Category: Education

November 10, 2017

The STEM Learning Project resources use a few different kinds of techniques to develop STEM skills like collaboration and critical thinking. These common threads help to build the general capabilities and create deep student learning. Read more about these STEM teaching tools below. But first, big news: The STEM Learning Project is on Twitter! Find us @STEMLearningWA

STEM teaching tools
Our process uses a few common STEM teaching tools that help develop STEM capability.

Digital Publishing Tools

One of the most powerful STEM teaching tools we recommend here at the STEM learning project is  online journalling. Journalling is a reflective practise that can help learners build their Personal and Social Capability (particularly self-awareness). Also, using online platforms hits the Information and Communication Technology Capability. Here are some of our favourites.

Storybird is a creative publishing format that uses pictures to help students imagine, reflect and explain. It has tools to help teachers manage its use in the classroom, and is suitable for any sort of writing, not just creative writing. For example, students could use it to create a pitch for a prototype or explain a science concept. The beautiful art work provides a wonderful scaffold for a reflective journal. View the promo video for teachers below.

Padlet and Pebblepad are two portfolio management tools that are used by educational bodies worldwide. Both apps have educational packages, and Padlet also has a free personal package that students could use independently.

Private journalling app Penzu now has a version for schools, Penzu Classroom. Penzu Classroom is quite similar to Padlet and Pebblepad, but is more focussed on academic outcomes and less on reflection and collaboration between students. You could use it alongside the classic, free version to give students a bit more power over their own journals.

Seesaw has the benefit of integrating well into a broad range of platforms including Kindle. It, too, has a free version and a paid school version. What’s extra special about Seesaw is that you can use it for school wide management as well as in the classroom.

Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning builds students’ Personal and social capability as well their critical and creative thinking skills. It gives them a structured way to practise vital social and self-regulation skills. This article provides some relevant links to research on the benefits of this type of learning.

But how to implement it in the classroom?. You may have heard of Kagan structures, started by this guy. There are plenty of websites out there on his techniques, including Kagan Australia. We also love this Weebly page which sets out the techniques in an engaging, step-by-step manner.

Laura Candler’s page includes links and a heap of great freebies, while this Daily Teaching Tools article focusses on Jigsaws. Lastly, here’s a page specifically targeted at cooperative learning in the early years.

Productive Questioning

Managing classroom talk is a powerful way to help students learn. Questions drive classroom talk, but a huge part of using questions wisely is to know when to refrain from asking too many. Questions should be intentional, and students usually need a bit of time to think before they answer. This article contains a wide range of useful strategies you can use to direct classroom talk. And here’s some research on the use of discourse for mathematics learning. Finally, for a lovely example of a classroom discussion with a nice progression of questions, click here (video courtesy Edith Cowan University).

 

October 27, 2017

This week we have a look at our WA winners for the STEM video game challenge. Plus, some opinion pieces, and a great math learning opportunity for primary teachers.

STEM Video Game Challenge

STEM video game competition
Image: ACER

The annual STEM Video Game Challenge results are in, and WA schools took out two of the six prizes! Kye Ziebarth, Fabian Scheffler, Kenji McAuliffe from Churchlands SHS won one of the year 9-12 awards. Jaxson Brown from Australind SHS took out an award in the year 5-8 category. Well done!

If you go to the website and download the theme sheet you can find links to some interesting games similar to this year’s theme, like this fun chemistry game. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the website for next year’s competition details. And in the meantime, their teacher resource page has a game development lesson plan guide and plenty of handy links.

Dan Finkel coming to Perth

Maths education specialist, Dan Finkel, will be giving a presentation and workshop on December 4th at 4:30pm. The event will be at Scitech and is for primary teachers. Dan Finkel is the founder of Math4Love, where you can find maths games, inspiration and lesson plans. He has also been a TEDx speaker, and you can hear his talk about the five principles of extraordinary maths teaching on Youtube. His methodology has close ties to our philosophy here at the STEM Learning Project.

In my opinion…

Some interesting opinion pieces floating around the internet this week. Rebecca Morse shares the need for STEM skills. Not just to create new jobs and a better economy, but to help people filter out the vast swathes of misinformation that flood social media.

But, Elizabeth Garbee warns, we should beware of thinking about students’ STEM development as a “pipeline” with “leaks” where students escape the system. Instead, we should think about a STEM ecosystem, where STEM skills and knowledge can be used in a whole interconnected web of different contexts.

 

September 22, 2017

 

Your weekly (well, OK, this time it’s fortnightly) roundup today contains information about the upcoming STEM Education Conference. We also cover some other local news, the OECD education report, and some fun news about maths.

 

Local Happenings

STEM Education Conference

Some interesting news close to home came out in recent weeks. Firstly, the STEM Learning Project will be just one of many educational providers presenting at MAWA’s STEM Education Conference next week. Education HQ interviewed Rachael Whitney-Smith to learn more. If the line-up appeals to you, it’s not too late to book!

Next, WA’s own East Waikiki Primary School is one of the lucky 100 Australian schools selected for a STEM program running in 2018, reports The West. The initiative focusses on STEM in the early years through the use of play-based apps.

