The AustSTEM Foundation is committed to raising STEM literacy in Australian classrooms
Our purpose is to promote education in Australia with an emphasis on the Natural Environment and to foster an increased awareness and competence in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Our aim is to provide the teaching resources and professional development necessary to support the Education Council's National STEM School Education Strategy.
The STEM journey begins in Primary school, and this is the starting point for the design of our resources and training programmes.
Our long term intention is to raise the funding required to support the free distribution of Kookaberries to teachers in every Year 5 classroom across Australia over at least a two year period.
What is STEM?
Dr Linda Pfeiffer wrote in an Explainer article for the Sydney Morning Herald in 2017 that
“ .... STEM is really a way of thinking. It is about the skills required to learn science, technology and mathematics, and how engineering and design processes and principles are used to achieve an outcome.”
Learn more →
A 2018 ACER Report notes that:
“An analysis indicates that performance on national and international assessments in mathematics, science and ICT has not changed in one to two decades. “
The latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) published in December 2019 show that Australian students have been steadily falling behind their international peers in Mathematics, Science, and Reading for at least the last decade.
An average 15 year old in remote Australia is around 1.5 years behind metropolitan students in Science, and significantly below the OECD average in Mathematics.
The issues giving rise to these depressing statistics have been extensively researched. Those that AustSTEM seeks to address are:
Lifting teachers' skills and confidence in teaching STEM
Limited use of technology to enhance subjects across the curriculum (Integrated Learning)
Complexity of existing technology education tools
AustSTEM is taking a whole-of-school approach in tackling these issues through the following initiatives
- Making classroom technology easier to use with the Kookaberry microcontroller platform
- Simplifying coding in primary schools with the KookaBlockly visual software editor
- Creating an AustSTEM Digital Learning Hub
- Developing the STEM Experiential Learning Journey programme
- Trialling the STEM Experiential Learning Journey in selected NSW schools
The Kookaberry and its Ecosystem
The AustSTEM Foundation has selected the Kookaberry microcontroller platform as the best current educational digital tool to achieve its aims.
The Kookaberry is a little computer (a microcontroller) with a screen; battery; handle; and a menu of pre-coded applications which sits within an ecosystem of peripherals (sensors and control elements); learning resources; and text and graphic based MicroPython editors.
It is also capable of logging and storing continuous data points without requiring connection to an external computer.
It is simple to use, requires no coding experience, Internet, or WiFi, and brings the Internet of Things and real-world data into project-based learning throughout the curriculum.
KookaBlockly Visual Software Editor
KookaBlockly is a visual programming language (VPL) code editor installed on your PC or Mac to create or edit programmes in MicroPython to run on the Kookaberry.
It is one of three programmes in KookaSuite which manages the coding process on the Kookaberry. The others are KookaIDE which is a text based code editor, and KookaTW which displays the Kookaberry's screen on a connected PC or Mac,
The AustSTEM Digital Learning Hub
The STEM Experiential Learning Journey
The STEM Experiential Learning Journey (the STEM Journey) is a whole-of-school programme introducing real world data and technology to subjects across the curriculum from Stage 3 onwards.
By taking the STEM Journey, teachers and their students will develop the practical skills to assess and draw conclusions based on real-world data and evidence and be able to apply those skills in novel situations.
AustSTEM has chosen the Kookaberry microcontroller as the digital tool for their current Journey programme. If better tools are developed in the future, AustSTEM will use them in place of the Kookaberry.