Lot of us know that we need smart, creative, innovative, problem-solving and collaborative people in our working environment. Education should prepare and train pubils and students for that. So, the old model of infusing information into brains to be able to repeat it, is definitely not the right way. We all know that!
But what is innovative learning? In what ways does education help to create collaboration between pubils and students, and encourage them to ask questions and have excellent problem-solving skills?
As a teacher or a professor you are a mentor, who encourages pupils and students to raise their voice and follow their interest, so that they are able to become engineers or researchers – and of course to become innovators and creative thinkers!
Open source learning: Group learning
There are many ways to spice up your lessons: for example, you can create an atmosphere where pupils can focus on topics, which they are interested in, so they can work on their own projects in groups. It is kind of an open source learning. Pupils can follow their own interests. It is also a team-building experience to set goals as a group and enlarge knowledge together. It is important that you prepare your pupils for the project and give first instructions. For your students, it is a different way of acquiring knowledge. They have to research and to be active to get to know more about the topic. It is a nice experience of collecting ideas, working together and being responsible for the lesson. Pupils can also discuss their ideas with their groups. They work together with their peers who may have different views, so they end up refining their ideas. After the lessons, pupils should reflect on their projects and be honest. What went wrong, what was good? That helps to improve their skills. The best solution would be to organise the group projects over one school year, so that the pupils have enough time to work. It can also help to use a blog or a forum, where they can share their projects and have space to present them.
Asking questions and thinking problem-solving
As a teacher you have the opportunity to invite and encourage pupils and students to ask questions! Innovation starts with a question – not with an answer. It is important in their daily life and for school or university that when they realize something went wrong or something is broken, they should ask themselves: What is wrong? What is the problem? Or when they don’t understand the opinions of others or a more complicated task, they should begin to ask questions: Why? How? First, students have to realize a problem, then be interested in and passionate about solving the problem. Then move on to asking themselves: which skills do I need to solve this problem? What can I do to make this happen?
Create a creative space: Makerspace and STEM toys
To encourage the feeling of innovation or creativity, makerspaces help to break up the classic frontal classroom separation and create a more creative and group-thinking situation. Makerspaces exist outside of classrooms too: they are essentially creative hubs, that foster collaboration a culture of sharing equipment and ideas.
Use innovative STEM toys for your lessons e.g. robotics, coding, electronics, soldering, photo & video or 3D printing. Tablets or notebooks can be used to play learning games or to document everyday experiences. Virtual reality glasses, oscilloscopes and microscope are a great equipement for lively STEM lessons.
Stay up-to-date with advanced training
As a techer it’s important to stay up-to-date! Training helps to get to know the latest didactical concepts and to use it for digital lessons.
STEM education in early childhood
Also in primary school or even earlier in kindergarten you can start with STEM education! STEM situations are everywhere! Kids observe their environment, experiment and do stuff to adapt the surroundings. They are curious learners, who explore their surroundings, make discoveries, and try new things out. Why is it like that? What could possibly happen? Can I change how it works? This habit of questioning and trying new things out, is typical in early childhood. School isn’t where learning starts – the early years are important to the rest of the academic career. Giving children hands-on STEM learning opportunities in early childhood education helps in building positive attitude of kids towards education and can eventually generate further curiosity. Preparing future professionals to pursue STEM fields should begin in early childhood education.
Susanne Lettner is a Co-Founder of the project DigiMINTKids, which focuses on Digital and STEM education for children (2-10 years). Also she is a STEM ambassador for “MINT Zukunft schaffen“ and a Juror for the signets „Digital School“ and „STEM friendly School“. „MINT Zukunft schaffen“ is the largest German STEM-network comprising the majority of initiatives and activities of German companies, designed to win more qualified professionals for the subjects science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The initiative was founded in May 2008 under the patronage of German chancellor Dr Angela Merkel. It offers a platform for STEM activities and numerous initiatives. For years, Susanne has been actively involved in the transfer of practice and knowledge in STEM field.