STEAM AUTHENTICITY AND TECHNOLOGY: Augmented Reality

STEAM, the acronym of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics, has become a vital part of education as an interdisciplinary and/or transdisciplinary phenomenon. When we take a closer look at around us, it is easy to realize that the school subjects can’t be viewed as a separate part from each other. If you wonder why STEAM has become so popular that it is being integrated into school curricula, there are variety of reasons why. STEAM makes students think outside the box and beyond the classroom walls. As it is interdisciplinary, it becomes practical to let students observe, analyze, compare their environment. You could simply ask a kid to count the edges of honeycombs or let them color via numbered color keys. The discipline offers learners to take the ownership of their own learning as it requires to engage in hands on activities. Asking a student to demonstrate the phases of moon using Oreo cookies will provide them the opportunity to research, apply what they learnt and use their own creativity. STEAM in nature requires learners to work collaboratively which supports learners’ cognitive abilities, as well.

ISTE asks: how can educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability? and I decided to go further and consider integrating STEAM into technology; that is, rather than hands on activities, how can we use technology to give students an authentic opportunity to learn STEAM. Before jumping to that discussion, I would like to focus on how to develop STEAM teaching strategies in our classes. Lamar University has a six-step process to create STEAM-focused classroom.

  1. Focus: Teachers should let students to take a closer look at the problem they are supposed to solve. For that to happen, it is always must inform the students about the learning objectives.
  2. Detail: Teachers should observe students’ learning process in a detailed way. It is essential to figure out how students are making connections between problems and solutions.
  3. Discovery: Teachers should encourage students to conduct their own research studies to find the right solution to the problem. During this phase, teachers can enjoy having a better understanding if the students are thinking critically, questioning all the possible answers the have found.
  4. Application: In this phase, teachers give chance to students to come up with their own hypothesis before applying the solution and explain the hypothesis test after the application.
  5. Presentation: Teachers ask students to share the overall project with their peers and provide them constructive feedback.
  6. Link: The last cycle of the STEAM teaching will be to give a chance to the students to revise their work and reflect on their own experience.

STEAM doesn’t only provide students with a learning opportunity on knowledge level, but it also encourages them to utilize 21st Century learning skills, as well. Facing a problem will open a space for students to ask questions and collaborate with others. The answers and ideas they have heard from third parties will make them think critically; thus, new ideas will emerge. New ideas will provide new insights, which will trigger students’ creativity. The process which gets bigger and more useful in time – like a snowball – surely change the way the student think and see the world. Therefore, STEAM will not be an extra component of any curricula, but a support for all curricula.

Focusing more on T part (technology) of the STEAM, a research study named ‘Toward a Productive Definition of Technology in Science and STEM Education’ , researchers analyzed the technology from four different perspectives and tried to get a better understanding of which technology perspective has become superior to the others. Not surprisingly, this is mostly related to the upbringings of 21st century: technological developments.

As an EdTech content developer working for BrainSTEM Innovations, I would like to share how a STEAM content is being developed with the purpose of providing students with authentic learning experiences. The priority is always given to the curriculum objectives for technology values learning over using and learning must be integrated into fun. Secondly, games and activities embedded in the AR software are designed age-appropriate considering cognitive abilities of the learners. As an advantage of technology which has the potential to have  accessible content for all over the world, gamifications and content designs are created on a diverse range of learning styles to enhance the divergent thinking in learners. When the content delivery is done, the post-production process starts for teachers who would like to set up a STEAM learning experience with AR.

In the post-production process, teachers need to be the advocate of six STEAM- focused classroom proposed by Lamaar University as mentioned above. As a teacher, I would like to give one of my experience as an example. In one of my classes, I aimed at teaching cell organelles to my 2nd graders and I used BrainSTEM’s cell AR cards. As a first step, we focused on the difference between animal and plant cells, I let my learners to discover the differences in groups and they had a chance to see both cell types in Augmented Reality. At the second step, I asked my students to show me the differences they see in both which made them to grasp the concept of analysis and make their own discoveries. At the third step, I asked each group to come up with the hypothesis of what could be the points that make both cell types different from each other. At the fourth step, I let all the learners to present their hypothesis and the rationale behind it. Upon their presentations, they were awarded with peer feedback and teacher feedback.

Learning, discovering, and applying in AR wasn’t just a classroom practice for us, it was a meaningful and fun journey. Moreover, it enhanced their enthusiasm and motivation towards the other subjects, and I was hearing the questions of when we will be using the AR cards again. In contrary to popular belief, STEAM is not a subject that can only be taught hands-on activities, but it can be implemented into technology. In addition to that, when STEAM is combined with AR, it becomes a handy experience for outside the classroom. The AR cards can easily be purchased and used at home under a minimum parental guidance as supplementary material after the class, which will make the learning ongoing. All in all, as in all subject teaching, the motivation should be the main concern for the teachers, as unlike the adults, K12 learners, especially young learners, have shorter attention spans. With AR, teachers can take the advantage of the gamification while students are engaging in the content, which will result in motivation boost and attention span increase. Therefore, Augmented Reality is an affective way of teaching STEAM at an authentic context.

References

Ellis, J., Wieselmann, J., Sivaraj, R., Roehrig, G., Dare, E., & Ring-Whalen, E. (n.d.) Toward a productive definition of technology in science and STEM education. Contemporary Issues In Technology And Teacher Education.

Enabling e-learning (n.d) What is STEM/STEAM?.

Retrieved from: https://elearning.tki.org.nz/Teaching/Future-focused-learning/STEM-STEAM. Accessed in 20 May. 2022.

New technologies for STEAM teaching. (2021, July 13) Lamaar University. Retrieved from: https://degree.lamar.edu/articles/education/new-technologies-for-steam-teaching/

The importance of technology in STEAM education. (2021, January 26). Retrieved from: https://www.viewsonic.com/library/education/the-importance-of-technology-in-steam-education/  

STEAM AUTHENTICITY AND TECHNOLOGY: Augmented Reality

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