• My Meaning of STEAM



    Education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

    Amidst a modern world that seems to exponentially increase its demands for instant gratification, STEAM.org endeavors to become a think tank and applied research leader in diligently shifting the instructional paradigm through an educational movement. STEAM is rooted in strategically integrating the Arts into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math curricula. We want to emphasize that to us STEAM, as a concept, is about application and putting STEM content in context while constantly iterating contextual narratives based on student response.


    In doing so, secondary and post-secondary students can actually identity and develop viable skill sets towards expertise and eventual mastery within their own world of passion. Hence, STEAM: Create Your Passion! STEAM is about designing a dynamic and responsive system of education that experientially teaches not only how to live but make a living and thereby fostering responsible student-citizens for life. Our organizational objectives aim to go beyond impacting education in itself, but moreover how society functions at large. Members of society can collectively perceive that life-long learning is catalyzed by mindfully processing life experiences.


    Simply put, we aim to deinstitutionalize the idea of learning only when in school, but that life experiences, and resulting key emotional triggers, are true causes of effective learning. While schooling is supposed to allow us to process and better internalize future interactions so that we can organize, catalogue, reproduce, reapply, and effectively communicate such experiences; the proverbial meaning of STEM; a backbone. The “A” puts things in context; and creates the proverbial omniscient STEAM that is equally as abstract, yet undeniably strong, as love.


    Keeping this in mind allows us to recognize that true measures of individual success are based on human impact and acceptance, camaraderie, and increasing relative quality of life within one’s respective social circles; which are increasing due to the effects of technology on globalization and is ironically leading to a loneliness phenomenon.


    The results of such systematic reform can be so immense that generations from now the very notion of school shootings, public bombings, suicide, and even rape will seize to formulate and no person will ever be shackled to debt for pursuing a higher education, let alone happiness.


    On a cognitive basis the arts elicits emotions which develops empathy and leads to intrinsic motivation, thereby enhancing long-term memory, leading to skills identification due to repetitive application, leading to critical thinking, meta-cognition, problem solving, emotional intelligence, expertise, mastery, harmonized group dynamics among master apprentices which leads to heightened social intelligence and eventually a balanced and responsive society.

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  • Educatocracy…What Should Education Reform Really Like?


    All education systems are not created equally and there is no such thing as a perfect system, but consensus is that our educational infrastructure is in need of reform; this is becoming increasingly evident as research continues to indicate our poor performance nationally, growing gaps along socioeconomic lines, increasing drop out rates, and high unemployment among recent graduates. In essence: a failure of our educational system. It is no wonder then, that education reform has become such a dominant issue in today’s social conversation.


    The question of what “education reform” means, however, is entirely up for debate and often contested. This is because education reform is a wide array of bureaucratic, social and institutional steps, rather than a single action. Common solutions generally suggest revising budgets, addressing rising costs and student debt, and better preparing students to enter and succeed in the workforce. While targeted efforts are sensible, they have been piecemeal and sustained few real improvements. Fundamentally, education reform refers to improving the system in such a way that it contributes to broad economic prosperity, greater individual and societal self-reliance, and a healthy civil society.


    There is little consensus on how to best achieve these objectives, however. I propose a transformative change, a movement that addresses more than test scores, teacher accountability, or high school graduation rates. I propose a reform that cultivates a culture of wisdom and intellect based on accurate communication and knowledge. In other words, a new system that emphasizes critical thinking; that empowers every individual to form educated opinions and make informed decisions; and that allows individuals to effectively communicate these opinions. This is a movement of educational empowerment in which students are equipped with the skills necessary to succeed and contribute to society, leading to an educated citizenry- an Educatocracy.


    We have unfortunately come to categorize “educated” in terms of institutional qualification wherein we are taught to complete mundane tasks of memorization and recitation, when we should ultimately pursue an education whose purpose is to increase our relative quality of life and maximize our contribution to society; we must seek an education that allows us to learn how to live as well as enables us to make a living. Education must address the practical issues that present themselves in a modernized world; it should teach us how to stay out of debt, illuminate more efficient ways of collaboration, and show us how to cultivate mastery in a certain area while still maintaining diversity in application. Education, when correctly implemented, allows us to make more accurate and informed decisions while maintaining awareness of how our decisions can affect others. Empowering students with economic responsibility, accountability and the potential for social impact is key, in addition to a focus on emotional intelligence that allows individuals to properly express and channel emotion into actionable change. This is what Educatocracy aims to accomplish.


