Welcome to the new year, STEM educators! In our first STEM roundup of the year we bring you some thoughts and ideas about STEM education in 2018. So read on and get inspired for the year ahead!
Scientists may have found one reason why problem- and project-based learning (PBL) decreases the gender performance gap in STEM subjects. In a recent study, educators changed the weighting of the final exam across several different classes. The higher stakes the exam, the worse the girls did compared to the boys. The researchers theorise that PBL strategies have a greater emphasis on small, formative assessment and less on high-stakes final examinations. Could this be one reason for its success? Read more at Science Daily.
On a related note, Stephen Noonoo from Edsurge muses on the similarities between problem-based learning, project-based learning, and challenge-based learning (among others). While there are difference, he argues that all these strategies are based around one fundamental similarity: active learning. Check out the article to discover more about what active learning is and why it is so useful.
Some cool resources for STEM education in 2018
A new program, Skype A Scientist, hooks up scientists from around the world with classrooms, libraries, or groups of curious adults. This is a completely free resource that was started by a small group of scientists passionate about public outreach. You can read more on their story here.
In a state like Western Australia, where the capital is the most remote in the world, this is a real boon for educators. The STEM Learning Project resources generally recommend engaging a subject expert to help with one or more activities. In regional and remote locations, this can be especially difficult. If you’re planning to use a STEM Learning Project resource this year, Skype A Scientist could be an excellent solution.
The second set of resources we’ve found comes from WA’s own Kim Maslin, a teacher and entrepreneur living in Esperance. She has several resources for teaching digital technologies at her website, including The Tweeting Galah. This engaging book of stories uses adorable Aussie animal characters to talk about important themes of online ettiquette. Topics include cyber bullying, staying safe from predators online, and how to strike a healthy balance between screen time and other pursuits. Making itself even more innovative and relevant, it uses embedded augmented reality as part of the experience via an app called Zappar.
What about STEM education in 2018… BC?
To finish off today’s post, let’s zoom back in time to 2018 BC, and beyond. That’s right, what about STEM education and knowledge in the world’s oldest surviving culture? That’s Australian Indigenous culture by the way (cool right?).
In May last year, Karlie Noon shared the journey that brought her to be the first Indigenous woman in NSW to graduate with a double degree in mathematics and physics. In her interview for SBS, she talked about how she dropped out of school in year 8, yet found her passion through the maths lessons delivered by an Aboriginal elder once a week. She also spoke on the rich heritage of Indigenous science knowledge, especially in astronomy.
We uncovered this related article from 2016 about star maps and this one about Indigenous astronomy in general. These articles show how various Indigenous peoples around Australia tackled the real world problems they faced: how to navigate through unfamiliar country, where and when to find food and water, or how to avoid being eaten by sharks. As you may know if you are familiar with the STEM Learning Project, solving real world problems is close to our heart.
We said this was about the past, and Indigenous knowledge certainly has a long heritage. But these ways of knowing, learning and problem solving are not stuck in the past. They can also help us enrich the future of STEM education.