The format for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education has gone from textbooks and laboratories to digital learning, as educators incorporate online apps, websites, software, and interactive-based study aids in their classrooms. As more schools across the country embrace and implement such tools to better prepare future next generations for high-tech STEM careers, major companies continue to unveil new digital products and initiatives to keep up with the pace. Here is a look at the some of the latest types of digital learning.
A recent column by Scott Steinberg, a keynote speaker and creator of The Business Expert’s Guidebook, chronicles why digital learning is so important, from efficiency, accessibility, the ability to personalize lessons, and culture relevance. And, perhaps most significant, he cites the connection between digital learning and academic achievement. Students are typically more engaged and perform better in school when using specific digital learning tools.
Most parents and educators agree that technology is a powerful tool to improve education in the U.S. A 2012 poll conducted by the non-governmental organization Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission, revealed that 89 percent of teachers and 76 percent of parents would opt for spending $200 on a student for an Internet-connected device over new science text books — a true reflection of how education has shifted. The poll also revealed the cynical sentiment on the state of technology in education: more than half of those surveyed (61 percent of teachers and 63 percent of parents) said they believe that America’s public schools are somewhat or far behind the curve in technology-based education.
Digital learning will particularly help students going into the STEM fields, as the current demand for high-tech skills continues to outweigh the supply of talent. And reports such as the 2011 Digital STEM Learning and the High School Student by the Center for Digital Education highlight examples to show how modern technologies benefit learning and the nation as a whole.
Digital learning manifests through varied methods, from private partnerships with universities to infuse learning with technology, to the emergence of digital tools themselves. Here is a closer look at two of the latest digital learning tools and one digital learning initiative launched in 2013.
Texas Instruments’ New Apps for STEM Learning
This spring, Texas Instruments, along with actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik, the brand ambassador, attended the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) 2013 conference in Denver to introduce the attendees to new classroom technologies and increase student engagement in STEM subjects. The new digital learning tools include TI-Nspire App for iPad and the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition, which provide teachers with a hands-on format to teach students. The TI-Nspire App features graphs to explore functions, equations, and inequalities, and a feature to “construct and explore” geometric figures and animations, for example. The TI-84 graphic calculator features a full-color backlit display and has the ability to import images, and it is approved for multiple types of exams.
“This year we are excited to introduce new professional development and curricular support for implementing Common Core State Standards and Mathematical Practices. Educators will also have the opportunity to get hands-on experience with our newest innovations for math and science teaching and learning. Additionally, we are excited to bring our brand ambassador Mayim Bialik to share her incredible journey and passion for inspiring all students to pursue a strong STEM education, a passion that she shares with TI,” the company announced.
Discovery Communications’ Connect the Dots Initiative
Discovery’s newly launched Connect the Dots multimedia education initiative connects children, parents, and schools with the company’s entire STEM program, across the Discovery Channel, Science Channel, and Discovery Education networks and digital platforms. Programs, which focus on preparing the next generation of jobs, fall under the Connect the Dots initiative and include the launch of the Discovery Education STEM Camp program, which offers free after-school resources for summer, the company announced.
Programs also include a series entitled The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius, which premiered May 1 on the Discovery Channel, a partnership between Science Channel’s How It’s Made program and America’s manufacturers to foster skilled-trade careers, and the Lumosity Education Access Program (LEAP), which is free program for K-12 schools and seeks to study the effects of cognitive training in the classroom.
“Our kids are the next generation of innovators, problem solvers, and game changers, and we need them to take on the planet’s challenges and shape a bright, healthy future by embracing STEM careers,” said David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Communications. “Through its unique position as a company founded on igniting curiosity across generations, and with science, technology, engineering and math in our DNA, Discovery is proud to utilize its platforms to help connect the dots between learning and living, theory and practice, algebra and video game design — and inspire the next generation of innovators and leaders in STEM.”
National Science Foundation’s (NSF) STEM Digital Summer Institute
A program at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass., running through today, uses digital cameras to enhance the STEM learning experience. The NSF-funded STEM Ed program, formally called STEM Digital Images in Geoscience Investigations: Teaching Analysis with Light (or STEM Digital) will help middle and high school educators, and students to conduct environmental research through the use of image analysis from digital scanners, cameras, and the Internet, UmassK12.net reported.
The program will encourage both students and educators to think about how digital images can impact STEM research and will incorporate the “AnalyzingDigitalImages software, which provides free, easy-to-use tools for spatial, temporal, spectral, and intensity measurements.”
“STEM Digital will show how digital image analysis can be applied to environmental quality issues in ways that can readily be introduced into STEM courses, engaging students and encouraging them to think about related careers.”