Transforming the Way We Learn: How cyberlearning can encourage an interest in STEM
“Cyberlearning blows apart the walls of the classroom and allows new experiences that were never possible or practical before.”
This quote is from an awesome video from Mindshift on how cyberlearning is transforming the way students learn science. At 7 minutes, it’s a bit long, but I encourage you to watch the whole thing. The students’ enthusiasm and the learning experiences made possible by technology are inspiring!
Through cyberlearning, students are experiencing science in ways that would not otherwise be possible. Virtual labs and simulations make it possible to replicate experiments that could not be conducted in even the most sophisticated school science lab. Mobile technology allows students to experience science out in the world, rather than behind a desk, while activity-based projects “give kids ownership of their learning.”
For girls in particular, online science education holds great potential. Studies have shown that for girls, interest in science tends to drop off around middle school. Proponents of single-sex education argue that girls this age are intimidated by boys in the classroom, or are afraid to appear too smart or “geeky.” While the value of single-sex education is still a subject of some debate, the internet can remove that variable entirely – girls who might be less inclined to raise their hand in class can engage with science freely online, without worry of what others might think.
At a time when we have a shortage of people with advanced technical skills and degrees in STEM fields, it’s more important than ever that we encourage girls’ interest in science; particularly since women remain drastically underrepresented in these increasingly valuable fields.
This infographic from Microsoft on STEM education is fascinating, but one thing in particular jumped out at me:
- For 61% of male STEM college students, games or toys initially sparked their interest in STEM.
- Conversely, for 68% of female students, a teacher or class was the motivating factor.
This would suggest that boys are more naturally drawn to science and technology simply by virtue of how they play, while for girls a meaningful connection with a teacher or class was most important.
Unfortunately, the window of opportunity for capturing girls’ interest in these areas is brief – studies have shown that if girls aren’t excited about STEM by middle school, it’s “almost impossible to get them to pursue these fields in college.” Yet, in states like California (where 40% of teachers spent less than an hour per week teaching science),themajority of science education doesn’t begin until fifth grade, when the subject first appears on standardized tests – far too late for girls who will be entering middle school the following year.
So what’s a parent to do? Well, as we saw in the video, technology and online learning have great potential for engaging all students in science, and may have added benefits for girls. It’s also important to get kids interested as early as possible. Activities like scouts, 4-H, LEGO robotics teams, and science competitions are a great way to encourage a passion for science.
Lastly, K12 students have access to a variety of online science, math, and technology clubs through thebigthink12. From astronomy, to plant and animal science, to mathematics, and more, clubs are a great way to explore a variety of interests for students of all ages.
Now it’s your turn!
- Do your girls love science?
- How have you encouraged an interest in science, math, and technology in your kids?
Mindshift: Technology adds Spark to Science Education
Institute for Math and Computer Science: Keeping Talented Girls on the STEM Track
thinktanK12 blog: STEM
thinktanK12 blog series: Transforming the Way We Learn