A Conference Proposal for SITE 2012: Integrating Technology in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for Student Learning in K-12 Classrooms
A Conference Proposal for SITE 2012: Integrating Technology in Teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for Student Learning in K-12 Classrooms written by Sharo Dickerson
Meaningful and authentic student learning experiences are achieved through high student achievement, significant social interactions, availability of student choices, nurturing and positive learning environments, development of critical and analytical thinking skills, and application of scientific problem-based learning. The integration of technology in teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for student learning in K-12 classrooms provides valuable connections, use of appropriate methodologies, and real-world applications in delivering relevant content to achieve student success. In today’s K-12 classrooms, student learning cannot solely be provided through traditional teaching and learning methods. In doing so, the paper provides evidences of the important role of technology integration in building meaningful and authentic student learning experiences.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education aims to provide American K-12 students with meaningful and authentic student learning to: (a) explore and generate new ideas and new worlds, (b) become innovative and pioneering leaders, (c) advance and grasp opportunities for economic growth and development, (d) compete globally, and (e) lead the way as a leading-edge and knowledge-edge country for a better way of life (STEM Education Coalition, 2011). In doing so, meaningful and authentic student learning experiences in STEM education are achieved through high student academic achievement, significant social interactions, availability of multiple and different student choices, establishment of nurturing and positive learning environments, development of critical and analytical thinking skills, and application of scientific problem-based learning (Craige, 2007). The integration of technology in teaching STEM for student learning in K-12 classrooms provides valuable connections, use of appropriate methodologies, and real-world applications in delivering relevant content to achieve desired goals and expectations.
American K-12 classrooms cannot solely use traditional teaching and learning methods in delivering content to students, particularly in developing critical and analytical thinking, effective collaboration, and strategic inquiries in the area of STEM (Craige, 2007). In doing so, technology integration can play an important role in building meaningful and authentic student learning experiences through the use of different technologies (ibid). These technologies are integrated in content to: (a) support students to become responsible and active learners, (b) commit in highly engaged learning, (c) establish meaningful connections, and (d) learn as a collective whole (ibid). However, many American K-12 classrooms integrate technology with the lack of or the absence of relevant and purposeful connections with critical pedagogies on student teaching and learning (Herrington & Kervin, 2007). With the different problems and issues being faced by American K-12 classrooms, student-learning experiences are challenged to meet high expectations and standards (Pellegrino & Quellmalz, 2010). Some of these challenges are evident in the minimum requirements achieved by students in federal and/or standardized assessments (ibid). In doing so, it is important that teachers understand and develop relevant skills in providing meaningful and authentic instruction (Craige, 2007). Likewise, teachers have to be critical with the methodologies that are implemented in their classrooms (ibid).
Technology integration plays an essential role in teaching STEM because of its influential contributions in providing variety in its curriculum development and implementation. According to Pellegrino and Quellmalz (2010), “technologies allow representations of domains, systems, models, data, and their manipulation in ways that previously were not possible” (p.119). These technologies include, but are not limited to, the application of: (a) scientific tools (i.e. digital microscopes, camera systems, document cameras, portable or USB-connected proscopes) for inquiry-based activities, (b) Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) units to collect and plot data, examine geological features, and navigate to identified locations, (c) interactive whiteboards and response systems to promote hands-on activities for students, and facilitate three-dimensional objects and figures, and (d) web 2.0 tools (i.e. virtual field trips, video conferencing) to engage active investigations and research, to name a few (Starr, 2011).
The author uses the Four-Quad Analysis methodology to gather the necessary data in this study. This type of methodology provides the research with significant opportunities in gathering data, interpreting findings, segregating relevant from irrelevant information, and understanding the elements that contribute meaningfully to this study. The Four Quad Analysis methodology is composed of four parts. These parts include: (a) Quad 1, which defines the theory, research, and best practices of the study, (b) Quad 2, which identifies the federal and state laws, rules and data of this study, (c) Quad 3, which describes a district or campus perceptions, feelings, beliefs and experience in relation to this study, and (d) Quad 4, which provides the district or campus policies, regulations, records, and data of this study. Furthermore, this study also explores the use of informal interviews, on-line surveys, and face-to-face consultation with different stakeholders of the school community.
