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Defined STEM - FAQ

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about Defined STEM, with accompanying answers.

General Usage

What is Defined STEM?

Defined STEM is a digital resource that promotes authentic learning through UbD performance tasks and non-fiction literacy tasks for Grades K-12 in math, science, ELA and social studies. We focus on deeper understanding of concepts and problem solving skills using performance tasks and project based learning. Defined STEM provides authentic performance tasks and non-fiction literacy tasks for Grades K-12 in math, science, ELA and social studies.

For more information on Defined STEM, visit their Learn More page.

How do I get a Defined STEM trial?

Contact the Academic Coaches at the IRC to acquire an access code. Elisa Magee (Elementary), Cassandra Heim (Junior High), Michelle Moran (High School) or Renee Sweeden (Director) can help you get set up for a trial.

Are standards incorporated into Defined STEM?

Yes, to ensure Defined STEM content meets learning standards, every task has been hand-aligned to national and state standards, including Common Core and Arizona Social Studies standards. Defined STEM includes alignment to the Arizona State Standards on the website.

Is Defined STEM available in other languages?

Yes, Defined STEM allows users to convert all text to over 80 different languages in real time.

Are the printable resources available in other languages?

Currently, you cannot print or export in a different language. The website will update the user if this changes.

Who develops the lessons?

The content team at Defined Learning develop the Performance, Literacy, and C3 tasks. However, teachers can develop and add lessons to the site, as well.

What time frames are used per unit/task?

This is a question that does not have one correct answer. The timing of a task varies depending upon the teacher's purposes and how the teacher has edited a task. The intention of Performance Tasks is that they integrate naturally into an existing unit, so the task would be introduced on day 1 or 2 of a new unit of study and would continue throughout that unit. Individual products can be completed by students at certain points throughout a unit and one or two products can be saved as culminating activities for a unit.

Some products like brochures, letters, scientific diagrams, etc., might be completed by students in one class period. Other products such as reports, models, or scale drawings may take a few class periods - it all depends on the students, how they are grouped, whether or not they may work on products outside of class time, etc.

Constructed responses can often be completed in one class period while upper level literacy tasks will take longer. Math tasks provide teachers with specific timeframes.

How do I know if the reading selections are appropriate for my students? Are there Lexile Levels on all passages?

There are readability tables with several readability scores provided on every Constructed Response task, as well as every research resource provided in Performance and Literacy tasks.

How often are videos/performance tasks updated?

Performance tasks are updated in terms of article links every month (ensuring any dead research resource links are replaced with live ones). Brand new content is added each month; however, not every grade level K-12 will see something new each month.

What happens if grade levels overlap and we use the same task?

There is a possibility for overlap. However, if teachers are selecting tasks based upon grade level standards, this occurrence should be very minimal as no two grades will address the exact same standards. Teachers would generally not select tasks for math integration outside of their grade level, and if teachers follow the recommendations for Science and Social Studies laid out by the district curriculum team, this will help minimize the chances of this happening.

Also, see the CUSD Reserved List of Defined STEM tasks that is posted on this website. The lists are organized by grade levels and those tasks may only be used by the grade that it is assigned to.

Is Defined STEM mostly geared towards Science and Math?

Many secondary teachers are using the Informative and Argumentative Literacy Tasks 2 or 3 times per year when they focus on informative or persuasive writing units. Why? Because prompts and research articles are already provided for the teacher and students to use, along with multi-media resources that help teachers meet the standards.

The secondary ELA connections would be thematic. For example, if students were reading the novel The Grapes of Wrath, the teacher may want to have students explore some of the ELA focused products from the high school task Hydrologist: Helping Farmers During The Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Performance Tasks that will be connected to widely read high school novels are currently in development.

Site Navigation

What is the login procedure when using an access code?
  1. Find the Access code input located just under the user login on the Defined STEM home page.
  2. Input your access code and click the "Register" button.
  3. Fill out the registration form.
  4. After your account has been successfully created, click on the link presented to log in.
  5. Enjoy Defined STEM!
How do students and parents gain access to the site (and articles not showing up on student view)?

Students and parents gain access to the site using one of two methods. Either the teacher can email or post a URL link that students/parents click on, OR teachers can give students a 5-digit code which would then need to be shared with parents. A tutorial for how to generate these URL links and codes is located in our PD Center.

To access, click on PD Center at the top blue bar of any DS page, then click on the middle box (Defined Stem in the Classroom), then select Task Center from the green options on the left hand side. There, you can watch a video that discusses how to edit and assign tasks.

Can Defined STEM videos be downloaded?

