EduX Talk, hosted by NAYTEA founder Sharon Feng, recently taped a public session in Xi’an, China, in conjunction with the 2nd EduTech Exhibition to examine progress on implementation of STEAM education in K12 schools. Guest speakers for the event included Dr. Xiwei Liu, professor at the Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences; Eric Lam, an international STEAM education expert based on Singapore; Todd Dugan, the Superintendent of Bunker Hill School District, Illinois, USA; and Yinjin Zheng, Principle of HighTech Zone No. 28 School.
STEAM education expert Eric Lam shared his perspective on Singapore's approach to elevating STEAM learning in mainstream education by indicating that school officials there are offering students the opportunity to study computer science in secondary schools. He also indicated that the teaching of science and mathematics has pivoted to focus on the application of science and engineering practices. The drive behind this move is to place more emphasis on the use of technology in the analysis and solving of problems in daily life. This helps ensure that students at the K12 levels are better able to apply the knowledge and skills that they learn in the sciences and mathematics keeping aligned with the vision of STEAM education as an important means to develop the skillful problem solver in the modern age.
School Superintendent Todd Dugan shared how his district in the USA has pursued the goal of providing a 21st Century education, which includes competencies related to STEM/STEAM integration, for all students enrolled in the district. Sharing the Bunker Hill CUSD #8 “Portrait of a Graduate,” he explained that 21st Century skills were defined with the following 6 characteristics which students should have acquired upon graduation: · Adaptability · Communication & Collaboration · Confidence · Critical Thinking · Global Awareness · Innovation He emphasized that a fully-integrated STEAM experience in primary school was a crucial part of developing competency in critical thinking, confidence, and innovation. The first step in a formal integration of STEM in primary school was for teachers to become comfortable teaching in an inter-disciplinary environment. This required educators to coordinate the delivery of lessons that combine mathematics with technology and social studies or science, instead of teaching individual content areas in isolation. This approach is often referenced as project-based learning (PBL) and the growth of this practice, particularly in the elementary grades, lends itself to furthering the growth of STEM/STEAM across K12 levels. The next step required the empowerment of students to formulate challenging questions associated with their projects. These questions could have multiple answers and help to ensure students are thinking critically rather than simply completing assigned tasks. The students grow by critiquing and revising their work throughout the process. Finally, Dugan stressed the importance of students taking risks. The most effective way to encourage students to take risks was to develop a school culture conducive to taking risks. This meant that teachers and administrators had to model this mindset. For example, rather than retaining an old worksheet that was “tried and true,” in other words safe, a collaborative effort was mounted to create a worksheet that functioned best even though that came with the possible risk of failure. However, without failure, progress in education is nearly impossible. Failure guides educators in helping students move away from “completing their work” toward a closer alignment with “authentic learning experiences,” and this paves the way for the successful attainment of 21st Century skills.
Dr. Xiwei Liu with the Chinese Academy of Sciences introduced the advanced experience of carrying out science and technology innovation education from the aspects of top-level design. This included integrating organizational structure, curriculum design, teacher training, universal curriculum, and project-based inquiry into the process. Dr. Liu advised that in combination with growing the comprehensive development ability of students, the curriculum must be constructed, so that every child stands in the center of the stage.
Since establishing the EduX Talk program nearly a year ago, NAYTEA has hosted numerous events in China, Singapore, and the USA involving more than 80,000 educators from around the world. In response to COVID-19, most events in 2020 were delivered online but still covered lots of different topics with spirited discussions.