3 Biggest STEM Impacts on Education in 2018

One of the biggest trends in modern education is a distinct call for STEM programs and integration. But if you're a parent like me, your first question is probably “How exactly is an emphasis on STEM going to affect my child's education?” For that reason, I've pulled together a list of the top three ways in which an emphasis on STEM is going to change the way we teach in the modern age. Of course, these are predictions, so you can let me know at the end of the year whether or not I am indeed a seer. Let's take a look.

1. Interdisciplinary Cross-pollination
STEM already has a built-in collaborative mindset. Science and rational thinking is a way of life, a method of inquiring about the world and solving problems. There are “pure sciences” focused on, say, dissecting the atom. There are mathematical fields of study that deal with calculating intensely difficult algorithms. And, of course, technology and engineering go hand- in-hand. But a growing number of educators and parents around the country are starting to understand that a STEM-influenced mindset can be integrated into many other studies.

I expect to see a huge push in 2018 for more interdisciplinary work. I imagine that other fields are going to start being influenced by the STEM fields. The possibilities are almost limitless. Maybe my child is tasked with conceptualizing an end to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan—combining social sciences and political issues with real-world hard science and engineering solutions. Or maybe your child comes home one day with an assignment geared toward discussing the Fibonacci sequence in famous works of art. Regardless of the specific
fields of study that are incorporated, the important concept that is being taught to kids is that STEM has applications across the spectrum of human life. The importance of STEM in the minds of our children will only be increased through collaborative efforts between fields of study.

2. Emphasizing Games in Education
If you're like me, you can't get your child to stop playing Minecraft and Roblox. Like the LEGOs of our youth, these computer games simulate building and are a great tool to use in getting children excited about engineering. But the cool thing about games like these is that they are much more expansive than our old LEGOs. My kids still play with LEGOs, but in Minecraft they can build entire worlds. This lets them truly unleash their imagination and get those creative neurons firing—and you wouldn't believe what they come up with.

But games like these don't just provide a platform to learn about building things. This is useful and good, but my children are learning other concepts through the use of Minecraft in the classroom as well. They learn techniques for solving problems. They have to go through the list of their items and use rational thinking to figure out which tool is necessary for the specific goal they are trying to accomplish. Other, more creative ways in which teachers can integrate these kinds of games is by having the kids build replicas of historical buildings or towns inside the game. This a way to incorporate history lessons and have the students truly engage.

I expect to see more games and technology infiltrate the classroom in the coming year(s).

3. Making Serious Connections
Okay, so this one is a bit heady, but bear with me. STEM education and integration requires, by its very nature, that teachers make connections between concepts in their material. What do I mean by this? The whole purpose of STEM is to connect ideas related to science, technology, engineering, and math into a cohesive program. The idea is that teachers can pull together related lessons that simultaneously teach students techniques that are useful for all four fields of study.

Now, a recent study released by Science Daily shows that teachers who already use a high level of connection-making strategies in their lesson plans tend to focus more on STEM. But my prediction is that this will go both ways in the remainder of 2018: teachers who try to connect their concepts in logical ways will begin to place more emphasis on STEM integration, and teachers who place more emphasis on STEM integration will begin to see
their lesson plans becoming more connection-oriented.

This will have a huge impact on students. When lesson plans are less haphazard and more clearly flow from one concept to the next, building on the connections made between fields, they become more of a cohesive whole and can be better digested by students. They feel less like memorizing disconnected data and more like learning how systems work and operate. My kids are much more engaged when their teachers help them connect the dots, and I am sure yours are, too.

We're living in an era in which STEM integration is revitalizing and reinventing education techniques, and I hope you are as excited to see the outcomes as I am.