How Can We be Ready for the Jobs of the Future? A Comprehensive Introduction to STEM
As we transition into the 4th industrial revolution, which harmonizes digital, physical, and biological systems, the fundamentals of developing these systems are also evolving. This thereby puts an albatross around the necks of the current and future generations to keep pace with the future. These generations are considered to be some of the most advanced generations in terms of Science and Technology but are their skills enough to bridge the gap between unemployment and skilled labor and ensure a smooth transition into the future.
Often dubbed as the “Curriculum of the Future” and the next wave in education, “STEM” or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics is proving to be an approach to education that is being adopted by leading institutions to adapt to the rapidly changing future and to produce the next skilled generation of workers. STEM follows interdisciplinary and practical ‘Learn by Doing’ approaches that make it so successful in fostering a deep understanding of complex disciplines like science and technology. Daunting to many, these disciplines are made easy to understand by amalgamating the theoretical concepts with their real-world use cases. Over the years in academia, the term STEM has been thrown around rather casually and is often misunderstood. In this article, we will explain to you everything you need to know about STEM and its purpose.
Is STEM really necessary? What role does it play in regard to the future?
As time goes on, more and more continually embrace digital approaches to everything. The common blackboard approach is shifting to more digitally friendly teaching tools like interactive touchscreens, VR, projectors and even educational robots. Despite all this change, our structural system in teaching curriculum and teaching methods are still a bit grey-haired, utilizing similar material and styles from decades ago.
However, the standard core curriculum is absconding as new teaching curriculums are paving the way featuring more practical approaches such as cross-curriculum studying and fusion with modern tools to portray the real-world usage of concepts; Thereby forcing a change in the system. Many leading countries like the United States and the UK and of course China have adopted the STEM way of teaching fully in their curriculum, and now it’s the time for other countries to follow.
As the requirements of the future change, future jobs also require more problem-solving and critical thinking skills than ever before. According to the World Economic Forum in 2022, “75 million current job roles may be displaced by the shift in the division of labor between humans, machines, and algorithms, while 133 million new job roles may emerge at the same time”.
It’s not surprising to see that all the top emerging jobs require Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics in one way or another. ‘If you don’t anticipate, you won’t accumulate,’ this phrase aptly describes our situation; To cope with this transition, it becomes crucial to integrate the knowledge of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics right from the early stages of learning.
Just by 2022, we can see how the skills are rapidly changing, and it’s true that the common core-curriculum does not necessarily ensure the development of skills of this nature. This is where the STEM approach comes in. STEM is often fused with a cross-curricular approach, allowing students to learn rapidly and foster a deep understanding by applying knowledge, principles, and values to more than one academic discipline simultaneously. The nature of the curriculum and its ability to be interdisciplinary and to be fused together with advanced technology make STEM incredibly flexible and robust at the same time.
Students learn more when they are highly stimulated. The point of STEM is to make the learning of these subjects more approachable. The implementation of real-world examples provides immediate feedback for students who will be able to understand the lesson.
“As the goal of the leading social media platforms is to have users spend as much time as possible on the platform, so should our goal be to design a curriculum and fuse it with tools to make it as interactive as we can, and propagate fun learning not only with screens but with hands-on workshops,” says Amaury Chevallier, the Education Manager at SoftBank Robotics.
What are the best practices for STEM? How can it be implemented and followed?
There have been many advancements in the STEM curriculum, the tools, and methods of teaching. Still, the real problem comes not during implementation but rather on making it fun, engaging, and interesting enough for students to interact and learn. One approach being championed by many research and educational institutes is the use of educational humanoid robots to fuse the STEM disciplines with actual technology in the form of robots developed through rigorous use of various sciences and technologies. The use of our robots in the classroom introduces students to possible career paths they may have never considered. Besides, robotics is a perfect way to show students that engineering and IT can be fun by making abstract knowledge concrete.
Working with robots enhances creative problem-solving techniques and encourages the development of essential communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to collaborate and convey complex ideas to fellow students or colleagues. NAO and Pepper are two such humanoid robots that form the basis of a cross-curriculum activity, the ideal resources that can be used to teach: Mathematics, Scientific principles, Design, Technology, Computer programming languages, and over 20+ spoken languages such as English, French, Spanish. These robots can be used from early childhood starting from ages of 4 onwards to higher education, and even meet research standards.
Prof. Paolo Borrelli from Italy cemented his beliefs by stating that “There are many benefits in using NAO in schools. In general, I think that using physical devices in teaching, especially in the 21st century, is fundamental because students need to physically touch what they are learning. In particular, when making something practical, they become aware that they are actually building something that works, and that teaches them to be more self-conscious. There are endless possibilities to what one can achieve from these autonomous robots, the only limit is creativity and imagination”
Why Humanoid Robots? Why not Basic Robots?
The overarching skills of these complex humanoid machines to perceive people, their environment, and the ability to reason and rationalize situations and feelings of people can help teach us more than just the use-case of STEM but also the social and psychological aspects of building such machines.
Humanoid robots involve combining and developing many Artificial Intelligence concepts like Deep Learning, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, which form the building blocks of the future we foresee. These robots are equipped with multimodal interaction capabilities through their physical hardware consisting of sensors, microphones, and cameras. With their body language and social signaling capabilities, humanoid robots automatically make it a fascinating study and a base for further development and research. One such study is by Prof. Juergen Handke and his Virtual Linguistics Campus group, where they use both NAO and Pepper and develop and test robot apps in order to find out how humanoid robots can be employed beneficially in a classroom setting.
Pepper has been part of the standard platform league, for the latest RoboCup@Home education challenge, held amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Pepper was used to develop advanced applications and use cases in a home setting, which consisted of young students as well as researchers. Let’s see what one of the participants from France is up to.
As the world is gradually shifting to a digital world, our education and our jobs are changing as well. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are becoming a vital part of our education system and forming the fundamentals of digital innovations. Jobs of the future have not been invented yet, but are likely to contain STEM, and what better way to teach these concepts than with the robots of tomorrow.
Pepper and NAO are studied and well documented since the past decade and have found varieties of applications in the education industry, such as an education tool, teacher assistant, teaching companion for children, supplement for special education and so forth, however, this is just the beginning of what can be achieved with them.