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.
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
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 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.