Thursday, 16 February 2012

What would life be like without STEM? (#WithoutSTEM)

If you read any current educational journal, you could be led to believe that "STEM is Important to Our Future" is the mantra of the majority of educational reformers around the world.

There have been so many documents, blog posts and speeches written that attempt to explain what STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has given us, but what if the STEM disciplines never existed? What would our world be like if we did not have science, technology engineering of mathematics?

If you think about this for a moment, this is a lot more difficult to answer than you may first expect. STEM is so heavily embedded into our modern lives that almost everything would be different. Where would we live? How would we travel? How long would we live? What jobs would we do?

Let's use Twitter to debate this: "What would life be like without STEM?"

Use the Twitter Hash Tag "#WithoutSTEM" so we can all follow the debate. 
Let's see what you, your friends, your colleagues and your students can come up with.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

SciTEX Learning's Supplemental Science Resources are Now Available from the Texas Education Agency

The SciTEX Learning supplemental Science eLearning resource is now available to order through the TEA's EMAT system.

Resources for grades 5, 6, 7, 8, and topic resources for Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and Integrated Physics and Chemisty (IPC) can now be ordered directly from the Texas Education Agency.

See for more information about this resource and to try some of the content online for free.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Texas to Save Bucks with eBooks

The cost of buying school text books for entire states including Texas has been a big discussion point in education for some time now, with the suggestion of purchasing digital books (or eBooks) as a cost-effective alternative.

As with all digital content (such as music, film and app downloads), digital versions of text books are said to have major advantages in terms of reduced production, handing and shipping costs, and are therefore seen by many to be a potential solution to massively reduced education spending imposed by governments. Curriculum supplied in a digital format can also be updated immediately and provide a continuously up-to-date source of reference for the students. Digital textbooks are also seen to be a green solution that will greatly the reduce paper consumption across schools in the state.

When the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced that they intended to replace printed science books used in Texas schools with electronic versions, the well established Texan educational company, “Technical Laboratory Systems Inc” (Tech Labs) had a vision of replacing the books with a new and very ambitious 21st century eLearning solution called “SciTEX Learning”.

Tech Labs, based in Houston, decided to develop a full eLearning solution with engaging, dynamic, multimedia and interactive content as an alternative to ‘eBooks’. After all, most of the elementary schools across Texas are already using media-rich science eLearning materials supplied by tech Labs – why shouldn’t the middle and high schools have access to similar resources as well? They saw little advantage in simply digitizing existing text.

This project was a massive undertaking and required a large and highly skilled human resource to action it within a very short time frame. Tech Labs decided to work with one of the world’s best known science, technology and engineering educational software houses, LJ Create Inc. LJ Create has produced teaching materials for a global market for almost as many years as Tech Labs (Tech Labs was founded in 1977 and LJ in 1979). LJ Create was able to provide a highly experienced and multi-skilled workforce of teachers, eLearning specialists, technical authors, educational editors, photographers, artists, graphic designers, animators, video producers, and software development engineers that the project required.

Tech Labs and LJ have worked hand-in-hand on many successful projects for spreading across three decades. With Tech Labs’ knowledge of the Texas science education specification and a massive and highly experienced eLearning development team effort that LJ could readily supply, the partnership became a winning solution.

The Tech Labs / LJ partnership for school science resources is no surprise to many science teachers across Texas. LJ Create’s science materials supplied by Tech Labs have already been used in hundreds of elementary schools across Texas, with teachers stating that the students’ TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) scores have improved dramatically since their new lab installations.

The result of the big team effort, 'SciTex Learning' is a complete online science curriculum solution for Middle and High Schools in the State of Texas. It is a complete science curriculum especially designed for Texas by Texans. Even the name of the science solution comes from the combination of the words ‘SCIence’ and ‘TEXas’.

Tech Labs was proud to have this brand new range of middle and high school science eLearning resource approved by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) during the evaluation process in June this year.

The addition of the middle and high school ranges means that Scitex can cover science from Elementary School or Kindergarten up to year 12 (K12).

The new Scitex system covers combined Science at Middle School level and the subjects of Biology, Physics, Chemistry and IPC (Integrated Physics and Chemistry) at High School level as specified by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

The program features 100% coverage of the 2010 TEKS. 100% alignment to the TEKS is assured with a standards based menu system. Teachers and students select lessons base upon TEKS, student outcomes, or even a specific breakout. Students and teachers can display the related TEKS and student outcomes within the software. This makes the Scitex system easy to use with any form of curriculum mapping.

See for more information about this project.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Rt. Hon. Charles Clarke will be in Africa with LJ Create for eLearning Africa 2011

The Rt. Hon. Charles Clarke, as former UK Secretary of State for Education and Skills was responsible for one of the largest implementations of classroom technology on a national basis seen in the last 10 years. He is now a Director of LJ Create, one of the UK’s leading providers of interactive eLearning resources for science, engineering and technology.

Charles will be attending a networking event hosted by LJ Create on stand D5 in the main exhibition hall at the eLearning Africa event on the 26th May 2011. Come and meet Charles over a drink and canapé from 16:00 to 16:45.

Visit the LJ Create stand at eLearning Africa and find out first hand how ICT-based teaching and learning can play a transformational role in schools, colleges and universities across Africa.

ELearning Africa

LJ Create, TSI and Promethean will be at eLearning Africa. Visit their stand and see how the integrated resources from LJ and Promethean create interactive eLearning environments for science, engineering and technology.

See the eLearning Africa 2011 website for more information about the conference, or LJ Create's event page to see other events that LJ Create are attending in the near future.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

SciTex Learning - Science Curriculum for Texas.

