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How Technology Has Transformed STEM Classrooms

By properly integrating technology into the classroom, instructors can take students on field trips across the globe and help them participate in virtual science experiments. We asked Tricia Berry, director of the Women in Engineering Program at the University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering, about how teachers can use technology to keep their students engaged with learning.

Tricia Berry

Director of the Women in Engineering Program, University of Texas t Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering

What do you see as the most pressing challenge in undergraduate science and mathematics education today? 

For our students who identify as women, it continues to be important to counter stereotypes, and actively address stereotype threat and bias throughout the science and math education system. Ensuring all students have equitable and inclusive STEM academic experiences and connections with diverse STEM role models can help support the STEM identity and persistence of all students. 

How does one know when students are effectively engaged with what they’re learning?

I know students are engaged in what they are learning in my classes when they ask questions, actively make connections between the topic and their own lives, and voluntarily reflect on or explore learning content outside the classroom. Other signs of engagement include students not watching the clock and packing up early, lively discussions with all students contributing to the conversation (not just a select few), and open and engaged body language. 

Technology has transformed many aspects of how students engage with learning. What do you see as the greatest opportunity related to technology in science education? 

Technology can open up learning to experiences that otherwise could not happen in the regular classroom. Whether it is providing a virtual laboratory experiment experience, adventuring on a virtual science field trip somewhere across the globe, or connecting virtually with role models, we can use technology to open up the classroom to the world and perhaps provide more equitable experiences for all students. 

What is the value for students of learning at a top-tier research university where many of the faculty not only teach, but also make discoveries that add to the scientific community’s body of knowledge? 

One of the values for students at top-tier research universities is they can do research alongside the faculty and learn first-hand how their classes connect with scientific advancement. Being able to connect the concepts learned in the classroom with practical applications in a research lab can strengthen a student’s engagement in their own learning and help them persist to graduation. 

Any advice for women leaders in STEM fields? 

Be a visible role model and share your career story. Share your educational pathway, career choices, failures, resilience, and personal interests. Be loud so all the girls and women coming behind you see you, hear you, and understand that STEM can be part of their future as well.

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