This year’s 2017 STEM TEEAP Conference was held at the Lancaster/Lebanon IU13 in Lancaster, PA. The conference spanned two whole days, October 26th and 27th where anyone in the STEM educational platform could meet, network, share ideas, see cutting edge products, and sit in on seminars given by guest speakers in our field. I attended the conference on the last day (October 27th) and was able to sit in on two seminar sessions to hear about some new and exciting teaching techniques, projects, methodologies, and more. The two sessions that I attended were on STEM Guitars & Ukuleles and 360 Video/Virtual Reality as an Educational Tool. Both sessions gave really impressive insight on how to get involved in in-depth cross-curricular teaching/learning, as well as utilizing cutting edge technologies.
The first session I sat in on took a much different and fascinating approach on cross-curricular learning between music and Tech. Ed. Initially hearing about this concept between these two very different content areas had me a little confused and I wasn’t sure which direction it was heading. In a nutshell, high school level students enroll in this class called STEM Guitars & Ukuleles where they take part in building a working electric guitar or ukulele from scratch in Tech. Ed. for the first half of the course and finally taking their instrument to a music class where they learn how to play it and the music theory behind it. The teachers presenting this concept and course were representing Pennridge High School. They informed us that they have been one of the few schools in the US to pioneer this whole idea and have been communicating with professionals, craftsman, guitar manufacturers and many others to help build their program, which has been in the works for 3 years now. In the beginning, they started a the pilot program as an after school club that met throughout the year to see if it would and to present their findings in front of their school board to get approval for an actual course they would implement during the school year.
The class that they proposed and finally got approval for was a 1 semester class where each student would build their instrument of choice and the other half they would learn how to play it. Specifically in the building phase of the class, students use a CNC cutting machine to cut the guitar body from a solid blank of wood. The body would be the shape of their personal choosing from which they would sand, paint, finish and finally install the appropriate electronics to make it a working instrument. They get to experience CNC work, woodworking, electronics, craftsmanship, and what it’s like to be an instrument builder. The presenters said that it’s such a popular course that there are multiple Tech Ed and Music teachers implementing it and they are thinking about opening a new course where students build acoustic guitars. Sites and more info about their program can be found at their YouTube channel (pennridge stem), and their website pennridgeteched.com. This whole idea and concept is such a great way to get two very different content areas to work together and really got me thinking of how I can work with other content areas to do something similar like this in the future.
The second session I sat in on was about 360 degree video/virtual reality as an educational tool. This high school level class focused on the new aged forms of videography within a classroom. In this class, students would used various cameras, like GoPros, to create 360 imagery and video. They rely on multiple cameras attached to one single mounting point that would point at various angles to capture the video and imagery of choice. This presenter informed us that he would give his students problem solving activities in which they had to incorporate VR or 360 imagery/video to solve it, as well as virtual field trips, virtual tours, and they also got into the use and importance of video and graphics production. He also went into detail and explained how in the most recent years, big names like YouTube, Facebook, and Google have gotten into incorporating this technology into their companies. One example was that of good street view where the user can find a location on a map and look at a 360 degree image of the area and the surroundings on a computer or mobile device. He also went into detail about the importance of using paid software, rather than free for better results and final cuts/edits, as well as all of the software, equipment and technology that he currently uses or suggests. he mentioned that anyone can make 360 imagery or video with even a smart phone with things that are out there on the market, but if you want better quality, you have to pay the price.
Overall, I feel like I was able to take some really meaningful ideas and concepts from the conference. I also was able to make some new connections to network with and talk with some other professionals from out of the area that I know, about what they are currently doing in their classrooms. I think from here, I definitely would like to sit down with other departments and see if we could get into something that would be like a STEM cross curricular course or courses.