We have all been extremely busy here at LJ Create over the last few months, getting ready to launch our new web resource "SciTex Learning". Scitex Learning is hosted on the new website and is aimed at education providers in the State of Texas.

Our development team has been working at full power to get a whole range of lessons ready to allow teacher to teach physics, chemistry, biology and IPC topics to their students.

This has been a major task and it has been great to see pretty much the whole of the creative team within LJ working so hard on a single project.

Some of the many developers at LJ Create work together to produce science resources for the Texas site ''.

The teaching resource consists of online lessons in HTML format, PowerPoint presentations that can also be delivered remotely in Flash format, and online assessment. To back up all of the curriculum, we have also produced many interactive applications and simulations that will help teach the science theory.

In all my years at LJ Create, I have not seen so many teachers, editors, graphic designers, animators, technicians, technical authors, software engineers and web developers working together on a single project. It is however a project to be proud of.

Each of the lessons map directly to the learning objectives specified in the Texas State standards, and we have also provided the instructors with an easy to use tool that helps them to quickly find learning materials for each objective.

This resource can be found at

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Routes into STEM, Watford Football Club

I was pleased to be invited, along with two of my colleagues from LJ Create, to help run the first two “Routes into STEM” events at Watford Football Club in South West Hertfordshire (UK), on the 3rd and 10th of November 2010.

The two STEM days were organised by the South West Hertfordshire SAPG. Each of these events consisted of a full day of combined Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics tasks for teams of students from a number of schools around the Watford area.

The school boys and girls, aged between 12 and 15, worked in teams of 4 or 5 to investigate a number of problems that we set them.

The United Kingdom, like many other countries around the world, sees the importance of promoting the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to school children in order to produce a strongly equipped workforce for the future. The aim of the Routes to STEM is to demonstrate to the school pupils that all four subjects work together in order to solve real world problems. The secondary aim of the day was to show the teachers who had attended how LJ Create’s resources could be used within problem solving activities.

Five students from the local college acted as mentors for the school pupils. At the beginning of the day, before the school kids arrived, we trained the college students on how to use the equipment. We also briefed them on the safety concerned regarding activities involving fast moving parts or high heat. The students were then able to join the school pupils as they arrived and supervise the activities. On the second day (which involved a much higher number of school pupils), the college students were joined by four helpers from a high school to provide us with a further supply of willing helpers.

The college and high school students did an incredible job as mentors, working with the school pupils during the activities. They were able to guide them through the technical parts of the activities and asked them questions about what was happening during the practical activities. A couple of the students showed a really strong teaching aptitude.

Teachers from the schools involved were free to observe or join in with any of the activities taking place, and chat with the students about the problems that the students were solving. It was interesting to see the pupils explain to their teacher why they had made a wind farm with their wind turbines in a specific configuration, or how they could program a robot to sort parts on a conveyor belt.

The Activities:
Here is a quick description of some of the activities. I won’t give too many of the secrets away as we will probably be using some of these activities again in future STEM events around the world...

Students arranged a number of small scale wind turbines (from ST100, our Sustainable Energy module) to build a wind farm and measured the power output. They investigated organising the turbines in parallel and series circuits and watching the combined voltage readings. They discovered what happened when turbines blocked each other. Some students were able to observe turbines that were not in the flow of the “wind” (an office fan) turning with the power generated with the power from the turbines that were in the flow of the wind

Each team of students used Tactic, a large-scale plastic construction kit to build a catapult capable of throwing a beam bag at a pyramid of plastic cubs.

The students were asked to use a variety of materials to build a crash buffer for a magnetic levitation train (part of our ST150 – Research and Design module). The students worked as a team to test the train with a large assortment of different buffers made out of balloons, cotton wool, folder paper, rubber bands and drinking straws. I was surprised at the variety of novel solutions that the teams came up with. Every team had a completely unique solution and could prove their designs using the impact sensors on the track.

The students used the Energy Simulator (also from ST100 – Sustainable Energy), a strategy computer game developed by LJ Create that would allow them to plan a green energy installation for a tropical Island used as a holiday resort.

A computer controlled robot and conveyor belt (from the ST240 – Robotics and Automation module) was used for one of the tasks. The school boys and girls were given a program that would select a part on a production line. The students had to add more lines of code to the program to make th robot move the part onto a conveyor belt and then turn on the belt to send the part to a sorting bin at the end of the belt. This activity was so popular that all the children involved wanted to stay after the activity had finished and program the robot do other things.

The students used the Beam Designer Simulation software from the ST121 Structures and Materials module. The teams configured the application to compare different types of beam structures and work out what type of beam can hold a specified mass and be made for a specified cost. This activity was a challenge for the students and I heard several cheers from the teams who worked out solutions to the problem.

One of the pneumatic panel trainers from ST270 - Pnuematics was used for the events. Students were asked to use the components on the panel trainer to construct a pneumatic door that operated using a button. The students were given a scematic diagram to work from and the activity involved identifying the pneumatic components on the diagram. Some of the groups not only completed the exercise, but went on to configure their doors to open and close at different speeds.

I was delighted to see the impact the event had on all the students, teachers and other guests who attended. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. I couldn’t see a single student who was not involved with the activities. The students worked so well in their teams.

It was quite funny to see the school kids trying to get back to the activities as soon as possible during the refreshment breaks. I observed several students trying to drink their drinks as fast as possible, or wolfing down their biscuits, so they didn’t miss a minute of the tasks.

Another interesting observation was made whilst watching a team made up of students from two different schools that did not know each other before the event. After just one of the STEM activities, they were able to work as a team and even went on to win a prize for the best team of the day.

We had some really good feedback from the students and teachers who took part in the day and from the South West Hertfordshire SAPG who had invited us to the events and we are now all looking forward to the next one.