Paulo Blikstein : 2012 Plenary Session


Monday, April 2, 2012
Location: Fisher Conference Center, Arrillaga Alumni Center

"What Research Says About How to Fix STEM Education, and How It Will Look in 10 Years"
2:30pm - 3:00pm


In the late 19th century, education visionaries proclaimed that correspondence education would replace classrooms. In 1910, Thomas Edison declared that film would completely change schools within ten years. Over the past century, we have witnessed many of such promises in education, and now at even faster rates. As a result, the public opinion and policy makers are increasingly confused about the real role of technologies in education. Should they replace teachers, eliminate books, make education more affordable, enable project-based learning, or all of the above?

But what has research on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education found out about the role of new technologies? In this talk, I will discuss some cutting-edge research in the field, point out the key emerging trends in science, math, and engineering education, and offer a vision of how that landscape will look like in ten years.

For example, high-school course taking and grades have been taken for decades as the best predictors for STEM career choice. However, large-scale longitudinal studies have recently upended this field by showing that interest in science in middle school is a much better predictor. This finding has deep consequences on how we structure learning in our schools, and in particular for how we use new technologies to improve STEM learning.

As we move into a world of technological ubiquity, knowledge of science and engineering cease to be important just for STEM majors - this knowledge is crucial to the population as a whole. The need to scale up interest-driven, project-based learning will be the true challenge of the 21st century, and I will point out some avenues to address this issue based on research at Stanford and beyond.


Paulo Blikstein is an Assistant Professor at Stanford University School of Education and (by courtesy) Computer Science Department, where he directs the Transformative Learning Technologies Lab ( Blikstein's research focus on how new technologies can deeply transform the learning of science, engineering, and mathematics. He creates and researches cutting-edge educational technologies, such as computer modeling, robotics, digital fabrication, and rapid prototyping, creating hands-on learning environments in which children learn science and mathematics by building sophisticated projects and devices. He also focuses on the application of data-mining and machine learning for the assessment of hands-on, project-based learning. Blikstein has recently spearheaded the FabLab@School project, building advanced digital fabrication labs in middle and high-schools in the US, Russia, Thailand and India. Paulo is also the Founder and Principal Investigator of the newly-created Lemann Center for Brazilian Education at Stanford, a 10-year initiative to transform public education in Brazil. A recipient of the National Science Foundation Early Career Award, he holds a PhD. from Northwestern University, an MSc. from the MIT Media Lab, and a B.S. and M.Eng. in Engineering from the University of São Paulo, Brazil.