How to Boost STEM Education (Hint: Not With More Standardized Testing)

11/29/2011 12:00:00 AM

cross-posted at www.hackeducation.com


I write a lot about some of the prevailing narratives in education technology. (I can’t help it; it’s my literature and folklore background). “Sputnik moments.” Failing schools and falling test scores.

But today at Lego Education’s STEM Summit, I heard a strong counter-narrative to the one that says more testing is more better.

It was articulated by a CEO — Pitsco‘s Harvey Dean who pointed to the rise of standardized testing leading to a decline in tech programs. “Teachers don’t have the time” to incorporate hands-on learning and scientific experimentation in their classes, he argued, “and that’s a crime.”

It was articulated by Jeffrey Rosen, from Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Math, & Computing, who noted that “everything in the classroom is driven by that four-letter-word. The one that starts and ends with T.”

It was articulated in almost every panel session, every casual conversation: if we have veered off-track with education in this country, if we are failing to equip students for the future, then standardized test scores aren’t necessarily the symptom. They might just be the disease.

Of course, it’s not surprising at a summit sponsored by Lego Education and National Instruments that the push here is for hands-on learning as the key to improving students’ STEM competencies. It’s something I’ve written about recently when it comes to STEM at the college level. But at the Lego Education STEM Summit the focus was on K-12, and panelists spoke, for example, about the role that robotics clubs have played in boosting students understanding of math and science.

But they also talked about the other crucial things that come from embracing these sorts of activities — in and out of the classroom. Pitsco’s Dean argued that hands-on learning moves the locus of responsibility to the student, not the teacher. Georgia Tech’s Rosen noted that working in FIRST Robotics and Lego competitions drives students to become learners, and just as importantly arguably, it drives the teachers to learn more — so that teachers can stay ahead of their students, sure, but also so that students and teachers can learn together.

This was Lego Education’s inaugural STEM Summit, held in conjunction with ACTE‘s upcoming conference. The keynote speaker was NASA’s Leland Melvin who gave one of those inspiring talks that made me want to be an astronaut (apparently, there are job openings). And it’s Lego, which remains for both young and old, one of the most beloved toys and an obvious path to get kids interested in building and making.

So the next step, speaking of narratives I guess, is to help get this conversation back on track. It’s about convincing administrators that these types of hands-on learning experiments do have positive outcomes and can be assessed. It’s about convincing parents too to let go of their hand-wringing and accept play back into their children’s lives. It’s about supporting teachers — particularly those who don’t have STEM backgrounds — so that they can incorporate these projects into their classrooms. It’s about convincing kids that building Legos and robots are fun. Oh wait… Well, it’s about demonstrating to them that math and science do have a real, practical purpose.

And it’s about helping get the story out, I think, that when we talk about this country’s failure to support STEM education adequately, that it might just be because we’re spending time teaching students how to fill out multiple choice exams and not how to be creative problem-solvers.

Disclosure: Lego Education and National Instruments paid for my travel to the event in St. Louis.

Audrey Watters is a technology journalist, freelance writer, ed-tech advocate, recovering academic, rabble-rouser, and single mom. She blogs at Hack Education.
 
comments powered by Disqus
Tweets
Photo GalleriesView All Galleries >
Acer C720-2844 Chromebook

(www.acer.com) The Acer C720-2844 Chromebook model delivers speedy performance, a quick boot time of seven seconds, and a matte anti-glare display tha...

Britannica ImageQuest

(www.britannica.com) Britannica Digital Learning has upgraded ImageQuest, a resource for schools and libraries that provides nearly three million rig...

ClassFlow

(www.classflow.com) Promethean has released ClassFlow, a free, all-in-one, cloud-based teaching tool that lets teachers create and deliver interactive...

Adobe Voice

(www.adobe.com) Adobe has released Adobe Voice, an animated video app for the iPad that lets users create and share video stories. The app incorporate...

DeskBoard

(www.boxlight.com) The BOXLIGHT DeskBoard mobile cart adjusts both height and tilt for the P8 ultra short throw interactive projector on a white surfa...

