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STEAM versus STEM

STEM has been a buzz word for a few years now. Everything is STEM. Throw money at STEM. STEM will save us. Science. Technology. Engineering. Maths... it’s catchy. Education stems from STEM, etc. etc.

But is it catch all? STEM has a science-y feel to it. It’s lab coats and thick glasses and white rooms. And of course, it doesn't have to be. Various organisations are doing phenomenal things to make STEM relevant and exciting - hence my new job as Editor of The STEAM Report... but it’s called the STEAM Report, not the STEM Report.  

Quoting from the Education Council’s report (2015) ‘National STEM school education strategy 2016-2026’, the idea behind STEM is that ‘schooling should support the development of skills in cross disciplinary, critical and creative thinking, problem solving and digital technologies, which are essential in all 21st century occupations.’

Creative thinking! Creative Arts subjects, linked with these traditional STEM subjects, substantially increases the possibilities for creative thinking in STEM activities. One of the students in my Year 8 DigiTech class created models and animations in 3D for the College production of War of the Worlds for his final project.

My History students are working together to create a Civilisation-style game showing change throughout history and how you can use it to 'level up' society. Furthermore, tech companies around the world have changed their hiring policies to take on graduates strong in creative thinking and imagination as well as skills in programming, science and mathematics.

They recognise the need to change the culture of Information Technology from the stereotype of Star Trek fans in t-shirts who scream in pain at the touch of sunlight. And they know that if they have creative thinkers in their organisation, they can train those thinkers to be programmers. But it’s a lot harder to train a programmer to be a creative thinker.

STEM isn’t really cross-disciplinary. It’s sort of parallel-disciplinary. It’s taking a number of subjects that traditionally work well together and waving a victory flag when they mesh so nicely together.  

STEAM is a challenge. It is the true definition of cross-discipline. It is taking two very different brain types and asking them to play nicely together. The results can be chaotic. But they are always exciting. Hence The STEAM Report. Let’s see what blows up.


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