The STEAM Movement: It’s About More Than Hot Air

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Photo courtesy of BAVC
Arguably one of the biggest movements in education over the last decade is what is more commonly referred to as STEM education. It seems that everywhere you turn these days: granting organization initiatives to political platforms, White House campaigns and for-profit and non-profit programs are all talking about the importance of STEM education. How does this movement relate to the media arts and does it reflect the current needs of students in K-12 education? What happens when you add the letter “A” to STEM? It’s about more than simply creating the word STEAM.

What is STEM education?
STEM education refers to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It is an educational initiative that is supported at both the national and state levels, from governments to foundations and scholars alike.

Why STEM?
Many assessments of K-12 students over the last several years have indicated that the United States is falling significantly behind other countries when it comes to student performance, and interest in, STEM subject areas. The argument for STEM education is that if the United States continues to lag behind other countries in educating its students in what are deemed necessary 21st century workforce skills in science, technology and most importantly innovation, then the consequences for the economic and political power of the United States may be dire.

Who supports STEM?
It would seem that nearly everyone in the United States supports the STEM movement. Most recently, President Obama launched the Educate to Innovate initiative to support STEM education in K-12 schools. This initiative also includes partnerships and collaborations with for-profit companies, non-profit organizations, foundations and schools. STEM education is also endorsed by a growing list of academic and science and research-based organizations throughout the country. One of the most complete lists of organizations who endorse STEM education can be found through the STEM Education Coalition’s website. Perhaps most importantly, STEM is increasingly being touted in political candidates’ education platforms for the upcoming election year.

How is STEM related to the media arts?
Nationally, two organizations specifically, have launched STEM education initiatives that coincide with President Obama’s Educate to Innovate campaign, both of which incorporate the media arts.

The first is Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds initiative, which is “a five-year $100 million dollar philanthropic initiative designed to increase students’ awareness and skills in STEM-related fields specifically through the exploration of different media forms.”  Recently, Time Warner has launched the first of a series of programs they refer to as “Crack the Codes” as a part of their overall Connect a Million Minds initiative. Launched in late March of this year, the first program was entitled “Cracking the Codes in the Digital World” and was designed to show K-12 students the science behind broadcast technology through on-site visits and meetings with Time Warner staff.

Closing the Digital Divide

John M. Eger – Huffington Post

Lionel Van Deerlin Professor of Communications and Public Policy, San Diego State University

Posted: Posted: 06/7/11

As globalization spreads, it is imperative that we not only close the “digital divide” in hardware and infrastructure, but also use technology to dramatically confront the world illiteracy problem in developing nations today.

In many parts of the world, a system of education either does not exist or girls, for example, are not privileged to get an education. Cyber education may be the only alternative to providing the basic skills for economic survival.

UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics provides a rough estimate of the world budget for education in the world, and comes up with the figure of about two trillion dollars. This of course, does not include money spent for tutoring, private schools, museum visits and the like.

But every child needs basic math and science and language skills, at least the three R’s and then some. So like payroll software, which every enterprise needs, why can’t we provide these forms of instruction through Cyber-Schools? Why can’t we develop the best, brightest and most practical methods of learning and make them widely available using the technology we have before us?

The Economist magazine recently teamed with Innocentive, an award granting corporation, as it advertises itself, connecting ” seekers with solvers” to enable other corporations the “shortest, most cost-effective path to finding a solution. “

Defining Technology and Media: An Important Step for Teaching Necessary 21st Century Skills

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Using technology in education is not a new phenomenon. Though this type of integration may be more prevalent now in the 21st century than what it has been in the past, it has existed in education in some form or another for decades. Media integration, on the other hand, is consistently referred to as a relatively new phenomenon in education. Although complete media integration is not yet commonplace in classrooms throughout the country, media’s use in the classroom, much like that of technology, is seemingly old hat (who didn’t enjoy “movie day” in the classroom?) Although “movie day in the classroom” has shifted from slides and projectors to DVDs and YouTube as a result of rapidly-changing technologies in the 21st century, media use in the classroom remains prevalent nonetheless.

