Tag Archives: STEAM

The Drivers of STEAM Education: Findings from Speak Up

Project Tomorrow has been conducting the Speak Up survey for 15 years now, collecting feedback from more than 5 million individuals during that time. We’ve been asking about STEAM (and STEM) issues over all those years. I was invited to present some of the STEAM findings in a webcast for the STEAM Universe: STEAM Research from the Front Lines: The Impact of STEAM on Teachers, Students, Administrators and Parents. You can find a recording of that session here:

As discussed during the webcast, these are some of the STEAM-related trends we’ve seen in recent years from our surveys of students, parents and educators:

  • Greater emphasis on students’ global skill preparation
  • New expectations from parents for skill development & digital learning
  • Value of personalized learning on the rise with new learning models
  • Students as content creators, not just consumers
  • Increasing criticality for connectivity at school and home
  • Learning as a 24/7 enterprise for students
  • Getting beyond assumptions & myths on career exploration

The webcast covered a number of topics, but I wanted to share some of the findings here behind what we see as four drivers of interest in and implementation of STEAM education:

1) Administrators’ desire to close the achievement gap and level the education playing field

Across all types of school districts (urban, suburban and rural), half of administrators told us that closing the achievement gap is one of the top issues that “wake them up at night.” And, when we asked what has the greatest potential to enhance their students’ achievement, their top four solutions were:

  • Enhancing teacher effectiveness
  • Integrating college and career ready skills within curriculum
  • Increasing STEM career exploration activities for students
  • Leveraging digital tools, products and solutions more effectively

When we look at these solutions, it is also important to look at some additional Speak Up feedback. For instance, no matter how we ask it, the top technology-related challenge that principals say they face is motivating teachers to change their practices to use technology in the classroom. Combine that with the top concern parents have about technology use in school – that technology use varies to much from teacher-to-teacher – and we see a common theme. (I wrote more about this issue earlier this year: Teachers’ Readiness and Willingness to Adopt Digital Tools for Learning.)

2) Parents’ concerns about their child’s future

Also driving STEAM education is parents’ growing concerns about their children being ready to compete in the future. We asked a more broad question of parents about what worries them about their child’s future. The top response was “My child is not learning the right skills in school needed to be successful in the future.” We were surprised to see this across the board: 58% of elementary school parents, 58% of middle school parents and 54% of high school parents. We also saw no difference in this finding when we looked at parents’ income levels or type of school (urban, suburban, rural). We even saw this in a survey we conducted in Mexico. It’s a global concern.

3) Need to integrate the development of college and career-ready skills into everyday curriculum

We asked parents and administrators about what the “right skills” are that students should be learning and we saw a lot of agreement.

workplace skills parents and administrators think students need

We also asked “what are the best ways for students to develop these “right skills?” Parents and administrators value the same experiences:

  • Work experience – job, internship, volunteering
  • Using technology regularly within school
  • Project-based learning experiences
  • Learning coding or computer programming
  • Taking advanced science and math courses
  • Taking career technical education courses
  • Doing real research or scientific experiments
  • Pursuing artistic or performance interests

4) Means to increase the effectiveness of the use of technology within the learning experience

And, that list leads us to the fourth driver we are seeing behind STEAM education. “Using technology regularly within school” was behind only work experience, according to parents and administrators, as the best way to learn the skills students will need in the future. Administrators tell me that STEAM education can be the means to increase the effectiveness of the use of technology within the learning experience. They see that STEAM education is a way to realize greater impact and to be able to measure that impact more effectively.

Speak Up 2017 includes new questions about why math matters, how students can best learn math concepts and interest in STEAM careers. We look forward to learning from all of the education stakeholders who will share their views between now and January 2018, and in sharing those national findings.

Augmented and Virtual Reality in K-12 Education: Current Status and Aspirations

Augmented and virtual reality in K-12 classrooms is still predominantly in pilot implementations. Last year, Project Tomorrow released an evaluation of one such pilot in San Diego to look into how an augmented reality environment is helping high school students develop greater awareness about and interest in STEAM careers.

The opening of a high school on two floors of a new library in San Diego offered a unique opportunity to develop an augmented reality pilot program to encourage and support STEAM learning. The STEAMing Ahead with Mobile Learning project was developed as a collaboration between the San Diego Public Library Foundation, San Diego Public Library, e3 Civic High and Qualcomm Wireless Reach. Project Tomorrow was contracted to do an evaluation of the project to examine the relationship between the augmented reality app and student outcomes.

Given that today’s students are interested in learning that is contextually relevant, the STEAMing Ahead with Mobile Learning project was designed to take advantage of the unique architecture of the library dome to provide 9th grade students an enriched learning experience. Using Qualcomm® technology, the project focused on leveraging augmented reality content that utilized mobile, context-aware 4G technologies to allow the students to interact with digital information embedded within the library’s physical environment focusing on science, math, engineering and art related content. Similar to augmented reality used by construction teams to visualize a building prior to construction, students learned about the construction of the new library while learning the STEAM concepts associated with each structural element.

