Category: General Capabilities

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.


October 5, 2017

What a line up we have for you this week! We report back on the STEM Education conference and cover two cool STEM education resources originating in the USA. But first, what exactly is STEM, again?

Models of STEM

It can be a confusing term, and a new piece of research from Michigan University nails down why – no one really agrees on what it means. You can also read the university’s article on the research. Essentially, the researchers found 8 broad models of STEM education, as drawn by teachers. They ranged from very simple (eg STEM as four separate disciplines) to more nuanced (STEM is a complex interaction of disciplines). What was most interesting was that after undergoing professional development in the area, their thinking about what STEM is changed to more nuanced, complex definitions. Here at the STEM Learning Project, we think of STEM as embedded in real-world problem solving, as a set of skills and processes that will enable students to succeed in the future. Our STEM philosophy veers towards the complex interaction end of the spectrum.


Models of STEM
Research from Michigan University asked teachers to draw their models of STEM. These are examples of the “real-world” model.


So what about you? How do you think about STEM? Here are the three questions used in the study:

How would you depict your model of STEM Integration (in a picture)?

Describe your model in words.

What experiences (from professional learning or otherwise) inform your model?

We’d love to see how you think about STEM! If you want to share your answers to these questions with us or share anything else about how you view STEM, please contact us. If you want to learn more about how we view STEM and how our resources approach STEM teaching, come along to one of our PL sessions.

STEM Education Conference at Curtin

Professor Mark Hackling STEM Consortium
Professor Mark Hackling spoke at the STEM Education Conference last week

Last week the Mathematical Association of WA (MAWA) held a STEM Education conference at Curtin University, and of course we had to be there! 300 people attended the event and heard speakers cover diverse topics, from girls in STEM, to uses for robotics, to innovative maths teaching solutions. The STEM Learning Project Consortium Chair, Professor Mark Hackling, gave a short keynote address and talked about the STEM Learning Project resource module The Long Walk. In this module students learn about the long distances refugees must walk to reach safety. They go through science, maths and design processes to make shoes out of materials that people might commonly find on the road while walking. We also had Johanna Stalley give an introductory session. This generated a lot of interest and we had some great conversations with teachers and other educators. All in all a great two days!

Fab Lab

Fab Labs – my first thought when I heard about this initiative was “fabulous labs”.  And it’s true, they are pretty fabulous. But that’s not what the fab stands for. Instead, it’s short for “fabrication”. Fab Labs are like maker spaces, but turbo-charged. They are equipped with industrial-grade fabrication tools, and open-source software written by MIT researchers. The goal of the Fab Lab movement, which started at MIT, is to make these top-of-the-line facilities available to anyone. You can check out some of their projects, their charter and more on their web page.

Fab Labs may have started at MIT, but they haven’t stayed there. In the United States funding from Chevron is bringing Fab Labs to rural areas. Australia has Fab Labs too –  in WA you can find them here and here.  As you might have guessed, it is now a global movement with labs in 30 countries around the world.

A Simulating Website

Simulations are a wonderful way to help students understand abstract concepts. And now with the digital era in full flight, good simulations are easily accessible for anyone with a connected device. The University of Colorado’s PhET website is one such resource that provides science and maths simulations for use in classrooms. It caters for all levels from primary school to university. This simple primary school simulation helps explain static electricity with the help of John Travolta. You’re welcome.