New year, new format for The STEM Classroom

graphic with the words "The STEM Classroom"Welcome to my new blog! The old STEM Classroom e-newsletter has gotten a makeover and become part of the new monthly Science and the STEM Classroom. As part of the redesign, I’m getting a chance to hone my skill at blogging in WordPress. A blog offers some different functionality and increased opportunities for sharing and connecting. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about formatting and how to embed images in WordPress.

I am, of course, a bit late to the party. Blogging as an educational tool has been a thing for a good 10 years now. Many of today’s classroom courses have a blog component, thanks to the ubiquity of Blackboard in higher education and other learning management systems like the open-source option, Moodle, and Edmodo, which is aimed at primary and secondary school audiences. The best part about this blogging opportunity, though, is that I’ll learn to do more advanced coding in HTML. This month, I’ll give you some ideas for incorporating coding or its fruits in your classroom.

Science Connection: Effective Science Communication

I’ve written before about the importance of communicating science for lay audiences. One of the challenges in attracting new students to scientific fields is that so much of what is written about new and exciting science is obscured by jargon. This is beginning to change, and a number of science communicators have dedicated themselves to ensuring that news about good science gets the wider attention it deserves. Some of those communicators, like Joe Hanson, are using the Internet to host several different channels of communication. Hanson has a Facebook page, Twitter feed, YouTube channel, and a blog. If you don’t already keep a list of science communication resources in your classroom, you can start with these.

Blogs

Any of the blogs from Discover magazine or the blogs at SciLogs (and there are lots of them).

On Twitter

A search for science communicator will bring up lots of results. The writers of the Discover or SciLogs blogs are good places to start.

YouTube Channels

This list is by no means comprehensive, and I encourage you to explore via the links posted at the mentioned sites as well as in the subject areas that most fit your own interests.

Technology Connection: Coding

You’ve probably heard some of the debate about coding and whether computer programming classes should have a place in every school. The proponents of adding this subject in school argue that learning a programming language will teach students problem solving skills. It also helps them move from simply consuming content to being able to create it, which is an essential human trait that we risk limiting access to as the world becomes more digital and less analog. Of course, learning a programming language can be challenging, and may not be necessary for everyone.

The debate about the place of coding in schools will continue. But if you’re looking for a new skill to add to your repertoire in the new year, there are a number of ways you can learn some basic coding.

If you want some background about why knowing a little bit about coding is useful, read this article about how the web works. The Internet is often the first source of information for today’s students, if not necessarily their teachers. It’s always easier to use something if you know more about how it works. It’s a good bet that your students’ workplaces will have a significant web presence. Some of those workplaces, like Etsy, even encourage employees to learn more about how their websites work. In addition, coding is taking a growing role in data visualization in the sciences. For some background on the R data visualization and statistical analysis package, read this article.

Engineering Connection: How Engineers Work

As proof that the Internet is changing the way everyone works, a compelling argument for why engineers should learn to code is presented in this blog post. Knowledge of some basic coding can help engineers work more efficiently with their data.

If you’d like more resources for inspiring your students to study engineering, a number of entertaining engineering blogs are highlighted in this article. A list of 10 YouTube channels every engineer must see can be found here.

Math Connection: New Ways of Doing Math

The recent controversy surrounding the release of Sony Pictures’ The Interview led to a good example of algebra in action. The studio reported $15 million in revenue from the first four days of online sales and rentals, from a total of 2 million transactions. The initial New York Times article about the release stated that the studio did not report how many of the transactions were $6 rentals versus $15 sales, but then the Internet took over.

The percentage of students who require remedial math courses in college before they can take the math sequences required for graduation is an issue of concern. A number of community colleges are piloting the Pathways math sequences from the Carnegie Foundation. These courses teach essential math concepts for students who do not plan to major in STEM fields in college, without getting too heavily involved in algebra, which particularly in community colleges has a very high failure rate.

Math Blogs (again, not a comprehensive list)

Don’t Miss Out

The ITEEA Annual Conference, March 26–28, 2015, Milwaukee, WI Philadelphia Science Festival, April 24–May 2, 2015, Philadelphia, PA

If your organization is planning a STEM event and you’d like a notice to appear in this blog, please email the editor, Becky Stewart, at STEMClass@nsta.org. I’d love to hear from you.

Produced by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), The STEM Classroom is written by science writer Becky Stewart as a forum for ideas and resources that middle and high school teachers need to support science, technology, engineering, and math curricula. Fans of the old version of The STEM Classroom e-newsletter can find the archives here.

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One Comment

  1. Jeff Bishop
    Posted February 16, 2015 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Hi Becky,
    I teach 8th grade physical science and STEM at Grover Cleveland M.S. in Caldwell, NJ. We are piloting a STEM program for the district at the middle school level and I am currently teaching Robotics using Lego Mindstorms. The kids are truly enjoying the experience.

    I have been asked (told!) that I will be spearheading a new STEM initiative next year that will have a select group of students (projected for two sections, totaling 48) who will take their regular physical science course but it will be STEM/NGSS based. Meaning, that I will be using many of the proposed new science standards and incorporating them into my usual science curriculum. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment because I do not know what this class will or should look like. I have been teaching for 8 years and am very comfortable and confident in my teaching style and ability but introducing Design Challenges into each unit is daunting and time consuming. Is that what you presently do? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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