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Results tagged “Hui-Hui Wang”

Online learning and Rube Goldberg


hui-hui-wang.jpgThis summer, we are very excited to have 16 teams of young people from across the state competing in our engineering design challenge, "Build a Rube Goldberg Machine." These third to eighth graders work together and learn the principles of physics to build a working machine that they can take to their county fairs.

When planning this challenge, I really wanted to know, "What role can an out-of-school, project-based contest play in building and transferring STEM knowledge and skills?

Do we need to sugarcoat engineering?

hui-hui-wang.jpgTwo years ago, I taught a science and engineering after-school program to a group of fifth and sixth grade girls. I asked them what engineering is. No surprise, their answers were all associated with fixing things and building a building. This echoes some research findings that these are common misconceptions about engineering. After completing the program, the girls could identify what engineering is. But they still did not want to pursue engineering as a career choice. What went wrong?

I think it is the way that we present engineering to them. Next Generation Science Standards 2013 defines engineering in a very broad sense to mean "any engagement in a systematic practice of design to achieve solutions to a particular human problem." In short, the essence of engineering is a goal-directed problem-solving activity to find the best solution for a human-made problem. This is really important work that will benefit large numbers of people. Now, how can we convey that to the youth?

Warning: Inquiry-based learning requires facilitators who know the answers

Hui-Hui-Wang.jpgRecently, I delivered a 30 minute presentation about experiential learning for new program staff. Naturally, I set up an intriguing hands-on, inquiry-based activity for the new staff members to experience this kind of learning for themselves.

One of the critical concepts embedded in experiential learning is inquiry. To do inquiry-based learning, an instructor presents a scenario or problem, then guides learners to identify questions and delve into them to develop their knowledge.

What is inquiry? Setting standards for the next generation of science learners

Hui-Hui-Wang.jpgIf you asked a science educator to describe the essence of science education, the answer very likely would be "inquiry" -- how a scientist (or anyone) goes about finding the answer to a question. So it is surprising that the word "inquiry" does not appear at all in a new policy document that will set standards for science education in the US for years to come.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is now under review nationally, and you are invited to read and comment through January 29. It is being developed by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve, the facilitator.

STEM learning = inquiry + content

Hui-Hui-Wang.jpgSTEM education programs need both inquiry/process and content. Most programs that I am familiar with do inquiry well. They do content less well. In fact, some programs are all inquiry and no content. This is a critical flaw. However, it is relatively easy to fix, because even small elements of content can make a complete STEM learning experience.

Recently a colleague and I had an enlightening discussion with some nonformal STEM educators at the Colloquium on p-12 STEM Education Research. We asked them "What do you want youth to learn in your program?"

The key words for their answers were: inquiry-based learning, learner-directed learning, less content, fun, hands-on activities, lifelong learning, real-world context, collaborative, and technology literacy.

These are great responses and fit very well with two important framing documents for STEM learning today: Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) and the soon-to-be-published Next Generation Science Standard (2013), both from the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science.

However, we need to make sure that skills and practices (the inquiry, or process) are balanced by content knowledge. Engaging in science requires both of these.

Integrated STEM learning - the Lady Gaga of education

Hui-Hui-Wang.jpgDepartments of Education in Minnesota and in many other states have taken the position that learning science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) should be integrated. In other words, science and engineering should be taught together, or math and technology taught together. Now it is up to us as educators to decide how to integrate them.

Surprisingly, how to integrate STEM integration is a topic as controversial as Lady Gaga! Some people adore her as new queen of pop music, but some people think that she belittles the value of music and has a bad influence on people who listen to it.

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