Sep 10 2021

Cloud-Based Technology Expands STEM’s Reach

Science, technology, engineering and math programs that are set in the cloud can be accessed by a wider range of students and can be operational no matter where learning takes place.

Science, technology, engineering and math classes expose K–12 students to science- and technology-focused career paths, which can lead to some of the most sought-after jobs in the market. According to a report by tech recruiting site Dice, postings for tech jobs increased by 16 percent in the second quarter of 2021, and coding skills continued to be one of the most sought-after talents in new hires.

However, not all students have the opportunity to take STEM classes. Colleges and universities struggle to get minority students into STEM programs, in large part because of the lack of exposure to these classes at the K–12 level. Many schools and communities don’t have the resources to incorporate high-level science and technology courses into their schools. Other schools have found their established STEM programs weakened in the face of required remote learning measures.

READ MORE: Opportunity, growth and equity support a Mississippi computer science program.

With cloud-based technology, that may change. Cloud-based STEM programs expand the reach of STEM classes and open opportunities for more students to learn these skills. This, in turn, allows students in these cloud-based programs to help more people.

Cloud-Based Programs Make STEM Access Achievable

One of the benefits of cloud-based STEM software is that it can be used anywhere. Now that more students have devices and access to the internet, they can log in to this software no matter where they’re learning.

56%

The percentage of teachers surveyed who said all of their students had adequate device access for “to fully and consistently participate” in online learning

Source: edweek.org, “Most Students Now Have Home Internet Access. But What About the Ones Who Don’t?” 20 April, 2021.

“You open up the computers — students can use the school’s Chromebooks, or if they want to bring their own laptops, they can use Windows or whatever else — and the program’s just there,” says Rodney Meadth, middle and upper school principal at Providence School in California. “They can do it at home on their computers, on their desktop, on a laptop, or they can access it from a phone or a tablet.”

Such flexibility allows any student with a connected device to access available STEM programs and opens doors for students who wouldn’t traditionally be able to take STEM classes because of limitations at their school.

Meadth, who also serves as director of Providence School’s Engineering Academy, finds the cloud-based programs easier to manage as an educator. “It’s cut through so much of the distraction that can be associated with software and has let me focus completely on design,” he says. “That’s invaluable, the fact that I’m not managing computers or licenses or software. After school, I’m not walking around a lab of computers clicking update, update, update.”

RELATED: Why should schools rely on cloud-based software?

For Meadth, the automated updates free him to devote more time to teaching and guiding his students through a variety of STEM lessons. Computer-aided design, 3D printing and robotics make up only a part of the engineering and tech lessons he teaches.

The software also made it possible to continue STEM instruction during the pandemic. Because the programs Providence uses are cloud-based, the switch to remote learning created minimal interruption for Meadth’s students.

“That project didn’t skip a beat,” he says. He told his students, “Just keep working on it. You’ll be at home, we’ll keep connecting, we’ll keep talking and we’ll do some video lessons.” At the end of the year, students turned in their files for the project without issue.

Cloud-Based STEM Supports Wide-Reaching Collaboration

Cloud-based software’s ability to go beyond the classroom can also benefit the community. Meadth’s students were able to collaborate more easily on a capstone project to aid a member of the community in a wheelchair with physical therapy.

Using cloud-based CAD software, the students worked together on a solution. “They turned hand drawings into 3D computer models, and they could do this when they were at home,” Meadth says. “They collaborated on it, and all the changes to their designs were done in real time.”

Cloud-based STEM technology works the same way as a Google Doc, Meadth says: Students make edits in the program, and other students — no matter where they are — can see the changes. “No one’s left wondering, which version is this?” he notes.

The capstone project was then sent to a local high school’s wood shop, where that school’s teacher accessed the designed pieces. There was no need for exporting or translating the designs — because of the cloud-based software Meadth’s students used, the woodshop teacher easily opened and created the pieces.

The ease of collaboration — between the students in the class, and between schools — is possible only because of the cloud-based STEM software. This technology is the future of teaching and learning STEM, a future in which these classes are more widely accessible and applicable.

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