STEM Hoops

Tawnya Gray

American physical and STEM education remain disparate and disconnected domains of education in the K-12 school system. The health of American youth as well as performance in STEM subjects declines year after year most notably in urban schools. STEM Hoops is a proposed instructional design and accompanying technology that creates an embodied learning environment for urban youth. This design aims to improve performance in athletics and mathematics by integrating physical and STEM education.

STEM Hoops is a graduate student project that creates unique hands-on learning experiences for 6-8th grade students in urban schools. The instructional design provides a rich learning environment which uses multiple sensory modalities most notably movement to promote learning and understanding of athletic and mathematics concepts.

Instructional methods in this design include students being introduced to abstract concepts such a statistics physically on a basketball court during physical education class allowing these students to turn the abstract concepts of mathematics into concrete physical experiences.

Formal learning environments have shown to lead to superficial and weak learning experiences (Black, 2012). Educators wish to create meaningful learning experiences where students are able to create, build and refine mental models of abstract concepts. STEM Hoops intends to create meaningful experiences through hands-on physical interactions. Students will be introduced to fractions, decimals and percents by shooting a basketball in P.E. class and tracking makes/misses on an accompanying iPad app. The iPad app is a mobile e-learning technology that will be utilized as a mediation tool that augments and enhances the students’ learning experience.

The students will first learn the fundamentals of shooting a basketball and it’s relevance to playing the game of basketball. Student confidence will be built with repetition and instructor-given positive reinforcement of the execution of this specific psychomotor skill. Then the iPad will be introduced into the P.E. class. The class will be divided into pairs of three (a shooter, passer, and shot tracker). The shooter shoots 10 shots from different court locations. The rebounder rebounds the shots and passes the ball back to the shooter. The shot tracker uses the iPad to track made and missed shots. A double tap indicates a made shot and a green dot appears where tapped. A two-finger tap indicates a missed shot and a red dot appears where tapped. The students rotate positions and they each end the shooting session with their own data set to be analyzed in the classroom within their mathematics curriculum. Figure 1 below shows an iPad screenshot of the shot chart.

Figure 1: shot chart
Students who are equipped with take home iPads can experience gamified assessments while they are out of class. In this module, the students are presented with random shot charts and are asked statistical questions about the shot chart. Gamification elements such as scoring, a timer, badges, and progressive difficulty have been integrated into the assessment. The picture below shows a screenshot of the gamified assessment sub-module within the iPad app.

Figure 2: gamified assessment

An embodied learning environment is promoted as the students use the iPad to calculate several possible statistics such as field goal %, made-total shot ratio, etc. The iPad tangible user interface provides an opportunity for the students to process information through tactile movements. Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory states that humans have at least 8 different intelligences including bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. Individuals with high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence process information through sensations they feel in their bodies and learn through movement and touch (Gardner, 1983). These students can potentially have the highest gains through this instructional design. The abstract concept is introduced physically on the court and then processed through tactile interactions on the iPad. Again, the goal of this design is to improve both athletic and mathematics performance by creating strong meaningful mental models. The students can then bring their analyzed data sets back to their P.E. class and understand their strengths and weaknesses as a shooter. They will be able to look at the data sets of their classmates and understand their strengths and weaknesses. This connection can carry into actual games. The P.E. class can be divided into two basketball teams with each team analyzing the data sets of their opponents, essentially creating their own scouting report for the game.

This design is intended to stimulate interest and engagement in athletics and mathematics in a playful yet meaningful way. These two domains can learn and grow from one another yet they remain disconnected in today’s education system. STEM Hoops aims to bring these areas together with mobile technology.

The instructional design and methods can be flexibly adapted to align with both California state common core standards for physical and STEM education.

I have experience as a basketball player and coach. I attended public Bay Area schools and was a California All-State selection in high school. I then earned a scholarship to Boise State University where I competed in intercollegiate basketball. In my first statistics class, I was required to complete a multiple regression analysis on a topic of my choosing. Initially, I was unmotivated to complete this assignment until I realized that I could integrate basketball into this project. My statistics project was a forecasting model of how many points I would score in a game. I remember how the variables I collected during research came to life and had meaning to me. The project had personal relevance and was an engaging learning experience. However, the understanding of statistics did not stop with basketball, it was only the start and I was able to transfer my understanding of statistics to unique situations completely unrelated to sports. I would like to share this growing experience with today’s youth in hopes that they will be inspired to pursue an education and/or career in the STEM field.

American physical and STEM education remain disparate and disconnected domains in the K-12 school system. In addition, the health of American youth deteriorates as well as performance in STEM subjects. STEMHoops is a proposed instructional design and accompanying technology that creates an embodied learning environment for urban youth. 6-8th grade urban students will be introduced to abstract concepts such a statistics physically on a basketball court during physical education class allowing them to turn the abstract concept to a concrete physical experience. Mobile e-learning technology will be utilized as a mediation tool that both augments and enhances the learning experience for the students as well as providing a bridge from one educational domain to the other.

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