Steam education is becoming an integral explicit focus of education grades K-8. While many resources and materials for its implementations require budget expenditures and because of the price of those expenditures cannot be extended to families for home use, one resource is available free online which can be used in the classroom by teachers and by parents at home to complement instruction. What is this resource? Television. Of course, once explicitly said teachers instantly think that means suggesting parents and children watch steam content specific educational television channels or documentary specials. That would seem to be an authentic and logical extension of the classroom curricula topics. But in this digital age where we seek to not only inform students of content, but also engage them and their families, free educational television or documentaries relevant to Steam are not the only available television content that can quickly captivate and entertain parents and students at home and students in the classroom. Think instead of popular television entertainment shows. What? Even if this is proven by field research and confirmed by theorists, how could teachers demonstrate such viewing and discussion addressed rigorous digital text engagement skills and writing about a range of texts? What connection could this viewing if done on a whiteboard have to students’ individual portfolios or aggregate discussion, listening, viewing and reading skills data accountability? Why is in this age of strict scrutiny of curricula and data driven education would responsible steam focused educators take time in class and suggest parents and their children watch television? Sadly, this question was raised even when I was a child.
As a twentieth century child, I frustrated my print book loving and traditional education mother by refusing to sit at the lovely desk she gifted me and lying down in front of the television to do my homework as I watched various pop culture entertainment shows. When she tried to force me to return to my desk, I showed her I had not only completed the homework, but had gotten writing and project presentation ideas from my television viewing. Ironically in the 21st century a new literacy called digital literacy has been coined by educators which authenticates the ways students can “read” and “interpret” digital texts to write about them. Guernsey and Levine (2015) talk extensively about how teachers, students and parents can watch television shows interactively with mediated discussion and reflection about how the digital literacy aspect of these entertaining visual texts can access a broad spectrum of learners in the classroom and at home including ESL and special needs and multilingual families to Steam and other mandated curricula. But where are the data files for which teachers are accountable to demonstrate that research principal of the efficacy of digital literacy to enhance reading, speaking, listening, discussing and writing argumentatively or informatively or creatively/
Flash forward to today when Steam teachers, ELA, Social Studies and others can tap into ongoing television shows any period, any engineering design or inventions content project to inspire students as they view the process in action and its outcomes in the real commercial world or the fictive but based on reality worlds brought to the classroom courtesy of television. Their chromebooks can serve as both their channel viewing screens and their note taking file storage for Steam television related: talking, compiling engineering design language, drawing or illustrating engineering designs, critiquing the shows as media Steam entertainment and arguments for additional interventions. Here are three examples:
The Toy Box, invites students to watch a reality game show in which peers are the judges of toy inventions/prototypes submitted by adults or by adults and children. Talk about making the idea of prototypes to solve or address a real-world challenge coming real. The show is modeled after the adult Shark Tank where adults pitch business ideas at adult business luminaries. But here adult mentors such as Dylan Lauren and Jim Silver prequalify the toy prototype by judging its market applications, safety for kids, diverse appeal and design. All of these are part of the standard rubric for the prototypes in engineering design or inventions topic in Stem, SS or even cross content ELA grade 3 up. Students viewers in classes can compare the televised process with their own classroom process through talking which thanks to Chromebooks can be uploaded as an auditory file or using their functional diagram rubric to compare and contrast with other rubrics used on show or implied on it. Even better the kids who judge in the final toy box actually field test – “play with the toy “question the adult and child inventors and judge the entries for the final round. The grand prize will be production of a selected Toy box kid judged by the kid judges to be produced and sold at ToysRus. As the kids scream in a commercial “awesome” and totally an authentic real world goal for a toy inventor. Using their Chromebooks, students can film their own classroom version of this reality show and invite peer audiences to react to it. Teachers and students can instantly relate the actual prototypes and judging to aspects of the engineering design process. Parents and students can talk about how they might invent or develop a viable toy at home and perhaps create a diagram of such a project. Students can take home chroembooks to share the show and write collaborative critiques of it for family literacy viewing which can be shared on the chromebook network that will also allow the teacher to privately record comments for the parents and children.
