What do STEM and Arts Education look like in the “new normal?”

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced arts educators worldwide to revise their curriculums to accommodate a remote world. As a result, various trends have emerged, including increased video conferencing usage, a focus on collaboration, and an emphasis on dialogue and discovery.

While some subjects like history and English are easier to migrate, some coursework is harder to convey over video. Teachers and administrators are challenged with how to bring arts and extracurricular education like band and drama to students, especially if those students have insufficient access to technology. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education has also taken a hit.

While the U.S. Census Bureau reports that nearly 93% of people in households with school-age children have students engaged in some form of distance learning, not all students are getting the same education. 

“[S]ome coursework is harder to convey over video. Teachers and administrators are challenged with how to bring arts and extracurricular education like band and drama to students.”

According to a survey by The School Superintendents Association, 60 percent of superintendents reported that their most significant barrier to transitioning to an online learning model was the lack of internet access at students' homes.

Today, having internet access is as fundamental to education as books and teachers. That’s why T-Mobile created Project 10Million, to help close the homework gap by offering eligible households hotspots and 100GB of data per year, free of charge, for five years. Learn more about how your school can get involved.

What's working.

At T-Mobile for Education, we've picked up on some emerging trends as teachers and students navigate the new normal.

Before the pandemic, teachers used interactive modules and video conferencing to engage with students. Video has now moved beyond a novelty and has cemented itself as the medium of choice.

According to a report by EdWeek, video conferencing platform Zoom received a surge of new users in April 2020, including 90,000 schools in 20 countries. While the massive adoption of video conferencing has helped educators reach students in home-based classrooms, educators have also found that teamwork and collaboration in performance-based classes and rehearsals can be difficult to re-create.

When it comes to electives that rely on timing, video can get tricky. It’s important for educators to give students tools that let them work independently, so they are not disadvantaged if they can’t get internet access at specific times. Educators can promote collaboration with creativity, flexibility, and planning.

Let's dig into a few examples:

STEM: Video helps usher the STEM core curriculum into the new normal. STEM prioritizes problem-solving, collaboration, and creative-thinking skills to ensure students, especially in grades 6-12, succeed in the workforce.

Educators translate the curriculum by sending activity kits to students or holding demos via video conference. Others turn to websites like Code.org or Engineering Go for It (eGFI), which are loaded with STEM courses and activities.

Learn more about the STEM curriculum and how it enables passion and diversity.

Art: Online platforms allow students to share and talk about their artwork. Students can use the "raise hand" function on video conferencing software like Google Hangouts to indicate they want to share their work by sharing their screens. Then, students discuss interpretations and exchange constructive criticism.

Several excellent resources help art teachers connect with students. The Art Project has tours of famous art galleries and museums, along with suggested coursework. Incredible Art Department is full of resources for visual arts and Art Education 2.0 is an open-source member community where teachers can share ideas.

Music: Ensemble music is meant to be played within a group, so teachers are having to adapt by creating individual opportunities in place of group activities. Some send untitled sheet music to students to learn, record themselves playing, and then guess the song's name. Students spend a week learning the piece, and then record performances. Teachers can apply this formula in practical "playing tests" where students are graded based on their performances.

Live performances are largely the same: After rehearsals, teachers ask students to record individual performances, which teachers can edit into a single performance, using tools ChorusClass. The students then allocate time to watch the performance together, "grade" one another, and discuss areas for improvement. The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has a host of webinars and resources for teachers.

Theater: Drama class thrives on collaboration and community. Teachers, administrators, and playwrights are exploring various ways to bring the theater experience remotely.

For instance, The Show Must Go Online is a musical designed for distance learning. Students record themselves performing monologues that, when played in succession, form a storyline. This helps students still feel connected to group drama activities, even when they’re alone.

An emphasis on dialogue and discovery.

Dialogue is already built into most remote education curricula. Online discussions through school-sanctioned platforms like Blackboard and Canvas have become the norm.

“[S]ubscriptions to online libraries and streaming services such as Kanopy (classic cinema), Amazon Kindle (books), and Spotify (music) . . . encourage discovery.”

To supplement, educators introduced asynchronous communication (AC) tools like chat channels and bulletin boards groups to encourage discussion. These engage students by increasing collaboration through discussion and peer-to-peer support.

More freedom means more opportunities for students to explore other areas and subjects for learning. Teachers maintain excitement for enrichment activities by showing students new materials they can access online. Administrators are granting students subscriptions to online libraries and streaming services such as Kanopy (classic cinema), Amazon Kindle (books), and Spotify (music) to encourage discovery.

These activities give students a break from academic coursework and the freedom and inspiration to work on creative projects.

Coloring between the lines.

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the curriculum for educators. What was once an engaging classroom experience is now supported largely by video conferencing technology and the cloud.

For more tips and resources on navigating today’s teaching challenges, check out Tools for educators: Meeting the challenge of distance learning.

Are your students getting the internet access they need to stay engaged in the arts? Find out how T-Mobile's Project 10Million can help.

To learn more, call your Government Account Executive or connect with us.