STEM learning has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike other streams/courses, a lot of STEM lessons are collaborative by nature and involve hands-on and project-based learning.
The lack of physical classrooms and possibility of group hands-on learning has created huge challenge for both educators and students in STEM learning. They face issues ranging from engagement, tools and resources to technologies, making them impossible to teach and learn effectively. Considering the huge learning gap it has created, we reached out to David Cuartielles, Co-Founder, Arduino Education, a leading company focused on creating the next generation of STEAM programs, to help our readers understand more on the impact of the pandemic on STEM learning. From how the pandemic has created a pedagogical crisis, to what technology providers must do to support students and educators, and things to keep students engaged in and enjoying STEM while learning remotely, David has shared many valuable insights. Below is the excerpt from the interview.
How has STEM learning been impacted by the pandemic in different parts of the world?
“The pandemic has had a profound effect on education, impacting students, educators, and parents around the world, and has created a pedagogical crisis unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. We’ve seen at least a third of the world’s schoolchildren unable to access remote learning when COVID-19 forced their schools to close. Where STEM is concerned, the lack of physical classrooms and possibility of group hands-on learning presents very immediate challenges - particularly in areas of the world with limited resources.
“That said, the response to these challenges has been hugely inspiring. Naturally, circumstances have fuelled a surge in accessible edtech initiatives in an effort to maintain learning as educators grapple with an overnight shift to remote learning. Within the realm of STEM, these advancements are not only facilitating remote learning in the short-term. They have also opened teachers up to new ideas and ways of learning, that increase enthusiasm in STEM through hands-on learning and allow the blended approach to thrive as students progress through the years.”
What needs to be kept in mind while making complex technology ‘simple to use’?
“The key to keeping students engaged through technology is to provide accessible, high-quality resources that enable educators and students to innovate from anywhere. However, this can only be successful when complex technologies are provided in such a way that will both support teachers and engage and inspire students.
“Technology providers must realize that it isn’t enough to simply equip them with the hands-on tools they need for lessons. We must go one step further, supporting this with guides that allow educators to first understand the technology themselves, and then relay this to students outside of the classroom with ease. For example, creating a series of online tutorials which go in-depth on different products and how to use them to teach electronics and coding at home.
“From tips and tricks through to product and project advice which provide that spark of inspiration, making comprehensive guides available in one easy to find place can service all educators, students and parents remote learning needs.”
What are some great remote learning ideas to support students, educators and parents with STEM learning during this new normal?
“Learning STEM lessons at home simply isn’t quite the same as learning in a classroom, side by side with your fellow students to bounce ideas off and provide a spare pair of hands for trickier tasks. When remote learning became the new normal, we at Arduino Education - like many others - realized that there was a way we could support students, educators and parents and help to bridge the learning gap that has inevitably been created by the sudden decrease in classroom time.
“We were especially concerned at how STEM learning would be affected, given that a lot of STEM lessons are collaborative by nature, with students actively sharing ideas to a problem and then getting hands-on to resolve it. Thus Arduino Education had to adapt and deploy new ways of working in a bid to support students, educators and parents through this crisis with project-based learning.
“Arduino Education rose to the challenge though and there are many things we can do to keep students engaged in and enjoying STEM whilst learning remotely. Our team quickly built a remote learning project with a dedicated landing page to house resources, launch live EDUvision weekly videos and filmed tutorials to support educators, students and parents alike.
“We created a brand new STEM kit, the Arduino Student Kit, that’s specifically designed for home learning. The kit allows students to get hands-on experience with programming and electronics. It contains the same projects, exercises, and activities as students would use in the classroom, so they’re not missing out on hands-on, project-based learning. When it’s combined with video conferencing, students really can still collaborate and work on those all important future skills such as communication and creativity.
“We also recently announced that Google Science Journal will be transferring over to Arduino this month. Platforms like these can actively encourage students to engage with STEM learning outside of the classroom, while offering accessible resources to support both teachers and students - a feature with huge importance in the current climate and for future STEM education.
What’s your take on the future of STEM learning?
“The future is certainly going to rely heavily on technology, with many institutions adopting a blended learning approach. For educators, it will be crucial to embrace the tools that can encourage STEM outside of the classroom. However, technology providers will also play a vital role in facilitating this level of interactive learning through the continuous development of accessible new initiatives.
“With a strong desire around the globe to get schools reopened and students back into the classroom, STEM will only thrive if the tools available are as appropriate for use in the classroom as they are at home, making the ideal solution for those adopting a hybrid learning approach too. Better remote access to STEM learning tools may well be the key to inspiring the next wave of technology enthusiasts and innovators that will create the solutions we need for safety, business and everyday life in the future.”
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