If ever there was a time that underscored the need for strong STEM education, it is now. Our students – our future scientists, engineers, and leaders – need the skills that only STEM can provide. Our teachers – the curators and educational caregivers in whom we place so much trust – need platforms that will help them in every and any learning scenario.
How, then, do schools deliver a program that is flexible enough to meet teachers and students where they are, without compromising quality, integrity, and equity? This post explores how districts can ensure that their platforms are really ready for what’s ahead, not matter what comes next.
The quality of any STEM program is of paramount importance to educators. Despite the many challenges facing us this school year, there should be no compromise on quality for the sake of digital. Here’s what STEM decision-makers should be looking for in their STEM content:
- Standards-based, leveled content that is age- and skill-appropriate for students in elementary, middle, and high school
- Game-based adventures that capture students’ imagination while ensuring close alignment to learning standards
- Embedded teacher guides and lesson plans that lower the barrier to entry for all teachers, including those with no experience whatsoever
- Coding, robotics, and computer science skills that are timely, relevant, and support interdisciplinary learning
- Emphasis on building STEM skills together with 21st Century Skills such as collaboration, problem-solving, and communication
Delivering content to students and teachers in this era requires an underlying technology that can withstand the many challenges that schools face. We are talking about STEM platforms, after all, so it stands to reason that your next investment meets certain expectations – and standards – in order to be successful. STEM platforms need to deliver, at a minimum, the following elements:
- Available via web browser with no special servers required
- Exceptional performance on Chromebooks, the most prominent device in education
- Fast, straightforward set up and activation for teachers, site admins, and the IT teams that support them
- Robust yet intuitive design that reduces friction for teachers and students
- Fast and easy SSO and rostering with ClassLink, Google, or Clever
- Current, clear measures to ensure security and privacy.
- Turnkey reporting on student pace & progress
- Easy-to-use guides that enable teachers to work seamlessly in virtual environment
Interestingly, no discussion about an education platform would be complete without understanding the underlying principles that drove its development. As it relates to STEM education, school leaders may find it difficult to uncover true differentiation, so comparing philosophies behind the technologies is a good way to ensure that a STEM vendor is a genuine education partner. STEM providers should be able to clear express the following:
- Demonstrated commitment to equity, accessibility, and inclusiveness
- Ability to connect students to STEM content and to each other, so that a culture of learning and collaboration thrives in-person and online
- Flexibility to deliver in any schedule format, including staggered starts, alternating schedules, or hybrid learning.
- Able to handle transitions from in-person to virtual as planned, or on a moment’s notice.
As we look ahead to the coming school year, the STEM community is rallying arounds its students and teachers, which underscores the importance of measuring providers against a set of criteria that will ensure they measure up to the appropriately high standards of the students and teachers they serve.