Category: Innovation

December 1, 2017

STEM Learning Project news

The latest edition of Words is now available for download from the WA Association of Primary Principals. It features an article by our Project Manager, Michael Peter, which outlines some of our key learnings in how to teach STEM skills to today’s students.

In other news, registrations for our workshops on the 29th and 30th of January close shortly. Get in quick!

Opinions – STEM skills for a changing future

Recent opinion pieces have centered around the changing workspaces in schools and workplaces. It seems like we are moving towards a more collaborative, flexible and digitised world. That’s why teaching STEM skills is so important. 21st century skills will give students a toolbox full of resources to deal with a world in flux.

STEM skills for a changing future
STEM skills for a changing future

First, in this insightful interview Stamford professor Malcolm Kay talks about STEM and what it means for students’ futures. From The Conversation comes this piece about how to increase STEM participation in Australia. And finally from Education HQ, an article about the rise of tech leadership in schools.

Constructive criticism?

In this section we bring you some articles about the construction industry in the STEM space. This piece gives some advice about how to build a great STEM lab. And here is an interesting example of an integrated maths and engineering course focused on construction.

We’re especially excited about this homegrown tech innovator. Fastbrick Robotics has invented a gigantic robot which builds houses from the ground up, somewhat like a 3D printer. This world-first innovation has the potential to revolutionise the construction industry. Hello affordable housing for all! Watch it in action on their website or Youtube, or read more here.

robotic bricklayer construction
Image: Fastbrick Robotics

Last of all, Australia is soon to begin a construction project that is out of this world. Australia’s first commercial space base is set to begin launching rockets within a year. That’s right, one year. I can’t get over how exciting this is.

To infinity and beyond!

Australian space agency
Image: NASA




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).


August 17, 2017

Regional STEM PL

Our regional STEM PL workshops are still going strong. At the start of August the STEM LP team headed up to Karratha to run workshops for the Pilbara network. Primary and secondary teachers and leaders attended and said the material was extremely useful. We’re excited about the strong drive for STEM education in the Pilbara.

In the near future, we have even more regional workshops planned. We’ll be heading up to Christmas Island on 31st August. And in October we’ll be delivering PL in Esperance, so get in contact if you’re interested in attending. As always, you can check on upcoming sessions and find booking links at our PL page.


Regional STEM PL
We’re travelling all over WA with our regional workshops. Image courtesy aussiejeff via Flickr.
CC Attribution share alike

The STEM Innovation Expo

On Monday the Department of Education held its inaugural STEM Innovation Expo at the Crown Perth. Mark Hackling, the STEM Learning Project consortium chair and Michael Peter, the project manager, attended as seminar presenters. They gave a short workshop on the learning materials to over 100 attendees. You can watch a livestream of the entire expo on the DoE’s Youtube channel. The STEM LP content starts at 2:12:24.

New Ideas in STEM Education

There’s been lots of interesting STEM education news over the past few weeks. Firstly, out of the University of Melbourne is this interesting article about all the wonderful STEM initiatives happening around Australia and how we can support them.

There were a few interesting opinion pieces in the news as well. Gemma Tognini from the West Australian laments the lack of compulsory maths subjects for gaining a WA education certificate. However, she misses the fact that maths competency is inherent in subjects like home economics. Tom McLeish from the Guardian thinks its never too soon to get kids experimenting and playing in science class, while at the Scientific American Josephine Lister says we need to break down negative stereotypes and link science to student’s lives.

The Educator writes about using the Maths Pathway program to change the way maths education in run in schools. And how about using CAD software to teach STEM? has some thoughts on that.

STEM innovation
There are so many options for STEM education.

Keep Adding Letters

First we had STEM, then we added arts to get STEAM. Now there’s a new letter – R for reading. STREAM education is a new, deeply cross-curricular way of teaching that more and more educators are embracing. Get some tips and ideas about using this approach from EdTech here. 

Well my friends, that’s all for this week. Happy STREAMing!

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.