Posts tagged ‘STEAM’

STEM as the Goal. STEAM as a Pathway.

Dr. Gary May, Dean of the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech, is one of my role models.  I’ve learned from him on how to broaden participation in computing, what academic leadership looks like, and how to make sure that education gets its due attention, even at a research-intensive university.

He wrote an essay (linked below) critical of the idea of “STEAM” (Science, Technology, the Arts, and Mathematics).  I just recently wrote a blog post saying that STEAM was a good idea (see link here).  I’m not convinced that I’m at odds with Gary’s point.  I suspect that the single acronym, “STEM” or “STEAM,” has too many assumptions built into it.  We probably agree on “STEM,” but may have different interpretations of “STEAM.”

The term “STEM” has come to represent an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education in schools. A recent Washington Post article critiques exactly that focus: Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous.

From Gary’s essay, I think he reads “STEAM” to mean “We need to integrate Arts into STEM education.”  Or maybe, “We need to emphasize Arts as well as STEM in our schools.”  Or even, “All STEM majors must also study Art.” Gary argues that STEM is too important to risk diffusing by adding Art into the mix.

That’s not exactly what I mean when I see a value for STEAM.  I agree that STEM is the goal.  I see STEAM as a pathway.

Media Computation is a form of blending STEM plus Art.  I’m teaching computer science by using the manipulation of media at different levels of abstraction (pixels and pictures, samples and sounds, characters and HTML, frames and video) as an inviting entryway into STEM. There are many possible and equally valid pathways into Computing, as one form of STEM.  I am saying that my STEAM approach may bring people to STEM who might not otherwise consider it.  I do have a lot of evidence that MediaComp has engaged and retained students who didn’t used to succeed in CS, and that part of that success has been because students see MediaComp as a “creative” form of computing (see my ICER 2013 paper).

I have heard arguments for STEAM as enhancing STEM.  For example, design studio approaches can enhance engineering education (as in Chris Hundhausen’s work — see link here).  In that sense of STEAM, Art offers ways of investigating and inventing that may enhance engineering design and problem-solving.  That’s about using STEAM to enhance STEM, not to dilute or create new course requirements.  Jessica Hodgins gave an inspiring opening keynote lecture at SIGCSE 2015 (mentioned here) where she talked about classes that combined art and engineering students in teams.  Students learned from each other new perspectives that informed and improved their practice.

“STEM” and “STEAM” as acronyms don’t have enough content to say whether we’ve in favor or against them.  There is a connotation for “STEM” about a goal: More kids need to know STEM subjects, and we should emphasize STEM subjects in school.  For me, STEM is an important goal (meaning an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in schools), and STEAM is one pathway (meaning using art to engage STEM learning, or using art as a valuable perspective for STEM learners) to that goal.

No one — least of all me — is suggesting that STEM majors should not study the arts. The arts are a source of enlightenment and inspiration, and exposure to the arts broadens one’s perspective. Such a broad perspective is crucial to the creativity and critical thinking that is required for effective engineering design and innovation. The humanities fuel inquisitiveness and expansive thinking, providing the scientific mind with larger context and the potential to communicate better.

The clear value of the arts would seem to make adding A to STEM a no-brainer. But when taken too far, this leads to the generic idea of a well-rounded education, which dilutes the essential need and focus for STEM.

via Essay criticizes idea of adding the arts to push for STEM education @insidehighered.

April 10, 2015 at 7:55 am 12 comments

STEM is incredibly valuable, but STEAM makes it better

I am sympathetic to this argument for the value of STEAM (STEM+Art), rather than just STEM.  I strongly believe in the value of creative expression in learning STEM subjects.  That’s core to our goals for Media Computation.  I believe that the STEAM perspective is why MediaComp has measurably improved motivation, engagement, and retention.

As a researcher, it’s challenging to measure the value of including art in learning STEM. I’m particularly concerned about the argument below.  Singapore and Japan are less creative because they have less art in school?  If we include more art in our schools, our students will be more innovative?  If we’re already more innovative, and we have too little art classes, why should we believe that adding more art will increase our innovation?

But STEM leaves out a big part of the picture. “It misses the fact that having multiple perspectives are an invaluable aspect of how we learn to become agile, curious human beings,” Maeda said. “The STEM ‘bundle’ is suitable for building a Vulcan civilization, but misses wonderful irrationalities inherent to living life as a human being and in relation to other human beings.” A foundation in STEM education is exceptional at making us more efficient or increasing speed all within set processes, but it’s not so good at growing our curiosity or imagination. Its focus is poor at sparking our creativity. It doesn’t teach us empathy or what it means to relate to others on a deep emotional level. Singapore and Japan are two great examples. “[They] are looked to as exemplar STEM nations, but as nations they suffer the ability to be perceived as creative on a global scale.” Maeda said. Is the United States completely misinformed and heading down the wrong track? Not entirely. Science, technology, engineering and math are great things to teach and focus on, but they can’t do the job alone. In order to prepare our students to lead the world in innovation, we need to focus on the creative thought that gives individuals that innovative edge.

via STEM is incredibly valuable, but if we want the best innovators we must teach the arts – The Washington Post.

