Keys to Bringing STEAM into Your District or Classroom

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STEAM lessons offer educational benefits beyond technological literacy, such as collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. Educators who incorporate STEAM into the classroom are preparing students now for jobs that don’t exist yet by giving them confidence in problem-solving, noted Dr. Azadeh Jamalian, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, Head of Education Strategy at littleBits. For many educators, though, blending STEAM with traditional subjects can still seem daunting. During the edWebinar “Bringing Hands-On Coding and STEAM into Your District or Classroom,” Dr. Jamalian offered attendees insights into four key factors that can support successful STEAM integration.

  1. Space: Educators and students need a dedicated space for STEAM projects where they have easy access to the necessary materials. Many schools are turning to their libraries and librarians, who have become heavily involved in edtech, to create maker-friendly spaces. Schools without a place to permanently house the edtech or that want to let teachers use the materials in the classroom can create a maker cart to travel from room to room as needed.
  2. Materials: Schools should invest in cross-compatible materials that can be mixed (tech and non-tech), including arts and crafts pieces. The idea is to make teachers comfortable by allowing them to use components they are familiar with in addition to the tech. As for the tech, it should have a “low floor” and a “high ceiling” —  simple enough for a novice to use, but it can grow with the skills of the users. Finally, all materials should be gender neutral and make no statements about whether they are for boys or girls.
  3. Time: STEAM projects are often relegated to specials or after school programs. Work with teachers to identify projects that could readily add a STEAM element. Administrators can encourage educators by emphasizing that STEAM is meant to augment learning, not replace proven practices.
  4. Assessment: As with all other lessons, educators will need to assess student work. With STEAM, however, the focus is not on whether or not the project is correct but on how the students attacked the problem. Risk and innovation are rewarded, perhaps even more than the correct outcome.

“The schools that are really proven in bringing project-based learning in a meaningful way…are the ones that focus on the process and not the final product,” observed Dr. Jamalian. They don’t grade a project based on whether or not it works, but on the path the students took, their successes and failures, and how they approached their solution.

This broadcast was hosted by and sponsored by littleBits Education.

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About the Presenter

Azadeh (Azi) Jamalian, PhD is the head of education strategy at littleBits, an award-winning platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks that is empowering kids everywhere to create inventions, large and small. Before joining littleBits, she co-founded Tiggly, an innovative learning company focused on creating powerful new ways of learning for young children by bringing physical play into their digital experiences. Dr. Jamalian has a PhD in cognitive studies in education from Teachers College Columbia University, and has published journal articles and book chapters on a broad range of topics such as designing learning platforms for children, emerging educational tech, game design, mathematical education, and cognition. Dr. Jamalian has received numerous awards including “IES Prize for Excellence in Research on Cognition and Student Learning” and “The Cooney Center’s certificate of innovation in Children’s Learning.”

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STEM Learning: Full STEAM Ahead is a free professional learning community that provides educators, curriculum leaders, and industry members with a place to collaborate on bringing more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics into the classroom.

littleBitslittleBits makes technology kits that are fun, easy-to-use, and infinitely creative. The kits are composed of electronic building blocks that are color-coded, magnetic, and make complex technology simple and fun. Together they’re interchangeable in millions of different ways to empower kids to invent anything – from a sibling alarm, to a wireless robot, to a digital instrument.