Core 36M

(www.bretford.com) Bretford has introduced Core 36M, a 36-unit charging cart that is optimized for Chromebooks but which also supports most tablets, l...

Edmentum Sensei

(www.edmentum.com) Edmentum Sensei is a mobile optimized solution that helps administrators visualize and track overall school, teacher, and student p...

HMH Player

(www.hmhco.com) HMH has released HMH Player, a new native app for iOS and Google Chrome that streamlines the learning experience for improved digital ...

Juice Power System

(www.bretford.com) Bretford has unveiled an easy-to-use modular power system with exchangeable power components. The Juice Power System uses unique &#...

LightSail

(www.lightsailed.com) LightSail Education has announced a literacy accelerator that combines books with in-text embedded assessments and real-time dat...

myON

(www.myon.com) myON has expanded its digital library to include a set of literacy tools to further personalize the reading experience for students whi...

Nervanix Clarity

(www.nervanix.com) Nervanix has released Clarity, an application that monitors student attention levels as they study and guides them to revisit conce...

MathBall

(www.robotslab.com) RobotsLAB has introduced MathBall, a smart sensor basketball and tablet system that offers curricula in algebra, pre-calculus, phy...

MobileAsset.EDU

(www.waspbarcode.com) Wasp Barcode’s MobileAsset.EDU solutions include everything administrators need to account for their assets, from software...

OpenEd Assessment Creation Tool

(www.opened.io) OpenEd has announced a free tool that lets teachers easily create assessments with the question types required by Common Core standard...

Panasonic TH-80LFB70U

(www.panasonic.com) Panasonic’s TH-80LFB70U interactive LED display features high-speed, multi-touch, interactive capabilities to promote partic...

penveu interactive display system

(www.penveu.com) The penveu interactive display system is a handheld device that turns projectors and large screen displays into interactive whiteboar...

PresentationPro

(www.califone.com) Califone has updated its PresentationPro speaker. The PA310 readily connects with computers, LCD projectors, mobile devices, intera...

PowerSync+ Mobile Companion App

(www.bretford.com) Bretford Manufacturing, Inc. has announced the availability of the companion app for its PowerSync+ enabled charge and sync produc...

PureCharge Carts and Stations for iPad

(www.bretford.com) Bretford Manufacturing, Inc. has debuted the PureCharge family of iPad and iPad mini charging carts and stations. By offering pre-i...

ProQuest Research Companion

(www.proquest.com) ProQuest’s new information literacy product, Research Companion, offers videos that guide users through the research process,...

Sphere2 & Class Send Student Engagement Software Platform

(www.averusa.com) AVer Information has developed a Student Engagement platform, providing teachers and students with the tools to transmit document ca...

TabChargeCT2

(www.averusa.com) AVer has released the TabChargeCT2 charge cart solution, which can hold up to 40 Chromebooks, iPads, Android or Windows tablets, lap...

VoiceLift with Instant Alert and Emergency Video Monitoring

(www.extron.com) The Instant Alert function of the Extron VoiceLift Microphone, combined with a PoleVault, WallVault, or PlenumVault classroom AV sys...

SMART Board 6065

(www.smarttech.com) The SMART Board 6065 is an ultra HD, 4K interactive flat panel that offers collaborative capabilities while ensuring lessons run s...

Gaggle Unity Partner Program

(www.gaggle.net) The new Gaggle Unity Partner Program provides free data integration services for all educational technology vendors. Through the Gagg...

Waterford Early Learning, Reading, Math & Science

(www.waterford.org) Waterford Early Learning Cloud can be used at home or to supplement lessons in classrooms. It can also be used for individual adap...

NetSupport School

(www.netsupportschool.com) The latest version of NetSupport School allows teachers to monitor and collaborate with any mix of technology. An enhanced ...

Camtasia

(www.techsmith.com/camtasia) TechSmith’s Camtasia gives teachers the tools to record lessons, create videos, and engage their audiences. Educato...

Panasonic 3E

(www.panasonic.com) Intel has teamed up with Panasonic to announce the Panasonic 3E, which uses the Intel Education 2-in-1 reference design. Designed ...