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Emergence of STEM education

The emergence of digital technology in education and learning sector has changed the experience of teaching-learning practices for the learners of early childhood. The fundamental points of focus in the early childhood learning practice make the base for STEM education, which refers to the inclusion of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The STEM approach in education helps the children learners to prepare for the market of education and industry in their future. Career-focused learning curriculum and framework involve the fundamentals of STEM approach (Fleer, 2020). Apart from some unorganized disagreement among researchers and educators regarding the importance of STEM education, the concept has been accepted widely across borders. Planning and implementation of STEM education remains challenging in most of the countries for early childhood learning. However, the issues of implementing STEM educational framework for the learners up to five years of age have been discussed in this paper with a brief review of research on STEM education for the children (MacDonald et al., 2021). The rest of the work includes some modern learning applications and their role in introducing or implementing STEM education among the children of early learners’ group. The importance of STEM education has been established through the description of the applications with huge relevance in the post-COVID era.

Author Fleer (2020) has worked on the indication of STEM education regarding the play and learning practices for the early childhood learners. The author has focused on the growing relevance of STEM education in the post-pandemic era after the Covid-19 break out. The unmanageable situation of the pandemic has indicated towards the importance of learning Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics more severely than the common theoretical evidence for establishing its importance. The ‘new normal’ has been completely dependent on technology, and science across borders (Fleer, 2020). The global operations of economy or other activities of importance have shifted mode to technological or digital solution due to the need of social distancing. To cope with the rapidly changing environment in the labour market, STEM education has become crucial for the children or learners below the age of five according to the author of the concerned article. Authors Hachey et al (2021) have contributed a research on the integration of educational environment with the curriculum and teaching framework under STEM education. According to the authors, the understanding of STEM learning grows during the early childhood because of the psychological adaptability and cognitive development among the children (Hachey et al., 2021). Relevant practical experiences in science, technology, engineering and mathematics help the children relate to their immediate environment better than any other approach of relation, as per the authors’ findings on the practice.

Researcher Keulen (2018) has attributed the success of STEM education to the active learning experiences offered by the discipline in the framework. Besides promoting the importance and efficacy of STEM learning, the author has also explained the difference between the STEM learning framework and simple teaching of science and mathematics. Teaching of the subjects included in the STEM education refers to the traditional concept of learning of a particular topic. On the other hand, the idea of implementing STEM framework in teaching-learning environment actually refers to the scientific and modern way of teaching, according to the author (Keulen, 2018). However, thus, the author has dismissed myths regarding STEM learning. Researchers MacDonald et al. (2021) have worked on the role of an educator in properly implementing STEM outlook in any teaching-learning environment. After surveying nearly 500 educators in and around Australia, the authors found that capabilities, disposition, and existing practices have some major roles in implementing continuing STEM education (MacDonald et al., 2021). Most of the respondents in this survey-based research have agreed on the importance of STEM education from early childhood. So, they have offered a positive disposition regarding STEM. However, while talking and reviewing about the confidence of the educators in following the STEM model, the researchers did not receive very positive response as far as the limited population of the research is considered.  

Challenges in implementing STEM education for early learners up to five years

Authors Mulvey & Irvin (2018) have also worked on the importance and impact of the growing emphasis on STEM education in the current learning scenario. Unlike the popular belief regarding the efficiency of STEM, the authors have offered a different approach to the prospect. According to them, excessive emphasis on STEM education is causing psychological burden on the learners of early age. Hence, strict alignment with STEM may reflect negatively on the growth of a children (Mulvey & Irvin, 2018). Again, the STEM framework is generating a concept of race and competition from very early age, which is more reflected on the parents and guardians of the children than the learners themselves. Hence, the authors have suggested a nuanced approach towards the inclusion of STEM in teaching environment. Authors Simoncini, & Lasen (2018) have also followed the path of the majority in establishing the importance and efficacy of STEM in early childhood learning. They have identified some contemporary benefits of following STEM including the digitization and global adaptation of technology. According to the authors, following STEM education strictly, will help in reducing the digital divide across borders.

Author Y?ld?r?m (2020) has performed a survey on some teachers in pre-school to identify their approach regarding STEM education. The results of the survey showed different approach from different educators in introducing STEM education to the children (Y?ld?r?m, 2020). Again, the teachers often found the availability of infrastructure inadequate for competing with the majority of the developed economies. The research is based outside Australia and the survey suggests that the infrastructural availability and working conditions are two of the major determinants in effective STEM education practice (Li et al., 2019). Access, availability, awareness, education determine the standard of STEM learning among the majority of the early-stage learners. The survey-research addresses some key concerns about STEM learning and the socio-economic background of the early stage learners.

The concept of STEM education has developed significantly in the recent decade for multiple reasons. Accessibility, availability and procedural ease in surfing the internet, along with the global market of digital devices play one of the crucial roles behind the popularity and growth of these applications. However, some other factors relating to lifestyle and globalization in the past few decades have also contributed to the popularity and acceptance of the STEM learning applications. Advancement of technology has ensured the success of the intended purpose by STEM learning applications (Fleer, 2020). Today, innumerable applications of STEM learning for the pre-school children are available in the digital market of applications. Some pf those apps are free of cost and some with a balanced structure of subscription fees. The intention behind developing the STEM apps, however, is not for philanthropy or social service. It is a gradual marketization of education for the apparent mutual benefits between the developers or the owners of the copyrights and the users of the applications (Hachey et al., 2021). There are different categories of these applications, working on different purposes like construction, experimentation, service-based assistances etc. Early childhood learners grow skills and cognitive abilities through these applications faster than they grow from the immediate physical environment.

