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Where To Start with STEAM

Getting started, knowing what to buy and how to integrate a STEAM program can seem daunting. Schools are at different stages with implementing the new curriculum and with 2020 fast approaching many are feeling the pressure. This week I was honoured to take part in a Core Education and Enabling e-Learning webinar on choosing and using robotics and electronics in authentic contexts. It was a wonderful opportunity to share ideas and hear what schools are currently doing. Some important points were covered and I wanted to share these.

1. Unplugged activities have a vital role in the new curriculum. You don't need to jump in with a range of robotics to start. I really believe that in order to be a well rounded learner in this area you need to learn the basic building blocks. Just like basic facts in maths, we need to start at the beginning with digital technologies. Understanding circuits, movement, gears ect allows children to take this knowledge and develop their own robotic and electrical projects. It also allows problem solving when things don't work, as they sometimes do! To understand how something works and to fix it is a skill that is missing today. How many times do we throw something out, like a broken toaster, rather than try and fix it.

2. Don't be afraid to learn alongside your students. You don't have to have all the answers and students will love being able to be the teacher in some areas. Unlike some of us who are instruction readers, today's students learn best by jumping in and learning through play and experimenting.

3. Electronic and robotic projects must have real life connections. For learning to be authentic it must relate back to solving real world issues.

4. Student agency is vital. Having students lead their projects will result in a more engaged group. Guidance might be necessary to begin but once they see the potential their knowledge can have on issues in their community they will be in a position to run their own projects.

5. Projects must be structured around the design process. These skills are what employers and this country are looking for from future graduates. Skills such as problem solving, collaboration, resilience, imagination and creative thinking are crucial for students moving forward in today's world.

6. While some schools are dedicating a day or half day to inquiry based digital based projects which is ideal, you can still start small. Include projects in classes such as maths with measurement, shape ect and use the project results as the inspiration for writing topics and presentations. Incorporate digital projects into art while using a social studies focus. Digital technologies does not need to be stand alone subject, it can and should support existing subjects.

7. It must be hands on and inquiry based to excite and engage students. Exploration and discovery are essential.

8. Dedicate a team or person to lead digital technologies. Keep together all information and flyers to help guide your purchasing decisions and project ideas.

9. New equipment is a large investment for any school, make sure you have a system for storage and maintenance of the equipment. One option is through your school library.

10. When choosing new products make sure they are robust and open-ended for authentic projects. Are they linked or support the New Zealand curriculum? Does the equipment allow students to design digital outcomes? Do the products support your schools vision? Can the equipment be used across different ages to make it more versatile and affordable? If there are consumable contents can they be repurchased so the product can be reused?

If you have any questions or need any assistance please feel free to get in touch.

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