Why schools of education step up with STEAM

New and veterans teachers getting more guidance on using ed tech in class

Teacher training and PD at schools of education now focuses more heavily on STEAM, and how ed tech can power instruction in a blend of math, science and the arts.

“What we hear from principals and superintendents and teachers is that teachers don’t need help with technology,” says Gwynne Rife, chair of advanced professional programs at University of Findlay in Ohio. “Teachers need help with how to use technology for instruction and how to make a real difference in class.”

Findlay’s online master’s program in STEAM education covers differentiated instruction, inquiry-based science, robotics, coding, artificial intelligence and makerspaces, among other topics.

“Knowing how to do infographics is very different from figuring out how to deliver them so students can use them to enrich their skills,” Rife says.

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Student teachers are also learning new, more holistic methods of assessment, such as having students create digital stories and infographics to demonstrate learning, says Rife, who is also a professor of biological sciences education.

Another goal of Findlay’s degree program, which uses course materials and assessments developed by Discovery Education, is to guide new teachers in using technology to develop students’ soft skills, such as problem-solving, communication, creativity and collaboration.

“Staying on top of changing technologies and leveraging them to deliver the best instruction to students is a challenge,” Rife says.

How STEAM powers PD

At Buena Vista University in Iowa, master’s work in STEAM education is guided by the changing world of work, says Lucas DeWitt, an assistant professor of education.

“Unfortunately, technology is still often used as a way to continue what we’ve always done in class,” DeWitt says. “There hasn’t been enough PD that helps teachers think about what they want from instruction.”

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Because the internet has given students access to vast knowledge and information, Buena Vista’s student teachers are designing lessons in which students will work together to analyze different perspectives and to decipher fact from fiction.

“Teachers need to develop an openness to change how things are done, and develop the comfort to try something and not be successful,” DeWitt says. “It’s about learning how to reimagine school through digital content.”

In Buena Vista University’s online program, which also uses Discovery Education’s materials, student teachers also learn how to encourage students to read more deeply to find meaning in the content—rather than just skimming headlines on the internet.

“We need to understand that, as educators, we’re never going to be in the know with the newest tech resources,” DeWitt says. “We need a mindset of being responsive to what kids can teach us and that we’re all going to be learning together.”

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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