UC Santa Cruz astronomy and astrophysics professor Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz received a Presidential Award For Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring last month. According to the university’s news center, Ramirez-Ruiz’s Lamat (meaning “star” in Mayan) mentoring program has been hugely successful in increasing the number of historically marginalized students who attain Ph.D.’s in astrophysics.
The award highlights the importance of STEM education. While the professor’s work focuses on university-level students, engaging young people in STEM subjects cannot be left until after school. Thankfully, technology is helping educators and parents to engage kids in these subjects from an early age.
Application Of Skills In STEM Education
Future Learn reported that STEM subjects have given rise to new approaches to teaching and learning. In the past, IT, math, and science lessons saw students learn and repeat content. More recently, the emphasis has moved away from mere regurgitation to the application of design thinking, technology production skills, and scientific skills. The aim of these new approaches is to bridge the gap between theory learned in the classroom and what happens in real life. Technology is not only making that possible; it’s making it entertaining too.
Tech And STEM Engagement In The Classroom
According to Western Governors University publication Hey Teach, the use of technology to help get children engaged in STEM subjects has taken some surprising forms. One of those is the Lego Mindstorms classroom kit. The company, best known for its plastic building blocks, produced the kit containing Lego pieces, motors, sensors, and a control brick to make it easier for teachers to combine hands-on and computer-based learning. Young students use the kit to design, build, and control various robots based on pre-set or their own designs. The company also offers an additional resource in the form of the Lego Education website, where educators can find lesson ideas and teaching materials.
According to the publication, another example of using technology to promote STEM learning was seen at the Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem, New York, where students made robotic pumpkins. The school helped children complete their experiments by providing them with low-cost and open-source tools such as Arduino boards. The students then used those tools to design and make tech-modified pumpkins they named ‘hack-o-lanterns.’ The project helped the students learn how to program sensors, motors, buzzers, and lights in an innovative and unexpected way.
Technology, STEM Subjects, and Learning Principles
The examples of using technology in STEM subjects mentioned above are good demonstrations of how this approach puts the basic principles of learning into action. According to the Brookings Institution, those principles include collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence.
With a clear formula of what children can and should learn, it becomes easier to use technology to create live and digital landscapes that conform to the best principles for learning. This is especially true when it comes to STEM subjects.