Innovative Educational Tools

During the STEMForYouth project, a wide range of learning methodologies and tools have been extensively considered and reviewed in order to determine what could be the possible best matching(s) in order to prepare the contents for each discipline.

Generally, three methodologies have been found especially relevant and also easily complementary and mixable between them. These methodologies are: i) Hands-on activities ii) Inquiry Based Learning and iii) Learning via experiments.

Accordingly, a combination of the previous methodologies has been recommended for the following disciplines: Engineering, Astronomy, Physics and Citizen Science.

In the case of Mathematics, because of the high intrinsic abstraction of the discipline, these methodologies were not applicable. Another strategy, based on Gamification and Multimedia, was chosen in order to prepare attractive learning materials.

Finally, in the case of Medicine, because of obvious ethical reasons, no experiments or hands-on activities could be envisaged. Thus, learning strategies based on learn by play and educational games was proposed.

 

Hands-on activities characteristics are: relevance and resolution of real-world challenges; application of prior knowledge to solve new problems; collaboration with others; interdisciplinary and self-directed learning. Throughout literature there is ample evidence of positive effects of the introduction of hands-on activities in classrooms, ranging from: self-construction of knowledge; increased engagement, motivation, and interest for learning; enabling critical thinking, active learning, and researching beyond the classroom settings; to connecting theory with practice; fostering problem-solving activities; improving hands-on technical skills as well as those softer social skills of negotiation and team-work.

Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) has been defined as “providing an opportunity for learners to explore collaboratively topics of personal and social interest using the perspectives offered by others as well as by various knowledge domains”. IBL can take many forms (analysis, problem-solving, discovery, and/or creative thinking activities) as well as being applicative to all educational levels and a variety of science disciplines. The following positive effects on pupils have been reported: improvement of transferable skills (teamwork, independent learning, problem solving skills, critical thinking), higher satisfaction levels, learning achievements and relieved difficulty.

Learning via experiments correspond to activities in which pupils work collaboratively or on their own, following guided questions and processes to collect data, simulate with tools or participate in a decision-making environments – this ideally leads to a discovery-based learning. There have been multiple accounts of positive influences of learning via experimenting on academic achievements, especially on female performances. An extensive literature review identified learning via experiments as “being of great importance to science education, by some as almost the defining characteristic of this component of the school curricula”.