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STEAM, the incorporation of the Arts as part of the STEM process is necessary. It is VERY important. 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. 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.

A theater mask … an art piece in itself … is the means for the performer to understand and translate the drama and/or dance on stage. So is the art piece that is created in the classroom by the student to understand and explain subject content. This creative and cognitive experience is surround and exciting, which leads to greater understanding/retention and an appreciation for STEM and its motivating component, the Arts … STEAM.

DA_NASA_MMS_RYSS is a very good example of the STEAM process. My eighth grade students (Raul Yzaguirre School for Success [RYSS], Houston) two years ago studied Space weather and the NASA MMS (Magnetospheric Multiscale) 2014 mission in order to make Digital Art based on their findings. They took the Science research in stride because of the anticipation of making art. They utilized various NASA web pages and images to have a better understanding of Space weather and the purpose of the NASA mission. They then took that knowledge and the images into a graphic arts software program (GIMP) to visualize this understanding via manipulation of the images to make Digital Art. By doing so also immersed them in the process of acquiring graphic arts software skills (vocational). Their art can be viewed at:

http://tomrchambers.com/nasa_da/index.html

and an overview of the project can be accessed at:

http://tomrchambers.com/NASA_MMS_DA.html

To compound this STEAM process, these same students then traveled to the Dublin ISD (Dublin, Texas) to teach their students (Intermediate and Middle Schools) how to use the graphic arts software to do the same. Excitation levels were high, and empowerment came to the forefront for all the youngsters involved. The teachers present at the two-day, student workshop seemed secondary. My students were able to convey what they knew to other students, and those students were motivated through the Arts (and peer teaching) to produce “product” that was a translation of their Space weather and NASA MMS research activities. The student workshops can be viewed at:

http://tomrchambers.com/dps_da/index.html

http://tomrchambers.com/dms_da/index.html

and an overview of the workshops can be accessed at:

http://tomrchambers.com/ryss_dmps.html

As I have mentioned in a previous post, showcasing of student work is also important, and the Digital Art from the RYSS classroom activity (DA_NASA_MMS_RYSS) and the student workshop was exhibited at the high school, intermediate school and a bank lobby in Dublin, Texas. The exhibition can be viewed at:

http://tomrchambers.com/dub_ryss_exhib.html

It is also online at:

http://tomrchambers.com/dub_ryss_8/index.html

http://tomrchambers.com/dub_dub_5/index.html

Knowledge of Space weather and the NASA MMS mission will always remain with these youngsters because of STEAM and the student workshop. Underlying this process and activities is the sensitization to careers in the Sciences (Space Science), Technology, Graphic Design and the Arts.

Go to the NASA MMS 2014 web page:

http://mms.gsfc.nasa.gov/

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Showcasing students’ work … using Pinterest as an example … is a very effective way to motivate them (students) to want to participate in and excel at assigned curriculum:

http://www.pinterest.com/rysstechjracad/boards/

As they peruse their various projects and “product” (item as an end result) en masse … Pinterest display, in this case … and as a collective body or group of individuals working towards one common means (goal), there’s a sense of team achievement. Personally, there is a variety of tags that can be applied to the “psyche”: self-esteem, pride, relevance (purpose), ownership, achievement, completion (closure). This team feeling and these tags … and more … are important for participation and follow-through within higher education and at the workplace.

The collection of work can also be used as learning tools for others. The waves of new students that “pour” into the classroom, semester after semester, year after year, can view and use the collection (other collections) as a guideline (template). What is probably more important is the fact that the collection becomes a motivational tool for the new students to participate and achieve in a competitive sense as they are tasked to work on similar projects.

Facebook is another example:

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https://www.facebook.com/pages/Technology-Applications-College-Prep-Academy-6-8-RYSS/115721688504466

Motivate, engage, and empower translate as MEE, and this holistic approach to the student psyche will nurture the “id” of the individual via innovation and best practices inside and outside the classroom. To ensure student success: 1) innovation must comprise cognitive and creative planning that effectively meld core subject content with technological hands-on opportunities  to motivate, and engage the student; 2) best practices must show relevance and a sense of ownership for the assignment or project to empower the student.