Yes, every Defined STEM video can be downloaded to a flash drive. Defined STEM videos can also be embedded via the embed link located in the upper left-hand corner of the video player.

Can Defined STEM content be edited?

Yes, every Defined STEM task can be completely modified to suit the individual needs of the user. To further customize tasks, users can upload and attach custom content.

Can Defined STEM content be exported or printed?

Yes, Defined STEM performance tasks and literacy tasks can be exported. The export buttons can be found within the "Perform an Action" dropdown menu on the task page.

Are there any student assessments?

No, students do not submit any work on or through Defined STEM. Define STEM does offer customizable rubrics for teachers to use when assessing Defined STEM tasks.

Where can I collaborate with colleagues?

Teachers are automatically included in a group along with all other users from that school. Teachers can also create new groups and invite users from their school district. The invited user must accept the group invite which can be found in the Defined STEM message center.

Where can I find a student code/Short URL?

On the website, you can learn more about sharing Defined STEM resources with students and learn more about sharing Defined STEM with colleagues.

What order do you suggest that teachers generally follow when teaching a unit?

There is not one correct way to utilize a Defined STEM task. Generally speaking, teachers would launch a task with an Overview video, have a discussion with their students about that video, introduce the Big Ideas and Essential Questions, and then discuss with the whole group what their Goal, Role, Audience and Situation are. Then, the teacher often completes a few days of regular instruction before asking students to complete their first product. If all groups will be working on the same products, the recommendation is to preview those as a whole group and watch the product videos together. If each group will be doing different products, encourage groups to spend 15-20 minutes reading through their products and watching associated videos.

For more information on the process of Working Through a Performance Task, please see the handouts that are posted on this website:

How do you search by subject keyword?

It is recommend that new users search more generally through the Performance Task and Standards boxes on the home page to scroll through their grade level and see all that is offered. If teachers would like to get more specific about a theme or topic and the Keyword/ Advanced Searches are not providing the desired results, utilize one of these methods below:

  1. Visiting their grade level through the performance task search box on the home page can be helpful. Once in the search results, teachers can narrow to their grade level (and sometimes selecting one above and below is beneficial as well). From there, they can use the subject area tabs to help narrow. For instance, if the teachers were searching for tasks around plants in grade 5, they would select the science tab. From here, they can look through specific products in a task to see which ones will best fit their needs.
  2. Teachers can also search based upon standards that are generally associated with the theme or topic they are interested in. To do this, teachers can click into the appropriate grade band from the Standards box on the home page. Here they can select their grade level and appropriate standards document to look at all the tasks associated with those standards. For example, if a teacher was looking for something around the topic of humans and the environment in 8th grade, he or she could go into the Standards grid, select 8th grade, Science document, and look at the "Science in Personal and Social Perspectives" row. In that row they can see all connected tasks (such as Climatologist, Environmental Club: Sustainability) and click on the blue magnifying glasses to scrutinize each task more closely and determine which best fits their needs.
  3. Underneath the 3 main search boxes on the home page we have a rectangular box called Featured Content. Within the box, teachers will see different topics like "Food, Farms, and Community" or "Energy, Society, and the Environment." When teachers click into one of these titles, it will suggest tasks from K-12 that align with the topic.

The keyword search is not recommended until teachers become familiar with the site. The Keyword search will pull from titles and descriptions of tasks, however, if a teacher does not know the title of a task they might be looking for, this may not be the best search method. For example, if a teacher types in "water cycle", some relevant tasks will appear but others like Weather Scientist and any dust bowl tasks will not. The keyword search is not ideal for thematic searches.

Can lessons be edited once they are saved?

Absolutely, you can create an edited version of any task at any time. Simply open up added tasks in the Task Center to see things that have been bookmarked over time and select "Task Options." When the pop up appears with those different options, select "Customize" and begin the editing process.

How can we view student examples? How can we hear feedback from teachers who have already used the site?

Exemplars of products will be listed in the Exemplar or Teacher/Student guide tabs within each individual product. If you do not see either of those tab options underneath a product, there are no samples for that particular product.

Teacher feedback about tasks will be located in a light blue box between the initial task description at the top of the task page and the Big Ideas/ Essential Questions. Not every task has teacher feedback, but those that do will show up in this location.

Technical Questions

Do we have to have technology in our classrooms to use Defined STEM?

No, you have the ability to download all videos ahead of time and to print out all descriptions and rubrics.

Can Defined STEM be used by phones, tablets or other mobile devices?

Yes, Defined STEM can be used with phones, tablets and other mobile devices. An internet connection is required.

What data is stored?

Stored teacher data includes:

  • Name
  • email
  • username
  • password

No student data is stored.

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