Announcing 2021 Tinker Fellow Stephen Callahan

Stephen Callahan is a superhero even though he doesn’t have a big letter S emblazoned on his tee-shirt. His superpower? An abiding belief in the students and teachers with whom he works. For over fifteen years, he’s been helping students and educators find and use their own technology superpowers. We are delighted to announce that Callahan is our 2021 Tinker Fellow, and we’ll be sending him a shirt adorned with the Concord Consortium superhero logo.

The Robert F. Tinker Fellows Program aims to promote innovation, creativity, and cross-disciplinary conversations in educational technology for STEM teaching and learning. The fellowship is intended to bring individuals to the Concord Consortium to spark new ideas, tinker with novel technologies, cultivate outside perspectives, and provide opportunities for reflection on our work.

Callahan serves as the educational technology coordinator at the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) FabLab. On any day of the week, that role might mean supervising staff, designing lessons, offering teacher professional development workshops, producing YouTube videos for CodeStack, or coordinating school field trips and events, including for children of local migrant farm workers, students from a rural one-school district or an inner-city school, or a robotics club. A litany of skills that might compete with leaping over tall buildings in a single bound.

The San Joaquin County Office of Education FabLab.

Part engineering classroom, part makerspace, the FabLab is a 100% designated student design zone. The idea behind the space is that kids learn engineering design aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) while cultivating their ability to use math, science, and technology to invent something new. Equipped with laser cutters, 3D printers, robotics paraphernalia, and over 100 computers from 3D augmented reality zSpace workstations to tiny Arduinos, the FabLab is expressly set up for student-centered inquiry experiences.

The FabLab also boasts an AI calculator exhibit and touch-sensitive wall mural that lights up and plays sounds, both designed by Callahan. When a visually impaired student who visited the FabLab on a field trip became notably interested in the design of the wall and how it was engineered, Callahan knew he had made a difference.

Stephen Callahan
Stephen Callahan in front of the interactive mural he designed.

Before joining the SJCOE, Callahan was a high school teacher for 12 years, teaching chemistry, physics, and engineering, constantly dreaming up ways to make learning fun with technology. When he had the chance to build his own NetLogo models in a summer workshop and saw “how computer models empower science education,” he was hooked. He has since used Concord Consortium’s Molecular Workbench models to teach everything from boiling point to intermolecular attractions. He observes, “These are so powerful for chemistry because they allow students a way to see and interact at a microscopic scale, which is almost impossible to witness in the lab.”

Callahan earned his bachelor’s degree in cognitive science from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.Ed. in STEM from the Teachers College of San Joaquin, where he now serves as faculty. He teaches computer programming and engineering, and is excited by “the economic, scientific, and creative opportunities that computer science will bring students and our society as they invent new technologies and fields.”

In 2020 he became a Google Certified Innovator and is using his project to make Google Apps Script accessible to teachers so they can use it to design their own tools and interactive lessons.

We look forward to collaborating with Callahan, continuing with our mission to ignite large-scale improvements in teaching and learning through technology. We’re happy to have the help of all types of superpowers!