What is STEAM education?

According livescience.com, “STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach.”

In 2009, Former President Obama introduced a campaign titled “Education to Innovate,” which was designed to inspire students to work towards excelling in STEM areas.

Now, that acronym is known as STEAM.

But, what does the ‘A’ mean? And no, it isn’t a scarlet letter.

The addition to the already existing acronym is the inclusion of art–whether that be graphic design, drawing, or music.

The STEM to STEAM movement  is “championed by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and widely adopted by institutions, corporations and individuals,” according to stemtosteam.org.

So, what is the importance of adding arts into technology education?

According to edweek.org, “STEM lessons naturally involve art, language arts, and social studies and history.

Coming from arts proponents, edweek.org says that “engineering and technology can certainly serve the artist and help create art.”

Perhaps one of the biggest aspects of integrating art is the realm of creative planning. According to edweek.org, “As students brainstorm solutions for an engineering problem, encourage them to adopt a playful, inventive, artistic approach.”

Currently, in the state of Georgia, there are almost 40 schools that are certified STEM/STEAM. These schools are, geographically, around the state, but a majority are located in the metro-Atlanta area.

Closer to home, Colham Ferry Elementary School (CFES) and Rocky Branch Elementary School (RBES) in Oconee County are STEM certified schools.

So, what does this mean?

For CFES, this means students in all grade levels focus on different things to increase their skills and knowledge–from a young age–on science related topics.

Both at CFES and RBES, student curriculum is developed through a Learning Design Process–something that allows for more improvement.

Because these schools are also in a rural area, one of the biggest things students are taught is within an agricultural focus.

STEM/STEAM education allows students to begin develop a logical type thinking process where they can ask, imagine, plan, create and improve…a skill that will hopefully carry them far in their educational and professional pursuits.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics students spend time at Brookhaven National Lab/ flickr.com
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Curb procrastination in four easy steps

In light of the season of finals, many students find themselves locked up in various public places to study to prevent procrastination–for example the Miller Learning Center, the UGA Library or even the new Science Learning Center.

However, this generation of millennials (me being one of them) still often finds themselves surfing the internet when they should be learning organic chemistry compounds.

Here are a few ways college students can practice to prevent procrastination and acing their finals.

  1. Break up your work into sections. It can often be inundating to look at ALL of the notes a student has to study–especially if they are preparing for a cumulative final. By breaking up notes into sections with small breaks in between, students often find themselves more motivated. Senior Katie Elder practices this technique often. “During winter finals my sophomore year, my friend and I each got a dozen donuts on 12/12 day. We would break up the notes we had to study by getting through one unit of vocabulary. Upon finishing each unit, we would eat half a donut.”
  2. Hang out with people who motivate you. Studying with friends can be a good and a bad thing. However, in light of the stress finals provides, studying with people who inspire you can really help with checking things off of the to-do list.
  3. Just do it. It’s a fairly universal truth that students just spend more time complaining about what they have to get done than just getting their work done. Stop complaining and do it. According to lifehack.org,  “Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.”
  4. Drink caffeine. According to Forbes Magazine, research done by Nature Neuroscience found that “giving people caffeine after they memorized a series of pictures significantly boosted their ability to remember the subtler details, compared to people who’d been given dummy pills.” Going on, the amount of caffeine given was “a 200-milligram dose of caffeine – about the amount in a large cup of coffee – was the only one to do the trick. So, perhaps, splurge a little bit on Jittery Joe’s crack-a-cino. Sleep might not occur, but learning might!

    Photo taken by Kara Haberstock/ flickr.com

New to state education: Georgia HB 338

Georgia House Bill 338…recently renamed as the “First Priority Act” brings some provisions that have already been seen by Georgia voters…except this time….its the legislators who make the final say.

I reached out to educational expert, Dr. Stephen Stewart, who was unable to comment.

Microsoft for Education

Continuing on the trend of technology integrated into education, Microsoft has launched a new classroom platform to further shape current and future classrooms through digital workspaces.