Our evaluation found:

  • The majority of the students agreed that using the 4G tablet with the augmented reality content increased their engagement in learning about the Central Library Dome.
  • The students ascribed many benefits to the learning experience including increased enjoyment in learning, ability to work on the content with their classmates, and being more interested in the dome structure and architecture than they first envisioned.
  • Four out of 10 students said that they were more interested in exploring a STEAM career field after having this mobile learning experience.
  • The teachers participating in the project believe that the mobile augmented reality environment could be used successfully to impact student learning in many other academic areas with a closer alignment with curriculum.

That work in San Diego informed new questions on Speak Up 2016 designed to learn more about the current use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in classrooms around the country, and about how students, parents and educators are thinking of these learning tools for the future. (Some of this data was released in T.H.E. Journal this month.)

Current Use of AR and VR in the Classroom

  • 5 percent of teachers say they are using AR or VR in their classroom. This was the same no matter the size or type of school district and years of teacher experience. We did see a higher percentage of computer science/technology (11 percent) and science teachers (9 percent) in high schools using AR or VR.
  • 9 percent of students in Grades 6-8 and 8 percent of students in Grades 9-12 say they have experienced AR or VR in a classroom setting.

AR and VR figure prominently in students’ vision for their ultimate school – more so than for parents and teachers at this time. Note there is higher interest reported among school librarians and district administrators, particularly those from small districts (those with >5,000 students).

AR and VR figure prominently in students’ vision for their ultimate school.

View Augmented and Virtual Reality in K-12 Education Infographic

When asked about what they need to use digital content, tools and resources more successfully in the classroom, teachers cite three key elements:

  • Classroom set of devices (56 percent)
  • Consistent technical support for classroom usage (49 percent)
  • Professional development on effective instructional practices with that digital content (48 percent)

It makes sense therefore that in regards to using AR and VR in the classroom, teachers are starting to call for specific professional development to support their efforts. An emerging cohort of teachers (approximately 1 in 8 teachers or 13 percent) says they would like PD on how to use AR or VR in the classroom. Districts are also recognizing the importance of PD on the use of AR and VR in the classroom with 20 percent of district administrators saying that type of professional learning for teachers is a priority for this year.

Our final report on the STEAMing Ahead with Mobile Learning project concluded, “This evidence supports the idea that to stimulate and nurture STEAM career interest, the learning experiences need to replicate the inherent characteristics of STEAM content and processes. In other words, students need to be able to use advanced technologies such as 4G wireless connectivity and augmented reality, and have access to contextually relevant content to explore potential career interests.”

As Speak Up shows, the students are again ahead of most education leaders when it comes to the potential for augmented and virtual reality to spark and support learning.

Download Augmented and Virtual Reality in K-12 Education: Current Status and Aspirations Speak Up 2016 Findings.

School turns loss into a positive with added STEAM curriculum

After losing their school to an F5 tornado in April 2011, University Place Elementary School in Tuscaloosa, AL wanted to turn the misfortune of losing their school building into an advantage: instead of just switching to a new building, the faculty also wanted to switch to a new curriculum. They settled on STEAM, a curriculum based on science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and the arts. “Our students have great creativity. We saw the creativity of STEAM would add another facet,” Principal Deron Cameron said regarding his school’s decision.

University Place Elementary School is just one of several schools who have taken up the STEAM approach. Other schools have dubbed the curriculum as “STEM and Beyond,” noting that it gives them a chance to reach out to all students and not just the ones who solely excel in straight academics. At Taylor Elementary School in Virginia, students are able to learn about the plant lifecycle by creating songs to represent the stages of the plant lifecycle via GarageBand. 
STEAM enables students to easily understand a topic that may have been difficult to grasp by just reading a textbook. Of course, not all STEAM programs are alike: each school develops their own curriculum based on what their students need. For example, one school collaborated with the local community, enabling students to become city planners who created cities using cereal box buildings, which were then reviewed by the community’s actual city planner. Despite the variations in STEAM programs, those who use it all agree that STEAM stresses the need for try and fail, giving students a chance to open up to subjects that may have been difficult for them to understand beforehand.
To read the full article: “For These Schools, Adding Arts to STEM Boosts Curriculum” on T|H|E Journal, click here.
Want to learn more about your students’ interest in STEM? Participate in Speak Up! The Speak Up National Research Project give you the opportunity to contribute to the national dialog about science, technology & preparing students for the 21st century workforce! This year we are asking students, parents and community members to share the types of college and workplace skills that they think students should be learning in school to be sucessful in the future, what is needed to acuire those skills as well as student’s overall STEM career interest.

To participate in Speak Up go to www.speakup4schools.org/speakup2013, surveys are available to students, educators, parents and community members.  To get your school, district or organization involved please contact Jenny Hostert at jhostert@tomorrow.org.

Thanks for reading!

-The Project Tomorrow Team

Written by Lisa Chu, Project Tomorrow Fall 2013 Intern