Tasked with preparing students with the knowledge, skills, and life/career characteristics needed for “the real world,” educators are challenged to keep up with effective teaching and learning strategies in an ever-changing world. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), identified five global mega-trends currently impacting the future of our world and education. Mega-trends are forces in our society that seem endless in their impact and are changing the way we live. Mega-trends define our future world.
STEM teaching and learning provide a pathway to mediate the effect of these mega-trends and prepare current students for the reality of their future world.
Mega-trend #1: Shifting Global Gravity
As the world’s economies become more interdependent, the need for students to examine and understand global issues becomes increasingly important. STEM activities assist students in learning to communicate and collaborate with others who may or may not have the same world view. Grant awardee, Five Oaks Academy used the Level Up Village Global Communication Platform, to collaborate with students in Ghana about genetics, world health, and global citizenship. Sixth graders got to know their partner in Ghana by exchanging video messages about their lives and their STEAM projects. This process developed empathy and global competency while bringing meaning to their learning.
Engaging students in real-world problems through STEM lessons, they learn to embrace the global issues facing our world and to work together to solve them.
Mega-trend #2: Public Matters-Citizenship and Democracy
As technology and social media increases, so does our access to information. Students need to learn how to filter and critically evaluate online information. A 2016 study completed by the Stanford History Education Group found that over 80% of middle schoolers believed a paid advertisement labeled “sponsored content” was a real news story. STEM activities encourage students to be critical consumers of information. By researching topics through various points of view and comparing them to data, students learn to compare sources and make decisions based on evidence instead of making assumptions of truth based on the current viral video.
Teaching students how to be critical consumers of information provides them the life-skills and tools needed to be informed citizens about local, national, and worldly issues.
Mega-trend #3: Security in a Risky World
The increased use of technology has also resulted in a new avenue of risk. Students must have strategies for protecting their online presence. STEM classrooms teach students the importance of their digital footprint, guidelines for online privacy, as well as how to monitor for cyberbullying. Teachers can help students take ownership of their digital lives using lessons such as the ones found in Common Sense Media’s interactive curriculum.
Teaching students digital literacy and how to protect themselves online enable them to confidently live in this digital age.
Mega-trend #4: Living Longer, Living Better
As healthcare improves, people are living longer. According to OECD, adults are now likely to live a decade or more after the traditional retirement age. In the STEM classroom, teachers serve as facilitators allowing students to explore concepts and ideas instead of being “told” about them. Developing a student’s natural curiosity about the world and teaching them to explore and question fosters a mindset of life-long learning.
Most believe that encouraging a culture of lifelong learning is a tool that benefits mental capacity as we age.
Mega-trend #5: Modern Cultures
Many aspects of our society are changing. People live in a more individualized world, connecting through networks instead of traditional community organizations. Work and life patterns are changing, with people becoming more engaged in virtual communities and more concerned about ethical consumption of goods.
STEM activities provide an avenue for students to be creative entrepreneurs as illustrated by St. Gregory the Great, another grant awardee. This Bluffton school embarked on a year-long journey to create a sustainable loofah gourd soap business. Students studied what luffas needed to grow, designed a trellis system to support the luffas, worked with a local company to solve garden problems, designed marketing materials, and sold their product at a local farmer’s market.
Hands-on projects in the classroom promote the collaborative problem-solving that the virtual communities of the future require for success.
These five mega-trends identified by OECD are changing our world, and that means changing the way we design our classrooms. STEM education is a pathway that promotes collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, communication, and digital literacy.
Our learners must have these varied experiences if we hope to prepare them to compete in the global society of the future.