While Angus MacGyver was not a child in either the original 1990s series nor is he in the 2016 reboot on CBS, his skill of improvising from available accessible materials to solve up the minute and quickly shifting crises is childlike and inventive to the hilt. In the current series, MacGyver who was raised by his grandfather and is loyal to his childhood best friend is critiqued by his boss for “improvising.” But these skills which include a broad knowledge of science principles, technology applications and constructing mechanical devices from available ordinary objects make him a fabulous model of how engineering design process use in tandem with team play can literally save his colleagues and sometimes the free world. Even better in this reboot he explains procedurally each design he engineers and its basis in science principles in spilt screen steps through a voiceover. These split screen steps are digital diagrams and informational/functional documents. Kids won’t be that conscious of that, but teachers will!! They can be using their Chromebooks be challenged to explicate the use of the split screen documents and how they implement the needed intervention so MacGyver’s mission is a success. Teachers can have students develop Chromebook MacGyver improvisations inspirations files and create additional MacGyver adventures using steam principles or topics or explicate in writing his “improvisations.” Students can be recorded with files uploaded to the Chromenooks talking about how a MacGyver skill set can be useful in various occupations beyond working for a secret government agency. Parents and kids can discuss and kids can share how their class studies help them understand MacGyver’s expertise and perhaps how such expertise can help in family situations, these discussions can be recorded at home and edited by the teacher and/or students into a Chromebook audio file that can spark further chromebook network students and adult comments. Students and parents can also view the 1990 ‘s series and compare its plot, hero, tone and villains with the current reboot. They can download episodes on their chromebook which name the same villain but depict that villain differently.
Although MacGyver’s fans from the 1990’s and his new ones may want to believe he is an actual personality, Scorpion, another show about a team of geniuses who work together to help homeland security with innovative science, mechanical, technological and crisis based interventions. Is actually based on a real Irish born genius Walter O’Brien. O’Brien is a producer on the show who regularly offers technical ideas and storylines involving science centered think tank teamwork that saves individuals, exposes fraud and uses science knowledge for rescue from sinkholes and infectious diseases and more. The characters who include a behavioral specialist, a tech genius, and a mechanical genius work as a team combining their skills. They are also outsiders in the regular world because their social skills are far less advanced than their intellectual ones, they have a female team member who helps with necessary social skills and has a gifted child. Of course, that child has contributed as well, in this series as in MacGyver the science procedures and facts are explicitly explained as the characters use this to neatly tie up situations by the end of the episode. Students in school can write using their chromebooks and maintain files for their portfolios. suggestions for further episodes in which the child character takes the lead role as a Scorpion engineering design process user. Students and parents can separately as the episode unfolds write down solutions and interventions they envision for Scorpion to succeed at its mission. They can write online to the producers. Families can investigate the actual Walter O’Brien and talk about the issues of authenticity which surround him. Reality of engineering design process a tenable solution in 48 minutes with commercials? Perhaps not, but fun and science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics in action and fun plus car chasing and relationships evolving-all PG rated. What is not to love for students in classes and teachers as well.
Students can connect the toy prototypes and issues to their inventions. They can explicate and diagram MacGyver’s procedures and relate them to their science content or create new challenges and episodes for MacGyver to solve using the science topics and engineering design challenges or robotics building they have done. They can write back stories for the child in Scorpion or the other characters and research the “truth” behind very real Walter O’Brien. They can also consider how the values of resiliency, leaning from failure, grit, integrity and team work foster engineering design success and why.
Teachers need not assign these currently broadcast television STEAM expensively produced materials to students for home viewing, but can download the episodes, select those that align to topics, challenges or themes used in their classes and invite the Toy Box kid’s judges, Angus MacGyver, and Walter O’Brien to drop by anytime that fits in the curriculum map. Using chromebooks at home, families can access those same episodes and perhaps set times to view these continuing shows as new episodes are cast. Not to worry just as I proved to my mother long ago, the kids will have fun with these digital learning tools and take away fundamental steam and engineering design process skills. They will have audio, video, word doc, slides, and graphics stored on the Chromebooks to document their practice and validation of these skills. Perhaps they will create the next generation reality kid invention show, MacGyver 21st century character or Scorpion spinoff. The accent on the “T” situated and backed up by students and family digital responses on the chromebook network will inform all the other aspects of STEAM!!
Guernsey, Lisa and Michael H. Levine. (2015). Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Dr. Rose Reissman,
Academic and Grant Funding Director for Sector 5
About Sector 5,
Sector 5, Inc. (OTCQB: SFIV), is a Proud American Corporation, that sells, manufactures and develops new innovative consumer electronics under Sector 5 and other brands. The Company markets its partnership with Google approved Chromebooks to educational organizations, other B2B and B2C sales channels, with retail sales on Amazon. It is in development of several new products to serve the educational, business and retail markets. Follow the company on http://www.twitter.com/sectorfiveinc and http://www.facebook.com/sect5 and find further information at http://www.sector-five.com. For Sector 5’s Forward Looking Statements, click here.