Written by Surendra Bandi
The integration of smart technologies in supporting STEM education has the potential to revolutionize the way students learn and engage interactively with course material. However, precautionary measures have to be taken in the introduction of smart education initiatives and evaluation of their potential limitations have to be considered. When introducing smart education initiatives in STEM, it is often necessary to take into account various perspectives to ensure their success. One important perspective is that of student learning styles. Different students have different learning preferences, and a smart education tool should be adaptable to these preferences to effectively engage students.
Another perspective to consider is the teaching method. Smart education tools should be designed to complement or enhance the teaching style of the instructor, rather than replace it. This ensures that these tools are being used in the most effective way possible and helps to maximize their impact on student learning. The efficiency of the tools that are used to make STEM education smart is also a key consideration in smart education. The tool should be easy to use and should not require a steep learning curve, which can discourage both instructors and students from using it. The smart education tool should also be efficient in terms of time management, allowing instructors to devote more time to teaching and less time to managing the tool. It is important to ensure that the smart education tool is relevant to the learning theories being applied in STEM education. If the tool is not aligned with these theories, it may not be effective in enhancing student learning outcomes. Smart education has the potential to significantly improve STEM education. However, to ensure its success, we need to carefully consider various perspectives, including student learning styles, teaching methods, efficiency, and relevance to learning theories. By doing so, we can create smart education tools that effectively engage students and enhance their learning outcomes. Following paragraphs present more details about the four perspectives highlighted.
These can vary from learner to learner. According to the Index of Learning Styles proposed by , learners fall at different places on a scale that determines their preferred way of learning. The index is based on five aspects of learning. Some learners prefer to have concrete details when understanding a concept, while others are fine with abstract levels. This aspect is compared on a horizontal scale of sensory vs intuitive. The second aspect is input, such that some people prefer to receive information visually while others may prefer it verbally. The third aspect concerns the organization of content—some learners take an inductive approach, while others prefer a deductive approach. The fourth aspect is processing where some learners prefer active processing of information with activities, while others prefer to process information internally with reflection. The fifth aspect is overall understanding—some learners take a sequential, step-by-step approach, while others prefer to get the big picture in a global way. Integrating smart education can be more effective if the index of learning style is taken into account. Instructors need to know what learning styles are, how to measure them, and how to interpret the results. Prof. Felder provides a link to a tool on his blog that plots learners' learning styles based on a questionnaire. The tool is available for free, and those who wish to contribute can make a payment to help ensure it can be used by as many people as possible . As it was designed by an experienced engineering educator and is particularly relevant to STEM learners and can be used for any other learners as well.
Teaching methods are a significant factor in influencing learning outcomes for several reasons. There are various learning theories, including Pedagogy, Andragogy, and Heutagogy, which are classified based on the degree of freedom and accountability of the learner. Pedagogy is often associated with teaching children in primary and high school, where the teacher typically decides on the teaching method . While some pedagogies may be designed to be student-centered, they are ultimately planned and implemented by the teacher. Andragogy, on the other hand, emphasizes giving more freedom to the learner with open-ended choices of learning. As learners become adults, their thinking and learning capabilities increase, allowing for greater independence and clarity of goals. Accountability can be established through benchmarks to ensure the learners take responsibility for their learning. Heutagogy is a distinct approach to learning that emphasizes learner autonomy and self-determination. STEM learners who are adults should be encouraged to use andragogy and heutagogy, rather than relying solely on pedagogy, even in the design of smart education.
Efficiency of the Tools
Learning tools that are used in smart education determine the quality of learning. When it comes to smart education, it is important to use technology tools with care. We must be aware of the concept of "Death by PowerPoint," which refers to the negative impact of an inappropriate teaching strategy that can lead to ineffective learning outcomes . While it's true that certain concepts may benefit from a PowerPoint presentation, we should avoid relying on this tool as the sole means of teaching every topic. Instead, teachers should be able to choose appropriate teaching aids and methods for each concept, taking into account students' learning styles and designing activities that cater to the learners. While there are numerous tools available to make learning more effective and interactive, simply using modern tools is not enough to guarantee effective learning outcomes. Overuse of the same tool or teaching method can cause students to become bored or disengaged, especially adult learners who may be more set in their ways. Therefore, STEM educators should spend time evaluating the effectiveness and suitability of smart tools before integrating them into their teaching plans. This evaluation process should consider factors such as the tool's relevance to the learning objectives, its compatibility with students' learning styles, and the level of engagement it is likely to generate. Technology tools can be highly effective in enhancing the learning experience, but only when used in a thoughtful and deliberate manner. By being aware of the limitations of tools such as PowerPoint and taking the time to evaluate the suitability of new tools, educators can create an engaging and effective learning environment that benefits all students, regardless of their learning style or level of experience.
To ensure the effectiveness of smart initiatives for teaching and learning, it's important to evaluate them in the context of established. Initiatives that align with these theories are likely to be more effective. One widely used framework in STEM education is Bloom's taxonomy, which includes three domains: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. However, many faculty members limit their activities to the cognitive domain, neglecting the importance of developing affective and psychomotor skills in learners. Within the cognitive domain, learners are encouraged to think about a concept and engage in activities such as remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating . STEM education requires the development of affective and psychomotor skills. The affective domain focuses on learners' emotions and includes activities such as receiving, attending, responding, valuing, organizing, and characterizing by values. This domain is particularly important for developing ethical thinking skills, which are critical in engineering practice. The psychomotor domain involves physical activities and skills such as hand-eye coordination, fine and gross muscle movements, speech, and communication. Smart education offers many options for integrating technology into teaching, with features designed to simplify the learning process. However, as both students and faculty members may not be fully familiar with learning theories, their feedback can only help developers to a limited extent in building appropriate solutions. To ensure the effectiveness of smart education in STEM, it's important to explore relevant theories and principles and consider them when creating features for smart systems.
While embracing smart approaches to STEM learning is important, it is equally important to exercise caution and ensure that the tools and initiatives used are supported by established learning theories and principles in line with the student learning styles. This will also help to ensure the delivery of desired outcomes and improve effectiveness in STEM education.
- R. M. Felder and B. A. Soloman, “LEARNING STYLES AND STRATEGIES”.
- “Index of Learning Styles | Resources for Teaching and Learning STEM.” https://educationdesignsinc.com/index-of-learning-styles/ (accessed May 03, 2023).
- C. Halupa, “Pedagogy, Andragogy, and Heutagogy,” 2015, pp. 143–158. doi: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8571-0.ch005.
- R. M. Harden, “Death by PowerPoint–the need for a ‘fidget index,” Medical Teacher, vol. 30, no. 9–10, pp. 833–835, Jan. 2008, doi: 10.1080/01421590802307743.
- “Bloom’s Taxonomy,” Vanderbilt University. https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/ (accessed May 03, 2023).
This article was edited by Bernand Fong.