Learning Blade: Creating the Future Workforce with STEM Education

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Sheila Boyington, CEO Thinking Media, Learning BladeSheila Boyington, CEO Thinking Media
“Providing resources to build the future workforce of tomorrow has been part of our mission for almost 25 years,” begins Sheila Boyington, CEO of Thinking Media, the creator of Learning Blade®.

Exposing students to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), Computer Science (CS), and Career Technology Education (CTE) careers in an engaging way is what Learning Blade does. This Thinking Media system offers a complete toolbox of online lessons, project-based learning lesson plans, and activities that brings awareness among students about STEM and Computer Science career opportunities.

Typical school curricula aim to develop an inquiry-based mindset to allow students to apply their knowledge in real life. However, students do not always have an idea of which career path they should pursue. Therefore, it is critical to help build self-efficacy by providing strong career awareness alongside other school subjects. Integrating this career awareness in tandem rather than in isolation makes students active learners rather than passive listeners.

According to a research conducted by the University of Massachusetts, most students are likely to make careerrelated decisions in middle school. Learning Blade aligns to 5th grade to 9th grade, the middle-grade students, motivating young minds to learn via inquiry-based assignments to explore and experience real-world situations within a risk-free environment. “We expose students at an early age to different types of careers, and that improves their understanding of how their learning actually connects to real-world opportunities,” adds Boyington.

Learning Blade offers an entertaining gamebased system that caters to students, teachers, and parents. The system uses a unique mission approach by creating storylines representing the relationship between academics and career options. Students today choose a career path that can positively impact society. The connection is clear in healthcare, but they can also positively impact society by opting for careers in other industries like manufacturing, information technology, construction, etc. For example, the construction storyline is around building an orphanage in an earthquake-stricken region. “With our innovative missions, we help students realize that there are great high-demand career opportunities they can pursue, even some that do not require a fouryear degree. By exploring in Learning Blade, students are exposed to various career options that go beyond doctors or engineers to include mechatronics or technicians,” states Boyington.

Learning Blade’s system offers 12 interactive, student-ready missions based on various career paths, including biomedical, construction, agriculture, manufacturing, IT, healthcare, entrepreneurship, and computer science. This multi-modular tool can deliver technology through e-learning, online lessons, and lesson plans. Students can easily log in to their individual accounts and access their missions.


We expose students at an early age to different types of careers that improves their understanding of how their learning actually connects to real world opportunities and is proven to increase interest in these high demand careers

To complete these missions, they have to earn tools and teammates or technologies and careers, respectively, via mini academic lessons in various subjects, including science, math, English, and social studies. The system further provides design thinking exercises by allowing students to create solutions based on a five-step design thinking process. Students are encouraged to ideate and innovate and use their creativity to solve meaningful problems within each mission. It also offers 3D printing resources that align with the 12 missions. They can also access origami-based Papercraft lessons as a reward for earning tools and completing missions.

Learning Blade allows teachers to record and track students’ performance for later analysis. They can easily assign the required lessons to students and evaluate their progress against all academic standards. With its projectbased lesson plans, teachers can create engaging lessons by using common materials available in the classroom.

The tool also equips teachers with coding exercises and resources to educate students about basic coding concepts using Code.org resources alongside hands-on classroom activities demonstrating practical programming concepts. In early 2022, Learning Blade will be launching a new Coding course for 7th and 8th graders. Beyond that, Learning Blade’s tool includes parent exercises that are downloadable handouts to foster meaningful conversations at home. Each exercise comprises discussion questions related to students’ daily lessons and additional career-related questions with simple home experiments.

Being a nimble organization, Learning Blade’s creator – Thinking Media, has the ability to adapt to changing times and develop innovative solutions to meet the most immediate needs of clients. This was proven during the pandemic when millions of students had to continue learning from their homes, resulting in several gaps, such as the lack of connectivity that significantly limited their learning opportunities. In response, the company created a new Chromebook app, the Backpack app, to allow students to access and download interactive online lessons from the missions and complete their assignments from their homes without a stable internet connection. Several teachers have testified to its success and have mentioned how students could easily complete their homework and stay on track with their lessons using this app.

Validated studies have shown that students who use Learning Blade have a 55 percent increased interest in computer science careers and a 69 percent increase in recognizing that what they learn in school will be useful later in life. Since its release, Learning Blade has gradually expanded and currently has eight state-wide contracts, including Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Idaho, South Carolina, and Missouri. These contracts make it possible for every school and other student-serving organizations to access Learning Blade’s solution and all associated training at no cost. Thinking Media will continue to focus its resources on helping schools connect to actual employers in their community. The coming year holds great promise for Thinking Media efforts with the state of Arkansas and will be announcing new initiatives. “We believe that education needs to connect to the workforce in much more meaningful ways. The resources we are creating are designed to find even more innovative ways to connect education to the workforce – stay tuned,” concludes Sheila.

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Top 10 STEM Solutions Companies - 2022
Learning Blade

Company
Learning Blade

Headquarters
Chattanooga, TN

Management
Sheila Boyington, CEO Thinking Media

Description
Exposing students to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), Computer Science (CS), and Career Technology Education (CTE) careers in an engaging way is what Learning Blade does. This Thinking Media system offers a complete toolbox of online lessons, project-based learning lesson plans, and activities that brings awareness among students about STEM and Computer Science career opportunities. Learning Blade’s system offers 12 interactive, student-ready missions based on various career paths, including biomedical, construction, agriculture, manufacturing, IT, healthcare, entrepreneurship, and computer science. This multi-modular tool can deliver technology through e-learning, online lessons, and lesson plans.