In April, I had the privilege of seeing student learning in action at the 2023 Student Technology Leadership Program (STLP) State Championship.
Over the past year, you’ve heard me talk a lot about United We Learn, Kentucky’s vision for the future of education in the Commonwealth. One of the three big ideas of United We Learn is creating a more vibrant learning experience for every student. We heard loud and clear from Kentuckians across the state – including our students – that they want their education to be hands-on, engaging and innovative. STLP is all of those things.
STLP empowers student learning and achievement through the use or creation of technology-based solutions for school and community needs. Students create projects, products or services to meet those needs and then demonstrate their process and learning in various STLP categories, which range from instructional, technical or community service-based projects to digital content creation (such as digital art, photography, design, programming, app development and robotics. The best projects, products and services are invited to compete at the STLP State Championship each spring.
I got the opportunity to talk to 6th-grade students from Austin Tracy Elementary School in Barren County. They had two projects that focused on the school’s outdoor classroom, which they said had become little used and needed a cleanup and makeover.
The students set up regular cleanup days and found ways to recycle products that helped the environment – such as using old milk jugs to start growing seeds that will be transplanted into the outdoor classroom. They set up bee and butterfly habitats, as well as ladybug houses, and learned how important these creatures are to the environment.
These students told me that throughout the project, they learned how to use Google Slides, how to make a QR Code and how to set up a Facebook page about their project. Both groups also documented their work with videos, learning how to shoot, edit and add music to the videos.
This type of hands-on learning is what sticks with our students. It is not just a worksheet they complete because they are told to complete it. Each of these STLP teams dug into a real problem and produced real-life solutions. At Great Crossing High School in Scott County, for instance, they found technology that helps translate teacher videos into 40 different languages for English learner students.
Helping our students find real-world problems to dig into and solve also gives them confidence in their own abilities. Watching elementary school students get up in front of judges and other adults to explain their project, their conclusions and what they learned in the process is a skill that will help them in any career they decide to pursue.
Interest in STLP is growing. This year, we had a record-breaking year with more than 13,000 students attending the state championship, compared to the 10,000 students that attended last year. Those students came from 488 schools in 114 districts.
I would like to offer my congratulations to all of Kentucky’s students that participated in STLP this school year. No matter whether they took home a trophy from the state championship or not, the skills they have learned through their innovative projects will help them achieve great things in whatever they intend to do in their careers.