Challenging the student to take control of the learning process is tantamount to his or her enthusiasm for and desire to want to know, and complete the task. To take control is to own, and to own is to establish relevance, and give purpose to the process. What is missing in the majority of classrooms today is the address of this sense of “me” [the “id”, the self-centeredness that dictates a youngster’s being] that will transform his/her internalization  to one of externalization.

This transformation process in an educational sense is one of situating the student in a learning environment that will respell “me” as MEE. In other words, precise motivation and engagement via cognitive and creative planning and technological hands-on will empower him or her to want to learn within the context of doing it his or her way that will provide meaning and excitement and ownership in the finished product.

Add to that an element of  transcendence. By finding ways to display student work in public places, students learn that their work is relevant. This in turn builds greater confidence, and enhances a student’s self-worth. When real world situations become part of a student’s learning path it may very well beckon the him or her to begin to think about his or her goals and role in society. And this kind of thinking is a direct result of the student taking control of the learning process.

As a “digital native”, today’s student walks into the classroom eager to use technology tools within the curriculum. He or she has high expectations in this regard.  If these expectations are not met by the teaching staff and administrators, the “id” of the individual student will not be nurtured at optimal  levels. The overused adages of “tune in”/”turn on” and “tune out” are indeed significant for today’s classroom because students have strong reactions to the digital versus non-digital world. As mentioned, when a student walks into the classroom from a world [digital] that he or she “tunes in” and “turns on” to at his or her discretion, and if the “world” of the schoolhouse is not conducive to who he or she is via his or her desires and activities, he or she will “tune out”.

As a technology applications teacher of middle school students in the 7th and 8th grades, I’ve managed to sustain the “tuned-in”/”turned-on” mode for the past six years, and I can assert and authenticate their “digital desires” and need for taking control of the learning process with the following student success stories:

Typical vocabulary building begins with looking up words in the dictionary for their meanings, and this approach was used initially with this assignment by having students go online and look up the definitions for their assigned words in order to learn word meanings.  Retention of this understanding was the important component, and a second approach was used by having the students visualize the meanings in GIMP [freeware; Photoshop equivalent] to begin to move towards remembering the word concepts, and also create digital art … a “product”.

Vocabulary enhancement came to the forefront with acquired skills of manipulating photographs while utilizing various tools and filters within the software. This cognitive and creative process placed the students in a new hands-on environment using photo software that required researching the meanings of the words, then translating them  to visual forms. The students took the word assignments in stride and due to the digital nature of the project were able to visualize their meanings, and generate “product” for public consumption, thus achieving relevance and transcendence. This approach is listed with DigitalWish.com and ePals.com. I received the “ePals Exemplary Teacher Award” honoring my achievements for this assignment/project and others. This project is evidenced at:

http://tomrchambers.com/DA_7_8_RYSS.html

By creating Science Power Point Projects, students used PowerPoint to create presentations based on TEKS/TAKS Grade 8 Science concepts.  They were challenged to take control of the learning process and make science more exciting and interesting to study. They researched the concepts online, and then used a combination of visuals, text and animation to bring their ideas to “life”. The kinetic aspect of animating with text and graphic components was integral to the production process.

The students took ownership of static content and made it their own by using the same digital concepts for their school projects that they were already using on personal projects before and after school. The students took the Science assignments in stride. Due to the digital nature of the project and hands-on hardware/software, they were able to showcase content, and generate “product”.

In terms of public consumption [relevance/transcendence], several of the PowerPoint presentations were utilized as a part of my presentation … “Technology and Creativity in the Classroom” … at the Region 4 Science Conference, Houston, Texas, February 20, 2010. And the presentations are under consideration as supplementary teaching tools for Grade 8 Science. The project is evidenced at:

http://tomrchambers.com/8_ppt_science_10.html

Eighth grade students were asked to explore their lives from past to present via a resume outline to begin to prepare for entry into high school as freshmen. During the process, there was a realization that their participation in and contributions to the educational process along with various achievements and accomplishments over the past eight or nine years had merit and meaning towards their futures as they continued through high school and on to college.

