Hello World..

How exciting, my own BLOG page , WOW didn’t in a million years expect the journey of life to bring me here, but that is the wonderful thing about life and mathematics. When faced with a problem, a mathematician uses algorithmic thinking and logical steps to find a solution. My problem is that I am a passionate secondary mathematics teacher in a College of the Arts  – yes think FAME… So I hear you say, how is that a problem?

Well in a way it’s not. I have an amazing group of creative students I work with every day. Students are selected to this government school because of their gifts and talents in the Arts. It is also a traditional school, with traditional buildings and traditional industrialised educational silos – i.e Maths, Science, English, Phys Ed, Technologies etc. Students are well tested, you should just see the entry selection process,  and curriculum content and tertiary entrance exams  drive them to succeed.

So that’s the school I work at and as you can imagine in an Arts College the appreciation of the STEM subjects  is often lacking in the students. Our STEM teachers have had to work extra hard to develop an appreciation of STEM in our students. As a whole school we have worked side by side with our specialist arts and humanities to develop curriculum experiences that break down the barrier that exists between the educational silos. Giving authentic learning experiences to our students.

Have we spent a lot of money on STEM – NO! Do we have passionate and amazing educators in our school YES!  So the purpose of my BLOG is to share with you how my school’s STEAM team, get the job done. How we provide real learning experiences that prepare our students for the future that awaits.  In doing this I hope that you can find ideas that you can use in your classroom to develop the creative and critical thinking skills of your students.

So if you think the A doesn’t belong in STEAM then this is not the BLOG for you. But if you are interested in finding out more about how a College of the Arts won the Governor of WA STEM Award award in 2015 and 2016 then you have come to the right page.  I will use this page to share some of the programs we have used or developed in our school and also any other STEAM related projects that catch my eyes.

Beware also, my personal views and values will drive the way that I write.  I am not an academic, and  I have been a secondary school mathematics educator since 2000. I chose education first and mathematics was my chosen specialist area. Today I am passionate about mathematics but this was not the case when I was a student. I was just good at it – I think it was because we were not allowed to talk. As a mathematics educator I now found the beauty of mathematics in the world around me and I love to share that with my students. Engaging gifted students in their schooling and recognising that they potentially can be our most at risk students drives me.

My major was mathematics and I have a minor in Computer Science, but I have never taught computing. With the introduction of the Digital Technologies curriculum though in Western Australia I have re-discovered just how much I enjoy programming and Python is my language of choice. My mission is to give all of our Year 7 students a little bit of Python in maths. I hate complicated stuff and flashing light and whistles. I don’t do robots but I appreciate the Computational Thinking that makes them works. I want my students to see that coding is a way for them to be creative and solve problems. Digital literacy is just another core competency for all children. It sits alongside numeracy and literacy.

I wont baffle you with big words, I don’t understand most of them myself. I am on the committee for the  Maths Association of Western Australia assisting them to develop and maintain their student activities.  I continue to evaluate resources and opportunities that I think improve learning experiences for students. Free is always best, and I don’t believe we need to re-write the wheel just because we now have the acronym STEM.

I have been driven to start this BLOG because I have just attended the inaugral WA STEM Conference . This conference was organised by three of the WA Proffessional teaching Associations  STAWA, MAWA, ECAWA and Scitech during the school holidays.  The 300 attendees were passionate educators who gave up their school holidays to attend. I heard these teachers ask:

  1. How do we implement this great educational pedagogy in the traditional schooling system that we have? In particular to high schools, how do we begin breaking down the silos that we call departments/learning areas.
  2. How do we measure that it is actually adding to the educational outcomes of our students?
  3. How do we share this overload of information to our school colleagues and the many educators who still have their head in the sand thinking it is a fad that will pass?

So this is what drives me and inspired by my colleagues website page Jody Crothers I thought I can help other teachers withSTEM implementation. I have seen first hand what can be achieved in a traditional high school that values the natural curiosity and creativity of it’s students. I have learned so much in the past five years – and each year  just gets getting better and better. My school started small, a handful of teachers think tanking some ways to improve STEM education in our school. With the support of our management we now have more and more  staff coming on board the STEAM train every day. It has never been mandated to us, it all started from the ground up, teacher driven and there is a renewed enthusiasm across the school.

Robots and A.I  are on the news most nights and talk of job losses are scaring many – including me.  Not knowing the end solution to a problem can cause a bit of anxiety for many – a bit like maths anxiety. But by collaborating and nurturing the natural curiosity in our youth, developing their STEM capabilities I believe their is amazing opportunities for the future of the world.  I want my children and the children I teach to be confident to create,  not just consume.

Author: steamdonnab

Mathematics teacher in a secondary school of the Arts. Passionate about STEAM learning and finding real ways to make it work in the classroom

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