The School of Education (SOE) at Utah Valley University is home to the Creative Learning Studio (CLS), a technology-driven innovation hub for future and current educators. Established in 2017 by Dr. Krista Ruggles (Associate Professor of Elementary Education) and Dr. Suzy Cox (current Director of Innovative Learning for the Provo City School District) as one of the outcomes of the work of the SOE-wide STEM committee, the main purpose of the CLS is to support UVU students enrolled in the elementary and secondary teacher preparation programs on how to integrate technology across content areas through the use of robotics and computer science. Technology integration in teacher preparation and in K-12 environments requires a complex systematic, comprehensive approach (USDOE Office of Educational Technology, 2017). The CLS model addressed that complexity by offering a combination of learning experiences, technology tools, and integrated applications accessible to every pre-service teacher in the SOE programs.
A large part of the CLS’s mission is advocacy; specifically, to promote equity and opportunity for every student in the state of Utah to learn about and have access to STEM resources. “We . . . believe that every child deserves the opportunity to pursue education and a career in STEM fields, and this is not currently a reality,” states the CLS website. To do this, the CLS participates in STEM fairs, school district collaborations, and community education camps to increase awareness about the STEM resources available to teachers. They also attend Makerspace events, collaborate with UVU’s College of Engineering and Technology during their Engineering and Technology Week, and are STEM partners for Ella Rises, a non-profit that empowers Latina youth to become community leaders. Thanks to these efforts, the CLS has worked with over 2,000 pre-service teachers, 2,250 in-service teachers, and 20,000+ K-12 students since 2017.
The CLS supports teaching beyond the STEM fields. While it acknowledges that STEM careers are in high demand and that every child deserves the opportunity to pursue education in STEM fields, it also believes that STEM stands for much more than just learning about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; STEM teaches critical ways of thinking that benefit all children. “We believe that STEM should not replace subjects such as language arts, social studies, or the visual and performing arts,” states the CLS website. “Rather, there is tremendous potential to integrate STEM with these subjects . . . to help students . . . [see] how STEM can allow them to better express themselves, understand the past, and contribute to the world.” The Studio invites participation from SOE peer faculty experts from all content areas and has established fellowships for an SOE faculty, a pre-service teacher, and an in-service teacher to collaborate within the CLS while expanding their own technology competencies.
The CLS gradually expanded to provide professional development and resources for K-12 teachers who work to integrate STEM practices in their instruction in approachable, meaningful hands-on ways. “There is a demand from our community to prepare a STEM workforce,” said Dr. Ruggles. “The CLS believes that we need to garner student interest in STEM beginning in kindergarten and increase their opportunities to engage in STEM throughout their K-12 education. In order to make this possible, the CLS supports the training of pre-service teachers and the facilitation of STEM practices in the classrooms of in-service teachers through curriculum development, community outreach, and a lending library of STEM resources.”
The CLS incorporates a makerspace designed to replicate an elementary learning environment that serves a variety of instructional and creative purposes. It models to preservice teachers how to facilitate technology-infused learning, engage young learners in creative STEM explorations, and provide opportunities to manage the learning environment in productive ways. Consumables and advanced technology complement each other in the maker space in ways that stimulate creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking.
The CLS also serves the larger community and provides outreach for different audiences. For example, it offers summer camps for elementary-level students focused on STEM and the engineering design process. Another key CLS resource is its Lending Library, which contains technology, equipment, tools, and related instructional materials to fully engage students in STEM-infused learning. “[It started when] an alumnus contacted me for advice about which robots to purchase with some funding she received. She borrowed a set of Ozobots to try and then ended up purchasing her own set,” said Ruggles. Ruggles and Cox quickly recognized how lending technology to teachers and training them on classroom-friendly robotics could be expanded to further support educators in their efforts toward technology integration. They not only began expanding the CLS’s Lending Library through multiple grants and donations, but also providing product testing and recommendations.
Through the work of the Creative Learning Studio, pre-service teachers and K-12 students and educators alike are provided with opportunities to use a variety of programmable robotics to engage in integrated technology-rich learning experiences where they design, test, debug, and execute algorithms to help increase conceptual understanding of core content. “The Creative Learning Studio offers innovative models for discipline-specific STEM integration across the curriculum,” said Dr. Vessela Ilieva, dean of the UVU School of Education. “The CLS experiences equip pre-service teachers with essential technology-related knowledge and skills that are immediately transferable to the classroom to engage K-12 students and educators in productive inquiry and content explorations.” As Nick Varney, an alumnus of the UVU School of Education, summarized: “The Creative Learning Studio [in the UVU School of Education] is one of the most forward-thinking education design programs in the state of Utah. Students who receive training from the CLS are empowered to create transformative 21st-century learning experiences for their future students.”
To learn more about the CLS, the resources it offers, and ways to collaborate with its team, visit http://www.uvu.edu/education/creative-learning.
If you have any questions about the CLS’s mission or available resources, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with them on Twitter (@UVUCreative), Facebook, or Instagram (@UVUCreativeLearning).
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