How to Promote STEM in the Classroom – Interview with National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) about how to foster technology in the classroom to enhance Science / Technology / Engineering / and Math skills in children of all ages.
Laptops, tablets and apps are just some of the latest tech tools that teachers are using to spark students’ interest in STEM disciplines, which include science, technology, engineering and math. Other trends include moving away from traditional face-to-face instruction and toward more hybrid learning opportunities, including online instruction and hands-on projects.
I interviewed members of the National Assessment Governing Board to find out more about these technological trends.
How to Promote STEM in the Classroom
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Many parents are on the fence about the amount of technology used in the classroom in place of social instruction, and online courses in place of face-to-face instruction. Is it a benefit or is it a detriment to utilize laptops, tablets and apps when teaching? How to Promote STEM in the Classroom advice?
Dr. Cary Sneider, National Assessment Governing Board member – Well, first it’s not either laptops vs face-to-face. Yes, there are classes that kids can take online, and that’s really valuable when it’s not available in their school. But, those devices really can encourage a collaboration, so for example, I have always liked to teach with one computer and two students and then you get a lot of collaboration among the students. I often see in classrooms, kids will have a smartphone and they’ll be under the desk with it, texting their friends. Teachers who are aware of that can say “Ok, kids, bring your smartphones on top of the desk and I want you download this free app and you can make this into an Oscilloscope and you can analyze soundwaves with it.” Most of our kids in the middle school and high school level these days have a little computer that they carry with them all the time that can be a really valuable tool. Teachers also use Powerpoint to teach lessons. But, if they put that Powerpoint in the hands of teams of students figuring out how they can communicate their ideas as a team, that’s another way to build the social structure of the classroom and enabling kids to utilize some of these technologies.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Tell us more about The Nation’s Report Card and how it’s different than other assessments or tests that are out there. How do you measure how to promote STEM in the classroom?
Mary Crovo, National Assessment Governing Board Deputy Executive Director – Sure, great question. Our Nation’s Report Card is the country’s gold standard assessment in grades 4, 8 and 12 providing incredible resources and information about our students’ achievement. We track trends over time, which is a hallmark of our program. It’s been in existence since about 1969. Unlike most tests that your audience might be familiar with where a student brings home a test from a teacher or perhaps a state test, we don’t report out at the student or school level, but rather at the national, state and urban district level. So, we have scores that we report out on these various subjects. For Michigan, and Detroit is one of our urban districts that we can compare Detroit scores to both similar urban districts as well as to the national average – a great resource to get that broad picture to inform our educational improvement in our nation.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – I know you mentioned this already, but can you expand on how technology changing the way students learn STEM subjects better?
Dr. Cary Sneider, National Assessment Governing Board member – Well, so what I talked about earlier was the way that technological devices in the classrooms, modern technologies make a difference. But, it’s also the content of what students are learning, too. So, for example, technology is all the ways we change the natural world, and it’s important for them to know that by changing the natural world, there’s going to be effects on society and the environment. And, that’s one of the most important issues today as the world expands from 7 billion people in the world today to as many as 9 billion people when our kids are adults. There’s the questions about producing enough food for the planet, climate change… other types of issues of that sort. These are all involved with both technology and science and the ways those relate together. We need students to understand the technological problems and issues that they’re going to have to solve because we may not have solved them in our time.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Why are STEM subjects so important for students to learn in today’s classroom even if they don’t pursue a career in those fields?
Dr. Cary Sneider, National Assessment Governing Board member – Well, just about every career these days requires some knowledge and capabilities in the STEM field. And, we’re talking about 21st century skills like the ability to communicate, to get information from the internet for example, the ability to even read and write and do mathematics – every career requires these, but not just careers… every day life requires decisions. And, the idea that if students make informed decisions based on data, their decisions will help them be more successful as individuals in a very technological society. So, it’s absolutely essential for careers and it’s also essential for every day life.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – This has been so informative. Is there anything else you want to add or think I should know about How to Promote STEM in the Classroom?
Dr. Cary Sneider, National Assessment Governing Board member – Well, I’d like to call attention to the website where people can learn a lot more – NationsReportCard.gov or just google the Nation’s Report Card. You can go online, anybody can go online and quite simply compare results of students within your state with the national average. Also, teachers can go online and parents can go online and click on the interactive computer tasks and actually take these assessments and they can compare how well they do with the nation’s other kids at that level. Teachers can use these in their classrooms because they’re really engaging activities. They help students learn. Parents can use them on the weekends with their families. So, there are lots of opportunities if you go online to NationsReportCard.gov.
For more info on How to Promote STEM in the Classroom, visit NationsReportCard.gov.