Fourth Coast Entertainment -

By Dr. Anthony Betrus
FCE Contributing Writer 

Through STEM Education Our Future is Bright

 

Last updated 8/2/2015 at 1:01pm



I was reminded recently that when I was growing up my mother would routinely push me and my brothers out the back door and state simply “go play.” We knew to come back for dinner, but it was a solid 2-3 hours of outdoor time for us every afternoon, and more on weekends. And there was no choice, it just was, and not just in the summer, but in the winter too. We always managed to find something to do, and we were not afraid to experiment or dabble and try new things. This was the essence of play, and it is something kids and adults alike need in their life.

Games, for their part, have rules, and inasmuch as you can change, bend, or break the rules you are playing. It is through play that we build new knowledge, strengthen relationships, and ultimately grow. Some examples of semi-structured play spaces include Legos, Minecraft, Robotics, and K’NEX. These activities, and others like them, offer a sandbox, virtual or otherwise, that allows for free-form making. And it is through these creative problem solving spaces (often called maker spaces) that we are seeing the rise of a new movement: STEM Education.

The concept of STEM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is old, but the emphasis is new. And it comes at the same time we see an increasing emphasis on standardized tests to assess fundamental knowledge and skills. These two (fundamentals and STEM) are not necessarily at odds with each other. Fundamental skills in reading, writing, math, and science form the foundation for critical thinking and problem solving activities. In some cases there have been additions to the STEM acronym, most recently the addition of an “A” for arts, forming the term “STEAM Education.” This further emphasizes creativity in the problem solving process, and while not as well-known, it is catching on.

Eventually standardized testing will be replaced with continuous assessment (you heard it here first). By that I mean that we will know on an ongoing basis, and with relative precision, what skills a student has mastered, not just with an end-of-year assessment, but through continuous assessment. There are technology tools out there that already do this, and as they mature and become more accessible, we will see a gradual fading of one-off testing. This will, in turn, allow for more and better STEM (STEAM) teaching, and ultimately unleash new generations of critical thinkers and problem solvers. And, in the end, it really comes down the the same skills that our parents knew we needed, and that was to get out there and play. I guess Mom really did know best,

Dr. Anthony Betrus

The Game Connoisseur

Professor of Educational Technology

SUNY Potsdam

 

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