Tag Archives: project based learning

Add the A to STEM Education

Educators agree that STEM education is essential to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century workforce. The skills they learn in science, technology, engineering, and math subject areas also develop vital skills necessary for success: critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and collaboration. Although there’s quite a debate about whether the A for the arts needs to be added to STEM to make STEAM or if it’s already there inherently, it’s evident that fine arts, language, and music play a key component in a curriculum to prepare young people to face the complex challenges of the future.

steam career readiness

The Arts are a vital part of STEM education

Education Models for the Future

Traditional school curriculum segregates studies into separate subject areas. However, project-based learning is an instructional approach that blends subjects. Students are faced with an authentic, meaningful, real world challenge. And these are non-Googleable questions! Students investigate a problem and propose viable solutions in an interdisciplinary study. Technology is commonly used as a tool. Whatever skills are required to solve the problem – math, science, language arts – must be learned and mastered. Students need to be able to think innovatively, plan, create, and communicate the resulting project. Usually STEM subject areas are needed, and students build valuable job skills such as computational thinking, initiative, perseverance, and communication.

Where Do the Arts Appear?

To answer these ‘big’ project-based challenges, students need to integrate the arts. Creative thinking and design are a central part of innovation. Being able to imagine an outcome, visualize a product, or communicate an abstract idea requires artistic skills integrated with multiple STEM skills.

Here are a couple of examples of the arts integrated with STEM in the real world:

STEM Education requires the Arts

  • Product Design
    Designing an innovative product may require engineering, mathematical, and scientific problem solving. But it also needs an attractive appearance to make an emotional connection to consumers. These are artistic decisions.
  • Advertising
    When a new product is brought to the market, communication skills are essential. Advertisers excel in persuasive writing. In addition, the creation of new logos requires a knowledge of graphic design. The success of a venture often depends on artistic choices.
Arts and STEM education

Infuse the arts into STEM education.

The Arts in Computer Science

We’ve been working with Scratch recently to develop a STEM project, TechnoCode, that teaches coding skills. The students will learn programming skills as they make animations, games, or interactive stories.

Coding design decisions should be engaging so that the user who interacts with the finished product is intrigued and captivated. Also, artistic choices affect if the project is user friendly and fun to play. Some of the stylistic choices students need to make when programming include:

  • Drawing custom characters
  • Designing backgrounds
  • Adding sensory cues – motion, sound, visual – to build interest, express an idea, and hook the user
  • Creating “Game over” messages that encourage and entice the user to try again
  • Making scoring and timing decisions using aesthetic choices that appeal to players

The brainstorming, problem-solving, and decision making involved in programming demand innovation and ingenuity in design choices. To foster the trailblazers of tomorrow, STEM education needs to acknowledge and incorporate the arts.

Soft Skills for Job Readiness

I’ve been reading a lot of employment ads lately as I’ve been researching career readiness. One recurring theme is that employers are not only seeking people with job specific skills. They also require a strong set of interpersonal or professional skills such as communication, initiative, collaboration, creativity, and responsibility. These are often termed soft skills. Hard skills are the technical requirements for a specific job whereas soft skills refer to a cluster of general personality traits and behaviors. Not only do we have to teach our students curricular learning objectives, but we also need to give them a strong foundation in these employability skills to prepare them for success in the workplace.

Teach Soft Skills to Prepare Students for Employability

We can’t accurately predict what the specific jobs of the future will be, but the crucial soft skills won’t change. Decision-making, goal setting, critical thinking, and problem solving are just a few of the life skills that can be learned and applied to any career. They may just be the difference between equally qualified candidates that determine who gets the job in a competitive job marketplace.

help wanted

These soft skills should be taught explicitly. Students need to be mindful of their personal strengths and needs in these critical areas, and educators must provide skills training. TechnoKids technology projects focus on this combination of curriculum, technology, and soft skills. Through role play, students ‘try on’ professions such as web developer, financial analyst, entrepreneur, and many more. Real-world learning opportunities motivate students to raise their awareness of the job market and what they need to learn to be well prepared.

Here are the top soft skills employers value and how TechnoKids lesson plans teach them with engaging, meaningful activities.

