Problem-solving with STEM

WA primary schools are preparing students to develop the skill set needed to overcome the threat of automation in the future.

The Foundation of Young Australians recent New Work Smarts report measured 20 billion hours of work by 12 million Australians and highlighted how automation and globalisation is shaping the workforce.

FYA media manager Shona McPherson said technology advances would change the way we work. By 2030, people would spend less time on routine manual tasks at work and spend more time on tasks such as problem solving and communication, requiring a different skill set.

“Enterprise skills, communication skills, creativity, presentation skills, bilingual skills, entrepreneurial skills – all these that were considered second class skills in the past are becoming more in demand and are prioritised by the workforce,” McPherson said.

In WA, primary schools are focusing on STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, to help students develop such skills.

Dalkeith Primary deputy principal Tabitha Stewart.

Dalkeith Primary School deputy principal and STEM and information and communications technology coordinator Tabitha Stewart said: “This is what people are telling us kids need and what the research is telling us they don’t have.”

Dalkeith Primary has been involved in innovative programs such as creating mazes, coding narratives, 3D printing, and sending visual sounds and images to space.

Ms Stewart said the school’s ‘Snapchat to Space’ program with The University of Western Australia International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research senior research fellow Kevin Vinsen enabled the students to go beyond robotics and apply critical thinking and problem solving to not only learn how computers work, but also the algorithms behind them.

“The fact that it will be sent off to space is an authentic and purposeful experience for the kids,” she said.

Innovative STEM program ‘Snapchat to Space’. Photo: Emily Farquhar.

In the north of the state, Dampier Primary School ICT leader and Karratha ICT network chair Aleesha Meuleners has been a key player in adapting to this change by creating rubrics against School Curriculum and Standards Authority judging standards, where one assessment piece covers a variety of learning areas.

“It keeps kids engaged and connects their thinking,” Ms Meuleners said.

Ms Meuleners emphasised the importance of having a student-directed classroom, allowing students to be the masters of their own learning and to encourage group collaboration and creativity.

Dalkeith Primary students creating mazes through group collaboration.

“They can use their strengths to then show what they’ve learnt rather than you giving them exactly what you want,” she said.

Despite current innovative programs, Shona McPherson said there still needed to be a national conversation with government, educators, industry, parents and young people to ensure children were equipped with the skills they needed for future work.

“STEM schools and people who are focussing on building enterprising skills into their curriculum are pockets of light throughout Australia’s education system,” Ms McPherson said.

Categories: Education

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