This pandemic isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Schools are working towards creating an environment where students can learn at home by equipping them with the necessary technology to make the “virtual classroom” a reality. Unfortunately, STEM learning doesn’t appear to be a focus and it needs to be.
Eons ago, when I was in elementary school, we did a unit on fossils and their importance on understanding how prehistoric plants and animals lived. I was fascinated and for a brief moment in 4th grade, I wanted to be a paleontologist. I would stare at all of the pictures of the different fossils and dream about going on a true-blue dig and discover something cool like a fossil from a mammoth or saber tooth tiger. Of course, I never did become a paleontologist instead choosing to teach because that feeling of excitement when I learned something new was one I wanted all young learners to experience. But I do wonder if my teacher had the technology to make different fossils for closer study maybe I would have chosen the paleontology path.
I know I’m not alone when I envisioned a future in robotics as Rosie the robot maid on The Jetsons wheeling around dusting my furniture. When I began to see the trends in education to include more robotics and coding, I thought, “Yes! I can have my own Rosie or R2D2!” But that is a simplified vision of what robotics learning, and other advanced tech such as 3D printers, can offer. Educators who were already incorporating robotics and 3D printing could see the benefit these innovations had on their students’ learning – increased engagement, improved critical thinking skills, and enhanced conversation and collaboration in the classroom.