Oral and Written Communication

The ability to articulate thoughts and ideas clearly is essential. In the key qualifications list, jobs ads frequently state: “Excellent verbal and written communication skills”. Teamwork, long distance collaboration, planning documents, sales, customer support, and project report summaries all require a concise and effective exchange of information.

Presenter soft skills

TechnoPresenter is a technology project that specifically teaches public speaking. Students learn how to power up an oral presentation with a slide show. Using speaker notes, practice rehearsals, body language skits, tips, reflection questions, and assessment tools, students develop key communication skills.

Teamwork and Collaboration

To build positive relationships with colleagues and clients who may represent diverse cultures and viewpoints, job candidates need to be able to work as part of a team. Interpersonal negotiation, project meetings, and conflict resolution require a personable, team-player mindset.

Newsletter soft skills

Students design a professional-looking publication in TechnoNewsletter. To build teamwork skills, they can co-author an article. On completion, they share the document digitally and invite peer comments. Before engaging in an online discussion, students explore commenting guidelines. Advice to make comments in a positive and encouraging way, be courteous, and write clearly and concisely is offered. Then students sign a Commenting Agreement to agree to be responsible digital citizens.

Work Ethic

Effective habits such as time management, punctuality, ethical behavior, and personal accountability affect productivity. Therefore employers highly value self-starters who are well organized, establish priorities, and work independently. They also look for an employee who shows initiative, offers innovative solutions, and tackles challenges beyond the job description.

TechnoKids projects offer multiple learning opportunities that build professionalism and a strong work ethic.

Before starting most projects, students plan their ideas in an organizer. Forming an outline in a graphic chart or written plan before undertaking a task builds fundamental organizational skills.

Throughout the projects, student checklists build systematic editing and reviewing practices. These self-evaluation tools advance a student’s awareness of their performance as well as providing feedback for improvement. Checklists are provided as each portion of an activity is completed and at the end of the project too.

Final reflection questions at the end of a completed project provide another method of self-assessment. Students consider their strengths and areas for personal growth in specific technical and interpersonal skills.

Career Management

Knowledge of the career marketplace and how to navigate it is vital. Students should set career goals, know how to explore job opportunities, how to pursue a particular job, and how to self-advocate in the workplace.

STEM career education

In TechnoAdvertise students build skills to successfully manage the job market. To start, they write a cover letter and a resume. Supported by samples, guiding questions, and lists of model skills and qualities, they apply for a position at a fictional ad agency. Once they are hired, they learn advanced word processing skills to design a series of publications for a client. Students create a professional looking advertising flyer, a product catalog, a personalized form letter, mailing labels, and a newsletter.


Global and Intercultural Fluency

Any career in the workplace of tomorrow requires an employee who respects individual differences. They must demonstrate inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with people from diverse cultures, races, ages, and genders.

STEM skills middle school

Students express their opinions and personal expertise in TechnoBlog. Writing in their own voice, they begin by identifying the audience, topic, and purpose of a blog article. Then they are guided in writing a series of blog posts. Afterwards they exchange ideas with others as they comment on their peers’ blogs and respond to others’ comments on their own writing. Student workbook instructions focus on social skills such as etiquette, maintaining privacy, and making encouraging comments. As they express their opinions, students learn how to state viewpoints respectfully and courteously. A key goal of the project is to prepare students to become responsible digital citizens.

Critical Thinking

Young people who are ‘career ready’ exercise sound reasoning to study issues and make decisions. They use creative thinking skills to solve problems. They are able to find and interpret facts to build knowledge. They deal with conflict. They accept a challenge and resolve the issue in inventive and original ways.

soft skills

Students prepare an animated debate in TechnoDebate. They take a stand on a controversial issue to persuade an audience. To start, they research evidence to support a viewpoint. They collaborate with a partner who prepares the opposing position. Next, rebuttals are formed to refute the opponent’s claims. Viewers of the debate are invited to comment and debaters defend their positions. The debate forum builds critical and creative thinking as well as research skills, persuasive expression, and savvy decision making.

Digital Literacy

Basic computer skills are likely to be a component of most jobs in tomorrow’s workplace. Job-specific software skills can only be developed on a foundation of essential computer competence.

