What is STEM education?
STEM education is the infusion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in children’s learning and development.
Key STEM skills for children in school:
- Problem solving
- Critical analysis
- Independent thinking
- Digital literacy.
The Importance of STEM Education in Elementary
The global economy is changing now even more than ever. With recent events such as the pandemic, online learning and technology use in industries has increased. More employers are expecting their workforce to have in fact STEM skills particularly digital literacy, so that they can continue to learn as a lifelong learner as they are connected and can interact every day.
STEM education in primary schools is important because it is all about 21st century readiness. The workforce of the future need creativity, critical thinking, communicating and collaborating.
Technology in STEM Education
The role that technology has in STEM activities is that of infusion. It is the essence of its use as STEM is all about integrating science, technology, engineering and maths together. Similarly, the best way to develop student ICT capability is to embed meaningful and purpose-driven ICT activities in subject learning.
It is for this reason, why it is important for you to understand that simply because you are giving students numeracy drill and practice programs in STEM or mathematics lessons, or the other, ILS such as numeracy-specific software, does not constitute the use of technology in STEM learning. ICT must be used effectively and content-free software such as the ones which follow will allow for students to develop their higher order skills and to be challenged intellectually.
STEM Teaching Strategies for Technology use in Mathematics
- Word Processing - children can use word processing programs to present the results of mathematical investigations. They can import graphs into the document as well as images and spreadsheets.
- Desktop packages (DTP) - create simple shapes quickly and easily. Use the built-in functions to rotate and reflect shapes once created. This will help students visualise the effect of rotation upon them.
- Spreadsheets - Spreadsheets can be used to generate arithmetic and geometric sequences rapidly. Teachers may generate and print these to use away from the computer. A range of problem-solving activities can be supported in this way. For example, using a hundred square, colour in all the cells containing 7s . What do you notice? Now colour all those with numbers ending in 3. What do you notice?
- Databases - A branching tree database incorporating pictures may be used to support the sorting and classification of shapes with younger children. Does the shape have corners? Does it have four sides?
- Digital cameras - Children can be encouraged to take photographs of their environment and identify the shapes, nets and tessellations that they have recorded. Children may walk around the school and take images which show examples of regular shapes, e.g. door as rectangle, sand tray as circle. They may view the images on a screen with their teacher and talk through their selections.
- Graphics programs (drawing and painting) - prepare an electronic file containing a plan view of the classroom and the outlines of a range of furniture to be included. Children could explore possible arrangements. Extension activities might include conditions (the computer cannot be located by a south-facing window) or additions (two new children are starting on Monday; where should the extra table and chairs be located?). Such software sometimes includes a grid which can be switched on and off. Grids may help children use graphics software to develop their mathematical understanding of shape.
(Allan et al., 2012)