7 ways data collection is improving STEM education

One district is getting students more active and analytical with data-collection tools, like probeware

Today’s students, being technology natives, expect the same kinds of engagement in the classroom as they seek out online. STEM classes in particular have a natural potential to be both tech-rich and inquiry-based, especially hands-on lab activities. The recent addition of probeware—sensory-based handheld devices for measuring things like water quality, light, and temperature—has allowed us to bring students out into nature and introduce them to the world of data collection and analysis. Here are 7 ways technology is enhancing and expanding STEM education in our school district.

Technology helps students acquire scientific literacy and hands-on experience.

Science isn’t about memorizing facts and formulas. It’s about developing an understanding of the scientific process and giving students opportunities to apply that process to their learning.

One exciting way we’re infusing technology into STEM education is through our district’s Innovations Labs. To date, we’ve installed these labs in one K–8 school and two middle schools. Each Innovations Lab includes a science lab space with mobile furniture, a robotics court, netbooks, and SPARK handheld science learning devices. The size of three regular classrooms, this lab provides an active space where students can build problem-solving and critical thinking skills. They can even write on their desks or on the walls to draw out ideas, similar to how professional scientists and engineers might.

We also use the mobile science learning devices across our district in grades K-12 for real-time data collection in a variety of core classes, electives, and Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes. This type of technology, which integrates probeware with inquiry-based content and assessment, represents a key tool for promoting investigations using quantitative data that results in meaningful learning for students.

Creating these hands-on experiences, which incorporate the environments and the tools of modern science and technology careers, is critical to helping students develop scientific literacy and a love for STEM.

It prepares students for college and careers.

Our local universities support this approach as well. Several years ago, the nearby University of South Florida reported that they had to spend a significant amount of time teaching freshmen how to use probeware devices in their science laboratories. So they asked all the local school districts to emphasize these types of technology tools in high school science labs. Expanding our use of the devices has helped immensely in preparing students for college and careers, and our local post-secondary partners are thrilled.

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