TechnoKids projects are ICT and STEM project-based activities to integrate technology into curriculum. Students analyze information, collaborate, solve problems, and make decisions. The interdisciplinary activities target learning outcomes from language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, history, geography, and creative arts. By tackling real-world problems, students build word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and programming skills. Blended into the learning are the universal soft skills that are a passport to career success.

Microsoft Office Proficiency and Career Readiness

In a recent post about STEM education and career preparation, I searched online to find jobs related to science, technology, engineering, and math. In the search box of popular job site listings such as Indeed or Monster.com, previously I had put job titles. Instead, this time I entered the keywords Microsoft Office. I was shocked to see the number of jobs in which Microsoft Office proficiency was listed in the Skills/Knowledge or Key Competencies requirements.

Microsoft Office

Skills in Microsoft Office programs is a common requirement in job postings

What does this mean for the students of today? As teachers, one of our main areas of focus is career preparation. It’s apparent that employers value technology skills in addition to the qualifications related to the specific job. Regardless of the career, whether it is as an environmental scientist, software developer, civil engineer, financial analyst, or any of the countless possibilities for the future, a foundation in the basic Microsoft Office programs is a benefit. A well-rounded proficiency in general word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, database, and desktop publishing skills is often expected. Once students acquire a balanced foundation, they are well prepared to branch out and learn more complex, job-specific software.

microsoft office proficiency

A wide variety of STEM jobs require a basic knowledge of Microsoft programs

Microsoft Office, STEM, and an Integrated Curriculum

STEM education advocates a blending of disciplines. Also, students should be given meaningful, real-world tasks. A typical challenge may require resources from a variety of curricular areas. Technology tools should be used as they are needed. To pick an application to complete a task, students need a well-balanced background in a suite of programs. Once they have a sound understanding of Microsoft Office, students can tackle an inquiry project and make an informed decision about which apps they need to use. If they need to write a report, they should already know how to use the main tools of Word. If they want to create a graph, a fundamental understanding of Excel is needed. If project results should be displayed as a visual presentation, previous experience with PowerPoint is indispensable. The skills to use the right tools empower students to solve problems effectively.

Microsoft Office and Interpersonal Skills

As students build Microsoft Office proficiency, the confidence they gain inspires them to confront new challenges and further inquiry. Their critical thinking skills, flexibility, and troubleshooting expertise help them to adapt to other computer applications that they may encounter in upcoming years at school or in the workplace.

Microsoft Office Proficiency and TechnoKids Technology Projects

As teachers, one of our essential goals is to equip students with technology and professional skills while offering an interdisciplinary curriculum in order to prepare students for the workplace of the future. This task can seem formidable for sure! Project based learning can achieve all of these goals.

TechnoKids technology projects are integrated activities that pose real-world problems. Students complete assignments such as publishing a newsletter, launching a new business venture, preparing a budget, collaborating to debate a controversial issue, or promoting a weekend getaway. As students solve these challenges, they learn the key computer skills that they need. TechnoKids Microsoft Extra Package is a collection of ICT and STEM technology projects for Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more.

microsoft office proficiency

TechnoKids Microsoft Extra Package builds critical career readiness

Using a project-based framework, students build fundamental skills in word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, desktop publishing, and databases. In addition, the technology skills are blended with professional skills such as time management, communication, and teamwork. These are all critical elements for career readiness. Presented in a real-world, meaningful setting, each TechnoKids project engages students, fosters computer literacy, and inspires innovative thinking. By developing a sound basis in Microsoft Office today, students can be better prepared for STEM job opportunities in the workplace of the future.

STEM Lesson Plans for Career Readiness

Current emphasis on STEM education and the preparation of students for the workplace of tomorrow prompted me to research job opportunities recently. I found lists of the best STEM jobs and articles about essential skills we should teach our students. There is a consistent agreement that to promote career readiness, we should focus on:

  • Technology competence in a broad variety of apps
  • Professional skills such as flexibility, time management, and communication
  • Critical and innovative thinking
stem career readiness

TechnoKids technology projects support STEM education

In this post, I’m picking one particular job and exploring how we can engage students with career readiness skills training. If we can spark kids’ interest with a fun activity and then build valuable STEM proficiencies, the knowledge, attitudes, and skills gained will transfer to other areas. Developing an awareness and interest in STEM related careers is the first step to preparing students for the workplace of tomorrow. Trying on one job can encourage young people to reflect on future goals and choices.

