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The "T" in S.T.E.A.M.

Let's talk about the "T" in S.T.E.A.M.

What does it mean to you as a Student, an Educator or a Parent?

How do you turn that letter into a lesson, and one that doesn't just check the box by showcasing current events and advances in Technology?

Even when trying to dig up good resources that delve into the subject in alliance with S.T.E.A.M. centered curriculums, it seems Tech is the most difficult to build a lesson around. Not that it isn't easy to find articles about advances in Tech (it is) but what I look for are those sources that can be used to encourage critical thinking, that help students question why things are done the way they are done, and how they can apply it themselves. Tech overlaps with engineering, science, and of course aesthetics, including the principal of design; form follows function, playing a major role. And yes, I will say Aesthetics and Art interchangeably because "the Arts" is such a general term and must be defined with relevance to the topic at hand, and I say this as an artist myself, (believe me, when we get to the “A” in S.T.E.A.M. I will have plenty to say about its implementation). Then, of course, Math, the element that holds it altogether. Math can even be argued as the very language of the universe, of what is seen and unseen, etc.

However, in trying to decide how to provide the best resources when it comes to teaching Tech, I wonder if the richest, albeit slightly different, approach to teaching Tech may come from simultaneously teaching History.

Personally, I love History (I have a degree in Art History) not to mention an obsessive relationship with it as well. What do my husband and I do for fun? We read and listen to history podcasts, including an amazing podcast called, "Hardcore History,” by Dan Carlin. Yes, cringeworthy to some, but hey, we are as nerdy as they come.

Of course the S.T.E.A.M. curriculum overlaps at every letter. Technology is just one of the subjects that truly gives credit to our past and our future like nothing else in the acronym does. From the polio vaccination to splitting the atom, we as a race hold the seeds of life as well as our own destruction.

I advocate that this is why teaching Technology shoulder to shoulder with History is so crucial, and as an added bonus it gives us a framework for lesson planning.

What Technologies do we wish had never been invented? What Technologies could we not afford to lose? (Even if we reap their whirlwind by simply existing). These are big questions. And for our students and youth they are so important to consider. If we are shaping the minds of inventors, it is equally important to part the curtains of History. Too often it repeats itself because we did not want to comb over the horrors of our past, but without doing so we do a disservice to our children as well as ourselves.

Let's play a word association game. I say "History" you say . . . ? I'm willing to bet nine times out of ten, the next word to jump in your mind is “Boring". I even associate these words because of how many times I've heard them side by side. But I don't think History is boring at all. I find it fascinating and highly relevant to my own life. Most of my classmates in art school hated art history. Yes, discussing the differences between Classical and Neoclassical Architecture can be a yawn fest. But it doesn't have to be.

So, when we talk about or teach History, what are we really talking about? They are STORIES, are they not? They are stories about _________? In this case, Technology. Challenge yourself to think of it this way, whether you're a homeschooling parent, a teacher or a student. Dust the cobwebs off of that big boring word in your mind. We are talking about stories.

The rise of any technology can be set into motion by a mere question from an individual. Technology can be founded and pioneered by a community, or it can be ushered by the coming of war. Who were the individuals involved in a given technological advancement? What drove them forward? How did the political or environmental circumstances surrounding them affect their decision to push forward? Was it driven by a personal journey, perhaps someone with a dream to fly? Or to be the first in space?

Then, of course, we can option to break down the "T" and apply the "S", "E", "A", and "M" to the subject.

Reinforcing the idea that S.T.E.A.M. fields are interconnected all the time is a great way to push students and ourselves to think critically from every vantage point.

How was Science involved, i.e. the process? What were the Mathematics involved and why? Were their first calculations amiss? What principals of Engineering and Aesthetics had to be considered in order for the invention to be a success?

Of course this article is a basis for discussion and interpretation of S.T.E.A.M. All of these questions can propel critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. We will get to the remaining letters in the coming weeks and talk about the 4C’s as well.

Discuss in the comments below. I want to know what you think. I want to know where you agree or disagree. How do you teach the "T"? How do you approach the S.T.E.A.M. or S.T.E.M. idea in your classroom or home? What have you found is most effective for students? As always, be polite and respectful in discussion, and share with your friends or colleagues and let us know how others feel on the subject.

Danielle Cox

Danielle is a writer and printmaking artist, as well as a stop-motion filmmaker, with a degree in Art History and Printmaking from Colorado Mesa University. Prior to pursuing both of her degrees, she worked for an elementary school that provided a sensory and developmental program for kindergarten as well as those enrolled in the after-school programs.

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