Today's technological landscape is constantly evolving. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, coding, AR, and VR are reshaping education for all educators and learners. This article explores interactive tools and platforms to incorporate into the classroom, perfect for the Hour of Code or to inspire students in STEM year-round.
There are so many changes happening in the world of education, especially with technology. The need for skills in coding and STEM-related fields is on the rise. Not just in December for the Hour of Code but all year round, it is important that students have an opportunity to explore these topics in different classes and grade levels. The landscape of education is continually evolving, with the integration of STEM-related topics such as artificial intelligence, computer science, coding, augmented (AR), and virtual reality (VR). These technologies are reshaping not only how we teach but also impacting the ways that students can learn and engage with the content. Students may not be familiar with the types of careers available to them, but there are many highlighted through Defined Careers.
As we enter December and recognize events such as the Hour of Code and CS EdWeek (December 6-10), which are held in recognition of the birthday of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, it’s the perfect time to introduce innovative concepts into any classroom. Each year, we recognize the importance of building these skills with the goal of encouraging students, teachers, and communities worldwide to spend at least one hour learning about coding. The week-long celebration focuses on raising awareness about the importance of computer science education across the globe and inspiring students to learn more about what computer science means. It encompasses a wide range of activities, from classroom lessons and online tutorials to entire school events and community coding challenges.
CSEdWeek highlights the critical role of computing in all careers and the necessity of providing a strong educational foundation in computer science for students. The week serves as a call to action to increase access to computer science education and to encourage support from educators, parents, and policymakers. It is a time for educators to share resources and experiences and for students to explore the endless possibilities offered by computer science.
It is a great way to inspire interest in computer science and the field of technology. These events help to emphasize the importance of coding and how essential it is for students to understand and be able to innovate with the technology that surrounds them. There are a lot of fun and interactive ways to learn about coding. The goal is not just to teach programming skills but to inspire creativity, problem-solving, and logical thinking. These are just a few of the skills in demand for careers of the future.
STEM and Computer Science
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and computer science are critical in preparing students for a rapidly changing world. These subjects foster analytical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity. Resources like Defined Learning provide project-based activities that integrate real-world scenarios into STEM learning, making concepts more relatable and engaging for students.
Computer science, particularly coding, is a foundational skill in the digital age. It teaches students not just how to code but how to think logically and solve problems creatively. The Hour of Code is an excellent opportunity to introduce coding in an accessible and fun way. Tools like Scratch, an introductory coding tool that allows students to create stories, games, and animations, or Code.org offer interactive platforms where students can learn programming and find something that meets their interests. These options are perfect for Hour of Code activities.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
Augmented and Virtual Reality can transform the educational space through immersive learning experiences for students. In my STEAM class, AR and VR are just a few of the topics we cover. The use of these tools in our classrooms can help bring learning to life and immerse students more in hands-on and meaningful learning experiences. What a difference it can make to feel as though you are in the space or manipulating an object with your hands. There are a few AR/VR tools that I recommend trying in your classroom:
CoSpaces Eduis a user-friendly platform that lets students and teachers create their own AR and VR experiences. It’s a great option for digital storytelling, explaining and exploring complex subjects, or even creating virtual field trips. Some of my favorite examples are history lessons where students can virtually walk through ancient Rome or a science class where they can walk through different environments. It sparks creativity and can help students retain the content better as they create in these virtual worlds.
Kai's Educationbrings together the digital and physical worlds through coding and robotics. It combines AR, VR, coding, and real robots to provide a mixed-reality environment in a unique collaborative platform. Students can code their robots to navigate physical environments, which are then mirrored in a virtual world on the screen.
Merge Cubeis an AR tool that lets students hold and interact with 3D objects, bringing a hands-on dimension to digital learning. Merge EDU offers many lessons, and students also have access to Immersive Reader, which promotes greater accessibility. Merge can also be used with CoSpaces Edu.
Coding and Robotics
AI for Oceans: Students can explore a variety of STEM-related topics while also building awareness of global challenges. Through AI for Oceans, students explore topics such as AI and machine learning while also engaging in ethical discussions related to the activities provided.
Matatalab: For even the youngest learners of the age of 3, there are robots and ways to learn about coding. The best part is that it is screen-free at this age, so students learn the concepts and steps involved in coding. Tale-Bot Pro is fun for all ages but makes it easier to get started with early learners. Learning to code with screen-free options is a great way to start! VinciBot is an option for students ages 8 and up. It can bring in facial recognition and coding and gives students a chance to be really creative with their designs and the mazes they create! Roboticsis an area that provides many ways for students to explore careers and build essential skills.
Robotical: We have enjoyed working withMarty the Robot, which is a humanoid that can be coded screen-free with color cards or using the app with text-based and block-based coding. Now you can use Google’s Teachable Machine and bring AI into your lessons, too. My students really like being able to try the different types of coding and learning about the benefits of these skills and also the machines that we have now and will have in the future.
Integrating these ideas might seem like a time-consuming task, but it is easier than you might think. Start with one activity and place it in the hands of the students for more student-driven learning. Perhaps with an Hour of Code event using basic coding platforms and then gradually incorporating more complex projects using Defined Learning’s resources, which offers real-world project-based learning scenarios, ideal for integrating STEM and computer science concepts in a practical and engaging way.
Encourage students to explore these technologies, experiment, and learn from their trials. Remember, the goal is not just to teach these skills but to inspire a mindset of innovation and curiosity. December is a great time to integrate STEM, computer science, AR, and VR into our classrooms and continue to do so throughout the year. These technologies not only enrich the learning experience but also prepare students for the future and the potential careers and technologies that might be available.
With resources like Defined Learning, and these other tools, we can create an engaging, interactive, and innovative educational environment. Learning is a journey and these experiences will best prepare us and students, for a future where the possibilities are as limitless as our imagination.
About the Author:
Rachelle Dené Poth is an ed-tech consultant, presenter, attorney, author, and teacher. Rachelle teaches Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology at Riverview Junior-Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle has a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. She is a Consultant, Speaker, and owner of ThriveinEDU LLC Consulting. She is an ISTE Certified Educator and currently serves as the past -president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network and on the Leadership team of the Mobile Learning Network. At ISTE19, she received the Making IT Happen Award and a Presidential Gold Award for volunteer service to education. She is also a Flip Ambassador, Nearpod PioNear, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, and Wakelet Ambassador.