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What is STEM education and why is it important?

What is STEM education and why is it important?

STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) as individual subjects have always been around, however, in the 1980s the introduction of affordable PCs and rise of highspeed communication via the Internet, can be seen as the catalyst that pushed the importance of these subjects forward.

From a business and economic standing people are needed to be educated in STEM subjects to help drive forward future advancements in technology, mathematics, medicine and electrical mechanical to name a few. However, this also has an impact on us as a society, where we need people educated in STEM subjects to help facilitate the changes happening in our day-to-day lives due to the rate in which technology is evolving.

With the heavy importance of achieving in STEM subjects, heavy pressure was put on learners to do well in these subjects, along with high demands for the teachers who delivered them. This had a negative impact leading to a decline in students studying these subjects at FE and HE levels after compulsory education. The Department for Education (DOE) and the Department for Employment and Learning (DOEL) reviewed the STEM policies in 2007 to help try to reduce the pressure put on both teachers and students, in order to try further raise student success at GCSE level and increase the number of students taking these subjects in post-compulsory education. One method introduced was a blended-learning approach, which is a great way to keep students up-to-date and continually learning skills in STEM subjects by having them embedding them in their other lessons.

New technologies have also been a huge contributor to achieve this, as students gain more ‘hands-on’ experience making their learning more holistic and relevant to real life, while moving away from the more archaic didactic structures of the teacher stood at the front of the room lecturing them. This, in turn, increases learner engagement offering a more enriched learning experience that students build up the skills to excel in STEM subjects without them realising. With STEM Technologies are becoming more affordable, it also allows for students to carry on with their learning at home through exploration and play.

One incredibly popular STEM technology used in both schools and at home for younger learners at a primary school level is the Makey Makey. Due to its simplicity of block programming in Scratch and using anything that is slightly conductive to hook up all kinds of fun things as inputs,  can be used in any subject and is a great and fun way to learn. Program a controller for your game, learn about conductivity, velocity is calculated, program a drum kit out of bananas or designs an interactive poster for History!

Other great STEM products that encourage children to learn through play are the Edison robot, the MakeBlock range and the new range of Grove Zero kits.

The most popular STEM technology at secondary level is the BBC micro:bit. This educational development board designed by the BBC and supported by companies including Microsoft, Python, and Barclays Bank is used within schools worldwide. With its own block programming environment and hundreds of fun plug-and-play electronic and robotic components, the micro:bit is incredibly easy for beginners of all ages! The micro:bit also helps support the natural progression for learners allowing them to move away from block programming to JavaScript and MicroPython.

Similarly, theHaloCode by Makeblock has recently been released which is a single board computer with built-in Wi-Fi specifically designed for education. Its compact design and integrated selection of electronic sensors and modules offer students all sorts of opportunities to create AI & IoT applications with just a few clicks!

CircuitScribe has been a great influence with electronics and circuitry with their special range of conductive inks, sensors and modules that work on any surface that a normal rollerball pen writes on. It allows learners to create circuits in a fun and different way which is as simple as drawing.

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