Re-Imagining STEMx Education (part 2)
New Approaches to Teaching & Learning for a High-Tech World
In Part 1, I described why we need to re-imagine STEMx teaching and learning. Now, let me share some interesting new models that have emerged from the HP Catalyst Initiative...
New Models of STEMx Teaching & Learning
One thing is clear – education cannot remain where it has been. Thankfully, there are innovative educators who are creating new types of learning experiences that are relevant, engaging, and paving the way to greater levels of achievement for all students. Among them are educators who are part of the HP Catalyst Initiative, a network of 56 organizations in 15 countries who have been exploring how technology can help create these new models of teaching and learning.
What we’re learning is that when you combine great teaching and the right technologies, you really can create exciting and more powerful STEMx learning experiences. Below are a few examples:
STEMx for Everyone
- Northwestern University’s Project ACCESS has created a network of remote iLabs to give high school students laboratory science experiences that their schools could not otherwise offer. These are not online simulations, but rather access to actual experimental equipment that is hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Interestingly, equitable access is not the only headline. By tracking student use of the remote labs, they have discovered that the lab science experience is often “flipped” into the evening, freeing up time in-class for discussion. Furthermore, students are going well beyond what they would have done in a typical 55 minute class period, running experiments multiple times as they think about the results. Real equipment and real data leads to real scientific inquiry.
- Masinde Muliro University in Kenya that the same simulations being used to enhance chemistry education in their university could be used by remote one or two room high schools in rural locations that have no electricity and no internet. After downloading the simulations onto mobile workstations, the computers are driven many hours to remote locations for use in village high schools, giving their students a learning experience that was not possible before – at least as long as the batteries remain charged.
STEMx that’s Global
- Stamford Public Schools in Connecticut have added a global spin to what is already a great science learning experience. Middle school students are engaged in authentic water quality testing in their community, understanding and addressing a very real challenge in their own community. The experience includes a variety of mobile testing and data collection technologies. What extends the experience beyond their community is their sister school in China, where students who are their same age are also exploring water quality challenges in a community half way around the world. This international collaborative approach to field based science has been an eye-opener for ALL the students, and the experience more closely mirrors how scientists are collaborating today.
- Colorado School of Mines has created a free and simple way to change lectures into conversations that reveal and address student misconceptions. The tool is a free web service called Ink Survey, and it provides a quick way to engage students in “graphical polling”. Students are sent to a webpage to answer an open-ended question whose answer requires a drawing. The drawings are sent to the teacher’s webpage and can be shared with the class in real-time. This simple interaction changes lectures into conversations, and reveals misconceptions during class so they can be addressed immediately. The results can be stunning. For example, in a very difficult chemical engineering course, students were using simulations to explore important concepts on their own (“free play”). Student understanding rose somewhat, from a pre-test average of 45% to 58%. But by adding graphical polling to the mix (“guided play”), student understanding rose to 78%, almost doubling again. This interaction changes the pedagogy and demonstrates the power of “knowing what your students don’t know in real time” through graphical polling.
- CSIR Meraka Institute in South Africa is addressing the challenge to reach marginalized secondary and first-year tertiary students via a mobile-based service that provides personal tutoring on demand. Their Dr. Maths initiative is now expanded to include the Mathlete program, providing mathematics tutoring support to middle school (up to grade 9) learners through phone-based instant messaging tutoring by upper secondary students (grades 10 and 11). The infrastructure is essentially a text messaging based “help desk” run by students for students.
The New Learner
The examples above are only a small selection of how innovative educators are re-imagining STEMx education. Ultimately, our goal should be to think beyond “school” – to help all of our students develop a personal learning network that allows them to knit together formal (school), informal (science centers, libraries,…) , and non-formal (home) STEMx learning experiences. In the HP Catalyst Initiative we call this vision the New Learner.
Students that develop this kind of personal learning network will discover a vast set of resources and people who can help them explore, inquire, invent, and find meaning in their pursuit of learning. These are the students who will be well prepared for the high-tech world that we are only beginning to imagine…
Jim Vanides, B.S.M.E, M.Ed. Global Education Program Manager Sustainability & Social Innovation Hewlett-Packard