December 15, 2014 at 8:22 am 14 comments

SIGCSE2014 Preview: Engaging Underrepresented Groups in High School Introductory Computing through Computational Remixing with EarSketch

EarSketch is an interesting environment that I got to demo for Jason Freeman and Brian Magerko at the Dagstuhl Livecoding conference. It’s Python programming that creates complex, layered music. The current version of EarSketch isn’t really livecoding (e.g., there’s a “compilation” step from program into digital audio workstation), but I got to see a demo of their new Web-based version which might be usable for live coding .

I got to see the preview talk and was blown away.  The paper is about use in a 10 week programming unit in a high school course, with significant under-represented minority and female involvement. The evaluation results are stunning.  The authenticity angle here is particularly interesting. In the preview talk, Jason talked about “authentic STEAM.” They have audio loops from real musicians, and involve hip-hop artists in the classroom.  Students talk about how they value making music that sounds professional, with tools that professional musicians use.

In this paper, we describe a pilot study of EarSketch, a computational remixing approach to introductory computer science, in a formal academic computing course at the high school level. EarSketch, an integrated curriculum, Python API, digital audio workstation (DAW), audio loop library, and social sharing site, seeks to broaden participation in computing, particularly by traditionally underrepresented groups, through a thickly authentic learning environment that has personal and industry relevance in both computational and artistic domains. The pilot results show statistically significant gains in computing attitudes across multiple constructs, with particularly strong results for female and minority participants.

via SIGCSE2014 – OpenConf Peer Review & Conference Management System.

March 1, 2014 at 1:27 am 1 comment

Doctoral Fellowships available in Computational Craft Lab

What a cool idea! A computational craft lab!

Announcing…

4-year Doctoral Fellowship in Digital Fabrication & Learning

Utah State University

Instructional Technology & Learning Sciences

Utah State University’s Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences (ITLS) department is pleased to announce the availability of a prestigious four-year doctoral fellowship for a new doctoral student interested in digital fabrication, the maker movement, and education. This involves bringing technologies as diverse as 3-D printers, sewable circuitry, low cost microcontrollers, and robotics to education.

The fellowship provides full tuition and a stipend for four years, beginning Fall of 2014. The fellow will work with two leading researchers in the ITLS department, Drs. Victor Lee and Deborah Fields,who have produced innovative work in the areas of creative learning technologies, craft and computation, informal and formal learning environments, online social networking sites, and STEM education. The fellow will have numerous professional development and networking opportunities as well as access to the newly created “Computational Craft Lab” with brand new equipment and materials for digital fabrication. Drs. Lee and Fields have a strong reputation for providing mentorship and time to doctoral students, involving them in all aspects of research and implementation.

This competitive fellowship is available for one student beginning doctoral studies in August 2014. Interested students should contact Victor Lee or Deborah Fields as soon as possible. Please include a resume and letter describing your research background, interests, and how they align with this fellowship.

Victor Leevictor.lee@usu.edu

Deborah Fieldsdeborah.fields@usu.edu

November 7, 2013 at 1:44 am 2 comments

September 2013 Special Issue of IEEE Computer on Computing Education

Betsy DiSalvo and I were guest editors for the September 2013 special issue of IEEE Computer on Computing Education.  (The cover, copied above, is really nice!)  The five articles in the issue did a great job of pushing computing education beyond our traditional image of CS education.  Below I’m pasting our original introduction to the special issue — before copy-editing, but free for me to share, and it’s a reasonable overview of the issue.

Introduction to the Special Issue

Computing education is in the news regularly these days. England has just adopted a new computer science curriculum. Thousands of people are taking on-line courses in computer science. Code.org’s viral video had millions of people thinking about learning to code.

A common thread in all of this new computer science education is that it’s not how we normally think about computing education. Traditional computing education brings to mind undergraduates working late night in labs drinking highly-caffeinated beverages. “CS Class” brings to mind images of students gaining valuable vocational skills in classrooms. The new movement towards computing education is about computing education for everyone, from children to working adults. It’s about people learning about computing in places you wouldn’t expect, from your local elementary school to afterschool clubs. It’s about people making their own computing on things that only a few years ago were not computable at all, like your personal cellphone and even your clothing.

Computing has changed. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, computing moved from the laboratory into the business office. In the PC revolution, it moved into our homes. Now in the early 21st Century, it is ubiquitous. We use dozens of computers in our everyday life, often without even recognizing that the processors are there. Knowing about computing today is necessary for understanding the world we live in. Computer science is as valuable as biology, physics, or chemistry to our students. Consider a computer science concept: that all digitized information is represented in a computer, and the same information could be a picture or text or a virus. That is more relevant to a student today than the difference between meiosis and mitosis, or how to balance an equilibrium equation.

