On August 21, Boxlight hosted a solar eclipse viewing party for students from Fulton County Schools in Johns Creek, Georgia—and added an inquiry-based learning element to the event through use of the Labdisc portable STEM lab. Nearly two-dozen people attended the viewing party, with children ranging from elementary students to seventh graders along with executives from Boxlight.
I guess you would call me a creativity junkie. I like to take science concepts and give them a little twist and tweak to fully engage my high school students. To start the process, I set the stage: Upon entering my classroom, students may walk into a simulated rainforest with vines and leaf canopies draped from the ceiling, or go into a human cell with 3D organelles hanging within the classroom’s cytoplasm. I also use a lot of props when teaching. For example, “DO NOT OPEN” envelopes are hung from the ceiling that are only opened when I request a student to do so. The envelope may contain a bell work question, quote that is relative to the topic at hand to stimulate classroom discussion, or a clue to use their cell phones to locate a QR code within the hallway or classroom that provides further instructions.
Another successful year at the annual ISTE conference has come and gone, and this year’s latest trends have made a strong impression on the EdTech industry. Whether you were at the conference in San Antonio or following the action through the #NotAtISTE hashtag on Twitter, there was so much to learn about. The Boxlight team returned from ISTE this year full of new insights into the educational technology industry, but a few topics stood out to us more than others. Here are the top three trending themes our team found most impactful at ISTE 2017:
We all know that children belong outdoors, but when they become our students, the tendency is to keep them behind four walls tied to electronic devices, PowerPoint lectures, and computers. Well, I am here to tell you that you can go outside with students and see productive results. Moving your class outside engages a world of fresh stimuli for the senses that have the amazing ability to open up students to new insights and real-life application of the concepts they are learning.
If the United States is to continue to be a world leader, we need to develop more scientists. Today’s students must be able to solve tough problems, and helping students develop the four Cs—critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity—is more important than ever. By 2018, there will be more than two million open jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) professions; however, only 19 percent of current college degrees are in STEM fields. Even worse, 75 percent of students that do well in science and math decide to not pursue STEM in college. We all need to do a better job of making science and math more stimulating, and help teachers find ways to make the material matter.
Here at Boxlight Mimio, we’re deeply concerned about the shortage of people entering the STEM workforce—I’ve seen statistics that say we’ll need at least one million more STEM professionals over the next decade. Encouraging children to enter these fields is crucial, and we believe that we can help by providing teachers with the tools to incorporate innovative, exciting hand-on STEM projects into the classroom.
In a recent interview with Neil Hughes (The Tech Guy Podcast), we discussed this important topic and what we are doing to support STEM learning.
Enter the Labdisc portable STEM lab.
The Labdisc is a wireless, compact data logger with 15 built-in calibrated sensors and a long battery life—making it a perfect tool to use anywhere, including outside. We designed the Labdisc so that teachers can perform inquiry-based projects in biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science, and geography.
We’re really excited to be working with the Coweta School System in Georgia, where the state’s new science standards are encouraging districts to focus on hands-on, inquiry-based learning. Regina Ahmann, who teaches zoology and AP environmental science at East Coweta High School, is using the Labdisc to study the relationship between temperature and humidity in several locations around her school, including both urban and green spaces. Ahmann told us that she loves that the Labdisc collects data every second. “There’s no possible way my kids could have done that with a thermometer,” she told us. “It’s all recorded and it makes gorgeous graphs. And you can get your big core concept across to students in a real-world framework.”
Real World in the Classroom
Dr. Donald White, Coweta’s science content specialist, has said that his district is using the Labdisc to replicate what students will face in the job market. He hopes that the experiences the product lets students practice will open the door to careers in a variety of science fields.
Boxlight STEM Day—Bringing Science Everywhere
On December 9, our company hosted the first-ever Boxlight STEM Day to encourage students of all socioeconomic levels to consider pursuing STEM careers. We invited five low-income elementary and high schools in Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, Mexico, and Guatemala to join us for a day of inquiry-based learning so they could understand how STEM skills fit into the larger picture.
All of the schools received a free Labdisc portable STEM lab, and students performed simultaneous experiments and shared their data. The schools have continued to participate in joint experiments, and we hope that many of the students will see that a STEM career is within their reach.
Here at Boxlight, we will continue to develop products that make learning meaningful and help children connect the importance and value of learning math and science to the skills they need to change the world.
What are you doing in your classrooms to connect students to STEM careers? We’d love for you to share below. And if you want to listen to my entire conversation with Neil, click this link: https://player.fm/series/80936/171655376
Want to learn more about the Labdisc portable STEM lab? Visit here now.>>
Image by Scott Robinson
If you’ve looked into the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), you may have found that there are several standard points indicating that students should learn about models as well as work with them. You have probably already recognized the importance of models since they are an effective way to explain complex phenomena, yet there are a lot of misconceptions as to what a model truly is.
Caring for the environment is one of our most essential duties as humans, and the current state of the earth makes its protection a vital lesson that needs to be taught as early as possible in life. While there are plenty of resources available for educators wanting to incorporate environmentalism into their curricula, what happens outside of learning units is also important for students to observe. Since modeling positive, eco-friendly behaviors in our daily lives is one of the best ways to learn about green living, we’ve come up with a few ideas to help you introduce green practices into your daily routine at school—and into your STEM curriculum.
“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” - Aristotle
As teachers, we know our students learn in many different ways: visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, and social. But most of us teach the way we're most comfortable—and that's not necessarily the way our students learn. It's a missed opportunity if we don't use the way that a student learns best to hook them and get them excited about learning.
The Boxlight Mimio team has settled back into their daily routines after FETC (January 24–27) in Orlando, Florida and TCEA (February 6–10) in Austin, Texas. As always, both events were exciting and enlightening, and reminded us how our tech-savvy educators know they must stay on top of education trends in order to learn how teaching and learning can best benefit from technology’s near-constant changes.
Differentiation is both a complex concept and a critical tool to meet the needs of today’s learners. At times, I have seen the complexity overwhelm a teacher to the point of frustration. Teachers will tell me it is just too much, and they are returning to the whole group instruction model that they used before.
While front-of-the-room learning isn’t a bad concept, it is difficult knowing that all of your students are not at the same place and you can’t do anything to help all the differing levels. Technology has helped change this—especially in classrooms with a 1:1 model. With a device in the hands of each student, teachers can more easily differentiate to meet the needs of the individuals.
So when it comes to math, where is a teacher to start? Here is a list that touches on a few of the major players in the market—each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Some of these are connected to large textbook companies, while some are more independently operated. If you are seriously considering the time and money needed to invest in one of these, here is a starting point for your research: