5 Tips to Adapt STEM Teaching for Home Learning Environments
by Annica HarrisonSeptember 17, 2020
One of the areas most affected by the transition to remote learning is STEM. Under normal circumstances, educators teach STEM concepts through collaborative, hands-on activities in the classroom.
But, how can you do this when students are at home?
Technology can help. As an educator, you have the tools available to teach STEM subjects. With them, your students can bring the “hands-on” experience home with them using the right software applications and devices.
As you set off on your remote STEM journey, here are five things to keep in mind.
1. Set Clear Expectations
It’s important to set clear expectations and openly communicate your STEM goals for students this year. Acknowledge that remote learning makes STEM education challenging and empathize with their concerns at having to learn in physical isolation.
At the same time, reassure students that what we are going through is temporary. Highlight how modern technology enables us to stay connected more easily than ever before. Let them know that the hands-on, interactive nature of STEM education isn’t going away and share how remote learning can open a new world of possibilities.
For example, you can have students program their own robots for obstacle courses that they set up at home. You can explain the concept of gravity by having your class build makeshift parachutes out of household linens. If you’re more ambitious, you can even video yourself carrying out the classic Mentos Coke Rocket experiment in your own backyard!
There is so much to explore with your students this year. Take advantage of the openness that comes with distance learning and modern technology.
2. Have a Well-rehearsed Plan
Remote STEM teaching requires more preparation than usual. Make sure to plan and practice lessons in advance to identify potential stumbling blocks and smooth over any disjointed sections. It can also be helpful to develop contingency plans for when things don’t go as expected.
In addition, have a clear objective in mind for every lesson and simplify your teaching. It can be hard for students to absorb new concepts when they are not in the classroom with their peers. Break lectures up into smaller segments and give remote learners plenty of time to digest content and ask questions.
Fortunately, there are ed-tech platforms that make it easy to record, upload and deliver content in bite-sized pieces. You can plan well in advance and adjust on the fly when necessary by switching to back-up materials that have been prepared in advance.
3. Create Opportunities to Collaborate
As alluded to previously, you can create plenty of opportunities to collaborate through ed-tech software. With a well-designed classroom management platform, you can split students into virtual “break-out” groups, pass off presenting privileges and mute or unmute audio to give certain students the “floor.” You can also lead organized Q&A sessions and check-in to make sure no one is falling behind. Put simply, with technology, you can add as many interactive moments as needed throughout the day to keep your students engaged and connected.
If you do have students in the classroom, you can invest in furniture and accessories that enable learners to collaborate safely in person. For example, you can install plexiglass dividers on movable desks, like those sold by MooreCo, to keep students safe as they interact in groups. These are particularly useful for those who want to transition seamlessly between remote and in-person learning without losing interactivity.
4. Empower Parents
Parents play a vital role in remote education, especially when teaching STEM at a distance. They can assist teachers by keeping children on task, answering questions when students get stuck and organizing mini STEM experiments using basic household items.
Parents who want to go above and beyond can use sites like Wonder Workshop and Spectrum Education. Both offer numerous resources for parents to teach children at home. In general, we encourage teachers to keep parents in the loop and pass along any technologies or tools that enhance STEM education.
5. Stay Flexible
Finally, being flexible will help you in countless ways this year. Lean on technology to offload some of the extra burden you are carrying. Use classroom management software, LMS and other applications to improve your digital classroom experience as you learn what works well for your students.
Don’t be scared to try synchronous and asynchronous teaching methods using the tools at your disposal. Let students guide themselves through lessons based on lectures that you pre-record using high-quality webcams and microphones.
When you need ideas about how others are approaching STEM, use platforms like STEM Fuse to gather ideas for workshops and demonstrations. Along the way if something doesn’t work, regroup, and pivot.
We are in this together
As you think about STEM education for the upcoming year, take heart in the fact that we are all in this together. The Trox team is working closely with schools across North America to leverage technology as part of the design and adaptive strategies for remote STEM success.
We understand what it takes to integrate all components that support STEM curriculum, from classroom management applications to modern AV solutions. Let us know how we can help you and your students achieve success in the 2020-2021 academic year.
About the Author
Annica Harrison is the STEM specialist at Trox. She works with Trox customers to align technology solutions with program curriculum to help educators design STEM labs and create engaging hands-on activities and projects using STEM concepts. Prior to joining Trox, Annica served as the STEM Lab Coordinator for Jerabek Elementary School in San Diego where she played a pivotal role in determining the STEM Labs requirements and developing curriculum for a variety of age groups.