STEM-D Conference Helps Educators Share Strategies for Engagement

With science and math becoming essential to our technologically entrenched future, how can teachers of all grade levels best engage students in these crucial subjects? More than 120 regional educators joined the School of Education and its regional BOCES partners at the Pace University Graduate Center on May 15 to share best practices and strategies to foster budding engineers and scientists among today’s students through science, technology, engineering, math and design subjects (STEM-D).

More than 120 regional teachers attended the conference, presented in collaboration by The Pace University School of Education, The Lower Hudson Teacher Center Network, The New York Technology Educators Network, Southern Westchester BOCES and The Lower Hudson Regional Information Center. Ten workshops were offered in morning and afternoon sessions, ranging from integrate and sustain STEM-D studies in an overall curriculum to science reading and teaching primary education students about nature and science.

“Our goal with the conference was to try to get past the hype of STEM-D that we see so often in the news, and focus on the amazing things that teachers are doing in their classrooms,” said Gerald Ardito, DPS, Assistant Professor at the School of Education.

From left, Gerald Ardito, DPS, School of Education; Science educator Vicki Cobb; educational design & media expert Stephen Jacobs; School of Education Dean Spencer and Professor Emeritus Sandy Flank.

The highlights of the day were two keynote addresses by media and game design expert Professor Stephen Jacobs and noted science educator, blogger and advocate Vicki Cobb.  Professor Jacobs discussed “Games for Learning and Education,” from the evolution of games for learning and where this exciting innovation is headed, and how educators can implement gaming to engage students. While games often evoke the image of recreational gaming on systems produced by Microsoft and Sony, ‘games’ can include a variety of activities that engage students in puzzle/problem solving, mathematical sequencing and critical thinking.

“Games are important to the future of education,” Professor Jacobs said to the gathered educators. “Games are complex systems,” he continued, consisting of environments with a variety of independent forces and actors that influence and effect different actions and outcomes. Issues like climate change are real-life representations such complexity.

“[Contemporary] leaders often do not think in complex systems, or they apply restrictions to the systems,” he said. By teaching today’s students to think critically in these terms, students will be able to look at real life problems and think of multiple solutions.

Science educator and blogger Vicki Cobb’s keynote centered on a belief that knowledge is driven by questions. She reflected on her keynote experience in a Huffington Post blog a few days after the conference. She noted how many of the participants shared that they experienced “magic” in their classrooms, when students and teacher alike are very focused and fully immersed in the subject at hand. “It seems that science teachers have more fun,” she quipped in her blog post.

“When I was finished, instead of Q&A, I asked the audience to brainstorm with a neighbor and come up with some good questions to share publicly,” she wrote about her address to the conference attendees. “This was an experiment; I have never done this before. I was surprised to see how shy and inhibited they were about sharing questions. It seems that the answer-driven culture in schools, which has been conditioned by endless test-prep, has rubbed off on science teachers where the content should be approached by inquiry.”

If you couldn’t make it, selected multimedia from the conference is available online.

Providing extraordinary learning experiences in the STEM-D areas (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Design) is critical to the mission of Pace University’s School of Education. It is also consistent with our mission to effect quality teaching and learning in public and private early childhood, childhood, secondary, and non-school settings by preparing educators who are reflective professionals who promote justice, create caring classrooms and school communities and enable all students to be successful learners.

The School of Education offers several programs and courses of study to address the needs for effective science education. We are an active partner with the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems on the Pace STEM Collaboratory, a program that facilitates interdisciplinary research and the exchange of ideas among students, faculty, and staff in STEM disciplines, improves and supports STEM teaching and learning at the middle and high-school levels through continued and expanded relationships with regional public schools, including those in New York City. To learn more about the Collaboratory or to become involved, please visit www.pacestem.org or contact Dr. Lauren Birney at lbirney@pace.edu or Dr. Jonathan Hill at jhill@pace.edu

The School of Education has also just launched a unique and innovative STEM-D Sequence to enhance teachers’ mastery of content and methodology in instruction at the elementary and middle school grade levels. Developed in collaboration with Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES and the Hudson River Teacher Center, this new, 12-credit hybrid sequence of courses will enhance the learning experiences for you and your students and broaden your ability to engage students in real world applications of STEM subjects. If you would like to learn more about the School of Education’s STEM-D Sequence, please contact Dr. Gerald Ardito via email or at (212) 618-6958, or Dr. Sandy Flank, via email or at (914) 773-3653.