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It can be daunting trying to stay up to date with all the tech news. School Stream is here to help. We have trawled the web to bring you this useful guide of everything you need to know to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to all the trends set to define the world of STEM this year.

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1. Belonging and Inclusion

We all know that belonging and inclusion are critical across all areas of work, life and school. STEM is no different. If we want the students of today to thrive in our contemporary world, being able to understand data and apply it to solve complex problems is an imperative skill set. 

So how does belonging fit into all this? There is loads of existing research to demonstrate “a direct belonging–interest pathway among students underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.”

 What does “belonging and STEM” look like in action?

The US-based not-for-profit 100Kin10 has a big goal: To “train and retain 100,000 excellent STEM teachers”. A core part of that mission is to keep students engaged in STEM while they’re at school, with the hope of creating a student-to-teacher pipeline that leads to a steady drip of STEM teachers from all walks of life. During the course of their most recent research, 100Kin10 found that prioritising a focus on equity, representation and belonging in STEM education acts as ‘a powerful antidote’ to students and teachers disengaging from STEM. In other words ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’, so the more STEM teachers from all backgrounds, the better.

It will come as no surprise to any of us, that when participants did feel a shift towards belonging in STEM, in 68% of cases it was facilitated by a teacher. In fact, many of the young people surveyed were so influenced by their STEM teachers that they became STEM teachers themselves!

“At school, I had a fantastic Technology teacher who helped nurture my interest in computing and the internet. Coupling this with the environment I had at home with a parent working in IT helps drive me in my day-to-day at School Stream and helping others to feel more included and supported in an ever-changing and fast-paced tech world.” 

Brad Carter, School Stream Operations Manager

2. Cybersecurity education for everybody

With so many facets of our lives now mediated through technology, understanding cybersecurity principles and becoming tech-literate is important for everyone from our grandparents to our children. Increasingly, experts are saying it is never too early to get started. There are pros and cons to adding cybersecurity to an already-crowded curriculum, so we all have a role to play in upskilling ourselves and our families. As ever, it takes a village. To get started, check out one of the many children/teen-centric guides to cybersecurity online. A trusted source such as the Australian Cyber Security Centre will have the most up-to-date information.

 3. The Natural Environment as inspiration for STEM

It’s no secret that outdoor play is loaded with benefits for childhood development. However, a recent Deakin University published in the Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning has been able to quantify just how impactful outdoor learning can be in forming our STEM identities – especially for young girls. And if you’re wondering what a STEM identity is, Study author Professor Coral Campbell describes it like this:

‘To develop a STEM identity means the child can relate to STEM in what they’re doing, and they have a belief in themselves that they are able to do whatever the STEM learning or activity is.’

While this study focused on how the unstructured bush kinder environment intrinsically nurtures and inspires a connection with STEM, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that heading out into the great outdoors for learning experiences is about to become “a thing”. Plenty of online literature suggests we will see more students and educators making the most of their local natural environment as a jump-off point for STEM-related study that feels exciting and relevant for students. In a world where one-third of respondents in this US survey would rather clean their toilet than ‘do math’, anything that gets children and teens excited about STEM is worth a shot.  

“In math, first graders learn to count in groups of 10s. For one activity, I sent my students running into the woods to collect 100 sticks in about 10 minutes. Partners worked together to accurately count and record the 10 bundles (with 10 sticks in each) that they created.” 

Alissa Alteri Shea, Edutopia

4. AI and the rise of ChatGPT

Would this even be a list of 2023 STEM trends without mentioning ChatGPT?  This viral AI writing chatbot was all over the media earlier this year. There was panic in academic circles that plagiarism would be rampant, and even Nick Cave chimed in to denounce the bot as “a grotesque mockery of what it is to be human” and “replication as travesty”. Ouch. But ChatGPT and other AI tools like it are not going anywhere, so we can expect to see teachers and researchers finding ways to utilise this kind of technology in the classroom, experimenting with it to see if it can support learning, if it has any potential for accessibility for students with disability and, of course, what an ethical use of AI bots looks like in a classroom context. Irrespective of how the ChatGPT issue unfolds, one thing is for certain. Writing bots like ChatGPT are no replacement for creativity, originality, experience, and cannot ever truly replicate the growth that comes from doing the real work with an educator. 

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