Monday, January 2, 2017

[Yasmin_discussions] STEM to STEAM


I run a STEAM Lab and teach high school computer science and two of my
students elected to explore quantum physics and music, i.e., jazz musician
John Coltrane's interest in Einstein's Theory of Relativity. This was an
extra credit assignment for the Khan Academy Breakthrough Prize. Here's
their video:

Later this week, we'll explore creativity and innovation. I want to explore
culturally responsive/culturally relevant themes, so I'm starting with hip
hop. Specifically, the use of the crossfader as an innovation. It has been
debated whether or not Grandmaster Flash "invented" a crossfader but I
think it's clear that audio mixers existed before Flash got his hands on
one. The story is that Flash sourced parts from a junkyard in the Bronx to
create an on/off toggle switch from an old microphone that he transformed
into a left/right switch which allowed him to switch from one turntable to
another, thereby avoiding a break in the music.

Another example is machine learning. I created a demonstration project to
introduce students to machine learning (A.I.), specifically using STEAM to
explore robotics and parsing data to be used by a motion sensor. The
students in my class are arts majors and they compose to data they've
analyzed or simulated quilt designs to explore algorithms. Computer science
is in all of these examples and, in specific cases, science and engineering.

This week the journal Teknokultura published "Ethnocomputational creativity
in STEAM education: A cultural framework for generative justice
<>" by Audrey
Bennett. Here's an excerpt:

This paper describes "ethnocomputational creativity" as a generative
> framework for STEAM that circulates unalienated value in the arts back to
> underrepresented ethnic communities. We first will look at the dangers of
> extracting cultural capital without compensation, and how
> ethnocomputational creativity can, in contrast, help these communities to
> circulate value in its unalienated form, nurturing both traditional
> artistic practices as well as creating new paths for "heritage algorithms"
> and other forms of decolonized STEM education.

In my opinion, STEAM is fluid, the boundaries are porous, so I can find
common language and relevant concepts that can be applied to multiple
subjects. Whether it's diving into quantum mechanics to understand
Coltrane's approach to jazz or designing/building robots controlled by
sensors, it is up to educators to make those links clear and show students,
especially those who are from groups underrepresented in STEM/STEAM how the
concepts are relevant to them.

*Nettrice R. Gaskins, Ph.D.*
STEAM Lab Director
Boston Arts Academy
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