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Dublin High School Math Teacher Jeff Taylor Hosts “First Fridays” Connecting Dublin Students with Current Events

May 8, 2017

DUBLIN, CA–Each month, on a Friday during lunch, the Dublin High School Career Center becomes a very different space during the lunch period. At this time, students are welcome to file in and experience a unique hour of discussion. The event is called “First Friday” and it is hosted by Math Teacher Jeff Taylor. The program started this academic year and has provided a unique platform for students to both learn about and chime in on current events.


The program was the brainchild of Mr. Taylor. Jeff graduated from Dublin High School in 1996. Jeff completed a double major in Mathematics (BA) and Education at Principia College in Elsah, IL. He later achieved a M.A. in Curriculum Development with a Math emphasis from CSU East Bay. He has been a math teacher at Dublin High School since 2000. However, it was at Principia where he was exposed to the concept of educational seminar. In this environment, the emphasis was not on a one-way lecture from a professor. Rather, the goal was to encourage active engagement and dialogue from all of those in attendance.

While he fondly remembered that experience from several years ago, it was always his hope to someday foster this experience at DHS. It finally occurred last fall. He approached the administration and presented a once a month platform for this to occur. While it would have fairly easy to offer this seminar in his own classroom, an opportunity presented itself to host these events in a more centrally located spot in the Career Center.

Thus, the program was launched. The desire was to not only specify timely topics, but to also provide a panel that could offer their expertise. Throughout this year, the range of topics have included the Syrian refugee crisis, a debate on the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, a visit with Special Olympian Gold Medalist and Dublin High graduate, Bethany Zummo and a debrief from some DHS students that attended the January Up-Close Presidential Inauguration.

For the module that we attended in April, the subject was the impact of the social and moral impacts of Self-Driving automobiles. The panel included Dublin High teachers and other experts. While on the surface the subject of autonomous cars seems very much like the “Jetsons” and a tremendous convenience, the concept raises many issues that may not readily come to mind. DHS Engineering teacher Eugene Chou provided a wonderful context to this discussion. The development and delivery of autonomous vehicles to the wide U.S. market is clearly inevitable and will probably occur in the next 5-10 years. But, to what extent will they be truly “self driving?”

According to her observation, what have achieved in our market represents a “Level 1-2” degree of autonomy. In other words, companies like Uber have demonstrated that they have programmed cars that can in fact deliver passengers with a relative level of safety. However, there have been a number of accidents reported and the technology has not yet been perfected. At this moment, vehicles designed by Google and other major manufacturers have taken the lead. They have also achieved this technological edge with the assistance of companies like Luminar that have developed systems which bounce lasers off nearby objects and measure the reflections to build up a detailed 3-D picture of the surrounding environment. She explained that the next level to achieve is four and five. In level four, human assistance would still be required should a vehicle require to travel “off road” or not a measurable GPS grid. Ultimately, level five would represent the ultimate in autonomous vehicles in which there would be no human intervention.

We had some questions for Mr. Taylor and provided him a platform to offer his views. How would you evaluate the effectiveness of the platform that you provided to students this first year of First Friday? What feedback have you received from students?

DSC_2318Jeff Taylor: “Feedback has been good. The topic choice has largely been choices I’ve made based on informal student conversations. I hope to continue to increase interest and relevance by asking lots of different groups within the student body about topics they would like to see discussed. To that end, I hope to keep the F-cubed topics as relevant and timely as possible.” What is the “experience” that you are trying to achieve for the students and why is this type of format effective?

Taylor: “I want the forum to be about idea exchange without the labels “student” “teacher,” and “parent” attached to the participants. This is about being a community of learners in which we all have the ability to teach and learn from each other. The forum is also intended to have teachers talk about relevant topics that maybe don’t come up in class because they don’t have the time in the curriculum or they enjoy the informal environment that the forum provides to rather than a classroom environment.” The entire concept of autonomous cars provides many legal and ethical questions. What is your take on the delivery of this transportation concept to the masses in the near future?

Taylor: “I think the driverless car is in the infancy of the development legally and technologically. Thus it is an exciting time to track the unfoldment from concept to novelty item to mainstream usage by a majority of US citizens. Our history is replete with examples of new technology that people were initially skeptical and reacted with fear or at the least indifference, but as time went on the idea shifted to acceptable to expectation of usage to an essential device in our lives. Think back to the late 1970’s-early 1980’s. The concept of a computer used in the home was scoffed at and rejected as impractical and unnecessary. Now almost everyone has one in their pocket in the form of a smart-phone. I see a similar progression for self-driving cars.” If we believe that “driverless” cars will provide a benefit to our society, what other services/activities might become automated?

Taylor: “Hard to make a prediction on this, my expertise isn’t in technology. However, I could envision shopping becoming more like the Amazon store in which you don’t wait in line to check out, the store scans the credit card from your pocket and you never wait in line. I could also guess that within our lifetime artificial intelligence will get sophisticated enough to have airplanes take off and land without humans at the controls. The pilot would be there to take over in emergency situations only.” What is your hope for the First Friday program as we move into 2018 and beyond?

Taylor: “ I want to see it become an activity where the Dublin High community and the Dublin community at large can come for thoughtful discussion and intelligent dialogue about our most pressing and important local, state, national and international issues. I want it to appeal to a broad range of students where they can come without the stress of taking notes or getting quizzed or tested. In short, I want students to engage simply because they are intellectually curious, not because they have to worry about a GPA or a college application. Learning simply for the sake of learning is the best type because you know there is genuine interest in academic understanding. The extent to which the forum can provide that, it will succeed and grow.” would like to congratulate Jeff Taylor for successfully launching this landmark program at Dublin High. Attendance at these events has varied between 20-60 students and we are suspecting that the program will continue to grow next year. Clearly, these meetings have created a welcoming platform for many students that want to discuss the topics of the day.



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