Technology in Education: The Digital STEM Fair

You’ve been to a science fair, right?  Tri-fold boards, volcanoes and blue ribbons.  This month, my colleagues and I shepherded the “STEM Fair” into existence.  The STEM Fair is a showcase for any Science, Technology, Engineering or Math project our students produced over the course of a month.  My school produced forty to fifty blog posts, hundreds of digital pictures, a dozen two minute videos, thirty presentations and about ten individual physical showcases.  I have a room filled with Japanese art-chemistry, rocket cars, rockets of various propulsion methods, a small robot, a Lego-Branded robot, paper gliders, a seesaw and more.  How can a teacher show off his students work to parents, grandparents, etc who may not be able to attend the event physically?

The Digital STEM Fair.

I have I ever told you this is my other…other….other blog?  I have a handle at Lumberjocks, I blog here and I blog at school.  Well, my students blog.  I facilitate the school’s Website Committee.  Last year, I revamped the committee’s operation – launching a WordPress-powered blog.  This year, I opened the site to the various other parts of school – student newspaper, various academic classes and clubs.  This week, I will use this student-centered, student-owned tool to create a digital gateway into the Math/Sci department at my school.

The Plan:

A splash page which directs parents to the different classes.  The classes will link to STEM Project Proposals, Updates & Final Posts.  All of this can be sorted by a strong tagging system.  WordPress also makes certain posts “sticky” – meaning they always lead the blog’s front page.  I’d like to “farm” this work out to my students, but most likely I’ll need to do this, as I have administrator access.

Next, I’ll have the students upload their videos to a web-hosting service and embed those videos into the posts itself.  I use Youtube as a video host, so I need to turn of the “suggested video” option.  If a “suggested video” happens to be controversial, we don’t want people thinking it’s the school’s issue.

Lastly, my students will create a inclusive slideshow of the work they did, embedding this into the splash page.

Our school does have some rules which I should be aware of –

1. Each kid’s parents/guardian signs a media release.

2. Only use first names.

3. Any video is unsearchable & password protected.  WordPress can password protect individual posts and many sites like Youtube have an unlisted option.

4.  Don’t put anything up which shows the school in a bad light…

5.  Last but not least, turn comments off.

I like these rules – if you blog about children, take them into account.  Teacher Tom only posts pictures of kids hands and keeps the screen squiggly.  Other bloggers do the same.  I tend to only take shots of the finished products. Unlike my examples, the student blog has a kid-driven focus – its intent is to show our students and their competence.  I try to keep that in mind as I put student work “out there”.

Make it safe & keep the rubber side down.