Computing also gives us the most powerful tool for creative expression humans have ever invented. The desktop user interface we use today was created at Xerox PARC in order to make the computer a creative device. Today, we can use computing to communicate, to inform, to delight, and to amaze. That is a powerful set of reasons for learning to control the computer with programming.

The papers in this special issue highlight how computing education has moved beyond the classroom. They highlight computing as porous education that crosses the boundaries of the classroom, and even boundaries of disciplines. These papers help us to understand the implications and the new needs of computing education today.

Maria Knobelsdorf and Jan Vahrenhold write on “Addressing the Full Range of Students: Challenges in K-12 Computer Science Education”. The issues change as computer science education moves down from higher education into primary and secondary education. What curricula should we use in schools? How do prepare enough teachers? Maria and Jan lay out the challenges, and use examples from Germany on how these challenges might be addressed.

“STEAM-Powered Computing Education using E-Textiles: Impacting Learning and Broadening Participation” by Kylie Peppler talks about integrating art into traditional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) classrooms through use of new kinds of media. Kylie has students sewing computers into fabrics. Her students combine roles of engineers, designers, scientists and artists as they explore issues of fashion and design with electronic circuits and computer programming.

In “The Porous Classroom: Professional practices in the computing curriculum”, Sally Fincher and Daniel Knox consider how computer science students learn beyond the classroom. Learning in the classroom is typically scripted with careful attention to students activities that lead to learning outcomes. The wild and unconstrained world outside the classroom offers many more opportunities to learn, and Sally and Daniel look at how the opportunities outside the school walls influence students as they move between the classroom and the world beyond.

Karen Brennan’s paper “Learning Computing through Creating and Connecting” starts from the programming language, Scratch, which was created to introduce computing into afterschool computer clubhouses. Students using Scratch learned through creating wonderful digital stories and animations, then sharing them with others, and further learning by mixing and re-mixing what was shared. Karen then considers the porous education from the opposite direction — what does it take to take an informal learning tool, such as Scratch, into the traditional classroom?

The paper by Allison Elliott Tew and Brian Dorn, “The Case for Validated Tools in Computing Education Research”, describes how to measure the impacts of computing education, in terms of learning and attitudes. This work ties these themes together and back to the traditional classroom. Wherever the learning is occurring, we want to know that there is learning happening.  We need good measurement tools to help us know what’s working and what’s not, and how to compare different kinds of contexts for different students. Allison and Brian tell us that “initial research and development investment can pay dividends for the community because validated instruments enable and enhance a host of activities in terms of both teaching and research that would not otherwise be feasible.”   Tools such as these validated instruments may allow us to measure the impact of informal, maker-based, or practice-based approaches.  Work in basic tools for measurement help us to ground and connect the work that goes on beyond our single classroom through the porous boundary to other disciplines and other contexts.

The story that this special issue tells is about computer science moving from subject to literacy. Students sometimes learn computer science because they are interested in computers. More often today, students learn computer science because of what they can do with computers. Computing is a form of expression and a tool for thinking. It is becoming a basic literacy, like reading, writing, and arithmetic. We use reading and writing in all subject areas. We see that students are increasingly using programming in the same way. The papers in this special issue offer a view into that new era of computing education.

September 18, 2013 at 1:54 pm Leave a comment

Code to Joy: The School for Poetic Computation Opens – NYTimes.com

What a wonderful name for a school!  It will be interesting to see what is created at this new school.

The school’s motto? “More poems less demos.”

A start-up venture in its own right, the school has 15 students enrolled for fall, selected from a pool of 50 applications, who will not receive any formal credit, but will pay about $5,000 to spend 10 weeks tinkering, building and tweaking projects of their own design.

“People are coming from a programming background, and thinking, how do I make art with these skills? Things that are whimsical? Dreams?” said Zach Lieberman, one of the school’s four founders and instructors, who has taught at the Parsons School of Design and like his collaborators, has one foot in the technology world and another in the art world.

via Code to Joy: The School for Poetic Computation Opens – NYTimes.com.

September 9, 2013 at 1:20 am 2 comments

‘STEAM’ education gains momentum in schools: More focus on design

I’ve heard about the STEAM movement (STEM + Art) and thought it was a good idea.  Thinking of the “Art” piece as also including Design makes it a great idea.

According to the website, the movement aims to include art and design in STEM policy decisions; encourage the integration of art and design in K-20 education; and influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation.

“Design is increasingly becoming a key differentiator for technology startups and products,” the website states, and art and design “provide real solutions for our everyday lives, distinguish American products in a global marketplace, and create opportunity for economic growth.”

via ‘STEAM’ education gains momentum in schools | eSchool News.

March 7, 2013 at 1:23 am 4 comments


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