So, what is the difference between media and technology? Is there a difference? If so, how does this difference affect classroom integration, pedagogy and, perhaps more importantly, student development of 21st century skills in the classroom and beyond? Can we teach media without technology, or technology without media and what does this mean for the current, and future, states of education integration and reform in the United States?

What’s in a Definition?

One of the most important reasons to define and clarify the relationship and distinction between media and technology is funding. When seeking funding for the many education initiatives centered around STEM, STEAM, STREAM, technology integration in the classroom and everything else in between, the relationship between media and technology must be clearly distinguished in an effort to expand upon the types of programs that may be available for additional types of funding. There are a lot of funding initiatives that have centered on STEM, and more recently STEAM, and although these terms do not explicitly relate to media integration in the classroom, most if not all are likely to relate to some form of technology integration in the classroom and across disciplines.

Another important basis for defining the differences (and similarities) between technology and media lies in conducting research, which ultimately has effects on funding efforts as well. There are a multitude of great reports that examine teacher use and attitudes towards media and technology, such as the annual Digitally Inclined report and, locally here in Pittsburgh, the Arts Education Collaborative’s biennial arts education Professional Development Report. When we ask teachers to articulate their interest in either media or technology, should we also add a follow up question that asks them to not only clarify their understanding of both terms, but also their use of both media and technology, separately and inter-dependently, in the classroom?

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National Science Foundation Slowly Turning STEM to STEAM

John M. EgerHuffington Post

Lionel Van Deerlin Professor of Communications and Public Policy, San Diego State University

Posted: Posted: 05/31/11

The STEM Initiative more and more looks like its morphing into STEAM.

Thanks to the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the tireless effort and vision of Harvey Seifter, CEO of Seifter Associates and a principal of Learning Worlds, three conference were scheduled this year — in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Illinois and San Diego, California — to look at what business, education, and communities across the U.S. were doing to merge the “two cultures” of art and science.

In the process, Harvey Seifter with support of the NSF is putting the arts into the STEM formula (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and more precisely, exploring a framework for sparking creativity and innovation in our schools, our workplaces, and in our nation.

Two of the conferences have already been held:

• April 6-7: Washington, D.C., at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

• May 16-17: Chicago, at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

The San Diego Conference scheduled June 14-15 at the California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology at the University of California, San Diego held in collaboration with the San Diego Science Alliance remains.

In a sense, the San Diego event is a culmination of the larger effort to forge an agenda for more in-depth research leading to action that in a matter of years will change education in America.

The data points for moving STEM to STEAM are becoming clearer, and the urgency of revisiting the current pedagogy used in pre-schools, K-12, and our universities, obvious.

The Art of Science Learning: Shaping the 21st-Century Workforce

June 14-15 San Diego: CALIT2
California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology (CALIT2) at the University of California San Diego, in collaboration with the San Diego Science Alliance

Details San DIego 
lemelsonMSI 

The Art of Science Learning, a project of The Learning Worlds Institute, explores ways in which the arts can help improve how people of all ages learn the sciences. Hands-on, imaginative approaches to science education, using many of the methods used in the creative arts, have been shown to attract and retain young people in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (sometimes known as the STEM disciplines).

Responding to concerns that the U.S. risks lagging behind other nations (See “Bridging the Innovation Gap”) in both the scientific literacy and the innovative capacity of its workforce, the Art of Science Learning is convening scientists, artists, educators, business leaders, researchers and policymakers in three conferences in Spring 2011 to explore how the arts can be engaged to strengthen STEM skills and spark creativity in the 21st-Century American workforce.

The Conferences are hands-on, workshop-oriented events that will showcase interdisciplinary methods and techniques used by educators and artists, share the results of current research into the impact of arts-based approaches to science education, and explore the connection between the arts and American economic competitiveness. 

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