Monday, November 11, 2013 - 08:43

Dear Reader, if you have read any of my blog posts in the past (which puts you in very exclusive company) or have ever heard me speak at a conference you know that STEM Fuse was founded due to one word – “how”. We believe when it comes to STEM education and high school curriculum development the greatest positive difference can be made by always thinking about the “how”.

The great movie critic Roger Ebert always said that it isn’t the subject (the what)a movie is about that makes it compelling but rather it’s how the movie is about that subject. In other words, it’s all about execution and keeping the audience, user or consumer in mind. In the summer of 1993 two action / adventure movies about dinosaurs were released within one month of each other. Carnosaur went on to make $1.7 million at the box office and chances are you didn’t see it and have never heard of it. Meanwhile Jurassic Park went on to make over $900 million at the box office and chances are you have seen it and have certainly heard of it. On paper they couldn’t be more similar. Two action/adventure movies using then cutting edge special effects to bring dinosaurs to life. It was the “how” that made the difference - over a $900 MILLION difference.

Take that same concept into developing high school curriculum. Technology has advanced to the point that developing high school curriculum for a traditional classroom, blended environment or for an online LMS has never been easier. A quick Google search will give you tons of options and platforms that are available to help you design and implement curriculum. These products will only get better and more prolific – this is good! However, it really doesn’t get to a core problem. These tools do not do anything about the “how” of whatever it is you are designing. As we know from the dinosaurs this the “how” is the thing.

Math, science, geography, history, English and so many other subjects are based on facts. Settled, understood and well accepted facts. 2 + 2 = 4. Never end a sentence with a preposition. The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second (always floors me). July 4, 1776. Our education is based on facts that really haven’t changed much for several generations. But any experienced teacher or parent will tell you the student definitely has changed over these generations. It is “how” these same facts are delivered and taught that can make a huge positive impact. 

When designing your course think about the how. At STEM Fuse we use a lot of student adapted technology (games, apps, phones, websites and virtual simulations) and hands on projects to teach math, computer science, physics and bio and medical technology. We are not changing facts or producing mind bending new theories. We are simply changing the “how” these facts are taught and applied. I mean teaching geometric concepts like radius, circumference and diameter by having a student draw and animate Pac Man is pretty cool! When designing your high school curriculum use these new tools, use student favored technologies and consider the how.

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Carter