2017 STEM TEEAP Conference

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.

2016 TEEAP STEM Conference

On November 10th, I attended the 2016 TEEAP STEM Conference at the Lancaster IU13. Throughout the conference I had the opportunity to sit in on multiple sessions and presentations from how to incorporate traveling abroad to witness technologies in other countries to thematic instruction within the technology and engineering curriculum.

The first session that I sat in on was about how to utilize thematic instruction within the classroom and relate it to my content. So the basis of this method, is to select one overarching theme within what is being taught and link multiple concepts and skills to it. The example that the speaker gave was his precision measuring tool project that he did within his high school manufacturing class. His main theme took the idea of manufacturing the precision measuring tool and relating to how it would be manufactured, marketed and sold in the real world. Each student learned how to design the tool within a 3D CAD modeling software, machine and make it using precision measurement, design and 3D print a display stand for it, make a storage box to keep it in, and finally research and find out the finances behind the tool…cost to manufacture, to ship and how much to sell it for. So he had the initial idea of just the precision measuring tool project and as able to branch out from it, utilizing various skills and exploring related content to the project. Basically it was a culminating project, learning multiple skills and practices, and bringing them together in the end.

The second session that I attended was a presentation from one of my undergraduate professors from Millersville, Dr. Litowitz. Dr. Litowitz took us through his experiences from leading a group of college kids through a course called Energy Resources, Sustainability and the Environment. Through this course, which took place during the summer, Dr. Litowitz ventured abroad with his students. Throughout his time leading this course, he was able to take his students to: Iceland, Brazil, and The Netherlands, just to name a few places. During these trips, his students analyzed the way of life in these countries, specifically how much more eco-friendly their way of lives were. Anything from their way of transportation and even how they got their electricity. The countries that Dr. Litowitz and his students visited, are know for how sustainable their countries are and how they outperform us as a country and many others. He mainly stressed that books, classrooms, and videos can only exposed people and students to so much. Once they see everything firsthand, they start to understand and comprehend these concepts and ways of life on a better level. Of course, throughout his and his students’ experiences, they were required to do the usual reports, reading chapters, and class work done in any other college course; just with a different learning environment and experience.

Besides these two sessions, I was able to network with a few other technology and engineering professionals within the state of PA and talk about what I did and what they do in their classrooms from day to day. In one discussion with a high school tech and engineering teacher from Lower Merion SD, we talked about how he incorporates 3D printing into his curriculum, as well as students documentation of their own project progress and in class work. He said that he used a google classroom, had his students complete daily progress reports on their projects and submit it to him through google classroom. This way, he didn’t have to worry about tracking down papers and losing worksheets or anything along those lines.

There were a few things that I took away from the conference that I feel will benefit me and my students. First, I love discussing curriculum ideas between myself and the other tech and engineering professionals at the conference. I definitely like the idea of using an online resource like google classroom to organize my class. It sounds like it would make keeping track of assignments and projects much easier and I would be able to access them wherever I am with a laptop. So, accessibility would be greatly improved for me.

My second takeaway from the conference was sitting in on Dr. Litowitz’s session on his sustainability course. I like the idea of taking students out of the school/main learning environment and exposing them to real world examples of what is happening out there. I feel as though we give them an idea from a teacher’s standpoint, but would get more out of a concept or a lesson if they got to witness and see it first hand. This sparked the idea for me of field trips for students to go to and see local manufacturing companies at work and how the things that they are learning in my class are being applied by people out there each and every day. Now for my class, I would love to give my kids this experience, but it would be incredibly difficult to do so because of time, budgets, and a few other outside affecting factors.

As for the thematic instruction, I do not have anything in my curriculum like this yet, but would like to try and incorporate something like it in the future while I am here. My partner, Jana Bonds, does a very similar thematic instruction unit with her 7th graders when they make their styrofoam boats. They learn many different skills and practices under one culminating project. I love the idea, but it’ll take time for me to develop a curriculum like this.

Previously, I’ve heard many of these things that I discussed previously here, but never have seen it done or have talked directly about it. It really broadens my mind and gives me a few ideas of the possibilities for me and the students in my classes.