12 October 2010

STEM Dissection

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, my assessment group will be focusing on constructing some classroom tools which integrate and measure STEM and Educational Technology. In preparation, I have been asking for ideas from a variety of people and looking at countless online resources. After all of this, and in spite of being a science teacher for 17 years, I have decided that I really don't know what the hell STEM is.

At the surface level, the acronym represents science, technology (but not educational technology), engineering, and math. What I can't tell is whether this is supposed to just be a broad category of subjects...or something special that integrated two or more pieces.

Most of the STEM-touting Web sites I've seen for educators are very silo-like. Science lessons here...math lessons there. You might find a resource that addresses both science and math concepts or science and engineering---but the connections are forced...the alignment artificial. (And you know how much I hate that.) And don't get me started on the technology stuff. It's all hardware.

Maybe this is okay. Maybe it's really meant to be S-T-E-M, without any fusing between the areas. Somehow, I thought the integration and connection between content pieces should be the focus. Or maybe it's all of the above: Wild STEM, refusing to be tamed.

I just find it interesting that with all the talk and money being thrown at STEM these days, there is no standard for what it is. My hunch is that a lot of groups will say that they're all STEM, all the time in order to get some funding...but they have no more clue what they're doing than any other group. Is that really what we want?

While none of this will be sorted out before my group needs to write, I am fairly certain that we're going to go with an integrated model---not simply science + edtech or math + edtech. And maybe, just maybe, we'll prove that educational technology is "T" enough for STEM.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this! I have been struggling to define STEM education as well and it seems to just lead to other hard to define terms such as PBL- project based learning. It feels like each of the groups represented in the STEM acronym wields the acronym to leverage what they are already doing. Science folks say STEM but we are really talking about the same stuff we've always been talking about.

The Science Goddess said...

And maybe that's okay. This is where I'm confused.

Should STEM be some sort of "superorganism"? Several great tastes that taste great together?

Or does science ed = STEM ed?


I'm leaving it to you to figure it all out for us.

Roger Sweeny said...

Yes, STEM is science + technology + engineering + math.

It's "Oh, my God! The Chinese are going to overtake us economically if we don't get more people into sciency stuff."

It's a way for people in the fields to get more money and prestige.

It's a less dramatic version of what happened when the Soviet Union sent up Sputnik in 1957--with a dash of modern, "Women are underrepresented and we have to change that."

The Science Goddess said...

I'm all for a society of people who can think scientifically and do basic math (which for me is far less than what Common Core would define).

What I don't know is where are these STEM jobs are going to be for kids? Most of today's graduates struggle to find jobs. I also keep hearing that more STEM graduates are necessary because our kids are going to have to compete globally for jobs. Somehow, I just can't buy that either.

I hate these arguments as much as the ones used by some teachers that learning x is important because "you will use it next year." Don't we have a higher purpose than that?