Why is Stem/Steam important?
Let's look at all the skills it introduces;
STEM/STEAM & Digital Technology
Virtual Maker Spaces:
Digital Technology plays a vital role in helping to develop STEM/STEAM learning by providing Virtual Maker Spaces. High quality apps can introduce students to simulations that imitate real life situations! This allows them to conduct experiments without the risk, or cost, of sourcing real life materials.
Below are the "Must Haves" Apps/Books I use (and enjoy) for STEM Learning!
Apps - Middle/High School
“Alone worth the price of an iPad!”. Stephen Fry
"The Elements is not just a reference app, it is a rich and engaging love story of the periodic table, told in words and pictures, and allowing you to experience the beauty and fascination of the building blocks of our universe in a way you've never seen before.
"The periodic table comes to life with 79 video explorations of the weird, wonderful, and sometimes alarming properties of the elements. Filmed by BAFTA award winner Max Whitby in partnership with Theodore Gray, author of the iconic book and app The Elements, and previously available only in a few museum installations, this is the most beautifully filmed collection of videos ever assembled to explore and explain what makes each element unique and fascinating.
Apps - Primary
Toca Inventor's Box
Toca Lab: Plants
Experiment with plant characters, evolve them into new species and discover their unique personalities.
Join your new builder friends on an island far away and create a whole new world with blocks.
Toca Lab: Elements
Calling all scientists! Put on your lab coat because things are about to get experimental. In Toca Lab: Elements you get to meet all 118 elements and explore your way through the periodic table. Use the six lab tools and watch the elements evolve!
Toca Blocks is a unique world-building app that lets you create and explore the worlds you imagine.
Toca Robot Lab
Put on your safety glasses, bring the screw-nuts and come join us in the robot lab! Here you can make your dream robot from odd pieces of scrap and junk.
Desktop: Free - All Ages
Tinkercad is a free online 3D design/printing tool for everyone!
Stem Books for your maker space - Free Shipping!
I believe creative digital tools are very important and I'll tell you why!
Computer Science and its unique languages are the literacy of our children's time. It will shape their future opportunities in ways we are only beginning to fathom!
There is another equally important component that will determine our children's place in this high tech world...the ability to communicate their creative ideas and solutions and share them effectively within the digital realm. In order to achieve this, they will need to be proficient in the use of creative digital tools.
Learning these skills does not confine children to a career in animation, film or graphic design, but rather expands their opportunity, by introducing all the innovative skills that careers of the future will demand.
It is estimated that over 40 percent of future jobs will require the ability to understand code and also the ability to be actively creative and comfortable expressing and sharing original ideas.
Being able to creatively collaborate will be a vital skill as well as the ability to effectively organise and reflect. Practical skills such as breaking creative projects into smaller achievable steps will enable innovative solutions to become a reality.
When a child learns to express their original ideas or tell stories using creative digital tools, they are no longer passive consumers in the digital world merely watching or playing, they become creators well placed for future career opportunities!
That is my mission (and my passion) and why I will continue to work to create digtech opportunities for children online.
I've been looking for some game development tools to inspire 10 - 12 yr olds! I wanted something that would challenge them, teach them coding concepts they need to know for game development (without actually coding...yet) and deliver an end product they would be proud (and motivated) to share!
I love this READY software because It can be used for free!
(if you want to upload your own artwork you will have to subscribe however the 700+ objects it comes with will do to get started).
More info for parents HERE
Why I think this software is worthwhile?
It introduces you to coding concepts that you need to understand for game development such as;
Work on it a little everyday so the interface becomes more familar.
You can access ALL there tutorials on YouTube HERE
(TIP: Watch the beginner tutorial videos on another device as you work, so you can follow along step by step)NOTE: Master 12 and I found the instructor went a little fast so be prepared to pause the video often! The instructor uses the PC/Mac version however the ipad interface does have the same basic layout. We haven't tried the Android version yet.
Do your kids play with the dough but never bake the bread?
What I mean by that is; do they ever think of an idea, create it, finish it and share it? After two years of live digital technology workshops I have seen the power of that process.
It doesn't matter if it is drag and drop programming, a new art technique or a new video for their YouTube channel, creating something out of nothing (not because they "have" to but because they "want" to) has so many positive effects on their confidence and approach to life.
If a parent says to me that their child is "over" drag and drop programming I always ask if they have finished any projects? Until they get to that stage they haven't even begun to discover its creative potential.
So how can you facilitate this process?
I make projects simple, structured and achievable with lots of room for creative input and individual pizzazz.
It's all about the journey, building portfolios, and sharing their creations, not for praise but for genuine engagement.
That is one of the greatest gifts we can give.
Digital Technology tools really come into their own when kids use them to show what they know! The process of illustrating their understanding really deepens learning and can also makes them aware of any gaps in their knowledge!
In this sample Maths project the student had to;
An alternative tool for students (that find written expression difficult) could be to bring the visual elements into Adobe Spark Video and record a narration to explain the steps.
This process is like a super power that kids will use to fuel their discoveries, it is empowering, exciting and addictive
I have noticed there is a bit of backlash happening in regards to drag and drop programming around the edtech boards!
Some educators seem to be questioning the value of them as a learning tool? They see students throwing visual programming blocks together without much planning or care, often resulting in dubious results...
I get it and from that perspective it is a fair point, however it isn't the tool that's the problem, it is the skills the activity is focused on.