Contemporary benefits of STEM education

There are several applications for STEM learning dedicated for the learning and growth of the early childhood learners from the age of one to five. Most of these applications are supported by the majority of the operating systems and digital devices. However, compatibility with mobile devices is more appreciated in the market than desk devices. Here is a list of popular STEM applications and their effectiveness.

This application, compatible in Android, and I applicationbs, is popular among the teachers and guardians for the multiple activities offered by the application. The user interface is very smooth and attractive to grow interest among the children learners. The application is exclusively made for STEM learning. Hence, it incorporated all of the key aspects in the STEM framework through interactive gaming and learning profiles. It helps the children to grow cognitive abilities about science and the nature if things without any external assistance (Li et al., 2019). Children learn to analyse situations and act accordingly without the guidance of parents or guardians. However, some fixed ideas regarding certain situations generated through the profiles of the application often limit the students’ ability to think and act freely. This application involves the key concepts of experimentation and service-based learning provisions.

This is a direct learning app, where teaching-learning service is offered to the children learners. It is naturally a service-based application. The app also offers service to children above the age of five for continuous and unhindered development. Focused with scientific learning, the application involves more than two hundred tabs for science lessons, experimentation, activities, stories and direct application for teaching assistance. This app is compatible with iOS and Android (Mahmud, & Lim, 2022). This kind of applications are extremely helpful in developing the basic understanding of STEM learning among the children. The USP of this application is the availability of teaching assistance along with the automated provisions of learning. The learners can grow cognitive alliance with the scientific facts and scenarios faster than the provision for the same.

Hopscotch as a brand, has taken up multiple areas of business operations dedicated for the children. Coding For Kids is one of those initiatives that directly relates the Technology part of STEM learning. Since Coding practices are becoming indispensable in the present-day operations of digital platforms, the company has taken up the initiative to teach coding through easy applications to the children. The application is known to have easy user surface and navigation options for the learners (Mahmud, & Lim, 2022). However, this application relates to the construction section of the STEM learning, and applies for children starting from the age of three years. Like the science application, this one also offers additional integrated app-based options for learners above the age of five years.

This application also applies for all the areas of STEM learning and offers service to the children from the age of one to five. The application, supported in iOS and android, has a story-telling structure, which engages the learners in interactive operations for developing vocabulary, cognition, logical reasoning, and interpretation of events in a constructive manner (Livieris, & Pintelas, 2022). The application is popular among the children of one to four years’ age bracket. Interactive storytelling also helps the verbal communication skills of the children.

This application for STEM learning helps the children in growing interest and getting acquainted with the space and solar systems from the early stages of learning (Livieris, & Pintelas, 2022). The application, with smooth user interface offers multiple options for growing knowledge and scientific understanding of the space and solar system.

The applications discussed in the report may improve their impact on the psyche of the children by incorporating continuous updates for further innovative learning opportunities. The developers may think about the inclusion of human assistance in the applications to help the children with better learning and development from the use of the application interface. The future of economy, labour market, and global functions in any field will depend on the basic tenets of STEM (Keulen, 2018). Considering the surge in digital education options, the more organizations should be encouraged for developing STEM learning applications and make them available to the users across the world.

Conclusion

The report includes a review of research on the importance of STEM learning in early childhood among the learners under the age bracket of one to five years. While most of the literature suggested benefits from the STEM approach, one author has differed in opinion considering the mental health conditions of children, who might feel over-burdened with the complex representations of the disciplines in STEM. However, despite some validity in the negative proposition, no one can deny the importance of STEM learning for contemporary teaching-learning objectives.

References

Fleer, M. (2020). Re-imagining play spaces in early childhood education: Supporting girls’ motive orientation to STEM in times of COVID-19. Journal Of Early Childhood Research, 19(1), 3-20. doi: 10.1177/1476718x20969848

Hachey, A., An, S., & Golding, D. (2021). Nurturing Kindergarteners’ Early STEM Academic Identity Through Makerspace Pedagogy. Early Childhood Education Journal, 50(3), 469-479. doi: 10.1007/s10643-021-01154-9

Keulen, H. (2018). STEM in Early Childhood Education. European Journal Of STEM Education, 3(3). doi: 10.20897/ejsteme/3866

Li, H., Bai, J., & Li, Y. (2019). A novel secondary decomposition learning paradigm with kernel extreme learning machine for multi-step forecasting of container throughput. Physica A: Statistical Mechanics And Its Applications, 534, 122025. doi: 10.1016/j.physa.2019.122025

Livieris, I., & Pintelas, P. (2022). A novel multi-step forecasting strategy for enhancing deep learning models’ performance. Neural Computing And Applications. doi: 10.1007/s00521-022-07158-9

MacDonald, A., Danaia, L., Sikder, S., & Huser, C. (2021). Early Childhood Educators’ Beliefs and Confidence Regarding STEM Education. International Journal Of Early Childhood, 53(3), 241-259. doi: 10.1007/s13158-021-00295-7

Mahmud, S., & Lim, K. (2022). One-step model agnostic meta-learning using two-phase switching optimization strategy. Neural Computing And Applications. doi: 10.1007/s00521-022-07160-1

Mulvey, K., & Irvin, M. (2018). Judgments and reasoning about exclusion from counter-stereotypic STEM career choices in early childhood. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 44, 220-230. doi: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2018.03.016

Simoncini, K., & Lasen, M. (2018). Ideas About STEM Among Australian Early Childhood Professionals: How Important is STEM in Early Childhood Education?. International Journal Of Early Childhood, 50(3), 353-369. doi: 10.1007/s13158-018-0229-5

Y?ld?r?m, B. (2020). Preschool STEM Activities: Preschool Teachers’ Preparation and Views. Early Childhood Education Journal, 49(2), 149-162. doi: 10.1007/s10643-020-01056-2

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