NAYTEA PODCAST: STEAM Implement in Singapore "the Future School"

Updated: May 1


FEATURING

Eric Lam

HOSTED BY

Sharon Xueqing Feng & Frank Zhao


The problem with many STEAM approaches to educational aids is that they are designed by computer engineers, not teachers. They subsequently fail because they are too complex for most teachers to use; they depend on lots of contingent devices and if any single device fails, the whole system fails; or they are too expensive.



The Future School program was established in Singapore to serve as an experimental collaboration between a group of local schools, the Singapore Ministry of Education, and several educationally-oriented companies in Singapore and around the globe. The Future School program served to encourage teachers to try new approaches in teaching and learning, in and outside of the classroom. For this to work, the mindset of teachers needed to change. At first, teachers might have been afraid of using the new technologies. Then they gradually discovered that these technologies can have a positive impact on their students. Finally, they become engaged and asked about how they could use these technologies in ways that can truly benefit their students.



Finally, they become engaged and ask, how do I use these technologies?


Ninety percent of the ideas that surface from the Future School were never implemented. But the ones that are implemented generally prove to be very successful. One that was implemented involved use of an “interactive textbook” which presented information in a manner that students found extremely interesting to the point of being attracted to it and wanting to share what they experienced with their friends.


The question was, how do we create something that attracts the interest of students? TThe interactive textbook did something that almost never happen in education: students began sharing the information they encountered in the textbook with friends. It information could be an intriguing segment of a video or surprising image. But elements of the textbook started going viral. Students who hadn’t seen the videos were eager to watch them. Plus, the quality of teaching and education improved with this tool —- educators began asking questions to students rather than just giving answers and students were challenged to discover the answers for themselves through the information provided in the interactive textbooks. Students who had previously not enjoyed science began liking it.


The strategy of teachers asking questions instead of giving answers dramatically changed the dynamics of the interaction between teachers and students in the classroom. It motivated students to take control of the learning process and teachers to do more. Teachers liked this approach as they didn’t have to spend a lot of time and effort learning to use something new.


For example, consider a lesson on respiration. The process of respiration is the same for humans everywhere. We all breathe air to live. The challenge is presenting the facts in a way that makes students want to learn. The lesson on respiration thus began with a video of people yawning. This is followed by a question: why do people yawn? Next came an animation of an athlete who had weak stamina. An old coach then advised the runner to train in the mountains. Why? Presenting such engineering questions motivates students to find the answers. The idea is to introduce the problem then lead the student toward the solution.


Another example involves an alarm clock with no batteries and no cord to an electrical outlet but lots of lemons connected to it. Education observers found that students often stopped what they were doing and devoted their full attention to the video. They wanted to know what makes the alarm clock work.


The information should be presented in a manner so intriguing that they want to talk about it with their friends, then guides students to form questions, thus promoting inquiry-based learning




But what is so important about STEAM curriculum?


Teaching STEAM courses is not what’s important. It is the process of learning that makes STEAM of such benefit. It helps students develop the ability to look at a problem, analyze the problem, and derive a solution. This is beneficial to anyone, whether they are an artist or a scientist. Designers may be born with creative and artistic talent but they still must have some understanding of the psychology of human pleasure and be able to solve problems associated with how they present their ideas that solve these problems.


The challenge for educators is that the current way of teaching does not encourage students to make use of the knowledge learned in school. Current education may only address provision of the knowledge and application of the knowledge is left to chance later on in life. For this to change, the methods of teaching must change.



STEAM education is not just a course. It is a holistic strategy that includes technology, content, teacher training, and design. Students are guided to realize that what they learn in the classroom has real world applications. Humans naturally want to learn things that are relevant to their lives. Once students discover the value of what they are supposed to learn, they naturally would want to learn more.

Healthcare provides a good example of what the future holds for education. Healthcare professionals adopt a 3-step process: detection, treatment, and prevention. This same sequence has its parallels in education. The detection of learning will become increasingly automated with the introduction of game exercises that can provide real time assessment data for learning. AI technologies will be increasingly used to structure lessons in a manner that parallels healthcare treatments. And preventative approaches may help circumvent the need for the levels of remediation currently employed.


Good technological solutions can deliver quality content and can scale quickly, the cognitive Dimension. Good teachers can make students feel loved and accepted, the Affective Dimension. Both these dimensions are an important component of a successful educational process that produces well-educated students.


Good technological solutions can deliver quality content and can scale quickly, taking care of the Cognitive Dimension. Good teachers can make students feel loved and accepted, with a sense of right and wrong, taking care of the Affective Dimension. Both dimensions are important components of a successful educational process that produces well-educated and well-formed students.


Given the social distancing demands of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to scale quality education, the future of small classroom educational experiences is increasingly called to question.


The need for good teachers and quality content is undisputed. Education is positioned to welcome a new population of teachers with the skills to make an emotional connection with students via remote means. In partnership with parents, they could create numerous opportunities for students to feel loved and appreciated. Aided by the new technologies, they will be well positioned to deliver a quality educational experience on a scale currently unimagined.



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Eric Lam is from Singapore, and a specialist in Inquiry-based pedagogies, STEM education, digital education, and learning design. He develops interactive learning content for K-12 and professional development institutions and publishers.









Saron Xueqing Feng established and leads NAYTEA (North American Youth Technology Education Association). She started her career working in the area of conservation education at the research base of the Giant Panda Center with international education projects in alliance with WWF and UNESCO. She established and built the education brand of CODE.GAME K-12 STEAM study platform into a successful brand reaching 20 countries in North America, Africa, and South Asia. It is consistently ranked among the top of most popular education platforms in South Asia. As a result, she continues to lead important efforts to increase the number of well-trained teachers while enhancing the ease with which millions of students access quality instruction.


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