From STEM Excellence to AI Advocate: Ben DiChiara Leads goIT’s Newest Tech Pathway - Artificial Intelligence
After talking to Ben DiChiara for only a few minutes, it’s easy to understand why he was awarded with the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network's Excellence in STEM Teaching Award. He radiates enthusiasm as he explains that success at Peabody High School’s award-winning STEM program comes from the community support – from students, to administrators, to parents. As Peabody STEM Coordinator, DiChiara takes personal pride in being the school super hero – the one that takes on too many projects and loves every second of it. With his bold approach to trying new things, it’s no surprise that DiChiara raised his hand to pilot goIT’s newest tech pathway, Artificial Intelligence, even before experiencing goIT’s most successful tech pathway, App Design.
The goIT team sat down with Ben to get a deeper understanding about the value the program brings to students and educators and provided insights into making goIT successful in the classroom.
goIT Team: Tell us about your experience with AI. How did the students respond to it?
BD: My students loved it. Teachable Machine might be one of the coolest things we’ve ever worked with. We also got some amazing ideas out of it. A group of girls made an app that helps men realize when they’re interrupting and talking over somebody.
goIT Team: What value do you think goIT brings to students?
BD: It’s a brand-new way of doing some of the same things that we've always done. This adds a completely new element to both teaching and problem-solving. goIT offers a framework for problem solving that is new for kids not used to being asked to solve problems. goIT thrusts kids into an environment where they have to do things themselves and I see value in that.
goIT Team: How do you think goIT benefits teachers?
BD: I think it's a great tool. it was easy to use but challenging for the kids. Teachers can reuse the content and incorporate into their curriculum. goIT also helps bring students together. It's very rare that you have students of mixed abilities working together, but goIT keeps everybody involved.
goIT Team: goIT’s success largely hinges on the facilitator. What do you think makes a successful program and classroom culture?
BD: It's going to sound crazy, but I refuse to help my students. In Slumdog Millionaire, there’s this guy who wants to be millionaire and he's answering all these questions which he knows the answer to because of his hard life experiences. All of my experiences aren’t negative and I'm not comparing myself to this person at all, but sometimes it feels like I have grit because of how I grew up and because the situations I was in forced me to figure things out on my own.
I’m not the kind of teacher that gives an easy answer to students, and sometimes I'm sure they think I'm being a jerk. But I don't want to help them if they can help themselves. I tell them if you ask me a question and I don't answer it it's not because I don't hear you, it’s because I'm not here to give you an easy way out. Ask somebody sitting next to you or figure it out. That’s how you learn and grow.
goIT Team: We’ll give you the last word. Anything else you want to add?
BD: We have had our STEM program at Peabody for five years. We were named a top innovative school and are one of the leading STEM programs in the state of Tennessee. goIT is going to be something that we implement frequently because there's something for everyone. The basis of our STEM Program is that everybody can learn STEM, and goIT it allows everybody to learn STEM with no barriers.
The goIT team is inspired by Ben, and we hope you are, too. If you want to test out a new technology in your classroom, please reach out to global.goIT@tcs.com.