Creative Constructor
Lab Virtual
Leadership Exchange
at ISTELive 21
Edtech Advocacy &
Policy Summit

The Case for Creativity and Design in STEAM

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Lecture

Sunday, June 23, 1:30–2:30 pm
Location: Terrace Ballroom IV, Level 4 (near Posters)

Sylvia Martinez  
Creativity is not just being artistic or having new ideas. As many schools are working to incorporate STEM and STEAM into the classroom, design and creativity are the key to bringing equitable, real and relevant experiences into the classroom for every student.

Audience: Coaches, Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Project-, problem- and challenge-based learning
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Innovative Designer
  • Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.
  • Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
  • Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Creativity is often misunderstood as simply a personal attribute – you are a creative person or you aren’t. Yet the word is crucial as schools struggle to implement STEAM programs that are defined only as subjects – not as mindsets. The “A” in STEAM is incredibly important – it is the verb of the sentence, and at its heart is the creative process. It is understood that artists have a creative process, but less well understood that scientists, engineers, and mathematicians do as well.

When schools work to understand what STEAM really means, there are certainly parts that seem easier than others. Most schools have math and science classes. Technology is taken care of as we increasingly adopt computers into classroom practices. Engineering is a small but growing option in many schools.

However, we have a long way to go. Science and math classes need to adopt modern ways that real scientists and mathematicians work. You can't just put a sign up that says "STEAM Academy" and think you are done. Students want and respond to science classes that are real and relevant, where they can engage in making things that make the world a better place, and in doing so, learn about the underlying laws of the world around them.

Technology is not only about computers, but about the basic human desire to change the world. Engineering is not just a college major, but a way for even young children to design and build things that help them make sense of the world.

When all of this is taken into consideration, you cannot help but notice that creativity, meaning literally to make things, is a key component. Design is the process of engineering and technology is the tool. Creativity is the mindset.

Recasting STEAM this way also invites more students who are not the "usual suspects" into the fantastic world of STEAM.


In many cases, digital tools, electronics, and programming are seen as something only a few students (the "nerds") want to engage in. Yet these are powerful learning opportunities that all students should engage in.

The time will be split evenly in these areas:

* Design is a way to make thinking visible, connecting abstract pedagogy to the real experiences of children.

* Next Generation Science Standards will be unpacked for the new directions about engineering. These standards are not “business as usual” for schools. Looking at them as simply a rearrangement of existing curriculum ignores the revolutionary addition of engineering design to the expectations for science curriculum.
* Assessment strategies will be discussed in the context of working with design and engineering projects.

* For leaders – what kinds of professional development is needed for teachers who do not have engineering or even scientific backgrounds.
* How can educators ensure that new technology and engineering experiences are inclusive and invite students who might not have the background or inclination to see themselves as engineers?
* Resources will be shared for educators and administrators to understand these new expectations, plus practical classroom resources from sources like Stanford and Harvard University, science museums, and organizations like NASA that be immediately used in the classroom.

Supporting research

Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom (author)

Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul – By Stuart Brown

Scientists Are More Creative Than You Might Imagine

Engines of Innovation - Edward Glaeser

Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society - Bruno Latour

Thinking About Making – An examination of what we mean by making (MAKEing) these days. What gets made? Who makes? Why does making matter?

Recontextualizing the Makerspace: Culturally Responsive Education

More [+]


Sylvia Martinez, Invent To Learn

People also viewed

Beyond SAMR: 6 Design Questions for Empowered Teaching and Learning
Esports in K-12 Is Solving the Student Engagement Problem
K-12 Guidelines for Artificial Intelligence: What Students Should Know