Trevor Harwell has never left the classroom.
Although he now spends his days solving higher education data problems, the software engineer developed a passion for technology at an early age. In fact, the California-based leader describes taking to technology as a “duck on the water.”
And he’s been swimming upstream ever since. Starting as a frontend developer, Trevor Harwell continued to navigate deeper waters, becoming the interim Vice President of Engineering for his company.
Yet his experience isn’t entirely unique. Building technological skills early are critical to preparing young people for the modern workforce. For this reason, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education has seen a rise in popularity in recent years.
Witnessing its impact firsthand, Trevor Harwell lays out six benefits of a STEM curriculum.
In many ways, STEM promotes academic freedom. Thinking outside the box isn’t just recommended. It’s demanded. In a STEM-based classroom, this philosophy is nurtured. Learners are challenged to explore, experiment, and move beyond existing boundaries.
STEM students ask questions. As simple as it sounds, this task is a major part of pushing past existing beliefs. By adopting this free-thinking approach, Trevor Harwell believes STEM produces students who are self-starters and intrinsically motivated to expand their own learning. This is a valuable asset in any workplace.
Sparks critical thinking
Critical thinking is another byproduct. This curriculum focuses on processes, procedures, and logic to solve problems. When applied in a real-world setting, being able to think through potential solutions becomes much more manageable through this lens.
All of these skills are rooted in the scientific method. With STEM, exploration is encouraged. Using a simple, step-by-step approach, students learn to take swings in an environment where it’s alright to fail and try again. This is how technology and artificial intelligence continue to advance.
Increases technology use
STEM and technology are tightly bonded. As early as primary school, students are taught the basics of coding, explains Trevor Harwell. This exposure breeds familiarity and comfort. Technology no longer intimidates. In an increasingly digital world, students can use products and devices to connect and grow without hesitation.
Learning doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Knowledge is often meaningless without implementation and utility. STEM teaches practical concepts that can be applied immediately. When students can instantly see the value in their learning, they are much more motivated to continue to pursue academic endeavors.
Large, complex problems can’t be handled individually. They require teamwork. STEM classrooms are designed to improve collaboration and communication. Students are typically grouped together to identify issues, test hypotheses, record data, and present findings. The final result is a confident, well-rounded learner who works well with others. For Trevor Harwell, this may be the most valuable aspect of STEM. It builds leaders who embrace feedback and are empathetic to the needs of an entire team.