“Educators have been interested in developing students’ critical thinking skills for a very long time, but we are still learning how to do this effectively,” said Ellen Meier, Professor of Computing and Educational Practice in the Department of Mathematics, Science & Technology. “Technology can be a powerful tool to support the ‘deeper learning’ opportunities we want for our students, especially in environments designed around inquiry that use digital tools to investigate, analyze, and act on authentic problems facing the students or their community.”
For the past 15 years, Meier, Director and Co-Founder of TC’s Center for Technology and School Change (CTSC) and Co-Chair of the New York Board of Regents’ Advisory Council on Technology Policy and Practice, has been developing a model to do just that. Innovating Instruction© captures an approach for working with teachers and principals to develop project-based, inquiry-focused learning environments. She is now researching this approach for STEM learning with support from the National Science Foundation, which has funded CTSC’s project, the Systemic Transformation of Inquiry Learning Environments for STEM (STILE 2.0),
The components include designing STEM projects with teachers; situating the work within the lives and cultures of each school and classroom, and preparing teachers and principals to be leaders in this effort..
“We’re asking teachers to engage with students in new ways on STEM projects – to be co-investigators with them and identify meaningful real-world problems that will engage students,” Meier says. “Ultimately we want to develop a refined approach that can be tested for efficacy and scale and contribute to a model broadly adopted for STEM teacher development. And we want to develop a suite of resources and digital case studies that can further support this work for teachers and leaders.”
Meier has mentored hundreds of TC students who have gone on to apply her approach in different contexts and cultures. For a panel at Academic Festival, she conversed with one of them: Joohee Son (Ed.D. ’13), recipient of TC’s inaugural Alumni Award for Outstanding Service. Son is the founder and Director of the Center for Education and Technology in Seoul, which has made measurable impacts in critical thinking and English fluency for Korean students.
Academic Festival 2019
The day included an extensive lineup of presentations, panels and other events featuring TC faculty, students, alumni and staff.
Son’s approach to teaching English as a Second Language in Korea centers on unlocking new opportunities for Korean students and helping more students score above 100 on the TOEFL exam. A new digital tool she has developed enables students learning English to share videos of themselves speaking English and provides them with feedback to streamline and accelerate the English-learning process. Son’s online platform also allows teachers to provide more individualized support focused on criteria like intonation, cadence and speed, which aren’t as easily addressed in the classroom setting. Importantly, she has focused on developing students’ critical thinking in concert with their English language learning.
“When I was at TC, Dr. Meier asked me so many inspiring questions,” Son said. “Now, with her help, I’m working to build capacity in English language learning and critical thinking across Korea and other Asian countries.”