Spring presents a great time to explore new ideas or try some new tools, especially as we look to boost student engagement with the content and keep up the momentum. As we start to wind down this school year, we have plenty of time to explore new ideas and remember to stay focused on our true purpose: how to best prepare students for the future. While we may not know exactly what types of jobs will exist or the interests of our students, what we do know is that students will need a variety of skill sets to be prepared for whatever changes the future brings. And they likely will need to understand the technology and continue to build skills as technology and methods of working evolve over time. When we provide students with experiences that will more meaningfully engage them with the content, by moving them from consumers to creators, it will increase student engagement and promote higher student achievement. Offering more choices helps us to better meet specific student interests and needs while also preparing them for the careers of the future.
I often reference materials from the World Economic Forum when it comes to better understanding the job outlook and types of skills students will need. I do this so that I can extend new opportunities in my classroom that will not only help students to develop the content area skills but will empower them with skills that will transfer to whatever the future holds in education and work. The World Economic Forum stated that approximately 1 billion jobs will be transformed by technology over the course of the next 10 years and for this reason, students will need to develop a variety of skill sets. According to the Jobs of Tomorrow report, we will see tremendous growth in jobs dealing with artificial intelligence, data analytics, cloud computing, and STEM.
It has been reported that there will be 3.5 million jobs available by 2025 that require STEM skills which include coding. While we recognize that there is a growing need for students to develop skills in coding and in STEM-related fields, there may be barriers to providing these learning opportunities such as a lack of resources or funding or perhaps educators feel that they don’t have enough knowledge to bring STEM into the classroom. Even if we don’t feel like we have enough preparation, it is important to take those risks and learn with and from our students. In creating these opportunities, we will hopefully spark student curiosity that leads to an interest in a future career. And more importantly, providing these opportunities will help all students to develop essential 21st-century and workplace skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and a greater ability to make decisions.
Regardless of our role in education, we have to consider these statistics as we plan for our students. We have to consider the types of learning opportunities we need to provide for them and also, how we can prepare ourselves to get them started and support them. With so many emerging topics like AI, AR/VR, the Metaverse, and more, finding the right resources to help students explore these concepts and build their interest and skills in these areas is important.
Here are six resources to explore that will give students the chance to learn about STEM-related topics including artificial intelligence and machine learning, augmented and virtual reality, coding, and more that will meet student needs and interests. In my 8th grade STEAM course, we cover a lot of these topics, and what my students like and what I appreciate is that we can find something that interests each of us and then share our learning with others.
Here are six STEM learning resources:
- Code with Google is focused on closing equity gaps in computer science opportunities and it provides free resources for students. Google CS First, for middle school students, has programming explorations and lessons which include scripts and resources for teachers which makes it even easier to get started.
- Daily STEM is a platform created by Chris Woods where educators and families can find many ideas for exploring STEM activities. Some favorite features are the “STEM everyday” posts where educators have the opportunity to share their STEM activities and the podcast which features how educators are bringing STEM into their classrooms.
- ISTE’s AI and STEM Explorations Network has created four free hands-on AI projects for the classroom guides which are available for download from ISTE and GM. For elementary, secondary, elective, and technology courses, these guides offer a variety of topics that are relevant to all content areas. The guides are available in English, Spanish, and Arabic.
- Microsoft. Educators can find a variety of free resources available for bringing STEM curricula into the classroom. Some of the options include Minecraft education, Make Code, and Hacking STEM. It is also important for students to hear from people working in the field and with Microsoft, educators can set up a chat with guest speakers, or participate in free online courses.
- Scratch was created by the MIT Media Lab in 2007 and the Scratch Foundation, a non-profit organization oversees the program to make sure that it remains a free resource for students. The target range listed was ages 8 through 16, but I think that it can be used by anyone. It is offered in more than 70 languages which helps to promote accessibility, which is so important that all students have access to these essential learning opportunities. Because it is offered for free, it promotes equity in learning
- Swift playground is available on the iPad or Mac if you have the updated operating system. Swift playground is a good way for students to get started with coding whether in school or at home, provided that all students have access to devices. The age range says that it's for anyone from 8 to 108, which is good for younger students or older adults wanting to learn about coding. It even has augmented reality challenges available.
For years I thought that coding was something reserved for computer science teachers or technology courses, but we all can bring coding into our classrooms. Students can create a story using a coding app, design a space representing a time in history by using an augmented reality app and code the characters. There are so many possibilities. We must make sure that we best prepare our students by providing access to resources that provide them with the right information and opportunities to work at their own pace and explore based on their specific interests and needs. Providing students with opportunities to engage in more student-driven, hands-on learning, adds more meaning and authenticity to the work that they're doing.
About the Author
Rachelle Dené Poth is a Foreign Language and STEAM Educator at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an Attorney, Edtech Consultant, Speaker, and the author of seven books about education and edtech. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @Rdene915.