When they sat before their resume outlines getting ready to transfer their information over to a more formal resume format via a Microsoft Word template, there was a sense of awe, pride and self-worth as they reviewed their listings of objectives, schools attended, accomplishments, skills, work histories , such as babysitting, community work, or helping others, hobbies, interests and references.

Even at the “tender” age of 13 or 14, their listings proved to have meaningful content with various building blocks set into place. They could sense the building blocks within their listings, and one student to prove this said that all he would have to do as he progressed through high school was to update his resume he was currently working on so he would be ready for the college application process. This exercise in self-exploration proved to be a worthwhile endeavor as it related to empowering students to want to continue their educational process to be able to update their resumes as they progressed.

This thought alone is a very important one as we all strive to move forward and upward through society with our resumes in hand. I mentioned to the students that over the years, I had used my own resume close to thirty times to obtain various positions in the U.S.A. and abroad, not to mention that I kept it updated on almost a monthly basis. I showed them my resume and they all understood the importance of this kind of document throughout a lifetime.

The resume files were given to the technology teacher in the high school academy. These files acted as letters of introduction for these youngsters. The principal called the students into his office to formalize the enrollment process by actually going over their resumes online. This added credibility to the resume project in the sense that what the students did in the classroom in the junior academy had relevance to their continuation of the educational process via their resumes at the high school academy level. They realized that their resume exercise was not just for a grade, but also for the more important aspect of being interviewed for acceptance and recognition at the next level. Again, transcendence. The project is evidenced at:

http://tomrchambers.com/8th_resume_10-11.html

Seventh grade students acquired web page building skills in HTML source code writing to incorporate web-based stories for children.  The story writing was based on children’s books that target 2-, 3-, 4-year olds to teach this age group morals and values. The students were tasked to write original stories that had a message, and then moved their stories into Web page format in combination with visuals/artwork and through the use of hyperlinks to navigate between pages.

I mentioned to the students that their stories could possibly be used in Day Care and Pre-K at our school to convey their messages (transcendence!). One justification for the project was that  by writing these kinds of stories, based on morals and values for young children, the process would also have a positive effect on the writers.  These seventh grade students began to evaluate who they are and how they behave. . The project is evidenced at:

http://tomrchambers.com/web_stories.html5

Eighth grade students used Microsoft Publisher to create brochures to promote their school. They utilized the school’s website to collect information, and then worked with this copy, their own words and pictures to put together these promotional publications. Working with their school website also made them more aware of the inner workings of the educational system, and instilled a sense of pride for their school and what is accomplished by students, teachers and staff. Printed samples were shown to the Superintendent for him to consider utilizing a student-generated publication to present the school to the community. Again, transcendence. The project is evidenced at:

http://tomrchambers.com/scrncap_bro/index.html

Raul Yzaguirre School For Success [RYSS] – Harmony Hills Elementary Mentorship Workshop

A core group of seventh grade students traveled to Harmony Hills Elementary School in San Antonio to mentor third grade students in the use of graphic arts software to create Digital Art within the  core subject of social studies. The RYSS students had learned how to use the software in my technology applications classes. This mentorship process involved an intensive session of learning and practicing, and project application.

The seventh grade students succeeded in not only keeping the attention of the third grade students, but also making them comfortable with the software and producing gratifying results. The two groups were so engaged throughout the day that the teachers present during the process seemed secondary. The RYSS students had successfully gained a skill, and were empowered to convey what they knew to others … transcendence. The project is evidenced at:

http://tomrchambers.com/ryss_hh.html

Student project listings page:

http://tomrchambers.com/RYSS_TCCC.html

I have retired from teaching Technology Applications for seventh and eighth graders, and I would like to share my students’ projects and accomplishments as a resource:

http://tomrchambers.com/RYSS_TCCC.html