Since its founding in 1975, Microsoft has proven itself as the leading developer of personal-computer software systems and applications.

In 2011, with strict competition from Google, Microsoft Office 365 reached general availability and brought together its online services to then create the now-successful and widely used Office 365. Over the course of 5 years, Microsoft has gone on to expand Office 365 services through providing packages for small business, medium size business and even large businesses, etc. It’s even being used more and more by colleges and universities.

Through the Student Advantage Program, students at major research universities, like the University of Georgia, are able to have free access to the full version of Office 365 ProPlus during their tenure at the University of Georgia.

In April 2016, Microsoft launched Microsoft Classroom, stitching together tools from already widely-sued Office 365 and other learning management partnerships.

Google Classroom has already proven to take classrooms by storm, and the hopes for Microsoft classroom are the same. However, because of its inclusion of the already proven successful Office 365, there are some differences in the two educational platforms that could potentially tailor one over the other.

The big plus, it’s free for all Office 365 Education users.

The basics of Microsoft Classroom

What makes Microsoft Classroom unique is that just like Google Classroom, it operates like a learning management system. It has some similarities to what Google already offers, yet has some key differences that make it synonymous to Microsoft.

Just like Office 365, apps like Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneDrive are all available to be used.

What makes it unique

What separates Microsoft Classroom from Google Classroom is Microsoft Classroom comes with the capability of being integrated with other learning management systems including Edmodo and Brightspace.

This is a key plus because this allows for “grades on assignments to be delivered via Classroom can automatically feed into supported third-party gradebooks,” according to EdSurge.

Perhaps what sets Microsoft Classroom apart from anything else is the School Data Sync feature that allows a schools’ student information system, like Infinite Campus, to automatically update individual class student rosters within Microsoft Classroom.

Comparing Google to Microsoft

 

Feature Google Apps for Ed. Microsoft Office 365
Browser Chrome Internet Explorer/Edge
Word Processing Docs Word
Spreadsheets Sheets Excel
Presentations Slides PowerPoint/Sway
Email Gmail Exchange/Outlook
Pages Sites Office 365 Sites/SharePoint
Drive storage Drive OneDrive
Instant messaging Talk Lync/Skype/Yammer
Video conferencing Hangouts Lync/Skype
Social networks Google+/Groups Yammer/ So.cl
Notes Keep OneNote
Native search engines Google Search Bing/Fast Search
Service status dashboards App status dashboard Office 365 service health dashboard

(Chart produced by campussuite.com)

So, which one is better?

Both Microsoft for Education and Google Apps for Education provide many services that cater to the growing needs of students and educators. Both are continually being worked on to evolve to become more user friendly and technologically savvy.

Microsoft, having just been launched allows educators full access to Microsoft applications they are all potentially comfortable with using. One other key advantage to Microsoft Classroom is the Professional Leading Center (PCL) feature, that provides educators with ability to interact with other professionals.

Google Classroom, on the other hand, has been pretty widely used since 2014. One thing that might keep users away is that it is only offered as a web-based platform, so if internet capabilities are down, so is Google Classroom.

Both platforms provide adaptability, efficiency and interactivity. Ultimately, it comes down to which one you are more comfortable with using.

 

 

Photo Essay: Why students love Apple

Mac vs. PC.

It’s been the debate that has raged among college students for years.In a technology-savvy world, what leads a person to make the big decision of purchasing a certain laptop?

There are many factors that one has to consider before making such a large commitment. Many students want the laptops they purchase to last them throughout their college tenure–whether that be four years or eight years.

The biggest factor is cost.

Apple products are known for their high cost, but long life span. On the other hand, PC’s can be purchased for much less, but is their quality what you pay for them?

UGA students are like a majority of college students across the nation–seas of Mac’s like Moses parting the Red Sea.

