New classroom tools aid STEAM lessons
With the ever-increasing reach of technology and the corresponding growth of STEAM-related curricula, it is challenging to find the right tools to help bring such concepts into the classroom in engaging, student-friendly ways.
STEAM-focused classroom products also must easily integrate into existing lesson plans.
“Coherence is certainly part of the equation,” says Shelley Pasnik, director of the Center for Children and Technology, an educational technology research organization. “So [a product] is not a tool or a single lesson, but part of a longer arc, taking kids over a set of lessons or a series of units they might be studying.”
Another challenge is ensuring that new STEAM products are adapted appropriately. “We ought not to burden teachers with coming up with ways to use the new tools and technologies,” says Pasnik. “I think this still happens far too often. ‘We spent this money on a product, we ought to be using it.’ Any product really has to meet the need that teachers have.”
As the focus over the next decade will be on trying to steer more students on to STEAM education paths, the need to interest them while young is critical. Products and programs that are effective and fun while meeting national standards are integral to doing that.
Dremel Dreams is an educational program that introduces 3D printing to the classroom by allowing students to design, model and build projects. In addition to the Dremel 3D Idea Builder printer, software, printing material and technical support, the package includes 3D-specific, curriculum-based lesson plans that are aligned with Common Core standards.
Dash & Dot
Dash and Dot are two robots designed to teach K5 students creative problem-solving and computational thinking by requiring commands that are student- generated via coding applications for iPad and Android tablets. Commands make each robot perform actions like move across a floor, light up and explore its environment. Apps and Common Core-aligned lessons are included, and educator packs feature additional items such as building bricks and xylophones that interact with the robots and allow expansion of lessons.
PowerTeaching Math, 3rd Edition
Created by the nonprofit Success For All Foundation, the fully customizable instruction program includes a set of interactive algebra lessons for grades 6 through 8. Set amid a cooperative learning framework, classroom materials include audio and video supports in an interactive whiteboard format that integrates multistep problem-solving and performance tasks, and can be adapted to any existing middle school math curriculum.
Ward’s Science Vehicle Kit
A STEM-based, Next Generation Science Standards-approved project kit, Ward’s Science kit allows students to design and build vehicles powered by sources such as rubber bands and mousetraps. It includes enough components—like chassis, wheels and gears—to allow multiple solutions that employ engineering, creativity and problem-solving skills. Each kit can accommodate up to eight students.
Each WeatherSTEM package features a full-service weather station that measures temperature, wind speed and various atmospheric conditions, from barometric pressure and rainfall to UV radiation and humidity. Also included is a customizable weather portal that allows a school to create its own mobile-friendly local weather website that has forecasts, alerts, radar and sky images. A range of STEM-based lessons and activities are also provided.
Think Through Math
This cloud-based math curriculum has created new high school content in algebra and geometry. In algebra, specific instructional concepts and interactive item types have now been targeted. And for geometry, a new emphasis has been placed on probability and statistics. It also comes with new reporting options, video tutorials and math animations focused on particularly challenging concepts.
Inspired by classic Cuisenaire rods, Tiggly Math is a math tablet program that incorporates magnetic counting rods that interact with learning apps. Focused on pre-K through grade 2, Tiggly Math helps students develop understanding of math concepts such as addition and a number line. Classroom thinker sets include 20 sets of math manipulatives, workbooks and journals, plus six apps as well as classroom and group activities.
KnowRe for Schools
KnowRe has launched its “KnowRe for Schools” iPad app. It is available for pre-algebra, algebra 1 and algebra 2, and can be downloaded from the App Store. The app features scratch pad- and handwriting-recognition technology, so students can simply work out math problems directly on an iPad, eliminating the need for pencils or paper.