STEM Curriculum that meets the Cool Factor

By Gina Faulk – General Manager, EdGate Correlation Services

Like many busy working moms I was recently last-minute Googling birthday ideas for my 10-year-old son.  One particular item popped up that caught me by surprise. Not because it involved slime (always popular) or Nerf (If I find one more stray Nerf bullet!), but because it was a product that I recognized from working in EdTech, an augmented reality product produced by MergeVR that my company, EdGate, had recently aligned to science standards. A product had actually passed through that invisible toy/curriculum barrier into the microcosm of cool educational products that a 10-year-old might actually dig AND learn something from. 

I realized it wasn’t just the MergeVR cube that has made its way from suggested Amazon.com birthday gift lists all the way to the classroom.   We all know how much kids love Minecraft.  I mean breeding virtual sheep while also learning multiples of four; who can resist?   And now Sony has landed on the scene in a big way with a kit that contains…wait for it…all the tools to build robots!  Honestly, if teachers are arguing over who gets to build the Sony KOOV robot, students must be clambering to build them too.

But then you have to ask yourself the age-old question; can a product be considered super cool AND actually teach to standards?  Of course, the answer is yes and not just because I’m writing this article about how products can be educational and fun.

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Take the MergeVR cube.  Imagine using a cube that offers augmented reality experiences where you hold the solar system in the palm of your hand, examine dinosaur fossils and ancient artifacts, and investigate the human heart.  Students use a smart phone, tablet, or laptop to interact with the MERGE Cube, learning complex concepts through the mixed reality experience, as well as accompanying lessons.

“This is the first school year that we’re rolling out – but teachers and students are absolutely in love with it,” said Jeremy Kenisky, Vice President/Creative at MergeVR. “Students get super engaged and often are able to retain the information much more clearly than looking at photos in a book or reading something off of a web page. By holding digital objects in their hands and creating their own experiences using some of our apps, they learn faster, easier, utilize a lot more of their senses, and have fun.”

The MergeVR cube activities and lessons align to U.S. state science, ELA, Math and Technology Education standards, NGSS, Australian standards and more.  Kenisky commented that the standards alignments have been integral to sales. “The alignments are required to have any serious conversation with a school or district. With teachers knowing it’s aligned, it’s easier for them to champion it internally and get the buy in required to deploy it in their school.”

Sony’s Naasira Wahid, Marketing Program Manager, echoed these thoughts. “We believe that having a K-12 robotics kit that aligns to the important educational standards such as Science (NGSS), Language Arts (CCSS), Art (National Core Arts Standards), Math (CCSS), CSTA K-12 Science (CSTA) and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards allows teachers/educators to easily confirm which standards the KOOV Educator Kit curriculum satisfies, allowing it to fit easily into their lesson plans.  We want to ensure that implementation is easy and can work for the teacher’s needs.”

Sony KOOV’s all-in-one coding, robotics and design kit is not only engaging—again, you get to build a robot!—it also combines digital coding with physical building.  The product comes with fifty hours of in-depth, easy-to-follow educational content and 43+ pre-designed, pre-coded “Robot Recipes” ranging from simple structures to complex animals and vehicles. Once a student masters the basic concepts and skills, they can use their imagination to create an infinite number of robotic combinations.

“To ensure students are ready to face the needs and challenges of an ever evolving job market, different types of skills are needed for jobs both in STEM and in many other fields.  We believe that engaging children through the use of technology that incorporates hands-on learning, design and collaboration is a great way to incorporate real-world skills into the classroom.” 

It comes back to this: if you can engage students in the classroom through the use of robotics, VR and coding while at the same time they are unknowingly learning, then you’ve succeeded; you’ve found a product that meets the Cool Factor.

Gina Faulk is the GM at EdGate Correlation Services, the leading company to offer content mapping to global educational performance standards and scalable methods to prepare educational content for the classroom.  Gina has over 20 years of experience in publishing, previously working for Learning.com and Macmillan Publishing Solutions.  As the GM at EdGate she focuses on business development and offering the highest level of technology and customer service to EdGate’s 250+ clients. 

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