STEM Learning with ISTE Standards

Computer Science is the new kid on the block, and sadly, she’s had a hard time getting enough study time with students. No one wants to kick out the old, but we can’t ignore the new. Is Computer Science really that important, anyway? Let’s take a look and see if there’s something we can do to help the new kids and the old kids play nicely together.

Technology is all around us, and we truly know that a deeper understanding of it will provide opportunities for students in their lives and careers and for their well-being. Since 2001, we have grouped the topics of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math under the acronym STEM. Today, most educators know the term and recognize the importance of STEM education. More and more, when we refer to STEM, many people indirectly mean Computer Science and Technology. We now think beyond the traditional sciences and pure math.

In fact, it’s very important for us to look at the STEM components independently, because STEM is not one thing. A recent review by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that some STEM areas have better job prospects today than others. For example, although there may be a surplus of biomedical Ph.D.’s, there is a definite shortage of software engineers.

So, what’s a teacher to do? What if we switch to teaching Computer Science at the expense of Biology and the market needs shift? It’s a possibility, but somehow, I don’t believe we’re going to throw away Biology from the curriculum. And one thing is for certain – computers and tech are not going away.

The problem we need to focus on is how to energize and prepare kids for the computer science and technology opportunities that exist today and are projected to exist for the foreseeable future. And when we teach technology, how do we teach the concepts so students achieve the most effective learning outcomes? What should those outcomes be?

ISTE to the rescue! The International Society for Technology in Education has looked at the world from a high level view and identified key learning outcomes for success in today’s world. Whether by coincidence or intention, these are key skills needed to be successful in careers in computer science and technology fields. Using the ISTE Standards for Students can help in setting up goals for STEM learning outcomes that better target what we want our students to accomplish and measure a more successful journey through learning.

Many of the concepts within the ISTE Standards for Students may already be part of the current curriculum, but they may not be identified using computer science terminology or they may not be identified at all. Even though we don’t want to teach technology for the sake of technology, we need to teach these skills with tech, so students understand how to apply them to tech. Eventually, they’ll be able to make their own connections, but we need to provide models first. Let’s find multiple ways for students to learn and apply these skills, so they develop a deeper understanding of how to use them in the real world, becoming more versatile and adaptable.

So, my challenge to all educators is threefold:

  1. Take some time to understand the ISTE Standards for Students,
  2. Identify where you currently teach these skills and where you could teach them,
  3. Include technology and computer science components in your curriculum to apply the skills outlined in the standards.

Let’s show the new kid how welcome she is!

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In upcoming posts, I will dig deeper into the individual ISTE Standards for Students and how to apply them to STEM learning.

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Contact me here to learn out how Talent Box can help your students learn skills based on ISTE Standards to Design, Build and Code.