Sunday, October 27, 2013

STEM is the Tesseract of Teaching

In my eSTEMation, Iowa’s classrooms are now entering the fourth dimension—STEM is the tesseract of teaching

Until now, America’s classrooms have been mostly two-dimensional, attached to a textbook or a worksheet.  Good teachers have labored to share an up-down-all-around world using only “X” and “Y”.  Learning science from a worksheet is something like imagining music without ever hearing a song.

Honestly, good teachers have always tried to add the third dimension to their mostly flat classrooms.  Grasping at the “Z”, we tell stories, take fieldtrips and show videos.  We entertain guest speakers and assign projects.  Yet, it’s hard not to admit that most classroom experiences are still a 2-D drawing of the Cartesian coordinate, tethered to the inertia of traditional teaching and learning.

Recently, I have come to see STEM as the fourth dimension: spacetime.  STEM begins with the “XYZ” of content and rigor and relevance.  But STEM doesn’t stop there:  STEM insists on the fourth dimension of “spacetime”.  STEM is the tesseract of teaching.  It drags the cube to a new place of real-world, localized, time-sensitive event connections. 

STEM translates learning experiences to the fourth dimension using the vectors of community partners and trans-disciplinary work.  Students tackle the grand challenges of their own generation, building on the framework of essential content. And, in case you think this is just STEMfiction, talk to the Iowa kids who are touching a four-dimensional world: Real World Design Challenge and FTC World Champion or Siemens We Can Change The World national finalists.

In my eSTEMation, it’s time to break loose from the two-dimensional plane of worksheet, textbooks or even computer screens.  Let’s tesseract.