As the head of the technology committee at my library who also loves to promote STEM, I have often been asked why technology is important in STEM. This may sound like an easy question to answer since 3D printers and robotics are often the center of attention in school and library programs. But, it turns out that diverting the attention to a 3D printer or a robot isn’t such a good sustainable answer so I decided to do more in-depth research and create this helpful post.
Why is technology important in STEM? Science, technology, engineering, and math are closely related. Technology is the sum of techniques, skills, methods, and processes. It is used in the creation of a product or the accomplishment of objectives in STEM. For example, the technology (microscopes) made by engineers using math is used by scientists.
STEM education and STEM jobs are separate things in the wide world of STEM. Although boosting the number of STEM jobs in the future is one of the main goals of STEM education, it is important to distinguish them to realize their similarities and differences. And further, to analyze the role technology plays in each of them.
What Is STEM Education?
It is not uncommon to think that STEM education is simply education in science, technology, engineering, and math. While it does make sense to think that it is just that because, for the most part, it is. But to really know what STEM education is, we must take a look at how it started and how it is taught.
STEM education is an interdisciplinary experience-based approach to the process of exploring science, technology, engineering, and math. Students are taught academic concepts with real-world lessons. Applications of science, technology, engineering, and math are used to make connections between the classroom and the world around us.
The keyword is “interdisciplinary.” Each subject is so highly related to one another that one wouldn’t exist without the other. Engineering uses scientific data and math to design and create technology. In the classroom, technology can be used to help create new technology. The most common example of this is using scientific data to design and engineer a product that solves a problem on a 3d printer. Both the means of producing the product and the end product itself are technology.
STEM education was started in the U.S. to help meet the future demands of a workforce skilled in STEM. Countries that focus on STEM-focused education have the advantage of enhancing their businesses and economy which would allow them to rise on the global stage. If the U.S. would like to continue being a world leader, it needs to focus on STEM education.
How Is Technology Important In STEM Education?
Many people think of technology in terms of digital media and technology. But actually, the definition of technology is as any device or innovation created to meet a human need or want. A wheel or a water bottle is considered technology. Tools, science equipment, and products where machinery and manufacturing are involved are considered technology as well.
Students create technologies in STEM classes when they create prototypes and products that solve problems. Through STEM, students recognize how new technologies are developed, learn how to use technologies, and discover how new technologies affect us. Technology is woven throughout STEM in one form or another.
As countries learn to become more innovative, their technologies become more advanced as well. Innovation in technology enhances businesses and helps the economy.
What Is a STEM Job?
As with anything involving STEM, people often think of STEM jobs as high-tech careers. This could be because they are the jobs of the future. But, not all positions in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics require lab coats. These jobs are surprisingly diverse.
So, what is a STEM job? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM jobs are careers where knowledge of science, technology, engineering, or math is used by STEM workers to try to understand how the world works and to solve problems.
There currently is a large number of STEM jobs and that number is growing because of technology and innovation. Examples of STEM jobs include the following:
- Conservation Scientist
- Life Scientist
- Medical Scientist
- Data Scientist
- Animal Scientist
- Computer Programmer
- Web Developer
- Software Engineer
- Biomedical Engineer
- Electrical Engineer
- Petroleum Engineer
How Is Technology Important In STEM Jobs?
While the role of technology in a STEM job may seem obvious, its impact on them may be hard to imagine.
We learned that technology is important to STEM education because it is woven in the process. Technology is used to create technology. The same can be true for STEM jobs. Some jobs use technology as a tool while other STEM jobs create an end product using technology. Scientists use technology such as microscopes and Bunsen burners to conduct experiments and collect data. Mathematicians use technology such as calculators and computer software to help solve equations and to collect, analyze, and present data. Engineers use technology such as multimeters and computer software to build technology such as robots and refrigerators.
Technology is also the reason why the number of STEM-related jobs is increasing. The technology boom in the 90s sparked that current trend. Just 10 years ago, many people haven’t even heard of have cloud computing or data mining but now they’re basically everywhere. As technology advances, future jobs are created.
The Importance of Technology In STEM Education vs Technology In STEM Jobs
STEM in education and STEM-related to jobs differ because STEM education focuses on relating each subject to one another while STEM jobs are focused on a particular field. STEM students are given projects that apply related concepts. Scientists mainly focus on science, engineers mainly focus on engineering, and mathematicians mainly focus on math.
Projects done in STEM education are designed to have subjects relate to each other. This design exposes students to each subject how they would naturally relate to each other while enabling them to gain interest in a particular process that may help them choose a career path. Since STEM fields naturally relate to each other, STEM higher-education and STEM jobs may be more seamless for a person with a STEM education background.
Why Are STEM Technology Jobs Important?
The jobs that technology workers do not only solve a problem but they also make the problem easier to solve in the future. Technology work makes communication including business transactions and mobile browsing faster and less expensive.