Authentic Teaching and Student Learning
Meaningful and authentic teaching is described as a process of sharpening prior knowledge and delivering new knowledge to establish valuable connections. This is accomplished through: “(a) the organization, creation, interpretation, explanation, and evaluation of information, which are translated into relevant experiences, (b) collective information through methods of inquiry, (c) in-depth understanding through exploration of issues and relationships, (d) elaborate communication and collaboration, (e) experiential connections in real-world situations, and (f) recognition of students as unique individuals” (Craige, 2007, p. 3). The aspiration for authentic teaching begins with the goal of changing traditional methodologies. Many generations of students in the education system had experienced, one or more of the following: (a) teacher-led instruction, (b) being passive participants in the learning process, (c) knowledge that is primarily and dominantly delivered by teachers, (d) learning by rote memorization, and (e) being taught in isolation (Craige, 2007). In doing so, students who are products of this form of teaching have been accustomed to limited or lack of critical thinking expertise, analytical skills, and effective decision-making abilities.
Genuine teaching facilitates the use of “hands-on and minds-on” models. One of these models that should be considered is the use of the Critical Thinking Curriculum Model (CTCM). This model is composed of different educational, technology, assessment, and community components (Robertson, 2008). These components are instrumental in providing problem-based learning research experiences to both students and teachers in order to obtain information and establish connections with real-world situations (ibid). Effective teaching and student learning experiences are achieved when: “(a) students become responsible and take ownership in their individual behaviors and learning, (b) students become active learners, (c) construction of knowledge stems from meaningful interaction between students and teachers, (d) students are able to build connections, and (e) teachers and students work as a team” (Craige, 2007, p. 3). In doing so, students who are products of this form of teaching develop into critical thinkers, information builders, innovative leaders, effective communicators, efficient investigators, productive citizens, to name a few (Herrington & Kervin, 2007).
STEM in K-12 Classrooms
According to STEM Education Coalition (2011), this initiative aims to provide American K-12 students with meaningful and authentic student learning. This includes: (a) the exploration and generation of new ideas and new worlds, (b) developing innovative and pioneering leaders, (c) advancing in and grasping opportunities for economic growth and development, (d) competing globally in a highly demanding world, and (e) leading the way as a leading-edge and knowledge-edge country for a better way of life (STEM Education Coalition, 2011). Likewise, STEM education is designed to develop and implement essential changes in teaching mathematical and scientific concepts in K-12 classrooms (Cassinelli, 2011). There s a great need to promote and increase different fundamental abilities to demonstrate and develop critical and problem-based inquiry skills among K-12 students (ibid). In science teaching, for example, there is bigger emphasis on: (a) understanding individual interests, strengths, experiences, and needs, (b) recognizing the significant use of scientific knowledge, ideas, and inquiry process, (c) providing active, in-depth, and extended scientific inquiry, (d) providing opportunities for scientific discussion and critical thinking, (e) implementing relevant assessments of student understanding, (f) sharing responsibility for learning with students, (g) building positive classroom environments with a focus on cooperation, shared responsibility, and respect, and (h) collaborating with peers to facilitate continuous growth and development (ibid). In understanding the fundamental abilities of scientific inquiry, teachers need to provide students with opportunities to (a) ask higher order thinking questions that can be answered through scientific investigations, (b) design and conduct scientific investigations, (c) use appropriate tools, technology, and techniques to interpret and analyze data, (d) develop and formulate predictions and explanations using evidence to improve investigations and communications, (e) recognize and analyze alternative explanations and predictions, (f) communicate and defend scientific procedures and explanations, and (g) integrate mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry (ibid).
Effective Technology Integration Practices and Understanding the Fundamentals of Blooms Taxonomy
Today’s K-12 classrooms are implementing different technology integration best practices to support content areas, and STEM is no exception. Unfortunately, there are many situations where technology is implemented for the wrong reasons, such as using technology for convenience, due to pressure from school administrators, for entertainment of students, and the like (Herrington & Kervin, 2007). In doing so, there is greater need to train teachers and administrators to obtain in-depth understanding on the appropriate and relevant integration of technology in content areas. More so with STEM teachers, who are expected to facilitate the use of technology in developing and implementing STEM curriculum (ibid).
