stem education for the 21st century

STEM Education for the 21st Century- introduces teacher-candidates to using a project-based learning (PBL)/ interdisciplinary approach to using both 'hard skills' in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, combined with essential 21st century team-based 'soft skills' of collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking to solve real-world problems of meaning to students.

Through the process of creating an instructional PBL unit based on the Massachusetts Frameworks, teacher-candidates will gain practical experience in applying common educational technology to the teaching of STEM. These include Google Classroom learning management system; WeVideo, EdPuzzle and Loom video editors; Scratch coding environment; SketchUp computer-aided design; Padlet and Jamboard collaborative bulletin boards, and others. Through guiding their students through the development of STEM projects, from the entry event to the final exhibition of a public product, teacher-candidates will learn to help their students develop expertise in the use of 21st century digital tools and media for collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity.

Google Classroom for this course: Join with code lz2jtco

Science education, while aiming to teach observations (facts) and theories about nature, perhaps more importantly needs to teach scientific thinking- understanding the world in terms of testable hypotheses that need to be supported by evidence gathered by independent observers. Doing science involves a mix of careful observation and experimentation, combined with a search for explanation and aesthetic beauty.

Engineering education teaches the design of solutions to human problems, based on intellectual models of how materials and systems behave. These models can be descriptive(particularly for younger students) , but are formalized as students progress using the language of mathematics.

Technology- which can range from cooking skills to electronics to Garage Band- teaches the practical arts of how to build these solutions. STEM is often expanded to STEAM, to include art.

These subjects are often best taught not in isolation, but in an integrated, project-based manner, that involves so-called '21st century skills' that include critical thinking based on subject-matter knowledge, creativity and aesthetics in art-making, collaboration, and communication. All of these skills are greatly enhanced by the use of modern educational technology tools.

While projects will hopefully teach both practical skills and content knowledge, the 'real' objectives are to teach, through repeated experiences, (1) how to tackle a complex, poorly defined problem and, through initiative, teamwork and collaboration, develop effective solutions; (2) how to effectively use media to communicate and collaborate; and (3) how to become a self-motivated self-directed learner- all skills that that are needed in the 21st-century workplace.

Teaching-as any classroom teacher can tell you- is one of the most human and deeply personal of endeavors. Key to its success is student motivation. As Daniel Pink in his book Drive points out, motivation depends on three factors- autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Through the framework of project-based, interdisciplinary learning, students can achieve mastery in needed skills while having creative control-autonomy- and a sense of purpose when the project is about meeting a real-world need and which is shared beyond the classroom through a public product.

Key principles of this course

  • Students and their teachers learn by doing- the intent here is to help you both experience what your students experience, and learn to guide the process

  • Students need to take ownership of their learning. The beginning of this is (1) having students articulate the real-world problem they are try to solve- the Driving Question- through empathy with the end user and (2) being comfortable learning new skills independently, through online tutorials.

  • The role of the teacher is to motivate, guide and facilitate the creative process, and to foster a social environment that celebrates collaboration, risk-taking, and student work

  • To become problem solvers, students need to repeatedly experience the process of brainstorming, coming up with ideas, picking the best one, building, testing, critiquing, and redesign.

Types of Assignments:

Just as one cannot become adept at playing basketball by reading a book about it, you cannot learn to teach by reading academic papers about it. Accordingly there will be several concurrent types of assignments each week in this course:

  • A live synchronous class at the beginning of each week to introduce the topics and technology

  • A discussion forum

  • A 'hands-on' technology assignment, similar to what you will be asking students to do; and

  • A curriculum planning assignment, which will become part of your Unit Plan

This course does not presume to teach detailed subject-matter knowledge about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, in the limited time available. Rather, the aim is to introduce K-12 teachers to the STEM approach to teaching through doing a series of projects that integrate knowledge from many disciplines, and apply skills of communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking to the solving of real-world problems of meaning to the students.