    On a large scale, many of the world’s problems arise from a lack of equal access and exposure to useful knowledge and critical skills training; modern education standards lack the intrinsic motivation that drives humanitarian benefits. We have instead been taught to value greed through institutions that prioritize only extrinsic motives for performance; this methodology of purely capitalist output has not worked. I propose that a society that is inspired to work, think, and produce, will perform optimally. In this way, people can understand one another better and collaborate to solve problems-instead of competing solely for the gratification of possessions-thereby developing a sense of empathy and camaraderie at a community level. Creating continuity and synergy between life and learning is a key necessity in an Educatocracy. This synergy enables students to recognize that education is not simply an institutional process but also a lifelong pursuit that provides tools for coping with life’s demands; it provides meaning, context, and purpose to education, and thus an intrinsic motivation to learn.


    For such a transformative movement in education to occur, we must race towards a call to action that communicates the holistic desire for social change via education reform. There is no better platform for this type of call to action than media productions that inspire truth, creativity, and positive impact through thought-provoking narratives that will promote understanding and sow the seeds of Educatocracy. At the2012 Clinton Global Initiative University, Jon Stewart joked about starting a TV show as a means of reaching a large audience for promoting social change. I propose a documentary series on comparative education, so that an audience can see the variations in educational systems around the world.


    Like with anything else that informs important decisions, we need to dig deep into the pros and cons of various forms of pedagogy in order to develop a well-reformed system. Using film as a platform for communication, we can document our research and convey our findings to the public, thereby raising awareness on a large scale and essentially lobbying for an effective overhaul of our current educational system. Following the example of documentaries like Waiting for ‘Superman,’ this film project would examine individual case studies and showcase different instruction methods across select school systems around the world as a means of seeking to understand other countries’ initiatives in youth engagement and empowerment.


    Educatocracy is a movement towards a more harmonious globalization and a collective increase in quality of life through an “organic” education system. Through an Educatocracy, we can achieve a comprehensive system that allows empowered, well-informed, emotionally aware individuals to complementarily utilize their skills and collectively have positive impact on society. It is a solution to the ailments of our current state of education and largely, to the maladies of society.


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    English: Detail of Preamble to Constitution of...

    English: Detail of Preamble to Constitution of the United States Polski: Fragment preambuły Konstytucji Stanów Zjednoczonych (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


    Reforming education has been a hot topic for some time now. The term relates to the effects of budget cuts for public schools, to recent college graduates not being able to find adequate work to pay off their debts from student loans, to not enough skills within a specific field for companies to hire for the expertise they require. Education reform refers to reducing drop out rates and, at large, allowing society to maintain itself economically and be self-reliant on its resources while maintaining awareness of proper use of its resources.


    What is being well educated? Is it about having endless knowledge? Is it about maintaining creativity? Is it about reciting things we memorize? It can be all this, but as a society we ultimately seek education to increase our relative quality of life. We seek an education that allows us to learn how to live, as well as make a living. An education should show us how to stay out of debt, how to collaborate with others, how to develop mastery in a field but enough diversity to be able to transfer our mastery into other fields or trades. Education should show us how to communicate effectively, and filter between a wise decision and a futile decision, not just for ourselves but also for those that could be affected by our decisions. We live in an information age, but are so overwhelmed with information that we spend most of our time just filtering through and minimally learning how to specifically use it based on the task at hand. Our brains become as scattered in thought as the plethora of information that we are constantly bombarded and have to keep up with and then blame the lack of focus on some disorder; ADHD perhaps?