Curriculum consists of a structure in order to provide alignment across grade levels, horizontally and vertically, to ensure that gaps are closed (Bruner, 1960). This includes the identification of appropriate content scope and sequence, lessons and activities, student expectations, and content goals and objectives (Bruner, 1960). There are different methodologies that support the effective development and implementation of curriculum structure (ibid). Some of these methodologies and strategies include the Maslow’s hierarchy, tiered levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, Critical Thinking Curriculum Model (CTCM), 5E Model, Kagan strategies, etc. For example, the image below demonstrates the combination of technology tools and resources with Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956):
The image above may look familiar, which is often used in technology conferences to promote technology integration and best practices. This particular image is visible in different group or online discussions, blogs, presentations, podcasts, and the like. Te image's newfound status is related to the relationship and relevance that is shown between Blooms Taxonomy (1956) and technology integration tools and resources, particularly in web 2.0 technology.
There is a growing number of users, particularly among educators, who are being exposed and trained in different web 2.0 applications, such as Zoho, Google Labs, Google Earth, Google Square, Scribble Maps, YouTube, Prezi, Gimp, and many more. Aside from students, teachers, parents, and administrators are acquiring different knowledge, skills, and expertise in using different web 2.0 technology for classroom instruction, professional development, student needs, and student learning styles. As educators, we are quite familiar with Blooms Taxonomy (1956) since we have used or continue to use Blooms (1956) domains in developing lesson plans, creating and implementing activities, and conducting assessments. Blooms Taxonomy (1956) is identified in three major categories, namely: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. From these categories, the original domains had been identified as shown in the image below.
According to David Devitre (2008), the original Blooms Taxonomy (1956) pyramid provided the different stages that learners undergo to achieve basic knowledge, obtain understanding, implement knowledge through actual applications, think and analyze critically, synthesize information, and evaluate newfound knowledge. When Lorin Anderson revisited Blooms (1956) domains, certain changes were made that included two significant contributions: (a) the use of verbs to replace the noun format of each domain, and (b) the slight rearrangement of the different domains (Clark, 2010), as shown below.
Based on the figure above, the first tier, "Knowledge", was replaced with "Remembering". The second tier, “Comprehension, which was replaced with “Understanding”, followed this. The third tier, "Application", was replaced with "Applying." The fourth tier, "Analysis", was replaced with "Analyzing." The fifth tier, "Synthesis", was moved to the sixth tier and replaced with "Creating." Finally, the sixth tier from the original domain, "Evaluation", was moved down to the fifth tier (in the new domain) and replaced with "Evaluating." Clark (2010) provided a table with an explanation of the different categories or domains and its associated example and key words (verbs).
With this valuable information in mind, different web 2.0 applications have been identified to relate and establish relevance with the new domains of Blooms Taxonomy (1956). The new Blooms Taxonomy (1956) and Web 2.0 Technology pyramid is a great resource to (a) support teachers in identifying effective and meaningful web-based applications for content mastery, integration, and enhancement, (b) develop lessons and activities that relate to students' real world experiences and different learning styles, and (c) provide students with opportunities to create and implement newfound experiences (Clark, 2010).
The power of effective technology integration in teaching STEM plays an important role in both students and teachers. Successful technology integration enables teachers to become better curriculum instructors with an in-depth understanding on STEM content, efficient course developers, and effective facilitators of student learning. With the desired expectations from STEM education, it is important for K-12 classrooms to focus on developing appropriate and relevant methodologies and practices to achieve: (a) the exploration and generation of new ideas and new worlds, (b) the ambition to become innovative and pioneering leaders, (c) the advancement in different opportunities for economic growth and development, (d) the equitable and healthy competition in the global setting, and (e) leading the way as a leading-edge and knowledge-edge country for a better way of life (STEM Education Coalition, 2011). Authentic and meaningful teaching and learning cannot primarily exist in a traditional classroom environment where rote learning and memorization are the dominant methods of teaching. In doing so, STEM education in K-12 classrooms have to promote and take advantage of opportunities that supports effective technology integration methodologies and practices. Technology is instrumental in STEM education in K-12 classrooms, provided that meaningful and authentic student learning is developed through enormous potential of cognitive tools that can only be realized within a constructivist framework for learning (Herrington & Kervin, 2007).
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