Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is used everywhere in the world and has become an integral part of our day-to-day life. Combined with STEM education, the pairing provides highly-engaging interactions with learning that encourage intellectual curiosity. In this blog, we'll take a closer look at the natural fit of STEM and ICT and the technology of Digital Learning Simulations.
STEM + ICT = Perfect Pair
Information and Communication Technology is the perfect partner for STEM education. Since modern ICT gadgets and their applications have become a fundamental part of everyday life, it only makes sense to promote their use in the classroom. The importance of ICT cannot be understated. It is crucial in two aspects; first, digital competencies are inevitable in the labor market. And second, it broadens the options of teaching and learning.
What does it look like in the STEM classroom?
Teachers have a variety of different ways to integrate ICT into their STEM classrooms, including the following:
- Digital tools for research (phones, tablets with internet connection to access search engines or databases)
- Digital tools for exploration and production (digital microscopes, robotic kits, 3D scanners, and printers)
- Digital tools for content processing (high-quality screens to show records from microscope)
- Digital learning simulations
- Video games with STEM-related content (Minecraft, Little Alchemy 2)
- Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
- Peer learning through shared documents
- Online and technology-enhanced assessment
Advantages of using ICT in STEM Education:
ICT is rooted in exploration and experimentation. It provides autonomy and space for curiosity and inquiry, which increases students’ self-awareness and motivation regarding their learning process. Students are also more invested in their learning when they feel as though are contributing rather than just receiving. ICT also allows lengthy and/or complex concepts to be presented in short videos or other more engaging multimedia formats. and gives opportunities for developing competencies such as data analysis.
Challenges of using ICT in STEM Education:
Teaching STEM subjects is expensive. The schools must buy, store, and maintain the gadgets. And we often face the problem that two or three children use one microscope, for example, which makes the learning process sluggish.
STEM teaching and learning is about generating excitement and interest in a given topic and then giving space for the pupils to find solutions or explanations. And although patience is a virtue, waiting a class period to get your turn with the microscope is a surefire way to deflate the excitement and momentum of STEM learning.
ICT Technology Deep Dive: Digital Learning Simulation
Of mentioned methods listed above, perhaps the most interesting and undervalued one is the digital learning simulation. An educational simulation is a technique in which students are immersed in a digitally constructed virtual environment and can collaborate to solve problems. Thus, the method tests participants’ knowledge and develops their skills simultaneously. In online simulations, students can manipulate the components and variables to see the results of many different inputs, all in a short period of time.
Students can have meaningful interactions with phenomena within simulation that replicate, in most important aspects, the real-world equivalent. When I observed students in simulations working with different chemicals, doing an autopsy, or watching the effects of force on various materials, I saw, by their reactions, that these were among the most exciting experiences they have had in school. Then why do teachers not include experiments in every class? Well… for one, doing experiments in real life is expensive, places a huge responsibility on the teacher, can get messy, and turn dangerous in an instant. Fortunately, this risk is reduced almost to zero with online learning simulations.
Another advantage of introducing the students to simulations is that students will more likely engage with the interactive game-like environments in their free time than they are to pick up a textbook. So, teachers can create tasks or projects to support the elaborative learning process without additional costs to the school or the parents.
It should be noted that simulations are not a panacea. Teachers who use simulations don’t have less work, but their focus changes, from creating and delivering content, to facilitating students’ exploration of the virtual environment. Now they can focus on involving everyone, supporting and probing student understanding, and supplementing with additional information. Not to mention that it enables the teacher to embed assessments within the virtual environment. However, research shows that digital tools are most effective when teachers use them in addition to other teaching methods – in other words, to enrich their teaching practice and not just letting kids do whatever they want.
In summary, ICT opens a wide range of possibilities in STEM learning. It can be applied in a classroom environment, but students can also use it in other circumstances to enhance their self-regulating skills. Online learning simulations might be the best option for STEM teaching. It gives the students real-life experiences without additional cost and can make the lives of teachers easier.
Want to hear more about how ICT and STEM in action? Reach out to STEMscopes to learn more!