Whether you call it STEM, STEAM, STREAM or STEMx, it seems there's one thing most of us can agree on: It's time to re-envision how we teach STEM.
It's not just that STEM-related industries are bemoaning the lack of qualified graduates. It's not just that students are disengaged from their science and math classes. It's not just that there's a dearth of girls interested in developing their STEM skills.
The real problem runs deeper than all of those things. "In a world with greater population, global interconnection, technological advancement, and large-scale problems than ever before in human history, complex problems require sophisticated problem-solving skills and innovative, complicated solutions," declared a 2013 report on "Rethinking STEM Education: An Interdisciplinary STEAM Curriculum."
"Traditional science training provides a solid foundation of facts and basic science technique, but rarely examines how to foster scientists' creative, cross-disciplinary problem identification and solving skills."
In short, simply graduating more students through the STEM pipeline isn't enough, says Jim Vanides, global education program manager for HP.
" "We need to give students new, more relevant, engaging and exciting experiences that map to the real world of science, technology and math. Where does nanoscience fit, or biotech? There are more disciplines that are going to emerge in the future that aren't part of STEM as we knew it in the 20th century." "
So it's time we got creative and solved the STEM problem. While that's easier said than done, it starts with individual educators rethinking their approach to STEM — and incorporating STEM skills into other subjects.
Need some inspiration to help you develop a new perspective on STEM in the classroom? Here are five places to look:
1. Follow STEM experts on Twitter.
With a few strategic follows, you can inject a little #STEM into your professional learning network and get a wealth of ideas and resources delivered right to your Twitter stream. Edudemic has compiled a list of 25 interesting STEM experts to follow.
2. Discover science with Jeff Charbonneau.
From helping student research teams collect data on local frogs to running statewide robotics competitions, science teacher Jeff Charbonneau masterfully engages students in STEM subjects by applying their learning to real-world problems. Get a dose of inspiration and ideas from the 2013 National Teacher of the Year by watching his keynote from ISTE 2014.
3. Catch up on STEM learning.
STEM education has changed dramatically just in the past few years, with new technologies and interdisciplinary approaches cropping up. Explore the latest strategies, pedagogies and teaching tools from some of the leading experts in STEM education with ISTE's STEM webinar pass.
4. Teach students to code.
Coding provides a natural entry point into STEM, as it shifts students from becoming digital consumers to digital creators. Former teacher and edublogger Richard Byrne shares 10 coding resources for helping students learn to program.
5. Watch sessions from STEMxCon.
Last fall, educators around the world tuned in to the Global 2013 STEMx Education Conference, a virtual conference all about rethinking STEM for the digital age. If you missed the live event, you can still browse the free session videos online.
Check these out, and see if something sparks for you. What new STEM strategy will you try out this year?