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Tag Archives: curriculum


To combine the Arts with STEM is to motivate, engage and empower students to pay attention to and understand/retain content in the Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The creation of art … the making of something that comes from “within” … has always been a boon for the psyche, a gratifying experience that adds to self-esteem and provides relevance … meaning.

This creative and cognitive experience is surround and exciting, which leads to greater understanding and retention of content and an appreciation for STEM and its motivating component, the Arts … STEAM. The Arts I will be discussing as the motivating component will be the Digital Arts … manipulating research images in graphic arts software such as GIMP, a Photoshop freeware equivalent.

The key factor in all of this is the teacher being willing to learn and teach the software to the students so they are empowered to use their creative skills to visualize STEM content, in this case, Space weather and the upcoming NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale 2014 mission. Let’s take a look at a few examples of my 8th grade students’ work, 2011-2012 school year, which are a result of extensive online research about Space weather/NASA MMS mission and utilization of the tools/filters in GIMP (graphic arts software).

Go to:

to view examples and read more about the incorporation of the Digital Arts as part of the STEM process. “Moving STEM Towards STEAM” was presented as a part of the STEMx13 Global Education Conference (September, 2013).

Aliteracy (Alliteracy) is the state of being able to read but being uninterested in doing so. This phenomenon has been reported on as a problem occurring separately from illiteracy, which is more common in the developing world, while aliteracy is primarily a problem in the developed world (Roger Cohen, “The Lost Book Generation”, The New York Times, January 6, 1991).

I engaged students at Raul Yzaguirre School for Success (Houston, Texas) via project-based activities that related to Technology Applications standards and the information within the pages of the prescribed textbooks. There is one important thing that I did with the textbooks that I think all teachers should do. I took them through the chapters in procedural ways and via oral quizzes that helped them find information and quickly. This began to combat aliteracy as well, placing students in a situation in which they had to find the information (answer) based on dictation of a particular question. It is amazing how many students could not seem to find the information, even though it was right in front of them. And it wasn’t because they couldn’t read, it was because they didn’t want to read, and they had never been taught or guided on how to use the organizational aspects of textbooks (any book).

I immersed students in various projects that centered around relevance and visualization of content … exciting and motivating for them … and they were also required to do research, which required reading, to support the projects. They took the reading in stride … moved away from their lethargic and alliterate behavior … because of the nature (mode of application) of the projects. Content relevance, hands-on hardware/software and the anticipation of “product” (end result) were motivating factors in combatting aliteracy amongst the student population.

Several project examples … via links … follow:

Response – Gay Marriage:


Gun Violence in Schools:

Dear Newtown:

Hispanic Heritage Month:

Core Values:

9/11 Tribute:

and the project list goes on at

Of course, another positive aspect of the projects process was the fact that the students were also combatting illiteracy by doing a great deal of writing in response to their findings. Again, the students took participation and contribution in stride due to how the curriculum was delivered.

Based on my sensitization to the middle school environment, I feel that there is a need to get our youth’s attention today before we begin to talk about education reform. And why do we need to get their attention? Because the majority of them are not paying attention in the conventional or traditional classroom. This is one reason why there is a lot of retesting to force feed our youth to pass the required exams so they can move through the slush gates of education and ultimately out the door. And it seems most school administrations are okay with this as they attempt to fill their state-mandated quotas translated as achievement percentages.

The students are the victim, here. They may very well pass their required exams at some point in time, but in order to do so, most go through the process of “pulling and pushing”, if you will, to move them away from their lethargic and aliterate behavior to pay enough attention … and I emphasize, enough … to pass. I will leave it up to you to define what passing really means.

The students I taught at Raul Yzaguirre School for Success in Houston, Texas accomplished a great deal with me via Technology Applications. I would like to think that I had a great deal to do with this productivity, but it was truly due to hands-on hardware/software, access to the Internet, and project-based activities involving visualization, design and creation of product. And a lot of the classroom activities paralleled or matched similar, personal activities with hardware/software. In other words, my “wired” classroom was conducive to who they were (are) … “wired” youth, “digital natives”. These accomplishments are evidenced at:

The lethargic and aliterate behavior in the conventional or traditional classroom is due to two factors: the environmental stimuli via computer technology, media, entertainment, video gaming modes of approach; and the lack of educators being able to acknowledge such, and make amends in the classroom. It seems to me that they need to join the ranks of our youth today, and become ‘wired’ in the classroom. And if this is approached correctly … project-based activities via technology applications that cross over into the core subject areas with STEM/STEAM components … students will participate in and contribute to the educational process for “real” benefit. And I describe benefit this way because of the practicality of the applications process as a part of the learning activity. Not only will there NOT be a need for retesting, but also an enhancement of skill levels that are required in higher education and at the workplace.

Also, another way to increase the attention span of our youth, and improve their outlook or mindset about education is to have digital entities … computer technology, media, entertainment, video gaming, etc. … place statements of encouragement on their products targeting students in a general sense to do better with the curriculum, stay in school, and graduate. Since these entities have changed the mental attitudes and pace of our youngsters, they should also nurture our youth to stay in school and get an education. I feel that statements of encouragement on their products would have a great impact on our youth’s psyche to begin to think twice about how important getting an education is. This could have an all-encompassing effect on getting our youth’s attention. And I feel that this enhanced awareness … along with technological support in the classroom and tech teaching of teachers … would begin to turn around the educational process in a more positive light.