Technology may increase students' interest in STEM subjects

Posted on Tuesday, 4/02/2013 1:00 pm

Across the nation, educators are currently focused on ensuring their students acquire the knowledge and skills they need to excel in college, thrive in their careers and help the U.S. remain competitive on a global scale. For teachers, integrating technology into classroom instruction can play a role in helping them achieve these goals - especially when it comes to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Whether educators embrace electronic devices and student software or introduce their pupils to a virtual classroom environment, they are taking steps that could increase high schoolers' interest in STEM subjects and better prepare them for the future.

The importance of STEM education
A major focus of Barack Obama's presidency has been increasing student interest in STEM subjects, as this not only affects learners' success in college and the workforce, but America's global reputation as well.

"If America is going to compete for the jobs and industries of tomorrow, we need to make sure our children are getting the best education possible," said Obama in a July 17, 2012 statement.

According to the White House's website, the Obama Administration is focused on increasing students' STEM literacy, providing underrepresented groups with more opportunities to learn about these subjects and ultimately, bolstering American students' reputation in terms of STEM achievement.

Technology's role in enhancing STEM instruction
Different high schools have their own approach to integrating technology into the instruction teachers deliver in the classroom. The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville East St. Louis Charter High School is one institution that has taken technological instruction to a whole new level. According to the Belleville News-Democrat, this particular institution is home to a STEM classroom that features $1 million in educational technology.

This is the first year the STEM classroom, officially named the William Frederick Graebe Sr. STEM Learning Center, is in use, and Gina Washington, the school's program director, believes it will change the lives of underprivileged and minority students. For Matt Johnson, a science and mathematics instructor at the charter school, the classroom and the technology it contains have become "essential" to his teaching.

"It allows you to do a lot more things," Johnson told the news source. "Rather than more traditional teaching, you can change how you go about it."

Inside the learning center, teachers and students can use a 70-inch multi-touch interactive screen, two projector screens, a four-panel video screen and a fabrication computer lab. When instructor Jonathan Tate is teaching students in the classroom, his goal is to show them how electronic devices can be used for educational purposes. From Tate's perspective, technological gadgets can be a source of knowledge.

This approach to instruction has certainly caught on at the high school, as many students prefer to engage in the hands-on learning activities they find in the learning center, as opposed to the institution's more traditional classrooms.

With this information in mind, it may be in high school educators' interest to take a more technological approach to STEM instruction if it could lead to deeper levels of engagement.

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