Thursday, June 23, 2011

It’s not the tech that matters

I had the honor and pleasure of moderating a fantastic panel of presenters yesterday at the conference of the NCGS at Wellesley College. The session title was “Creative And Interdisciplinary Uses Of Technology To Engage Girls In STEM” and the panelists were Carolyn Steele, Middle School Math Teacher at Castilleja School in Palo Alto, CA, and Karen Kolkka, Lower School Educational Technologist at Springside School in Philadelphia, PA. Carolyn showed us how she and her colleague, Louise Madrid, integrate Scratch programming throughout the disciplines. They have 7th graders programming science animations that depict and explain DNA replication, challenging interactive math games, and hypercard-like history presentations with embedded animation sequences. Carolyn and Louise have backgrounds in software development so they are able to give their girls a solid introduction to programming concepts and design iteration process. I could learn so much sitting in on their class! Karen showed us animation projects by their lower and upper students using Animation-ish and the Motion component of Final Cut Pro. Their focus is on using tech to combine art and creativity with science, the idea being that their students will understand science concepts more deeply by creating animations that represent causal relationships and develop their personal creative vision through their projects. Then I gave a little demo of our Parthenon sim project
How does all of this tie together? As moderator I talked a little about the difference between patching the leaky pipeline to STEM and creating alternate pathways to STEM, the projects we demo-ed exemplifying the latter. Our common interest seemed to be casting a wider net to draw girls into using technology and engaging them in science, math, engineering, and technology in vital, personal, creative, and interdisciplinary ways. 
A few more points from my comments:
     Effective modeling of technology integration, exemplified by Carolyn and Louise’s use of collaborative co-teaching between those who know the tech and those who know the content area
     Making explicit the connections between the students’ work and work in STEM fields: increasing girls’ confidence in STEM
     Making technology more accessible to girls with meaningful applications in content areas and room for personalization
     Bringing together art and technology to foster greater engagement, understanding of science, other disciplines


Karen K said...

Hi Erik! Thank you for sharing this! It was truly a pleasure meeting you.

Erik N. said...

Hi, thanks! Same here. I just installed Animation-ish on our computers. Can't wait to see what they do with it.