classroom, I knew it wouldn’t be hard to get kids excited about it–students love experiential learning and getting messy! It was a no-brainer to be a part of something so fun and educational.

Is there anything folks in the community can do to help with the Discovery Festival (if not this year then in years to come)?
Plenty, and in many different ways. Having all the activities being run by the community and teachers here in Rhinebeck, this literally would not be possible without the help of everyone. One way to be a part of the Discovery Festival in future years is to volunteer for a fun activity! We are always looking to come up with new, creative, and innovative activities to be a part of the festival. We are open to many different ideas, so if you work in a field of technology or science, or know of a cool concept or fun activity that would get kids engaged in learning, we want to hear about it! Even those who cannot commit to this form of helping but would like to help out in other ways, we urge you to reach out to myself or the RSF and jump in on the fun.

Is there a big technology change in education that gets you excited about the future (or that maybe keeps you up at night)?
There are a lot of neat things out in the education world that I’m excited for. On different tools for my class, I am excited for 3-D printing and the application of drones. Having both in the classroom, I am finding more and more ways to integrate them into student learning and engagement. There are also new applications coming out all the time, which push the envelope of what we can do in class.

For classrooms in general, I am excited about the pathway towards paperless/online learning management systems. With the ability and access of technology growing in the district, it’s exciting to dream of a classroom or school that is as paperless as possible, with few if any textbooks, and where students can submit papers, projects, and quizzes electronically (no more “the dog ate my homework!”). This fantasy is a reality in my classroom, but I’m hopeful for a feasible implementation in the near future.

What are you reading right now?
A lot of graduate study books and articles! I haven’t had much time for a leisurely read in a while, but “Creative Confidence” by Tom Kelley is the next one on my mind. I have been watching a lot of “Cosmos” by Neil deGrasse Tyson as well.

What do you do for fun when you aren’t teaching?
Besides taking much needed breaks and relaxing, I have been trying to stay active and explore new places. I’ve been hiking local mountains and trails, exploring places around the Hudson Valley, and hope to travel out West this summer to visit different landmarks and areas.

Do you have a big goal, project or wish list for this coming year?
My main goal for this year is to “turn up the notch” on experiential learning in my class. The longer I have been teaching this subject, the more I understand the importance of getting kids to learn through experiencing technology, engineering, and problem solving on their own. This is what sparks their curiosity, and what gets them on the path to become self-educators and take ownership of their own education.