Starting Off STEM On the Right Foot

Penny Conway
Penny Conway
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October 9, 2018 marked the final event in our A+ Academy series on how to make the connection between your technology initiatives and available funding resources. We covered creating a foundation for connectivity through E-Rate programs, and we dug deep into a plethora of funding sources for STEM. With all of this information at your fingertips, now is the time to take everything you have learned and act.

In our last event, Funding to Empower STEM Education within Your District, we featured a STEM cart solution from Microsoft with options for Minecraft: Education Edition or LittleBits Kits. Let’s break down the cart as an example of how it could be a funding-friendly technology solution.

As a refresher, each cart includes student devices, student software licenses, and professional development. You can choose LittleBits Kits or Minecraft: Education Edition for your STEM curriculum focus.

Starting Small with STEM
A STEM cart could be your introduction to building a Computer Science (CS) program—and potentially the curriculum needed to support it. Approximately 21 states are now mandating CS as part of the standard K-12 curriculum. This means schools need to think big while starting small to see what works. LittleBits Kits and Minecraft: Education Edition can be an entry point for your programs. Both have a focus on CS with built-in lesson plans, curriculum support, and a powerful team of experts behind them to help you along the way. If you’re just dipping your toes into the waters of CS and STEM, these tools are a great place to start.

Supporting Teacher Development
New programs can only be impactful if teachers in the district are on board and properly equipped. Throughout our series, we talked a lot about the funding sources for research around teacher development and performance. With each STEM cart comes Professional Development for teachers, by teachers who have lived through—and learned from—the process. Funders are actively looking to learn from what is happening in your district and how you are continually developing and improving the outcomes your teachers have in the classroom.

Improving Student Outcomes
This is why we’re all here, isn’t it? It should go without saying that everything we do in a district is for this purpose. But, when it comes to funding, you’re going to need to spell it out. STEM tools are new and fun, and professional development is a necessity. However, without the rock-solid foundation of literacy in digital or print forms, then we’re building a house on sand. Each STEM cart comes equipped with 30 student devices and the cart itself—which allows you the mobility to use between classrooms to reach more students. Furthermore, each one of those devices is equipped with Windows 10 and Office 365 Education to give you the power of accessibility with learning tools. These tools improve comprehension, encourage independent reading, and give students the opportunity to start learning where they are. With learning tools, you can set your students’ baseline of literacy and track their progress to provide tangible results to parents, school leaders, and—you guessed it—funders.

I hope that our A+ Academy series helped you learn a lot about funding sources for your existing projects, and how to be imaginative about new projects too. We have shared a lot of funding information and technology solutions, so if you find yourself needing to re-watch or catch up on a missed session, I encourage you to head over to the academy!

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Penny Conway

Penny is a Program Manager for Microsoft in Education at Connection, helping schools leverage technology to improve student and teacher outcomes. Her area of expertise is the complete education offering from Microsoft including; Windows 10 devices, Microsoft 365 Education products and Professional Development. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her family.

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