Tech isn’t just for STEM subjects: What Obama left out of his SOTU
Last night President Obama called for, “…computer science and math classes that make [students] job ready on day one.”
While I applaud the President’s message and am encouraged that he would like to prioritize technology in our schools, his words should promote coding, data analysis, media creation, and communication and sharing in all content areas. The technology skills President Obama is referencing are no longer learned only in math classrooms and computer labs.
As a digital learning specialist and veteran teacher, I see students in all content areas — from chemistry labs to theater arts spaces — using the technology tools at their fingertips to make their learning experiences better. I’ve seen 10th graders create digital molecular models in chemistry class, eighth graders plan and film video analyses of improvisation techniques in theater arts class, and sixth graders build virtual models of sustainable energy sources in humanities class. All of this was possible because of the mobile devices they held in their hands.
STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math — tends to get a lot of attention from policy makers. And it is a good thing! But as a history teacher who recently moved into a career in digital learning, take it from me: technology permeates all areas of learning, even learning about the past. I’ve seen 9th graders build movie trailers that entice their classmates to learn more about the Maya and Inca civilizations, and 10th graders design infographics to compare the economies of the North and South prior to the Civil War.
Ensuring our children are “job ready on day one” means giving them a chance to use technology to access, analyze, and communicate critical information today, while they are still in school. Day one is today. Our children are ready and willing to contribute to the solutions now. A diploma is essential in the long term, but why make America’s youth wait until after graduation to contribute meaningfully? Let’s empower them in our schools by giving them access to the internet and devices they need, and also by providing them guidance on how to use those tools for good and not for distraction.
President Obama asked the American people, “How do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our greatest challenges?”
The answer is at our fingertips. Our children are ready to be ignited, and many of them are already on fire. They are creating, sharing, and collaborating whether schools are paying attention or not. They are using YouTube, SoundCloud, Instagram and other media sharing platforms to publicize their creations. Why not help them use their dubsmashing, meme-creating, hashtag-campaigning skills to develop new approaches and create something great?
When teachers and students get access to the wifi infrastructure, computers and mobile devices, and training they need, they will dig deep and get creative together.
A quote from President Obama tonight that rang true with me was, “That spirit of discovery is in our DNA.” President Obama noted that “we’ve protected an open internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online.” This is a great first step. Now let’s take it one step further, and give our children permission to discover by giving them access to the digital resources, devices and careful guidance they need to learn and create.