Monday, August 26, 2013

Full STEAM Ahead!

Do you know what STEAM stands for? You should and get on board! (Don't worry this is not another education bandwagon...)
S (science) T (technology) E (engineering) A (the arts) M (math)

We know these things:
  • "there is a science to everything." 
  • Technology motivates our digital natives and is here to stay.
  • Engineering and design are crucial for critical thinking.
  • Our world revolves around mathematical principles.

Just when you thought you had STEM figured out (yes, STEAM but without the arts), educational experts are now promoting the value of educators integrating their teaching through the arts. This is an incredibly essential piece of student learning. Students express themselves in many ways which are connected to the arts. Just look at Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences. Research shows that most students are bodily kinesthetic and visual learners. Yet, often we expect them to express all their thinking in a multiple choice quiz, open ended answer or true/false platform.

Many, many wonderful educators have been infused STEAM in their traditional and contemporary teaching methods through problem solving, encouraging students to draw, act or even sing out their thoughts and answers. Facilitating learning in different ways for students to make connections through interdisciplinary activities is key. With only a limited amount of actual learning able to take place in the school day--we must find ways to bring the curriculum across the content together in a seamless way.

Gone are the days when middle school and high school teachers should teach their subject areas in isolation. With the advances in technology and STEAM initiatives on the forefront, the vision is that teachers will come together then find ways to make real world and authentic connections. It's all about interdisciplinary collaboration throughout the day with their students.

At home, parents can encourage and seek out ways to infuse the STEAM elements into their daily life. We don't want to raise kids who are worried and negative about science and math (in particular) I asked my undergrad students (who are pre-service teachers) last semester what they thought a scientist looked like. They all drew pictures of a male in a white lab coat with test tubes, beakers in a lab with chemicals.

During the course of the semester we discussed STEAM and how EVERYONE is a scientist, mathematician, engineer, artist and technology expert in some way shape or form.

The last day of class I asked them the same question. "What does a scientist look like?" They all drew pictures of themselves (in normal clothing) outside or inside working with kids on various activities, exploring and learning at it's best.

Fascinating how people can grow when you water them with the tools they need to be confident  and life-long learners. All learners need to have the opportunity to grow!

You don't need to buy a ticket to be support STEAM, just get on the right track!

Here are some helpful resources:

Thursday, August 22, 2013


As we begin the new school year this fall, many teachers wonder, "How will I fit it all in?"  Isn't this THE question on all of our minds? This week at the new student orientations at Rockhurst University, I overheard undergraduates and graduates ask this same question in different ways:

-how will I balance my social life with my studies?
-will I get sleep?
-is it possible to study too much?
-any ideas on how to help me take a break from my technology obsession?
-how do I know when I am doing all I can to be successful?

These are big questions which do not always have straightforward answers.  In my opinion, they all connect to time management. You can master your time management by finding the system that works for you. My students laugh when I tell them that it IS acceptable to still have a Franklin Planner (yes on a leather bound case). I truly believe that each person needs to think about what is best for them in this situation and not worry about being so techy all the time. I have seen teachers frustration peak when trying to keep all their information in their small smartphone when I know they want to just keep it all on paper.

How can technology help you as you begin your new school year? Find an app, or several that motivate you, that inspire you to be a better manager of your time. Do you forget to do things throughout the day? Is there an app that helps you find the information you need efficiently? How do you share files? How do you quickly find out what your students know, so you can assess whether to progress on or stay where you are?

Here are four favorite (AND FREE!) tools. Hopefully you will find a new one you love. Even you you currently use any of these, seek out ways to be more efficient with them. Please feel free to comment and share. The first three are web-based for more diverse uses.

1. How can you go wrong? You gain storage every time a friend you invite downloads/uses this app. Easy way to share files without clogging your email.

2. Who needs to spend money on clickers? Not you or your students/school! Worried about endless amount of grading? Definitely look into this cool tool, it is more than just a student response system. I love the "Confusion Barometer".

3. Trying to schedule a meeting with students, parents, teachers, etc? No one has time to email back and forth to figure out the best time that works for everyone. Use this scheduling wizard to bring it all together!

4. Who doesn't love sticky notes? Save money and trees, put this app on your phone. You can export your sticky notes to land on your wallpaper (home/lock screen), you can share them with friends and even post on Facebook. This is an absolute must app if you are as forgetful as the rest of us!

Happy New (school) Year! Be sure to follow my weekly blog--be a lifesaver and share a timesaver.