February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

LittleBits Announces STEAM Student Set at SXSWEdu

STEAM—the integration of art and design with STEM—is a rising “must-do” in K–12 curricula. In response, littleBits has launched the STEAM Student Set, the New York-based startup’s first presentation of its popular electronic building blocks expressly for the education market.

LIttlebits web crop 600Announced today at SXSWEdu 2016, the STEAM kit supports students in grades 3–8 and includes 19 “Bits”­—littleBits’ electronic, magnetized building blocks—and 38 accessories. Varied resources and professional development support the hardware, connecting the activities to Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core.

There’s a dedicated Teacher’s Guide containing lessons, curricular connections, and implementation strategies, and a 72-page Student Invention Guide serves up challenges directly to kids, with alternatives for both step-by-step instruction and more open-ended exploration. “Invent a Self-Driving Vehicle” and “Hack Your Habits” are among the activities, with additional lessons available through the littleBits invention app.

Increased federal support for STEM, namely the $4 billion computer science initiative announced in January, has ramped up the impetus for related learning opportunities, according to Ayah Bdeir, littleBits founder and CEO.  “But [teachers] are also overwhelmed and ask: How am I going to do this? And how am I going to make this engaging for my students?” she told School Library Journal. “So this is what we’re trying to tackle here, through what we feel is a very engaging method—learning through invention.”

Learning and the Internet of Things

“Technology is moving at a very fast pace. Today it’s the Internet of Things, tomorrow it’s augmented reality,” comments Bdeir, “the day after, it’s virtual reality, the day after that it’s artificial intelligence. Every few days, a new fad is going to dominate the conversation. I think that, in education, we have a responsibility to keep up to date. But at littleBits, we believe the more important thing is to teach and prepare the kids for lifelong learning and the fundamentals of problem solving.”

LittleBits Circuit Cruiser

LittleBits Circuit Cruiser

Representing the nation’s largest school system, the New York City Department of Education announced this week that it will be adopting the STEAM Student Set for its summer STEM enrichment, a five-week program involving more than 2,000 students in grades 2–5 across 20 sites.

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Kathy Ishizuka About Kathy Ishizuka

Kathy Ishizuka (kishizuka@mediasourceinc.com@kishizuka on Twitter) is the Executive Editor of  School Library Journal.

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