by Adam Steiner
As human society meanders toward a blurring of human and digital, intelligence and artificial intelligence, and virtual and authentic, our schools need to resist the urge to “go robot” and instead focus on timeless human qualities: creativity, compassion, and critical thinking. Technology, in particular, should not be directed toward skill practice or assessment even if it is a particularly efficient tool for these tasks. Technology should be used in collaboration with other frameworks including science, engineering, arts, and math. STEAM for Social Justice employees to technology to work toward improving our students’ fundamental humanity above all else.
Rather than embracing the digital world or attempting to deny it, schools should be using modern technology to supercharge our traditional work with a social justice theme. In my school system, our teachers are doing just that across the spectrum of teaching: from curriculum design to teaching with technology to empower students, to giving students a platform to demonstrate learning and share their passion with the community in a social justice frame.
Here is one great example of STEAM for Social Justice:
Technology education teacher, Michelle Roy, was planning a unit on adaptive and universal design when presented with a real-world challenge right in her classroom. Her student, Ava, who uses a wheelchair to move around, was looking forward to an upcoming Special Olympics soccer event but was concerned that her chair was not well suited to controlling and moving the ball.
Ms. Roy’s students went right to work, collaborating in teams to develop a set of options for Ava to try out and consider. Students used the engineering and design process to assess Ava’s needs, to sketch out potential solutions, and to develop prototypes. Ultimately, Ava selected the option that worked best for her and was thrilled to use it in her successful Special Olympics experience.
This type of learning experience teaches students so much more than a discrete set of skills related to digital technology. STEAM for social justice inspires students, connects their learning with the real world, and gives them the job of discovering their own capability to tackle complex issues. In other words, it prepares students for the 4th Industrial Revolution by giving them the tools necessary to maintain our essential humanity and compassion in the face of so much change.