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Integrative projects: A strategy for the development of skills for the 21st century

The integrative projects were created as a tool for implementing the STEM pedagogical model through the use of CloudLabs’ virtual laboratories.

CloudLabs and STEM-based integrative projects

An integrative project is designed and implemented to respond to a situation in a real-world context, using laboratory simulators in different disciplines, and based on a curricular structure in which the concepts to be worked on have an intentionality that seeks the development or strengthening of specific skills.

We seek to promote the following skills in students who are immersed in this learning ecosystem through the implementation of Integrative Projects in the classroom:

  • Scientific thinking by understanding real-world problems and formulating solutions using scientific knowledge and procedural knowledge.
  • Critical thinking by understanding and evaluating a real-life situation and its possible solutions.
  • Logical-mathematical thinking by using mathematics and logical thinking to formulate solutions to real-world problems.
  • Teamwork, which involves discussing with other students and teachers hypotheses that may lead to the solution of a specific challenge.
  • Analytical thinking, which involves using data to explain phenomena and being able to make qualitative and mathematical models to describe machines, processes, or phenomena.

The process of designing or creating an integrative project should consider a series of elements and actions that ensure the development of the skills described above, along with the appropriation of theoretical and practical concepts associated with the disciplines involved. The following are five steps that should be considered for the development of a CloudLabs® Integrative Project:

  1. Selection of the topic to be addressed: an overall topic is selected, involving two or more STEM areas, and the subtopics to be addressed are identified. For example: chemical compounds, study of structures, biological behaviors, process automation.
  2. Construction of the challenge: a real context that is meaningful and relevant for the students is chosen. Subsequently, a situation related to the context is proposed, along with a role and different tasks for the students to assume in the project’s development and solution search. For instance: the construction of a bridge that connects an isolated population or improves traffic in a region, the mitigation of a pest in an isolated area, control of a pest in a crop, quality control of a defective product in a company, and so on.
  3. Identification of the areas: the areas of knowledge that contribute to the solution of the proposed challenge are evaluated and selected.
  4. Selection of the simulations: once the areas to work on are determined, the simulations are chosen. It is important to note that each of the selected simulations must help to solve part of the challenge and must be articulated with one another. Additionally, the simulations can be chosen simultaneously with the description of the challenge or problem.
  5. Work methodology: The way in which the Integrative Project will be developed is established, giving an active role to the students within their team, which will strengthen collaborative work. In addition, the closing activity is specified, which must be adapted to the challenge and may be requested in different ways according to the teachers’ expectations. For example: a presentation, a written work, delivery of evidence, a video, a business conference, etc.

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The Integrative Projects consist of approximately 4 or 5 laboratory simulations based on a single challenge which will also allow for collaborative and interdisciplinary work between teachers and students. For example, if the project consists of laboratory practices in the areas of Biology, Agriculture, and Mathematics, the teachers of these three areas can work together so that the students can develop part of the project in each of their classes.

This is possible thanks to the role that the students take during the learning process through the Integrative Projects, where students are the protagonists and are responsible for the activity. On the other hand, the teacher becomes a facilitator for each group, encouraging students to learn by doing and solving specific doubts.

Advantages offered by the Integrative Projects to Teachers and Students:

The Integrative Project dynamizes and potentiates the use of CloudLabs® simulators by allowing the students to face an everyday problem through different simulators. In addition, it facilitates understanding of complex concepts within students’ learning process, transversalizing their vision of reality and motivating the development of training and work skills from their own experience through gamification. For example, in an integrative project where the construction of a suspension bridge to help reduce vehicular traffic and average travel time is planned. Therefore, the challenge is to identify the power required and the maximum torque to lift a load as well as the maximum force that the operator can exert, and the amount of steel cable needed to manufacture the bridge tensioners.

During this process, areas of knowledge such as Mathematics, Physics, Simple Machines, and Mechanisms are related. They allow interaction with various simulators to analyze the Pythagorean theorem, understand the concept of torque and moment of a force, analyze systems in equilibrium from the moment of a force and identify the difference between the classes of levers and their application.

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In its formative nature, the Integrative Project provides experiences that support students during their learning process, allowing the development of skills and aptitudes so that they can face situations that they will have to solve in the productive working world. Thus, an integrative project is a methodological and evaluative strategy oriented toward professional competencies where the teacher will have a pedagogical support instrument to strengthen and dynamize the approach to his/her subject.

Additionally, in the Integrative Project, the teacher will find an analysis for the integration or curricular alignment through the competencies of different areas of knowledge where the point of convergence of the problems or cases of study in context is identified, contributing from the know-how, and the know-how to be.

In this way, the CloudLabs Integrative Projects dynamize the teaching and learning process in the classroom, breaking the traditional teaching paradigm through the implementation of active learning methodologies. This is how the Integrative Projects are proposed as an educational tool that supports the role of the teachers in the classroom and allows them to improve their personal and professional appropriation of technology from completely transversal scenarios.

More information

References

Felix, A., & Harris, J. (2010). A project-based, STEM-integrated alternative energy team challenge for teachers. Technology Teacher, 69(5), 29–34.  

 Bybee, R. W. (2013). The case for STEM education: Challenges and opportunities. Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association.

 

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