By Victoria King
With the rapid rise of STEM, educators question how to make learning easier for their students. One promising way is through technology access. Technology makes STEM learning easier because of its ability to simulate virtual environments, provide interactive learning, and create immersive experiences with virtual reality.
For example, Pivot Interactives is a website that makes it easy to teach science; it simulates over one hundred actual and virtual environments. Some of its simulations include traversing standing waves, eolos wind turbines, and linear oscillators. Simulations are important because they allow kids “to experience scientific phenomena they normally would not!” Most STEM gadgets are expensive, so simulations provide an easier, cheaper, and more convenient way to learn. They promote collaboration as the simulations can be done in partner work. Also, instead of only watching a simulation, Pivot allows students to interact with the technology, such as by measuring items in the video. Thus, to take it to a new level, this technology allows students to create and execute their experiments using the user interface.
Students directly interact with the technology as they can change the pendulum length, and roller coaster loops, and come up with their way to study the world! Simulations put students ahead of the curve with STEM learning as they “develop critical thinking skills in a controlled environment.” Hence, a yearlong study found that “students who used Pivot Interactives outperformed [students who did not use Pivot Interactives] by 400% on the end-of-semester assessment of Model Breaking, the key to scientific literacy.”
Also, technology simulations allow students to develop their STEM skills rapidly without access to real, physical hardware. An example is FTC Sims, a simulation that allows students to virtually program a robot without physically having a robot built. Programmers can hone their skills without waiting for builders. I used it and learned tremendously! This technology makes STEM learning easier as it allows students to learn how to program actuators, color sensors, and claw systems. It makes STEM learning accessible because not everyone can afford robot parts. And for those that can, it still takes time to build, which puts programmers at a disadvantage. However, technology negates that disadvantage. FTC Sims allows students to quickly take what they learn virtually and translate it into the real world of STEM!
Another instance is CodeHS, which provides interactive learning for coding. Contrast to the traditional lecture of “what is Java?” CodeHS allows students to code every step of the way and experience what Java is! It starts with a Java pretest, then teaches primitive types through videos, quizzes, slideshows, and programs, and does the same thing with other lessons, such as boolean expressions, if statements, and using objects. This technology makes STEM learning easier as it allows students to code hands-on. Most of the time to learn a new skill, you need to practice the new skill. To correlate, track stars can learn about the proper form of running through books, but it will not translate into a meet unless they practice running with the proper form. The best way to learn is by doing. Technology access allows students to practice what their teachers preach.
Lastly, technology provides an immersive experience with virtual reality, which engages students. Mathematics VR apps allow students “to learn in-depth concepts about Calculus in 1,2, and 3-dimensions as well as Analytic Geometry.” Instead of trying to visualize advanced math ideas, students can see them right in front of them. For younger students, Medieval Math VR is an interactive way to make math learning easier. In this game, students defend their kingdom by solving math problems correctly. This is so fun for students, which helps them retain information. Through virtual reality, learning becomes easier because students will want to learn.
However, learning is not a "one size fits all" endeavor. Some people are auditory learners while others are visual learners. To make STEM learning easier, I would highly suggest giving students technology access to explore the right options for them individually.
“How Important Is Technology in Education? | American University.”
Soeonline.american.edu, 25 June 2020, soeonline.american.edu/blog/technology-in-
Taha Ahmed Khan. “TrustRadius.” TrustRadius Buyer Blog, 28 Mar. 2019,