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Teaching STEAM: Inventive Toolkits for Inventive Thinking

Since 2013, The Cube has worked in partnership with the QUT Faculty of Education to provide professional learning opportunities for pre-service teachers. The Cube provides a number of programs that connect pre-service teachers with the STEAM learning and teaching framework.

Jessica Schofield, a QUT pre-service teacher and Public Programs Facilitator at The Cube, talks us through her experiences using the toolkit littleBits, a hands-on, modular kit designed for prototyping and inventing with electronics.

Describe your experience using littleBits.

I’ve worked with littleBits as a tool for middle years education. I find them easy to use from an educator’s perspective. littleBits are a tool that I enjoy experimenting with outside of workshops as there is so much to learn with them.

How did the audience respond to littleBits?

Audiences (whether kids or adults) often respond with the phrases “that is so cool”, soon followed by “can I play with them”. littleBits are a tool that can produce outcomes quite quickly and are easy to use even when it is your first time. Audiences engage quite willingly and easily with littleBits. One of the greatest parts about introducing people to littleBits is the creativity you see emerge and the valuable conversations and sharing sessions that can be had about new or future ideas with the resource.

littleBits

How does littleBits connect to areas of the curriculum?

At face level, littleBits links quite explicitly to the ideas of electricity and circuits encountered in the upper primary/junior secondary curriculum. However, when working within the broader context of STEM or STEAM, littleBits is right at home. Curriculum can break content into defined subjects; littleBits represents how these boundaries are blurred in real life. It draws together the students’ scientific and technological knowledge and curiosities and encourages creativity when exploring their ideas.

Would you recommend littleBits as a learning tool to other educators?

I would certainly recommend littleBits as a tool to other educators. It is a tool that can be implemented into many different topics and can be included in any phase of a unit. For teachers new to littleBits, it is easy to learn to use. The resource allows the students to engage with topics across the curriculum and allows them to explore creativity, possibility and problem solving,

Learn more about collaborative and immersive teaching experiences at Creative Lab 2015, a two-day hands-on professional development program aimed at equipping STEM educators with the knowledge and skills to innovate learning through the framework of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics).

Creative Lab is presented by The Cube, Queensland Museum and kuril dhagun, State Library of Queensland.

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STEAM in Action: Implementing STEAM in the classroom

The concept of integrating arts into STEM teaching has been gaining momentum in classrooms around the country, as teachers are beginning to adopt the creative, interactive approach of STEAM. Terry Deen, teacher at Kelvin Grove State College in Queensland and 2014 Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Fellow, talks us through his approach and experiences of STEAM in the classroom.

Describe how your students have used littleBits and MaKey MaKey within the classroom

Through the 2013 and 2014 JumpstART program (a middle school art and design excellence program for students in the Brisbane City Cluster) students work through a series of hands-on creative pathways, which culminated in an interactive exhibition. MaKey MaKey played a key role in the development of artworks and in the curatorial process. Students used MaKey MaKey to determine how audiences would engage with their conceptual art artistic outcomes in an interactive rather than passive exchange.

How did the students respond to these toolsets?

Through Kelvin Grove State College’s JumpstART program, students worked in groups to explore the possibilities of MaKey MaKeys. Groups brainstormed configurations of conductive elements and interface design to determine how best to use MaKey MaKey kits as tools for communicating ideas.

Through brainstorming, experimenting and refining their projects, student groups created highly engaging MaKey MaKey installations that broadened perceptions of middle school art events for the students themselves, their families and the broader College community.

How do they connect to areas of the curriculum?

MaKey MaKeys and littleBits are 21st Century learning tools that provide teachers and students with dynamic opportunities to evidence creative and critical thinking across a range of subject disciplines. The tech devices enable teachers to meaningfully engage students in brainstorming, experimentation, prototyping, testing and refining processes that link directly to a range of standards across STEAM education.

Would you recommend littleBits/MaKey as tools for learning to other educators?

I recommend littleBits and MaKey MaKeys as learning tools for educators who are open to learning through risk-taking, collaboration, creativity and immersive interdisciplinary experiences.

Learn more about collaborative and immersive teaching experiences at Creative Lab 2015, a two-day hands-on professional development program aimed at equipping STEM educators with the knowledge and skills to innovate learning through the framework of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics).

Creative Lab is presented by The Cube, Queensland Museum and kuril dhagun, State Library of Queensland.­

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Innovating Education: Creative Lab 2015 Advocates STEAM in the Classroom

The Cube, Queensland Museum and kuril dhagun, State Library of Queensland are gearing up for Creative Lab 2015 – a two-day hands-on professional development program aimed at equipping STEM educators with the knowledge and skills to innovate learning through the framework of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics).

Held on 1 & 2 May 2015, Creative Lab will provide the opportunity for educators to explore new and engaging ways of connecting students with STEM through a STEAM learning framework, which encourages an experiential approach to learning.

We sat down with The Cube’s Public Programs Curator, Jacina Leong, to discuss why the STEAM framework is an essential part of 21st Century learning, and how this new way of thinking will contribute to schools and education environments.

Why STEAM?

STEAM is a 21st Century framework for learning and teaching. In our increasingly connected world, breaking down the barriers between domains of knowledge is timely. In our rapidly changing world, where global challenges require creative and innovative solutions, connecting divergent thinkers is essential.

What do you hope Creative Lab will achieve?

The integration of the Arts into STEM is about fundamentally rethinking how we learn, and ensuring that experimentation, exploration and critical thinking are central to the learning experience. I hope that Creative Lab will provide a platform for educators to recognise this value and to better understand how this type of framework can be introduced, at a practical level, into the classroom.

How can QM/The Cube contribute to the adoption of STEAM in schools and other education environments?

The Cube – and, more broadly, QUT – has a well-established culture of collaboration and a commitment to practical engagement. The Cube is paving the way for others to adopt STEAM – by providing a framework through our engagement programs, remaining responsive and on pulse, and working with the broader community to help us define what STEAM is and what it can be.

What can delegates expect to ‘take home’ from Creative Lab experiences?

  • Confidence and a practical ‘know-how’ to apply STEAM
  • Broader awareness of STEAM on a local and global scale
  • Connection to other educators and industry professionals
Are you an educator who is passionate about innovative teaching and engaging students with STEAM? Check out Creative Lab for more information on how you can put yourself at the forefront of STEAM education.