Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - 10:33

I think it safe to say that STEM as a concept has taken hold.  That is the idea of teaching science, technology, engineering and math as interwoven subjects usually around a single project or design creation.  At STEM Fuse we use games, mobile apps and health science (health informatics, biomedicine and biotechnology) as the subject and design correlating true STEM lessons and projects within the courses themselves.  There are many effective ways to do it, we certainly are not the last word on STEM curriculum design (but we are pretty darn good!).

As we design STEM curriculum for high schools we focus on a few main factors.  Cost, something we call “teachability”, alignment with standards (CTE, Common Core, NETS, etc.) alignment with industry and last but not least we consider student engagement.  All of these factors are very important and all need to be considered if you are going to create a useful and effective STEM curriculum.

With budgets tight everywhere and tech-ed especially taking a haircut over the past several years, cost may be the most important factor, practically speaking, but it’s also the easiest (by far!) to address.  I will get to that.  Teachability is what really keeps us up at night.  We need to make sure we develop STEM curriculum for high schools that high school teachers can teach with little or no previous experience.  Let me give you an example of what I mean.

I met a teacher at the California Careers in Technology Conference just a few months ago who was at my speaking session.  Afterwards he came up to me and told me how much he liked the look and feel of our GAME:IT course.  He thought it is was something he could certainly handle even with a very limited (as in none) background in teaching computer science and programming.  Then he told me not only was he being asked to teach a STEM course in his high school around computer programming but also an advanced course that would align with the new AP test.  Ouch!  I told him we did have a C# course and a Java course that align absolutely beautifully with the AP test, that we could provide support and some training and help him a little bit.  I also told him that we start even our advanced game design (C#) and our mobile apps course (Java) with the thought that a teacher may not have any previous experience.  That is “teachability” and my California friend is why we do it.  BTW – pretty aggressive move by the school to put him in that spot and I have heard several similar stories literally nationwide.

The other factors are much easier to address.  Standards are standards, grab your state’s and/or Common Core along with NETS and you pretty much have a STEM high school curriculum blueprint.  Student engagement is self-explanatory.  /If you are not sure what attracts students, ask them.  We have found games, apps and blood (it’s ok – we do have health science courses!) are pretty darn cool in the world of high schoolers.  Since STEM almost by its very definition leads easily into industry – almost ALL industry – that’s pretty much done for you.

Let me get back to cost for a second.  The web / Google machine is bubbling over with free, trial, or open source tools that you can build STEM high school curriculum around.  Virtual labs, game platforms, mobile app platforms, CAD,  even industry used medical database software are out there for free!  The technology is there but the actual STEM curriculum itself is not.  It can be done.  Or do yourself a favor and check us out and see if that $499 maybe a fair deal. Told you price IS NOT a concern.  Teachabilty for STEM high school curriculum on the other hand can, and should be, a deal breaker!

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Carter