STEM Teachers Are True Superheroes at Sharing Inspiration 2019 Conference
More than 110 maths and science teachers from 20 countries gathered in Brussels for the conference Sharing Inspiration on the last weekend of March 2019. According to participant Wesley Keldermans, mathematics teacher, “The added value is that you learn from each other and that you make international contacts.”
Peter Balyta, president, Texas Instruments Education Technology, kicked off the conference. He emphasized that the importance of STEM education continues to increase because of the challenges the world faces today. And teachers have a pivotal role. “For me, STEM teachers are true superheroes — hard-working, passionate educators who day in and day out get students excited about STEM by connecting the things students care about to the important concepts they need to learn. The reality is, despite what you see in movies, heroism isn’t all capes and costumes. The real heroic stuff is happening in classrooms around the world where ordinary people, like you, embrace an extraordinary calling: teaching,” he said.
First German Female Astronaut
Truly heroic is the STEM career of Insa Thiele-Eich PhD, one of two German female astronauts who will be the first to travel into space. She inspired the audience with her story. “In my opinion, STEM education can only be successful if you go beyond boundaries,” she said. Since her childhood, she has been driven by the question “why?” “STEM teachers should empower children to ask questions and let them find the answer themselves. My own curiosity has led me to space. I enjoy being a role model for young children — boys and girls — who are excited about existential questions.”
Learning Mathematics in a Fun Way
During the two days that followed, teachers took part in various sessions themed “The Power of Realization.” There they gained hands-on experience or took part in discussion groups on a variety of STEM topics. Teachers were inspired during sessions like using the robot car Rover in maths lessons, biology experiments with TI-Nspire™ technology and the use of forensic science. “Everybody watches or is familiar with TV series like ‘Bones’ or ‘CSI,’” explained physics teacher Cathy Baars, who developed these forensic science experiments. “Solving crimes motivates students to apply and learn about mathematics in a fun way. These science experiments connect maths and physics and are an addition to the curriculum.”
Importance of STEM Education
The bustling weekend was closed by speeches from Adina Nistor of Scientix, Prof. Dr. Gultekin Cakmakci from Hacettepe University Ankara, and Ian Galloway, T³ Europe STEM lead. All of them gave a glimpse into the future and highlighted the importance of focusing on STEM education. Researcher Nistor indicated that the Scientix report on STEM education in Europe had pointed out that 79% of the lessons are still given in a traditional way. “That’s a shame because investigative learning has proved to be more effective,” Nistor said. At the same time, Prof. Dr. Gultekin Cakmakci — who has thoroughly researched STEM education — emphasized its importance. “Education should engineer the future of a society by empowering their imagination, creativity and innovation,” he said.
Sharing Inspiration for Policymakers
On the day before the teacher conference, 80+ policymakers, industry stakeholders, key decision makers and leading educators from across Europe gathered in Brussels. In interactive sessions, they shared their viewpoints and experiences on successful STE(A)M education. Through presentations and deep dive sessions, the participants tackled hot topics. They exchanged views on curriculum reform, educational mobility, innovative classroom practices, policy framework, regional outreach and the role of industry. “Working more than 20 years in the field, I have been impressed by how diverse one can view STEM education. Every stakeholder group has its own point of view; all of them are valid and all of them need to be considered,” said Stephan Griebel, director, Business Development and Alliances at Texas Instruments.
Now, we are looking forward for the next Sharing inspiration in 2021!