There is a teacher shortage in the world, and especially in the United States -- sending schools scrambling to put educators in classrooms. Whether this is due to an increase in student enrollment, balancing out classroom sizes or a large contingent of teachers retiring -- it matters little to the ones that matter most, the children. From the elementary level up through high school, all children want from their teachers is an engaging and dynamic learning environment.
When children fall in love with an educational subject, it is a great thing. This generally comes at a young age and through the influence of a particular teacher. Yet, as teachers become a dwindling resource and are over-worked and over-stressed, students are the ones that suffer. As we push for more education in STEM fields, we find ourselves lacking the "cool" teachers that encourage and foster students inherent want to learn and discover.
Due to teacher shortages, these "cool" teachers may still exist but are unable to provide the education and focus necessary to foster growth. Students tend to stray from the STEM path as they progress through school. When they hit college, there is alarming attrition in STEM majors. This bad news for humanity in general, since future generations will have much more scientifically difficult problems to solve than ever before.
So how can Ed-Tech help with teacher shortages and specifically -- keep students interested in STEM subjects?
Free up teachers to show the applications of science, through hands-on learning.
Loving science requires two essential elements; understanding concepts and applying concepts. Ed-Tech is a great way to teach kids all the concepts and how the universe around them works. Teaching concepts is something that technology can handle, but what it can't do is to take children outside and have them use science in actual physical applications; or have them do experiments in the real world.
For example, a school might need five science teachers for elementary and they have only three (this example is not far-fetched, additional research on teacher shortages can be found at the end of this article). Instead of hiring temps to teach science, what if a classroom aide (who has gone through the curriculum) is there to oversee the kids learning the concepts. The classroom aides would only need to maintain the peace and answer basic questions.
Meanwhile, the three science teachers are now focused on experiments, hands-on activities and demonstrating how science works - becoming the "cool" teacher kids feel more engaged with. They are not deluged with checking homework and filing paperwork, but focused more on making sure the entire class loves what they are doing. This scenario is doable with Ed-Tech. Not only would this make the teachers more available for hands-on learning but more kids would become interested in science just due to the increased level of engagement.
Keep kids interested in STEM subjects with gaming applications focused on learning through narrative.
Kids certainly love movies and gaming. Combining these delivery mechanisms with the right amount of science keeps kids coming back for more. Creating a narrative surrounding science and other STEM subjects where kids learn success along with failure creates that discovery component integral to fostering good scientists. Game-based learning can do an amazing job in helping kids understand the concepts of science and prepare them for the real world, and real applications of the logic they are learning. Awesome game-based Ed-Tech products help kids become awesome problem solvers and creative thinkers.
"Gaming is a great tool to engage students, and trick them into learning," says Edie Erickson, a third/fourth grade teacher at St. Francis De Sales School in Manistique, Michigan and part of the Discovery Education Educator Network. "Including gaming is a wonderful way to augment curricula as it motivates students by giving them a purpose that is relevant to them as a kid. It can also connect students virtually, which is an excellent avenue for teaching students what it means to be a good digital citizen."
Allow teachers to easily identify student helpers who are ahead of the class to help others.
In every classroom there are children who are ahead and children who are behind. Each group deserves equal attention but teachers rightfully allow more focus on those that are falling behind -- and rightfully so. Through Ed-Tech, a teacher could easily identify the kids that are truly ahead, and foster an environment where the kids moving ahead on their own accord could assist the ones falling behind. This can easily be done with Ed-Tech tools, which can provide relevant analytics to teachers.
The entire class can move ahead faster with more students assisting each other. As a father of elementary and middle school girls I can attest that nothing makes kids more proud than to help a teacher they love.
One of the most recognizable trends in education is that educators are realizing that Ed-Tech is a tool to assist them and not their eventual replacement. Once this teacher shortage hits the tipping point there will be a revolution in how schools approach full cycle education. For the first time since the overhead projector education will be in for an awesome ride -- thanks to a very real, very interactive and very engaging impact from education technology.