Upgrading pre- and in-service teachers’ digital skills with online STEAM hands-on training modules

There is a widespread agreement on the importance of STEM-related subjects in children education. Nowadays, most activities around us rely heavily on technology, which appears to be a source of solutions for many of the problems modern societies have. Consequently, the process of digitization and the influence of technology in our lives will keep gaining momentum. In this context, an education system that does not provide children with the adequate background and familiarity with technology-based (digital) tools will fail preparing them for their future professional activities in our (already) digital societies.

The present situation has two sides. On one hand, many secondary education students are entering universities, professional education or the labor market with extraordinarily relevant digital skills. But, on the other hand, there is still a too large percentage of students with a low level of digital and technological literacy.

In order to cope with this problem, current educational policies are advocating an increased focus on STEAM disciplines, introduced to students as early as possible. But this goal finds an important obstacle: many teachers don’t have a strong enough background on this area. And this is so for three main reasons: the speed at which technology changes; the scarcity of teachers’ formal education regarding STEM-related subjects, and the limited amount of time that teachers have for accessing the formative activities that they would need to become proficient in this area.

This proposal is addressed to a target group composed of pre- and in-service teachers, and teacher students (students enrolled in Education degrees), from three different levels: early childhood, primary and secondary education. The project main goal is to create an environment aiming to strengthening the STEAM skills of our target group. This environment will help reverse the situation described above, enabling our target group to use, design, develop and integrate STEAM-related activities into their everyday classroom activities. For that, the project activities include the generation of training material for teachers. Additionally, the project envisages the elaboration of a set of design guidelines about how to improve teacher involvement with respect to STEAM-related concepts and activities, a virtual laboratory and a repository of educational material, together with the organization of a number of pilot tests and dissemination activities. Regarding results, this project will have a strong impact on the educational system through the incorporation of digitally-skilled teachers to present schools.

The project consortium is composed of five universities and two companies, from 6 European countries. The project is coordinated by the University of Tallinn. The other universities participating in this consortium are the University of Stavanger, the University Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, the University of Jyväskylä and the Johannes Kepler University in Linz. The consortium constitutes a multidisciplinary group with previous research collaborations in the different areas involved in the project. MISTEMS I&S Ltd. and CraftUnique, the two companies participating in the consortium, will provide technology and support for the project development.

From the methodology point of view, this project will fit into the European Digital Competences Framework for Educators (DigCompEdu), a framework aiming to detail how digital technologies can be used for enhancing and innovating education and training. Also, it will follow the STEAM Education approach for learning, based on using these subjects as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. To encourage learning-by-doing, we propose STEAM hands-on online training modules in the form of interactive digital open online resources based on real world social challenges that could be prototyped or simulated with STEAM kits. The structure of each learning resource will follow e-text theories and the application of the principles of the didactic method proposed by M. David Merrill: “Tell, Show, Ask, Do”.

In short, the proposal seeks to provide the appropriate background for the improvement of the penetration of technology-based methods and activities into mainstream education through upscaling pre- and in-service teachers’ digital skills through modules in higher education courses.

*Dieses Projekt wurde mit Unterstützung der Europäischen Kommission finanziert. Die Verantwortung für den Inhalt dieser Veröffentlichung trägt allein der Verfasser; die Kommission haftet nicht für die weitere Verwendung der darin enthaltenen Angaben.