Is edtech the route to STEM integration in the classroom?
GUEST COLUMN | by Na’ama Y. Rosenberg
The United States National Academies has emphasized the need for enhanced STEM education in the United States. Its top three recommendations were to:
- Increase America’s talent pool by improving K–12 science and mathematics education
- Strengthen the skills of teachers through additional training in science, mathematics, and technology
- Enlarge the pipeline of students prepared to enter college and graduate with STEM degrees
Studies also show that students today are not prepared for a STEM enriched world. The National Math and Science Initiative states that only 36 percent of all high school grads are ready to take a college-level science course, and the U.S. is falling behind the rest of the world at an alarming rate, ranking just 27th in math and 20th in science out of 34 countries. Getting students ready and excited for STEM subject areas is critical. Luckily, edtech and STEM initiatives integrate beautifully to create better learning outcomes for students. A study from KIPP Academy in Houston, TX showed students who learned in iPad equipped classrooms had 49 percent more students rated as proficient or advanced than traditional classrooms without iPads.
There has been an increasing trend in education to raise the competitiveness of American students entering high school, particularly in the disciplines of science and math. Many programs have been created to address the rising interests of students and the goals of the governmental initiative, such as robotics clubs, coding classes and mobile devices in the classroom. However, edtech software available today provides many additional opportunities to incorporate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in standard academic subjects such as English, history, and foreign languages.
One of the most central ways to implement the USNA’s recommendations is to integrate technology into the classroom with “blended learning”, where students might work on tablets or laptops. That is a step, but does not address the essence of the STEM ideal. STEM means integrating more of these disciplines together, and with interdisciplinary approaches.
To that end, there is a variety of edtech platforms that represents a unique capability which epitomizes the very goals of STEM and bridge the gap between traditional learning and the new, emerging standards expected in today’s classroom. Edtech is a booming industry, which makes options plentiful, ensuring a solution for each classroom’s individual needs.
Specifically, edtech software like Voki, Discovery Education, and Google Classroom can incorporate all the facets of STEM, and provides an engaging tool that students embrace. An example of how this is done – in a history lesson, students can design their own presentations electronically to share with the class. Even though the primary topic at hand is history, students are still engineering solutions on how to best format their presentations, and utilizing the technology available to them to convey a message.
Today’s students have spent their entire schooling careers surrounded by a variety of technological mediums, and are eager to embrace new learning opportunities. The Department of Education cites that 83 percent of teachers are interested in using technology in their classrooms, but only 10 percent of schools even allow students to access the software used in the class remotely.
Teachers should harness the excitement and meet common core standards and STEM requirements all in one lesson. Finding new ways to excite today’s young people about subjects of which some are actually afraid, is a challenge that cannot be overstated. Edtech tools can be used to achieve all of these goals and equip students to be even more passionate about, and technologically competent, confident and prepared for a STEM focused world.
Na’ama Y. Rosenberg is a former educator and school administrator, and is currently the Director of Content Development at Voki, an edtech tool that allows teachers and students to create their very own digital talking avatar.