Apple products, like this MacBook Air, can be seen all over UGA's campus. Apple products are known for their light weight, making it easy for students to put them in their backpacks and trek across campus.
Apple products, like this MacBook Air, can be seen all over UGA’s campus. Apple products are known for their light weight, making it easy for students to put them in their backpacks and trek across campus. (Photo/Chelsey Shirley)
Juliana Lima, 20, a political science and world languages education double major, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, uses her MacBook Air for everything. Lima said her MacBook was the best investment she and her parents made and never has to worry about it crashing.
Juliana Lima, 20, a political science and world languages education double major, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, uses her MacBook Air for everything, on Monday, February 13, 2017. Lima said her MacBook was the best investment she and her parents made and never has to worry about it crashing. (Photo/Chelsey Shirley)
Jessie Gerke, 21, a human development and family sciences major, from Acworth, Georgia, uses her MacBook Pro so much that she is actually in the market for a new one. Gerke owned her MacBook Pro for over five years.
Jessie Gerke, 21, a human development and family sciences major, from Acworth, Georgia, uses her MacBook Pro so much that she is actually in the market for a new one, on Monday, February 13, 2017. Gerke owned her first MacBook Pro for over five years. (Photo/Chelsey Shirley)
Nil Patel, 20, a finance major, from Cordele, Georgia, has owned a MacBook Pro for almost four years. Patel said he doesn't have to worry about viruses on his MacBook Pro.
Nil Patel, 20, a finance major, from Cordele, Georgia, has owned a MacBook Pro for almost four years, on Monday, February 13, 2017. Patel said he doesn’t have to worry about viruses on his MacBook Pro. (Photo/Chelsey Shirley)
Brianna Miller, 19, a management information systems major, from Powder Springs, Georgia, considers herself faithful to the Apple brand. Miller said one of the biggest reasons she loves the brand is because her MacBook Pro can be used for more than just a computer. Miller loves that her MacBook connects to her iPhone via her iCloud account.
Brianna Miller, 19, a management information systems major, from Powder Springs, Georgia, considers herself faithful to the Apple brand, on Monday, February 13, 2017. Miller said one of the biggest reasons she loves the brand is because her MacBook Pro can be used for more than just a computer. Miller loves that her MacBook connects to her iPhone via her iCloud account. (Photo/Chelsey Shirley)
Katie Pilson, 20, a public relations major, from Washington, Georgia, is a fairly new Apple owner. She owned a PC during her first two years of college. Once she got into her computer coding and production classes, she made the switch to a MacBook Pro because it allowed her to work on more "hardcore" projects without feeling like her PC would crash.
Katie Pilson, 20, a public relations major, from Washington, Georgia, is a fairly new Apple owner. She owned a PC during her first two years of college. Once she got into her computer coding and production classes, she made the switch to a MacBook Pro because it allowed her to work on more “hardcore” projects without feeling like her PC would crash. (Photo/Chelsey Shirley)

Longform: Technology in the eyes of student teachers

It’s true, technology is all around.

In today’s world, people have supercomputers in the palms of their hands. It isn’t hard to pay a bill on a mobile application, post latest whereabouts to the social media outlet of choice or even stay up-to-date with the most recent news in such a charged social climate.

One of the most recent trends is seeing technology creep past the cinderblock walls of classrooms across America.

Integrating technology in classroom instruction is more than just teaching basic computer skills—it is an effective way to further enhance the learning process across the board. Whereas 15 years ago, students were still assigned textbooks and wrote notes by hand, today’s students read textbooks online and take digital notes on school-lended technologies.

The Athens-Clarke County school system has implemented instructional technology goals system-wide, with the emphasis of moving all of their schools closer to a 1:1 ratio–that is, 1 piece of technology per every enrolled student.

Clarke County schools refer to their technology plan as “Learning Technologies,” which is described as the “application of technology for the enhancement of teaching, learning, and assessment.” Learning technologies look different among every grade level.

For example, among the middle school grades, technologies used in Clarke County schools vary from Google Classroom to Socrative to even learning to code.

Teachers already inside the classrooms aren’t the only ones who are having to adapt to learning new educational technologies. Thousands of college students enter the cinderblock walls of classrooms across the nation every day to gain field experience through student teaching. Not only are student teachers having to learn how to manage a classroom in one semester, they are also having to learn how to adapt–quickly–to the increasing trends of implementing technologies into lesson planning and curriculums.

