The concept of STEM in education started to become a serious policy consideration globally soon after the 2011 State of the Union address in the US when President Barack Obama called for a ramping up of technological innovation to stay competitive with other nations, encourage economic growth, preserve national security and increase ingenuity (Lee, 2012).
In 2015, the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the ideas boom with the launch of the National Innovation and Science Agenda which aimed to drive smart ideas that create business growth, local jobs and global success. This led to then national STEM School Education Strategy 2016–2026, which placed a focus on foundation skills, developing mathematical, scientific and digital literacy, and promoting problem solving, critical analysis and creative thinking skills.
I was teaching secondary IT and Multimedia at the start of this new STEM led evolution in education and one of my responsibilities was to help teachers in other subject areas integrate ICT into their curriculum. What impressed me most about this initiative was that policy makers were encouraging subjects to integrate and come up with units of work involving a team approach to teaching linking mathematics, science and IT teachers.
To me, this made a lot of sense because my first degree in the early 1990s was in Primary Teaching and I was taught to teach with a holistic approach where teaching English often also involved teaching geography, a bit of history, some science and even some mathematics. When I became a secondary teacher, I was amazed as to how siloed things were. There was very little integration between subject areas and students were learning totally different concepts in each and every class with no common themes or continuity in the learning.
The STEM education movement supports moving away from segmented content areas, emphasizing technology to connect the subjects, and relating teaching to the outside world. STEM impresses 21st-century skills acquisition so that students gain proficiency in collaboration, questioning, problem-solving, and critical thinking. All crucial skills for the future workplace (Gunn, 2020).
A technology that connects all STEM areas is digital image manipulation. Scientists, Technologists, Engineers and Mathematicians need to be able to communicate efficiently using a range of visual media and the best image manipulation software in the world is Adobe Photoshop.
This year we celebrated Photoshop’s 30th birthday. It has been around a long time and new features get accessed and refined constantly. I often reassure teachers that they don’t need to be an expert with an app like Photoshop before exposing it to their students. In fact, I don’t think I have ever met anyone who is an actual expert in Photoshop. Not even the people who make Photoshop know everything about it.
One really helpful tool within Photoshop for STEM teachers (and any teacher) is the Save for Web feature. It is the best way to compress large image files down to a manageable size for online while still keeping them looking as good as the original.
Most images from a smartphone or DSLR camera are too large to communicate online. Some can be between 10 & 20 MB but to work well online, they should be under 200 KB. Here are the main steps to compress images for online use with Photoshop.
1 – File > Open > select image
2 – File > Export > Save for Web
3 – Make sure the Preset is on JPEG Medium
4 – Change the Image Size width to 1280 px for landscape images or 960 px for portrait images (the height should change automatically) then click Save and give your file a new name and location.
Click here to see an EduTip video tutorial on this process.
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Gunn, Jennifer (2020), The Evolution of STEM and STEAM in the U.S.
Lee, Jane J (2012), “Obama’s Budget Shuffles STEM Education Deck”. American Association for the Advancement of Science.