STEM, new trends and pedagogy of the (near) future

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Why STEM?

In the United States the first changes seen in school occurred after President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, later updated under the Obama legislation in 2015. The focus is now on a new method of student training in order to guarantee greater success in university and in the job market. This reform has kicked off further initiatives to improve the US educational system by focusing on science and IT subjects for all the students, starting in kindergarten to university. This means an improvement of the computational thinking and the skills required to be active citizens in a technology-driven world. This is the answer to a growing demand for increasingly specific skills required by the current job market. Many job places in the technological sector remain uncovered while STEM skills will be researched in all the sectors. This gap creates the urgent need to adjust the professional skills training needed in this competitive market.

What happens in Europe?

In Europe the Digital Education Action Plan has been challenging the new education and training trend developing digital skills needed in everyday life and in the job market. This plan comes from understanding the advantages offered by a computer education that can reduce the learning gap between students from different socio-economic backgrounds, but also motivate students in using fun and entertainment tools. In Europe it’s estimated that 90% of jobs will require IT skills in the near future so it is essential that the education systems provide the appropriate training for the required qualifications.

In Italy during the 2014/15 school year MIUR (Ministry of Education, University and Research) and CINI (National Interuniversity Consortium for IT) launched the Programma il futuro project. The goal from the start was to promote computational thinking and to introduce computer science in schools in order to help students to develop logical and problem-solving skills in a creative and efficient way. Italy is among the top positions in Europe for its efforts in activities and events related to the European Code Week, which aims to achieve digital literacy. This is also thanks to Professor Alessandro Bogliolo, of the University of Urbino who is the coordinator of the European CodeWeek, but also of the group of teachers who set up a working community to incorporate coding practices into the curriculum of the various school disciplines.

Trends and resources

In recent years, numerous coding and STEM projects have been implemented to involve more and more teachers and students. The development of STEM in teaching is closely linked to the collaboration between teachers and between schools. Scientix and eTwinning both offer a huge amount of help in becoming a community of good practices. In our classes with our students, we work to raise awareness on the importance of women in science and technology.

One of my projects is coding@schools, an example of cooperation between European members about coding and programming. We share experiences and tasks in order to develop cooperation and knowledge. We work on the same sheets and follow the previously agreed-upon guidelines. With our activities we improve problem solving and computational thinking. Our students are very happy to have friends so far away but so close to each other, thanks to technological means such as Skype, hangouts and the eTwinning Twinspace. They can see the other members of the project working on their proposed games and play themselves with codes and drawings of the partners. Moreover the evaluation phase helps students and teachers to check the work. It’s useful to face with other methodologies because we become more and more aware what we have done and what to do next.

Nowadays we are experimenting with social and organizational networks. The base is the relationship; the internal one is outlined among students, teachers and managers and the external one is established with the families, with the local community, with the labor market, with the other training agencies and finally, with the political and administrative structures. In the community of practice, participants exchange knowledge and become capable of facing new problems and solving them according to an innovative perspective that arises from the exploitation of different experiences, but also from the involvement of participants.

The responsibility of teachers in contributing to children and young people’s training is so important. Schools need to focus on the now and now is the time for action!

 

Author: Stefania Altieri, Scientix Ambassador

Images are the author’s own.

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