The University of Georgia is home to one of the leading colleges of education in the United States. In fact, several student-teach in the Athens-Clarke County School System.  

Logan Fetters, 21, a secondary English language arts and math primary education major, from Canton, Georgia, currently student teaches at Clarke Middle School in Athens, Georgia. Although Fetters thinks having technology inside the classroom is beneficial, in her experience, she’s also discovered a lot of negatives that can hinder her students’ learning.

At Clarke Middle School, students are loaned laptops at the beginning of each school year and must return them at the end of the same school year. Students are tasked with charging laptops at home every night and bringing them back to school the next day so that they can adequately perform tasks assigned every day.

Logan Fetters, 21, from Canton, Georgia, currently student teaches at Clarke Middle School. Every school year, students are loaned a laptop to finish class assignments and complete various tasks, including homework.
Logan Fetters, 21, from Canton, Georgia, currently student teaches at Clarke Middle School. Every school year, students are loaned a laptop to finish class assignments and complete various tasks, including homework.

“[There will be] at least one student in every class who either doesn’t have a computer or doesn’t have a charger for their dead computer,” Fetters said. “So, if they don’t have a computer or charger, they cannot participate in the activity.”

Even though Fetters doesn’t use technology with her students every day of the school week, she still has had a learning curve adjusting to what technologies are available to use. Fetters wasn’t trained on anything in her college classes, so she’s had to rely on her mentor teacher to show her how to best utilize educational technology.

“I know I’m supposed to be from the technology generation, but I struggle sometimes with using the computer for education purposes for my students,” Fetters said. “My mentor teacher is also older, so she didn’t grow up with technology and doesn’t have positive emotions towards using technology.”   

Fortunately for Fetters, technology is not implemented into every day’s lesson plans. She says they use computers inside the classroom about once a week. As a future teacher, she appreciates the exposure she has received on how to use technology, but in reality, has realized that it can be hard to manage a classroom full of students at the same time.

“It’s hard to make sure every student is on task,” Fetters said.

As a soon-to-be teacher, Fetters appreciates the exposure she has already gained with use of technology in the classroom, but would ultimately love to use games, like Desmos, to excite students about learning certain subjects, like math.

Emily Smith, 22, a middle grades education major, from Valdosta, Georgia, is one of those students. She is currently student teaching at Hilsman Middle School in Athens, Georgia, where she is emphasizing in social studies and English language arts. Hilsman Middle School is one of Clarke County school system’s 1:1 schools.

Just like Clarke Middle School, Hilsman Middle School students are issued a computer that they use for the duration of the school year.

Their technology of choice: Google Chromebooks.

Like Fetters, Smith had no formal educational technology training in any of her college education courses, so she has had to figure everything out as she goes along.

Smith has found that the daily use of Google Classroom has allowed a more mainstream approach for both herself and her students.

“Basically everything is done on computers,” Smith said. “Most students keep an online notebook assignments are posted and submitted in the Google Classroom, and videos on the drive are shown on the smart projector.”

As an English language arts emphasis, Smith has also found that utilizing Google Classroom and smart boards are extremely useful. For example, Smith feels that smart boards assist in underlining important things to note or working on grammar in an English class.

Smith finds many positives with implementing technology into her future classroom. However, one thing holds her back from time to time.

The one hindrance to everything being based on a computer is not handwriting anything–even notes.

“Students tend to retain less because they are not handwriting,” Smith said.

But, like Fetters, the biggest worry for Smith is the distraction that technology enables.

“The biggest hindrance is that it is so easy to become distracted,” Smith said. “Many students will play games on their computers instead of working and many get away with it because everything is done on the computer anyway.”

Overall, Smith is still passionate about implementing the technologies she has adequately learned while student teaching, especially the interactivity smart boards and projectors provide for English lessons.

Even with learning curves for future teachers, like Fetters and Smith, one thing is for sure: technology makes things easier for the students.