STEAM Education Q&A With Katie Behrmann & Chris Lazartic

  • Academics
Katie Behrmann & Chris Lazartic

Katie Behrmann and Chris Lazartic recently answered some questions about industry trends in Technology & Education. 

Q. What are the key challenges with translating STEAM in a remote or virtual environment and which technologies help overcome them?

Katie Behrmann's response: Key challenges of translating STEAM in a remote or virtual environment include the equitable distribution of or access to materials (as STEAM can be a very materials-heavy course) and working with a team in a tactile environment. Many technologies and platforms help to appease this problem, for instance design simulators, simple CAD programs, online tutorials, and communication technologies like zoom. These technologies can allow students to skirt around needing materials to complete a challenge or think about challenges differently, but they do not necessarily solve the inherent problem that students are responsible for their own materials if they need to physically construct something. Students can also hone their communication skills through talking over a challenge with one another over Zoom, but this does not solve the issue of collaborative tactile learning. This statement also assumes that students have consistent access to the internet.

Chris Lazartic's response: Many STEAM educators typically leverage hands-on engineering design challenges to engage learners and develop key innovation skills. However, restrictions currently in place require us to be a little more creative when it comes to delivering these types of lessons. If students are able to learn in person, facilitators may be able to continue providing these activities if students work individually. Some schools and districts have also been able to create and distribute STEAM kits (Think popsicle sticks, glue, tape, makers, chenille sticks, straws, etc) so that virtual students can also enjoy the activities from home. When it comes to coding and programming, most activities can easily be completed and shared on cloud-based software available with most devices on the internet. Tools like Scratch, Scratch Jr., FlowLab, CoderZ, CodeHS, and any compilers like repl.it should all be friendly for learners anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

Q. While there are downsides to the remote environment for STEAM, what are the upsides? Particularly since it seems like adding a remote or virtual component can extend the reach to students who couldn't have attended those classes in-person before?

Katie Behrmann's response: STEAM program with an extremely robust materials and delivery budget is absolutely an upside for students who may otherwise not be able to attend in person classes. For students with disabilities, learning accommodations, or long commutes, remote/virtual STEAM classes can be somewhat of a godsend. Without a way of delivering materials and technologies to students, however, remote/virtual STEAM classes can feel like they are lacking crucial components. Skill-wise, students may feel as though they are missing out on the collaborative environment of a lab or makerspace, but may be able to practice their verbal and tech skills with online communication platforms.

Chris Lazartic's response: The last few years, we continued to experience a significant push for more coding in schools. Covid restrictions may have served as a catalyst for the lastest coding initiatives. While the instruction can still present challenges, learning to code is very remote-friendly. Students can choose languages that serve their interests, and learn and practice at their own pace with sites like CodeHS.

Q. What are the real-world benefits and forces driving school districts to invest and innovate with their STEAM instruction?

Katie Behrmann's response: Any real world career or job is interdisciplinary. In reality, each subject in the STEAM umbrella relies on one another, and the creativity and problem-solving taught in STEAM classes often mimic the ill-structured and open-ended projects present in the real world. Students have the opportunity to mesh their knowledge from other art classes, math classes, and pure science classes together in an often tangible and relevant way.

Chris Lazartic's response: As we look at our world, how it continues to develop, and where most jobs are available, it's obvious that STEAM and innovation classes are key to educate and guide students in that direction. Some adults may assume that children in today's society are digital natives and understand how our technology-driven world works. The truth is that most students could still use significant coaching to correctly, efficiently, and kindly use the technology that surrounds them. If adolescents learn these important skills at a young age, they will be set up to flourish in a constantly changing world. 

 

Check out these recent blogs for more about innovation, technology, and STEAM at Aspen Academy:

 

About the Author

Chris Lazartic, Manager of Innovation and Technology

 

Chris moved from Delaware to teach at Aspen Academy in 2010. He has a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership and a Bachelor's degree in Earth Science Education. Chris loves that Aspen is a place that continues to inspire growth on both a personal and professional level. Outside of work, Chris can be found hiking, camping, disc golfing, skiing and traveling. Chris lives in Conifer, Colorado, with his wife, Elyse, their son, two dogs and horse.