    On a large-scale, much of the world’s problems come from a lack of an equal access and exposure to useful knowledge and critical skills training. Not just useful in the sense being able to balance a business’s finances but in the sense of making decisions and solving problems in pressured situations, or merely when there is a call to action. It comes from a lack of intrinsic motivations that drive humanitarian benefits versus greed by prioritizing extrinsic motives for performance. Simply put, a society that is inspired to work, think, and produce will work optimally rather than a society driven to produce by manipulation and special privileges, whether monetary or otherwise, placed on them by some third-party for specific performance. In this way people can understand each other, and diplomatically solve each other’s problems instead of competing for possession and pride.

    These variations of motives take place regularly in society, and are regularly portrayed in the media.  In fact, society places considerable dependence on media for their knowledge. We are exposed to the biases of politics and therefore choose our sides based on the amount of exposure we specifically have to a bias. It is okay to take sides, and have competition, but the sides we take must be made on decisions that are rationalized by means of weighing in a truthful source not just a series of subjective opinions. Subjective opinions that often come from media are sources of fuel; emotional instigators that we must learn to use as a catalyst to further our research on what specifically sparked our attention. Yet people so often take sides blindly, with little explicit knowledge of why they chose a specific argument and simply discredited the other.

    Using religion as an example, how many people who have read the Bible, have also read the Quran, or vice versa? Myself included, no doubt. We are born into a religion, and unless something happens in our lives that make us question what we are born into, we accept it as truth. Yet, most of history’s religious feuds have come from political intervention and radical assumptions versus a devote understanding of the intrinsic values of the “counter-religion”. Many religions preach about forgiveness and love. How about we take it a step further from forgiveness and teach them what they do? At least so that their successors won’t make the same mistake.

    A movement for educational empowerment should be a governmental bylaw. As we have a democratic system where the people can voice their opinion freely, [where the people are] created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as the U.S Constitution so eloquently states it. However, this democratic system is seriously flawed if the people have no common denominator for useful access to information and the ability to effectively communicate what they learn. John F. Kennedy is known for stating:

    And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your countryMy fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

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  • Draft on Creativity, Problem Solving, and Transfer

    A depiction of the world's oldest continually ...

    Image via Wikipedia

    Creativity is key for developing an imagination strong enough to solve problems, and science and math are the tools that must be used to execute and organize the solution. If we don’t know that a tool exists and how to use it, then we can’t apply it. A sound creative mind will allow the individual to know when and why to use the tools that they have learned about. In regards to schooling, I’m referring to scholastic skills like reading, writing, math, and science as the tools. The biggest issue in education is that there is no sense of why students are learning what they learn when they are learning it. It’s something they have to do and must have faith in the system that eventually they will really need it. Yet, “for now” and the convenience of our educational administration we can tell the students they need these tools in order to pass the class and move on to the next class. A mere get-by, as so many students do…do what it takes to get by.

    Needless to say, cramming, and getting by is a skill in and of itself, but what if we could foster an environment that truly allowed for an application for a need to be creative. A sense of pressure driven by a call to action that derives an intrinsic motivator out of student? This takes place on a regular basis in acting conservatories, actors in training must be truthful in an imaginary circumstance, and in doing so their skills in memory and literary analysis are passively fine tuned in order to perform under the greatest pressure…to an audience; while still “forgetting” about the technicalities of blocking, or if they got the lines right. Cognitive embodiment and emotional elicitation is key to fostering creativity and having something to work on that is of passion for the student and will thereby will develop problem-solving skills because they will actually care to solve the problem. Today’s students are spoon fed information, no wonder why they are having a hard time being creative…they don’t need to be.

    Transfer is a matter of being exposed to enough skill sets and specialties so that they can apply concepts from one specialty to the setting of another. Again the teaching of transfer skills cannot be technically derived, it must be simulated passively and anecdotally. An example of this is in a theatre rehearsal an actor is having a hard time projecting his voice. So the director approaches him and instead of saying you’re not being loud enough, he changes the circumstance and tells him that your acting partner is partially deaf. Naturally, the actor would have to raise his voice and he convinced himself to do this based on past experience in real life with people who are hard at hearing. The hard part is training teachers to instruct in this manner and understand that the best way to convince someone of something is to have them believe that what you are trying to convince them of was their original idea.