The Telegraph reports on why and how we need to get our kids re-engaged into STEM subjects. And lastly, two more pieces from The Australian highlight the need for STEM skills as we move forward into a changing future. First, there’s the problem of ageing oil rigs. Secondly, there’s this opinion piece about how to ensure Australia remains globabally competitive: problem solving, critical thinking and communication are the keys.

STEM Learning Project workshops are hitting the spot

professional learning

The STEM Learning Project is getting popular! We have now locked in all our professional learning workshops for the rest of this year, and we’re starting to book for next year. Fear not, there’s still room to book into this year’s sessions. Click here to find out about them. If you’re interested in organising a session for next year for your network, contact us.

 

OECD Education Findings

The OECD published its education findings for 2017 recently. As you might expect, this has caused a stir among online commentators. DW writes on the continuing gender disparities in many subjects, including STEM, while Toronto Metro News comments on the need to funnel students into Engineering and IT, where employment prospects are greatest. Meanwhile, WA Today online published an article on the decline in STEM graduates from Australian universities, despite the growing demand for graduates with these skills.

 

 

A Model Maths Student?

Teacher Magazine published several interesting pieces about mathematics over the past couple of weeks. There’s this fantastic read all about mathematical modelling problems in a real-world context. (And here are some example problems for you to use with your class – or try yourself!). There’s also a report about research on what influences participation in maths. There were six main factors which impacted student’s decisions about whether to take maths subjects. Read more here.

 

That’s all for this week. Have a great long weekend!

-The SLP Team

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 24, 2017

It’s a quick one today, but we look at some interesting stuff. First, we see how taking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives on board enriches STEM education. Secondly, we have a look at flipped learning, another great new way to teach maths. Last of all, we’ve got a couple of links for you to check out about the federal funding cuts to education.

 

Indigenous STEM
Courtesy University of the Fraser Valley. CC BY 2.0

 

Indigenous culture and maths

Chris Matthews of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mathematics Alliance is helping Indigenous students get into STEM, reports the ABC. Matthews encourages young Indigenous people to believe in themselves and to value the different perspective the cultural heritage gives them. 

Maths and science are a part of Indigenous culture and this perspective can lend new ways of thinking about STEM. See this Queensland teaching resource and this ABC article for more information about Indigenous ways of teaching and learning maths. And now here’s a list of ways Indigenous science knowledge benefits research today.

Flipped Learning

Here’s another interesting way of teaching maths, called flipped learning. In this method, students learn content at home through watching videos. Working through problems, traditionally something completed for homework, is done in class where students have access to teacher support.

 

Education Cuts to Hit Maths and Science

Unfortunately, while STEM education in schools is getting attention, the latest funding cuts from the federal government may impact maths and science at the university level. SBS reports the debate between federal education minister Simon Birmingham and the Universities Australia over the issue. See also this in depth article from the Australian on the issue.

 

 

 

June 29, 2017

This week in STEM news the theme is new day, new ways. We’ll have a look at new STEM education methods, new facilities for materials science and a few inspiring visions of the future of STEM.

 

New STEM Education Methods Turbo Charge Student Learning

The star of this section is this amazing study. Researchers found that students on a special diet of hands-on and digital activities improved their maths scores by a massive 20%. The teaching program came out of the University of Canberra and used existing digital education apps.

 

Also, Mary Pilgrim and Thomas Dick at The Conversation write about how how maths education needs to move away from a lecture format. Instead, they say, we should be using more active formats of learning. Questioning, exploration and open discussions are great examples of ways to make a lesson more interactive.

If this were a medical study in which active learning was the experimental drug, the authors write, trials would be ‘stopped for benefit’ – because active learning is so clearly beneficial for students.

Read the whole article here.

 

Last up in our collection of new education methods, Judith Woods at The Telegraph investigates a swathe of programs being introduced in schools around the UK. These methods, such as spaced learning, have produced vastly improved results. The article covers not just STEM subjects, but other academic subjects such as literacy.

New Facilities For Material Scientists

Material science, as you may know, is a branch of chemistry. And now material scientists at MIT have access to a brand new lab to make cutting edge fabrics. The Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) lab recently opened across the street from the technological institute. It will not just be a place where phenomenal fabrics are designed and created. It will also be a centre for innovation and learning.

Visions of the Future

The future of STEM education looks bright. A changing economy and job outlook might seem daunting. But new STEM education methods are emerging to equip today’s students for these challenges. Robotics is a popular approach to integrated STEM learning. The use of robots looks set to continue growing as the demand for digital capability increases.

 

New STEM Education methods
This robot makes art in response to sounds. Photo CC Sharealike by Todd Kulesza.

 

But it isn’t only STEM education that’s changing. The need for high level thinking skills and cross-curricular integration is prompting calls for change across the board. This article from Fast Company makes five predictions about the future of education. It points to a more democratic, integrated and technologically driven system.

 

Last of all, if you’ve read this whole list and you still want more, you can dig into this chunky report. The US Department of Education published the report, which outlines a vision of STEM education for 2026. It highlights some of the same key themes you will find often on the STEM Learning Project website: real-world, open-ended problem solving tasks to encourage collaboration, creativity and critical thinking; and to train students for the challenges of the future.