Rising to the challenge of getting the ball rolling for STEM learning

May 11, 2021

Our teachers were recently invited by the school to share updates on their latest professional accreditations and accomplishments that they attained as part of an annual reminder encouraging everyone to be a lifelong learner.

Of all the exciting stories we celebrated, it’s the vision for a better-connected science learning community carved out by Computer Science Teacher Chris Siu that got us into a great rethink.

Chris is a high school teacher who’s also teaching the newly created Digital Literacy and Computer Science courses – a pathway for students exposing them to a tech-driven future – and he is about to crack things up a notch and create as many opportunities as possible to engage students in computer science.

“Computer science or technology doesn’t have to be complex or costly to be engaging,” said Chris.

“And unlike our conventional thinking, we should put our focus on skills and knowledge development and what technology offers to students rather than the hardware or device itself.”

“Coding is today’s language of creativity. All our children deserve a chance to become creators instead of consumers of computer science,” he further elaborated with a quote from thought leader and prominent computer scientist Maria Klawe.

“It’s also about introducing to students the importance of being an ethical user of technology at an early age.”

“Making sure students are armed with skills that are helping them cope with changes and uncertainties in the future are another key focus here.”

A while back the school invited experienced STEM teachers to visit CAIS for a discussion and explore ways to incorporate fun and cool gadgets and software in the classroom, thereby adding value to existing programs. During the discussion, Chris and other STEM teachers were introduced to various tools and ideas, some of which have already been used in the school, while some would require minor twists to maximize and enhance current learning programs.

AI(Artificial Intelligence), IoT (Internet of Things) platform Blynk, open-source electronic prototyping platform Arduino/micro:bit, and drone programming for example, are some of the innovative programs that can engage younger students without a complicated set-up, and can be adjusted as sophisticated as an advanced learner would want to, or as simple as a beginner would like it to be.

“Introducing these tools is a step to flesh out the idea for a more refreshed approach to learn tech and science.”

“The idea of getting these new learning systems in place has been flowing around for some time and there’s no better time than now to connect students with tech.”

“The past year was an unprecedented year which upended norms and rhythms for both teachers and students.”

“It taught us to be ready to transform our way of learning and working, find ways to get over with Zoom fatigue or make swift transition between in-person and online learning or simply make things happen using what we have.”

“While the pandemic gives us a New Normal which we are already living in and embracing it, it’s equally important for us to continue to be open-minded and stretch our brain.”

He is hoping to make use of these platforms including Micro:bit, Scratch, Python and MIT App Inventor which have been introduced to students to complement the overall learning experience.

“Having students really engage with, and talk about science and tech help build their confidence in pursuing further study or a career in STEM.”

“By helping connect kids with tech gives them perspective and in return, they develop a deeper relationship and understanding of the impact brought by STEM learning.”

The former expat educator who has over 20 years of experience in education relocated from the UK to Hong Kong in 2010 and then joined CAIS.

“One thing that got me stoked in engaging with tech was that we were always learning – the learning curve never ends.”

“It’s great to see students develop an interest in STEM, and knowing our alumni who have chosen to pursue a career in the field is even more rewarding.”

It’s a timely start for Chris to get the STEM program up and running to coincide with the planning of the CAIS Phase II STEM innovation centre as he sits on the committee to help get the idea off the ground.

The building next to the main school campus is working on a new playground for STEM learning which will provide learning spaces for 3D printing, laser cutting, AR/ VR experience and robotics.

As a teacher who’s currently teaching AP (Advanced Placement®) Computer Science Principles and Computer Science courses under the Alberta curriculum framework, Chris will also teach the AP Computer Science A course in the coming academic year. He has also gained the accreditation to teach IB Computer Science course.

CAIS is also registered with the Cisco Networking Academy, providing support for students who are keen to get involved with computer science such as completing IT Essentials online course in high school, a move that befits the potential expansion of the STEM program at CAIS.