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

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

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.



Recent trends in educational technology

Technology is everywhere. It is ubiquitous and has the capability of connecting us to others within a matter of seconds.

As we become more interconnected through the use of different technologies, the more technology is being integrated into classrooms and curriculums across the United States.

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.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, technology ushers in fundamental structural changes that can be integral to achieving significant improvements in productivity.

School systems across the country are implementing “Bring Your Own Technology” initiatives, allowing students to bring their individual technologies to work on in the classroom.

Blended Learning

According to the US Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, “In a blended learning environment, learning occurs online and in person, augmenting and supporting teacher practice. This approach often allows students to have some control over time, place, path, or pace of learning. Blended learning often benefits from a reconfiguration of the physical learning space to facilitate learning activities, providing a variety of technology-enabled learning zones optimized for collaboration, informal learning and individual-focused study.”

Schools are implementing blended learning into their curriculums differently.

In order for blended learning initiatives to prove a success, the curriculum used within the classroom has to be designed in such a way to allow technology to supplement what students are already learning. Blended learning is a success when there is a common goal that both the student and teacher work towards together.

Founded in September 2006, Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization that allows students and teachers to supplement what has been taught within the classroom through practice exercises, instructional videos and personalized learning.

Khan Academy provides tutorials and supplemental material in most every subject for every grade level—math by grade, computer science, economics, science and engineering, as well as SAT, MCAT, and AP exam test prep. The best part about it is it’s free.

Google and the Classroom


        Chromebooks are becoming widely used within the classroom for many reasons. First, they are a more cost-effective alternative compared to an iPad. Chromebooks cost about $200 compared to the iPad at around $400. Chromebooks are known for their durability and the integration of Google Apps for the Classroom.

Google Classroom

        Google Classroom is a free platform that integrates Google Apps for Education with widely-used Google Apps—including Google Docs, Gmail and Calendar. Google Classroom allows for less paper, easier turn-around, enhanced communication and organization and is free for those who use. Teachers can set up individual classrooms for each period of students they teach and within a matter of minutes, post homework assignments and reminders for their students.