    Once this, the student will build momentum for drawing on other disciplines and personal experiences to solve a particular problem at hand and the act of combining multiple disciplines and experiences will foster creativity as they have to envision the end result of their combination at an abstract level. … like a dynamic spatial game (i.e.: envisioning cubes rotating in one’s mind) using abstract principles that are based on a keen understanding of concepts, simplified for communication by their labels. This is why language learning is so important, because when we learn skills we are learning the labels that are used to communicate those skills. In medicine we may talk about the range of motion, or the systolic pressure vs the diastolic pressure, or hypo vs. hyper prefixes, in business we may talk about return on investment and say out ROI or Cap Rate to cover those concepts and come back with a proposed profit margin on an idea. Todays students need a depth in a particular skill but “linguistic” ability to communicate with those of other skills. Content learning isn’t as important anymore, because of our information highways, it’s how to use the content we are exposed to and creatively apply it with our scholastic tools to solve life’s problems is what’s important in education. Therefore a new emphasis on collaboration and life simulation by project learning is what will drive a well educated and meta-cognitive future generation.

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  • Education Theory Brainstorm 1

    The Socratic Method

    Image via Wikipedia


    I was sitting in my Cognitive Learning Class today (2/2/11) and my lecture notes turned into these notes half way through, just thought I’d share:

    Side note:
    Everyone is waiting for someone to give the answer and then writing them down so they can study for the test…the info won’t be retained, it’ll be studied, not applied.
    Potential Solution: have open discussions, where no notes are allowed, without the pressure or concern of having to take the exam or any kind of testing. The people are in the course because they want to be there, so the information is of genuine interest so the contributions are emotionally driven…therefore committed to memory.

    Raising interest in other topics: Every student has a dynamic; for example, one may like baseball and biking whereas the other may like baseball and rock climbing. The biker may not have been introduced or compelled to try climbing, but because his personality resonates with that of the biker they may be compelled to try the activity together. This concept can transfer to other domains within a course structure and having students do core studies that they are often required to do. To answer the notorious question: Why do we have to learn this or when will we ever use this? You find someone who genuinely uses and applies it (besides the teacher; that’s like a child not listening to a parent vs. retaining the same advice from a friend or “favorite uncle”) and you expose them to the students experiencing the notorious question. Suddenly the topic is interesting and genuine motivation for diversity sets in.

    Study Direction: A pool of people with one common interest must have a second major interest that no other person in the pool has and let the Socratic discussions begin! Test: have a caveat where the students must at some point in the discussion express the other hobby or interest that they have within the context of the main topic.

    Proactive vs reactive…being able to internalize information and see multiple applications versus honing in on one application respectively. Always compare the arts’ reactivity to practical proactivity!

    As I’m sitting in class, I get bored with the material and go off in my own world based on a seed that was given to me in class…pro: If I weren’t in class I would not have been funneled into a creative mentality that allows me to go off on my creative tangent while in class. The con: I am in class and missing the material that is to be applied to class exams-hence I fail the test and have to chase the professor to give me an incomplete so I can sleep ten hours a week to make up all the work! = Practical problem based on social condition/ or diamond in the rough if the creative circumstance is extracted and used properly!

    Random Thoughts:

    • ADHD Physical needs for heightened attention: origami and drawing?
    • Make class like going to the theatre, you expect to be entertained so you get drawn into the experience without waiting for the thrilling moment.
    • Math = step functions (get or don’t get it at various points in time, feels like you’re making no progress but all of a sudden you get it (practice)
    • Organic Chemistry: maybe a combination but essentially needs linear mastery learning
    • Practice in a domain can be hindered by fear so one should be trained to fight the fear or laziness or both (i.e.: public speaking
    • Understand human emotions in order to understand human functionality-how? Meisner and Cognition = holistic cognitive embodiment
    • Learning to trust yourself and what you know, and having the confidence to push forward regardless of the hurdles in front of you
    • Finding a rhythm
    • Classes and life need lanes on the roads but no train tracks or training wheels necessary
    • The training wheels are used during exposure to the “tools of education”.
    • Knowledge should be retained fluidly, dynamically, rhythmically not compartmentalized…let the body function as a whole.


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