Sep 19 2017

Solving Real-World Problems Is Key to Ed Tech Success

More students embrace technology and STEM topics if use is relevant to the world around them.

As more classrooms are becoming one-to-one tech environments, schools are looking for more active ways for students to engage with classroom technology. One such way to do this is through problem-based learning, where students must use technology to find a solution.

“Project- and problem-based learning are not new approaches, but technology today has allowed students and educators to tackle real challenges as part of the learning experience,” says CoSN CEO Keith Krueger in a press release for the CoSN guide for problem-based learning.

With science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs on the rise, it’s becoming even more important for students to get hands-on experience solving real-world problems.

Hands-On Experiences Draw Students Into STEM

When Christine Cunningham founded Engineering is Elementary with the Museum of Science in Boston, a huge part of her motivation was to keep more students engaged with science topics like engineering. In her research, Cunningham found that students who typically weren’t engaged in science classes often were more interested in hands-on engineering exercises.

Educator Brandon Lewis writes in The Kansas City Star that using real-world, hands-on problem-solving can keep students interested in science all the way through high school and college to careers.

“Whether it’s an entire project or just an activity, mixing things up by providing students the chance to enhance their 21st-century skills and solve a real problem will make them excited about the possibilities STEM offers,” writes Lewis.

He suggests that once students see that the STEM work they are doing is actually relevant to the world around them, they will be more engaged with those topics.

Lewis also writes that solving actual problems helps students see what it might be like to work in the STEM field.

Some students are taking their school work a step further by designing tools that could help them and their peers right now. The Press of Atlantic City reports on the first ever STEAM Tank challenge, where students across the state of New Jersey submitted projects that helped solve a real problem they face using STEM and art (STEAM) solutions. Inventions ranged from a microchip to help find lost items to a solar-powered device that could pull plastic from the ocean.

The educators who helped organize the event agreed that it could serve as a “pipeline” for STEM jobs in the future.

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