Teaching, Learning & Technology
Sharing best practices from faculty around the world who are using technology to transform teaching and learning.

Why "STEM" Education is SO 20th Century...

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I'm preparing for a California STEM education summit next week. It has me thinking about what "STEM" really means, and how it falls short in preparing students for their future. Here's why...

Classic "STEM" education refers to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It's a great acronym that captures some of the core "technical literacies" that all students should graduate with - even if they don't become scientists, technologists, engineers, or mathematicians. I think we all agree that today's society, and tomorrow's even more so, is driven (and we hope improved) by technology.

But (in today's vernacular) STEM by itself is so 20th century. Acronyms are great, but silos are not - and how we talk about education reform will influence where we go. The 21st century, and arguably the last several decades, is an interdisciplinary world. Big challenges face society that only collaborative, interdisciplinary thinkers can address. Climate change, human disease, education for all - these are all very complex social, political, and technical challenges.

So I propose three improvements to how we talk about "STEM" education:

First, let's call it "STEM+" (OK - I know it's not all that creative, so feel free to post a comment with your own suggested acronym!). In my thinking, the "+" encompasses a host of skills and experiences that students need:

  • Interdisciplinary thinking

  • Global collaboration and communication

  • Ingenuity and creativity

  • (add your own favorite "21st century skill" here)

Second, let's shift from talking about STEM+ "education" to STEM+ "learning experiences". We all know that declarative and procedural knowledge is important, but our students need that and so much more. By focusing on STEM+ learning experiences, new transformations come in view:

  • Moving from simply delivering content and memorizing science facts, math proofs, etc. to engaging students in applying scientific thinking, and mathematical logic and modeling.

  • Going beyond having students repeat science experiments as though they are recipes, to engaging students in true inquiry.

  • Going past problem sets that demand The Right Answer to learning experiences that equip students to tackle the unknown and see that often there are many good answers - and that many times, you don't even know what the question is (at first).

Students around the world need to graduate ready and excited to make the world a better place.  To that end, my third and final suggestion (for today) is related to assessment. I am now of the opinion that if you can Google the answer, then it shouldn't be on the test. Rather, the ultimate exit exam could be a significant, open-ended real-world challenge which requires a thoughtful recommended course of action. The test would be an open-book, open-internet, phone-a-friend, poll-your-personal-learning-network, work-in-groups, ask-your-mentor, type of test. (Students: For those of you who can navigate this type of challenge, we have a career waiting for you...).

So let's move beyond talking about "STEM Education" and begin to consciously, and urgently, focus on "STEM+ Learning Experiences" for our students. My hat's off to those of you who already are...

Jim Vanides, B.S.M.E, M.Ed.
Education Programs
HP Office of Global Social Innovation

Twitter @jgvanides

For information about the HP Office of Global Social Innovations, visit www.hp.com/hpinfo/grants





US National Ed Tech Plan - Your Chance to Speak Up!

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The US education system is at a
cross-roads, and "education technology" is part of the national dialog - again.
In the nearly one decade that has transpired since the last national discussion
about the role technology should be in US schools, the technologies themselves
have evolved many times over. Perhaps more exciting is that the innovations
related to the educational use of technology has generated new and compelling
"emerging evidence".

For those of you involved in these
innovative projects, it's time to speak up - the US Department of Education
wants to hear from you...

Barbara Means at SRI is leading an effort
to gather input about the NEW National Ed Tech Plan for the US. Below is their
email invitation to all of us to participate in the dialog and submit our
feedback. Now is our chance to speak up and make a difference! The input period
begins now, and continues into October. Please take a moment to share your
story, your data, and your recommendations...

Jim Vanides


Jim Vanides, B.S.M.E, M.Ed.
Worldwide Education Programs
HP Global Social Investment

Twitter @jgvanides

For information about the HP Global Social Investments, visit www.hp.com/hpinfo/grants


******************************email from SRI*************************

The U.S. Department of Education is
developing a new National Educational Technology Plan to provide a vision for
the use of information and communication technologies in transforming American
education with technical support from SRI International and a Technical Working
Group. We are seeking public participation in the development of the Plan to
ensure that it reflects the experience and expertise of the educational community.
With this goal in mind, you and your organization are cordially invited to
share your input through the new National Educational Technology Plan
development website at www.edtechfuture.org.

The site is designed to collect public
contributions that will be used by a Technical Working Group of education and
technology scholars, researchers, policymakers, and practitioners from the
field that has been organized to support plan development. In particular, the
Working Group is seeking written resources, technology tool recommendations,
short videos
and exemplary cases related to four focus areas in
which technology has the potential to transform education:

Learning: Enabling
unprecedented access to high-quality learning experiences. 

Teaching: Implementing new
ways to support those who support learning.

Assessment: Measuring what
matters and providing the information that enables continuous improvement
processes at all levels of the education system.

Productivity: Redesigning systems
and processes to free up education system resources to support learning.


You may share your individual input, as
well as work with your community and professional networks to generate
collective input for submission to the site. In addition to contributing
resources ideas, you can rate and discuss others' submissions, with the goal of
identifying particularly innovative and relevant resources.

To focus participants' discussions, website
sections devoted to each of the four focus areas will be launched one by one,
beginning with Learning (September 9) and followed by Assessment
(September 18), Teaching (October 5), and Productivity
(October 19). We hope you will visit the site frequently to share your
expertise in the areas that interest you.

Please join us in this important endeavor
and forward this invitation to other colleagues and organizations that you
think would be interested in this opportunity. To learn more about the National
Educational Technology Plan and to participate in this important national
effort, please visit www.edtechfuture.org.


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About the Author(s)
  • Jim Vanides is responsible for the vision, strategy, design, and implementation of education technology innovation initiatives. His focus is the effective use of technology to create powerful learning experiences that help students around the world succeed. He has been instrumental in launching over 1200 primary, secondary, and higher education projects in 41 countries, including the HP Catalyst Initiative - a 15-country network of 60+ education organizations exploring innovations in STEM(+) learning and teaching. In addition to his work at HP, Jim teaches an online course for Montana State University on the Science of Sound, a masters-level, conceptual physics course for teachers in grades 5 through 8. Jim’s past work at HP has included engineering design, engineering management, and program management in R&D, Manufacturing, and Business Development. He holds a BS in Engineering and a MA in Education, both from Stanford University.
The opinions expressed above are the personal opinions of the authors, not of HP. By using this site, you accept the Terms of Use and Rules of Participation.