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How Can AV Technology Improve STEM Learning?

STEM-ulate learning with AV solutions

STEM learning is a primary focus of today’s educators, and AV technology is well-suited in delivering it. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 3 million STEM-related job openings will be available between 2014 and 2024, making it one of the fastest areas of occupational growth in the country. STEM education gives students an edge in securing one of these coveted jobs, and AV technology optimizes your school’s STEM curriculum.

What is STEM?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In some instances, educators instead refer to STEAM, which adds art into the mix. Both STEM and STEAM education are major priorities for U.S. teachers, as data from STEMconnector, a professional services firm dedicated to increasing STEM workers, demonstrates. According to STEMconnector’s data, STEM job opportunities are growing much faster than the available talent pool. In the manufacturing sector alone, STEMconnector estimates a worker shortfall of around 600,000 employees. STEM occupations demand higher levels of education than any other occupations, but they usually pay much higher than the average job. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 93 out of 100 STEM occupations pay wages higher than the national average. Schools and universities place student outcomes among their most important missions. STEM education is a clear path to maximizing those outcomes.

AV and STEM: A natural match

STEM education has been the subject of much consideration, and most experts believe AV has a major role to play in its implementation. Educause, a nonprofit organization that supports IT professionals in education, released a report in 2013 that reinforces this belief. The product of 39 industry experts, Educase’s report listed 12 technologies to watch for STEM education in the coming years, and several are AV specialties. They include:
  • Mobile learning
  • Online learning
  • Virtual and immersive learning spaces
  • Gamification
  • Flexible displays
Some of these, like mobile and online learning, are expected to be adopted at large within a year or two, if they haven’t been already. Virtual and remote learning spaces are also expected within the next couple years, while gamification and flexible displays are further off, though some early examples already exist. These AV technologies were considered particularly important for STEM education, and as they mature, it will be up to educators (and their AV integrator partners) to leverage them.

Mobile and online learning

Mobile and online learning are experiencing extremely fast adoption rates, as nearly everyone uses smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices on a daily basis. According to a study put together by Pearson, a leading producer of educational products, more than 80 percent of high school students regularly use a smartphone to complete homework. Even among elementary students, about half of children reported the same. Students are able and willing to integrate mobile and online learning into their education. AV solutions like interactive flat panels, video streaming and video on demand (VOD) make the best use of this enthusiasm, and offer excellent options for STEM education. Interactive flat panels, like the Clevertouch and ActivPanel, can be used to connect student and teacher devices, allowing teachers to share learning materials and modules for later reference. This is ideal for STEM lessons, as students can reinforce their learning outside of the classroom, in a form that most find compelling. If educators want to optimize their mobile and online learning methods, though, they should consider video streaming and VOD technology. Both enable educators to record lessons or leverage online learning resources for their students’ benefit. There already exists a wealth of STEM apps and learning experiences, and teachers can develop their own lessons and labs with the help of video streaming and capturing technology.

Gamification

With gamification, students are taught concepts using games, as games are capable of high levels of engagement. Further, games can help students come up with creative solutions, an essential part of STEM education. Although gamification is still in its early phases, AV technology can introduce a form of it to students. Interactive flat panel technology is also effective here, as it can be used to run an incredible array of gamified learning apps. These apps reward students with recognition and the thrill of victory, which can be a powerful motivator. A major challenge with STEM education is keeping students interested in it as they age, and gamification is one way of developing long-term engagement with the field.

Virtual and immersive learning spaces

Virtual (VR) and augmented (AR) reality is already experiencing commercial success, and is quickly being developed for the classroom. VR and AR have enormous potential in introducing STEM material, as they can add compelling visual and tactile experiences to the lesson. AV technologies are at the forefront of this approach, with options like ClassVR and zSpace leading the way. Both ClassVR and zSpace deliver VR and AR capabilities while giving teachers complete control over the lesson. These lessons offer novel experiences too, such as transporting students to Mars, displaying a functioning 3D model of the heart or bringing a classic piece of literature to life. There are clear opportunities for STEM learning as well. Students can take apart an engine, set up physics experiments or design products. As more and more software providers jump into the market, more and more STEM experiences will become available. VR and AR, then, represent smart long-term investments in lesson delivery.

AV integrators can help fuel your school’s STEM goals

Reputable AV integrators frequently work with school districts and universities to improve classrooms and teaching initiatives. This expertise is especially helpful when establishing STEM curriculum, as AV technology offers more engaging and novel educational experiences. Both are critical for STEM, as it is difficult to get children interested long-term in STEM fields. Further, AV integrators are familiar with the newest and most effective educational technologies, and how they can be leveraged for STEM learning. This knowledge will pay off when it comes time to budget for and select STEM learning solutions. Finally, an AV integrator can serve as a long-term technology partner for a district or university, ensuring their STEM solutions are viable and reliable now and into the future.