Project-Based Learning and STEM Education

career readiness

TechnoTravel is a technology project in which students take on the role of a travel agent. They research a travel destination and then use presentation software to construct an advertisement that promotes a weekend getaway. The project-based activities correspond to STEM education guidelines:

TechnoTravel Builds Workplace Skills

What does a travel agent do?

A travel agent needs to listen to clients to understand their needs and interests. They must research information and prepare a proposal. They must schedule an itinerary, calculate costs to fit a budget, and attend to details. Finally, they need to promote the trip to the customer in an attractive and persuasive presentation. In TechnoTravel, students practice all of these skills as they plan a trip considering a target audience and then prepare a presentation as an advertisement.

Completing this project develops effective work habits such as time management, problem-solving skills, communication, perseverance, and productivity.

A travel agent’s responsibilities are similar to many other careers. The work ethic and skills learned, both professional and technological, can be transferred to other jobs.

TechnoTravel is Interdisciplinary

Integrating technology into other curriculum teaches multiple learning objectives in one activity. The teacher guide for TechnoTravel offers a great variety of suggestions for integrating technology into curriculum. Language Arts, Social Science, Science, History, or Geography learning objectives can be combined in a single project. Here are just a few of the many ideas listed in the guide:

  • Ecotour – Promote environmental stewardship by taking tourists into a natural or wilderness area.
  • Follow the Footsteps – Visit places of historical importance by following the route of a famous explorer.
  • Celebrate Cultural Differences – Feature the festivals, folklore, and cuisine of a unique culture.
  • Transport Back in Time – Travel to an ancient civilization with a time machine and experience the values, beliefs, and daily life of the time period.
  • Explore the Undiscovered – Visit other parts of the solar system or the ocean depths using futuristic technology.
  • Indulge a Hobby – Design a trip that caters to a specific sport, hobby, or interest.

TechnoTravel Develops Technology Skills

Students master a variety of learning objectives in an integrated project: online research, word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet skills, including:

Research Skills – apply search strategies, organize facts in a planner, gather websites with travel advice, pictures, and maps
Word Processing Skills – format text and paragraphs, copy formatting, select paste options
Presentation Skills – customize the slide master, insert and format picture files and objects, organize information in tables, insert links and videos, apply transitions and animation, customize the handout master, configure output options for presentations
Spreadsheet Skills – enter and format data into a workbook, modify columns and rows, apply currency format, calculate data using the Sum feature, apply fills and borderlines

TechnoTravel Engages Students

Learning is enhanced when students are interested and find a project personally meaningful. Planning a weekend getaway is a sure way to spark student interest and make connections using a relevant, real-world activity.

STEM lesson plans

TechnoTravel Builds Creativity

As each student designs a unique travel promotion, they generate original ideas, solutions, and final projects. STEM education stresses the importance of creative thinking in the jobs of the future. We don’t know exactly what the careers will require, but the ability to develop innovative insights and concepts will be essential.

STEM lessons

TechnoTravel Supports Personalized Learning

As students choose the destinations of their travel ads, they design unique promotions. Differentiation is a key part of the project. Students build on their individual strengths, needs, and interests. They gain ownership over their learning as they develop technology and interpersonal skills. TechnoKids step-by-step student workbooks allow for flexible pacing. Performance-based assessment is achieved through testing of the slide master, checklists throughout the project, and an itemized final marking sheet. Teachers play the role of mentor as students take the responsibility for their projects. An inquiry-based, student-centered approach is the foundation of personalized learning.

TechnoTravel Adds the “A” to STEM

steam career readiness

Educators frequently propose adding art and design to STEM education to change it to STEAM. TechnoTravel builds creative arts skills along with technology, curricular, and personal skills. Students are challenged to design a promotional tool enticing clients to take a travel vacation. They discover the value of a unique slide master design, attractive presentation appearance, eye-catching formatting decisions, and an easy to read and balanced layout.

STEM Career Readiness with TechnoTravel Technology Project

Visit TechnoTravel to learn more about this technology project. View a short video of a sample student project, examine the learning objectives, and read teacher reviews of TechnoKids projects. Teach STEM and STEAM career readiness skills in a fun, engaging activity for middle school students.