What would an evidence based world look like? How can we get there? What’s wrong with the way we teach science and all of the STEM subjects? How can we teach our kids to be ethical, creative, rational problem solvers?
If you’re in Australia or New Zealand you can pre-order our Executive Director, Dr Linda McIver’s upcoming book, Raising Heretics: Teaching Kids to Change the World.
Technology and Data Science are changing the face of our world, and we have no control over where they are taking us. We are also faced with global issues from climate change to wealth inequality and pandemics. We need creative, innovative, ethical thinkers to solve these problems. Yet our education system as it stands is very good at turning out kids who sit down, do what they’re told, and pass exams. Data gives us a way to learn technology skills in the context of authentic projects that are real and messy and meaningful in a way that tech toys and textbook problems can never be. To solve data problems with realistic size and complexity, you need more than spreadsheet skills. You need programming and statistics. You need critical thinking. You need problem solving. You need the scientific method.
When I was teaching year 10 and year 11 Science and Digital Technologies, I finally figured out how to engage kids with technology, and persuade them that STEM skills were worth learning.
Not with toys.
Not with fun.
Not with pointless faffing about.
Instead, I got them to do real things. To learn that they can be powerful and change the world using STEM skills.
So I quit.
Because all kids should have those opportunities, not just the kids in my classes.
It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking kindergarten or university degrees, the vast majority of education uses toy problems, neat questions with textbook solutions. We’re teaching kids to be really good at passing exams, so that they can go out into a world that doesn’t need them to pass exams. A world that needs them to solve real problems.
Teachers are drowning in expensive robots with broken parts, and 3D printers that cost a fortune to supply, getting bogged down with debugging the equipment and the software without making progress in the classroom. They’re under immense pressure to do STEM but nobody really knows what effective STEM programs look like.
The reason I was able to build innovative Data Science projects with real datasets was that I was only part time, so I used my own time to find interesting datasets, make sense of them, and build projects around them. A full time teacher simply doesn’t have the time or resources to do that kind of work. That’s where ADSEI comes in.
It’s really hard to teach kids critical thinking skills when your toolkit is questions that all have right answers, curricula full of facts and straightforward procedures, and textbooks that leave kids floating on an uneasy sea of factoids, memorisation, and perfectly neat examples tied up with a bow.
So now we work with teachers, to teach them data literacy and data science skills, and to build authentic projects with real impact, to engage kids with STEM skills and empower them to change the world.
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