Sunday, February 2, 2014

Act, Learn, Be Great

In my eSTEMation, there is one critical ingredient that separates the good from the great in STEM teaching and learning.  Good STEM is student-centered, active and interdisciplinary.  But, great STEM extrapolates the learning curve until kids become contributors.  Great STEM expands the classroom until both teachers and kids can “Act Locally and Learn Globally”, facing the great engineering challenges of our time. 

Every generation since the beginning of civilization has faced its own unique engineering challenges, from electrification to agricultural mechanization. Today, I am convinced that STEM classrooms are the world’s best hope to face the global grand challenges of our age.

The list [developed with the input of thousands of citizens at the National Academy of Engineering website] is daunting, but inspiring:
How is today's educational platform preparing a STEM-literate citizenry to address these grand challenges?  The answer, in my opinion, is great STEM.  Great STEM fosters the imagination, the passion and the genius of every learner:  the artists, entrepreneurs, engineers, designers and builders who will one day lead the work on the grand challenges of our age.

Engineering challenges having a sweeping range, from virtual reality to urban infrastructure.   Can each of us identify at least one of the grand challenges that captures our own unique core imagination or passion, calling us to invest our own resources personally and professionally?  For instance, I contribute professionally to "advance personalized learning" through my daily work with teachers and school districts.  I contribute personally to "provide access to clean water" through humanitarian efforts.

From an educator’s perspective, I honestly think that a team of creative teachers could cover the entire core content by “reverse engineering” from the grand challenges. How cool would that be?! Now that really would be holding true to the maxim that we Begin With the End In Mind.  We could begin by asking our local business partners questions like, “What need does your industry meet for its customers?” and “What projects energize your top thinkers and doers?”

I am not sure which comes first, “acting locally” or “learning globally”.  Honestly, I think Iowa’s best classroom teachers are already helping students to do both. 

In my eSTEMation, greatness STEMs from Iowans, “acting locally and learning globally”.