If I mention computational thinking at this point, I know you will want to click out (probably groaning) but please don't, hang on just a little bit longer!
Computational thinking is a process, a way of thinking not an end result
This story will help illustrate what I mean;
I viewed a Scratch Jr tutorial where the instructor demonstrated how to enlarge or decrease the size of a character, prior to programming it, with a single tap on a sizing block.
What a pity, what a missed opportunity...
My Scratch Jr workshop kids weren't shown and guess what happened? They invented a way;
A self directed, complex (yet elegant) solution.
I was very tempted to step in and show them the single tap method but I would have destroyed a landmark learning moment.
When they got it to work (after a lot of arguing, some constructive collaboration and a lot of passionate opinion) I wish you could have been there and felt the energy in that room! Around me I saw individuals who were hooked on their own ability to problem solve.
So once students have a basic understanding of how the drag and drop coding app works, try to launch immediately into problem solving or debugging challenges because that is where the really good stuff happens.
With programming blocks there is often more than one way to solve something and that is where the magic lies.
It is important to say that you don't need to use visual programming blocks to focus on this skill, it can also be sharpened with many other;
I have linked to all my "go to" favourites for you above!
You're all about digital technology and you're advocating no more screen time?
I certainly am, however like all good blog twists, it isn't what you think!
Let's agree to put the gaming debate to one side and agree to only talk about using digital technology in regards to more conventional learning opportunities (for the moment).
I have had the good fortune to work with families and educators over the last three years and this is what I observed.
When the student picked up the iPad or Tablet it was to work on a pre planned, structured project that specified certain apps as the toolkit.
It was ordered, safe and narrow.
I want you to stop that!
I want you to have your kids with their iPads or Tablets at the ready, a commonplace tool that can be accessed on a whim no different to their ruler, rubber or pen.
Messy, sometimes self absorbed, tangents...
Those self directed tangents, fuelled by curiosity, spark the love of learning.
The magic is in that, really, I've seen it!
Are you brave enough?
Giving up just a little bit of control can reap huge benefits, deeper learning, meaningful engagement. When I see digital projects from a group of students that all look the same, I feel like to weep!
Let your kids choose their own tools (apps) and let them decide how they will illustrate what they know (or not).
Here are my favourite (used daily) "on the fly" tech tools;
As they embark on their digital technology journey students will come across a lot of techy lingo. It helps their confidence if key concepts and meanings can be understood. I have created several resources for my workshop kids that illustrate the following meanings clearly and simply.
(Possibly helpful for the adults in their life too!)
I have provided direct links to the resources hosted in my Teacher Pay Teacher's Shop below.
What Is Computational Thinking (FREE)
A simple PDF designed for 8 + years that answers the question "What Is Computational Thinking?"
What Is? - Digital Technologies ($1)
A PDF I designed that explains clearly what; Network, URL, Browser, Internet, World Wide Web and HTTP mean!
The perfect addition to Australian Curriculum - Digital Technologies Knowledge and Understanding Strands: ACTDIP012, ACTDIK014 and ACTDIK023, Grades 4-7.
5 Key Computer Science Terms (FREE)
A powerpoint presentation explaining the meanings of;
Programming, event, sequence, loop and algorithm.
Do you have a reluctant writer in your life?
I think this is an area where digital technology tools can really shine, helping kids to engage with the writing process in a way that removes a lot of the fear and makes it fun!
I was in situation only 3 short years ago, where even the suggestion of writing would provoke misery and tears. I struggled and stressed... how were we going to get over this major stumbling block to self expression?
Adobe Spark Post (Adobe Post back then) caught my eye while browsing the Apple App Store and it turned out to be the best choice as it helped deliver what I needed at that time and got us started.
Adobe Spark Post : Adobe Spark Post is the fun, fast and easy way to create stunning graphics for all occasions. Get started in seconds with professionally designed, eye-catching templates you can easily tweak with just a few taps. Choose your photos, add some text and apply Design Filters to instantly create beautiful graphics. Each tap gives you completely new layouts, color palettes, typography styles and filters — no design experience required.
We started by taking a screenshot from a favourite video game and writing a few descriptive words to describe the scene using the design tools in Adobe Spark Post to make it "awesome"!
I made a video that illustrates this process and you can follow along with it below.
We then used these descriptive words as a foundation to create a Diamante Poem.
We used a fabulous interactive template we found on Read Write Think to create it.
Another successful activity was to create a story with the Scribble Press App.
Scribble Press App : Designed for the classroom and at home, Scribble Press is a creativity platform for children to imagine, write, illustrate, and share their own stories. NEW, Powerhouse features include video export, audio recording, music, 300 new drawing tools, backgrounds, and stickers to inspire creativity and 30 fill-in-the-blank story starters ranging from the silly to the sublime.
The e-book Master 8 created with that was proudly distributed to everyone he knew, and his confidence leapt. I created a video preview of the app here.
The current project is creating A4 posters with images and brief descriptions of favourite Pokemon cards using Comic Life 3. Eventually we hope to make original trading cards, with a full back story for each character. You can find an online interactive template for that on Read, Write, Think.
I know how scary and frustrating all this can be, and I'm not implying that it was all smooth sailing, however using these iPad apps managed to turn writing from a dreaded activity into something that was tolerated and even loved.
Good luck and be sure to share with me how you go!