Recent studies show that Australian students are declining their interest in maths and science subjects. This is in contrast with computer-related activities where they don’t want to disengage with computers and tablets.
The data (Figure) shows that up to 50% of Australian Year 8 math students are nor very keen to study maths compared to an average of the same globally (Gotsis, Tom, “STEM education in NSW schools”, https://goo.gl/Ju13Uf )
The Australian government identified Science and Mathematics as vital areas of study for Australian students to maintain their future life including job security and run a day to day matters.
That led to the initiative of STEM education philosophy that is the learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in an integrated style.
Another model under consideration is the South Korean trend to adopt STEAM; Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. (www.stem-nsw.com.au).
The main reason for lack of interest in Maths and Science is the perception of that these subjects are theoretical and not related to everyday living. On the other hand, computer related activities are found to be interactive and engaging as well as entertaining thereby supporting indirect learning with fun.
Young Innovators Network came up with the strategy of project-based learning activities using smart devices in order to create interest in Science & Maths for their members.
Students gain and apply knowledge, deepen their understanding and develop creative and critical thinking skills within an authentic context via project-based learning.
Young Innovators workshops are based on Project-based learning (PBL) philosophy that provides a great advantage over traditional learning environment:
- The sense of excitement with a bit more independence in learning.
- Learners gain life experience with competition in reaching their goals.
- Inquiry and problem-solving skills learning are built in projects to explore various learning disciplines
- After the initial stage of the project, teachers role evolves into mentoring
- At the end of a successful project, learner feels more confident in the area of their learning.
Recently during school holidays, we had two sessions for primary school where they learned how to design Computer Game using Scratch Programming (www.scratch.mit.edu).
It has taught the innovators to create programs using Scratch ‘blocks’ to code each sprite or character to move, say something or even change colours.
In these sessions instructor, Syed Nasir Ali taught the innovators to create a game called ‘Cat VS Dog Race’ which included a cat and a dog racing against each other.
There were different versions such as the normal one where both were controlled by keys.
There was the version where one was a computer, one where you could control the speed of the computer and one where the cat was controlled by the noise level that we generated.
Music was added to get into a racing mood and cheer noises at the end for accomplishment.