by Matter & Form on September 4, 2019
The world a hundred years ago, in 1919, seems almost archaic now. Horse-drawn carriages and Model Ts transported people around cities, movies were silent, and women couldn’t even vote.1 It was a world that would be virtually unrecognizable to us today. And yet, one hundred years later, in 2019, except for the obvious signifiers of the modern day, the typical classroom looks essentially the same and employs the same outdated curriculum: students still sit quietly at their desks, listen to their teacher, and study the subjects of reading, writing, math, science, history and languages.
Despite the fact that innovation has altered every aspect of our lives, the education system has remained alarmingly stagnant. Most curriculums still hold to the traditions of siloed subjects, a heavy reliance on abstract concepts, the teacher as an authority figure, and the prioritization of memorization and repetition over creativity. In short: the current education system reflects our past rather than our future, and as a result we’re preparing students for a world that no longer exists.
The Problem With Listening and Memorization
Most schools still use the “lecture model” of teaching which situates the authority figure at the front of the classroom, presenting students with facts and principles which they are required to memorize and repeat back on tests and assignments. It’s a system that leaves little room for active student engagement and participation. Many of the learning methodologies still used in classrooms were set up in the age of industrialization to instil order, discipline and standardized concepts. And while this lecture style of learning might have produced desirable results at that time, we have now moved into a bold new age with unprecedented new challenges for students and educators. In a world where we can all pull out our smartphones and look up facts within seconds, education needs to move from a focus on memorization to a focus on learning how to think critically and creatively.2
Real learning doesn’t happen within the “listening” model. According to experts, most students only retain about 20% of what they hear, meaning a lecture-style classroom is wasting the remaining 80% of its precious learning time.3 In these passive learning settings, a creativity drain begins to take place which can reduce a child’s ability to think flexibly. As a result, complex, real-world problem solving can become difficult in situations where opportunities to parrot back the “right answer” aren’t available. Not only does this result in students not being able to grasp the material in any meaningful way, it can also foster apathy in the classroom.
The only true way to learn is through action — through actually performing a task and making corrections as you go. Rather than just relying on rote memorization, the classroom should be a place where students take the opportunity to work together and collaborate for a creative consensus. Ideas can and should be discussed and tweaked until students come up with fleshed-out solutions to the problems that have been presented. This approach instills a sense of how to work with others, how to take on suggestions, how to adapt to differing viewpoints, and how to tackle problems that don’t have one obvious, correct solution.
STEAM Education Can Combat an Outdated Curriculum
To best prepare all students with the creative, collaborative and digital problem-solving skills of the future, schools must teach STEAM as part of the core curriculum. STEAM-based learning is a methodology that prioritizes the fundamental learning pillars of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. And while it’s true that these subjects have always been taught in schools to some extent, a STEAM curriculum takes a markedly different approach. Rather than teaching each discipline separately, STEAM is a system that opts to integrate them into a single subject that focuses on hands-on learning and real-world application, and encourages creativity, problem-solving, ethics and collaboration.
STEAM teaches students at every grade level to be creators, rather than just users or sponges for abstract concepts. With traditional teaching, students might learn how a robot works, but within STEAM, they learn how to create one, how to code one and how to conceptualize ingenious ways of putting their creations to good use. This underscores the need for innovation and creativity while kids learn.
Educators Must Harness the Prevalence of Technology in Students’ Lives
Obviously, technology plays a huge role in students’ lives outside the classroom. They live in a 21st-century world for eighteen hours a day, and essentially travel back in time when put in a 19th-century-style classroom for the other six hours of the day, leading to a tremendous disconnect.4 Rather than shutting out technology, instructors should harness the power of digital devices, apps and tools to increase engagement, encourage collaboration, spark innovation and enhance student learning. Educational technology requires the educator to be a guide and to provide a purpose related to the curriculum, because used with intention, technology can be an effective teaching tool.5
An example of a great classroom technology tool set is 3D printing and scanning. Professionals use these to design and create a myriad of things, from dental implants to buildings. Today, inexpensive but powerful 3D printers and 3D scanners let students be immersed in the iterative process of creation and actually practice the same experimentation, analysis and computational thinking they would use in a modern profession.
Update Your Outdated Curriculum. Implement STEAM Into Your Classroom Today!
We need to keep up with the evolution of skills required to solve problems, innovate and succeed and STEAM is the forward-facing answer to a curriculum and education system that are both woefully outdated.
Teaching STEAM in schools may sound intimidating, but it is an idea that generates hope and engages students.6 To find out more about STEAM technology, and how 3D scanning can bring student learning to life, visit our blog or browse our website today.
- Good Housekeeping, What Life Was Like 100 Years Ago Compared to Now
- STEAM Powered Family, What is STEM and STEAM? A guide for parents and educators
- Professor’s House, The Problem with School Curriculum
- Global Citizen, 8 High Tech Gadgets That Are Making Classrooms Smarter
- Top Hat, How Does Technology Impact Student Learning?
- World Economic Forum, Why schools should teach the curriculum of the future, not the past