The University of Maryland Baltimore County is a STEM machine, due to the vision and leadership of Freeman Hrabowski. Be sure to check out this great “60 Minutes” segment about Hrabowski and his success at making UMBC a powerhouse in the sciences.
Archive for Education Innovation
Forty-seven small U.S. colleges and universities have been chosen by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to receive funding for the creation of collaborative, engaging undergraduate science classes. “Collaboration is a vital activity that drives science forward,” said HHMI President Robert Tjian. “We believe that collaboration among institutions can have a similar catalytic effect on science education, and we look forward to seeing these schools work together to develop new science and teaching programs that inspire their students.”
See on www.hhmi.org
With the statistics pointing overwhelmingly to a dire need for STEM-trained students to graduate into the US workforce, the question remains: How do educators break down the barriers that can prevent some perfectly capable students from enrolling in STEM courses? On the Citizen IBM blog, AP Computer Science teacher Seth Reichelson offers up some answers based on his own experience. Among his suggestions: “[make] computer science more accessible and rewarding” by using mastery learning, and communicating directly with parents when a student gets a bad grade. By building confidence and taking some common-sense approaches to communicating, “everybody wins,” Reichelson says.
See on citizenibm.com
A message that has been popping up with increasing frequency in the mainstream media recently is that the future of our country depends in large part on our success at training the next generation of STEM workers. Yet all too often, an ominous warning accompanies that message: American students are falling behind in STEM subjects, and at this rate we the U.S. soon will lose its competitive edge in the global economy.
What will it take to ensure a successful transition into the new economy? Addressing K-12 STEM education is imperative. Everything from the curriculum to the physical environment of the classroom could be adapted to facilitate the effective delivery of STEM subjects for maximum impact on our students — our future. According to the “Getting Smarter” blog, “Instead of teaching technology or engineering with a chalkboard, students will learn with interactive smart boards, digital devices like iPads, blueprint and drafting software, and tools that are being used in the real world on actual work sites.” Furthermore, the built environment will feature sustainable features like solar roofs and rainwater harvesting capabilities, providing students with concrete examples of how advances in technology can help solve real-life challenges.
Jim Vanides, Education Program Manager, Sustainability & Social Innovation at Hewlett-Packard, makes a case for project-based learning that is tangible, relevant, and authentic in a blog post on Tech Trends. Referring to the concept as “STEM(+) for Good,” Vanides defines it further as learning that engages students in the challenge of finding solutions to real-world challenges and problems. “After all, high tech companies are not looking to hire students who only know how to solve the ‘problems at the end of the chapter,’” Vanides writes. “Corporations and communities need graduates who can think, create, and innovate. STEM(+) students who are ready to solve REAL problems – those that have yet to be solved, or even questions that have yet to be asked – are the students who are most prepared and will be most sought after.” What existing programs and projects exemplify STEM(+) for Good? Vanides points to several in his blog post, including The Challenge of Water Quality project, Engineering Projects in Community Service, and the Center for Digital Inclusion.
Should credit for proficiency in a school subject really be tied to how long a student physically spends in a classroom “learning” that subject? It’s a question that more and more states are asking, with 36 having relatively recently adopted policies that loosen the link between credits and seat time. Quite simply, “having a seat in a class doesn’t guarantee you anything,” according to Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education. The trend has its detractors, of course, who question whether online learning can adequately fill the gaps that diminished seat time requirements might leave. “A teacher inspires students,” said Rita M. Solnet, a member of Parents Across America. “A laptop can’t do that.”
Noted education reformer John Dewey believed in active learning that should not be limited by process. In other words, we cannot give ideas directly to students as if they were “bricks” and expect them to engage with them in a way that is lasting and educationally meaningful.
In an interesting article in “The Art of Teaching Science,” Jack Hassard, Professor Emeritus of Science Education at Georgia State University, explores Dewey’s thoughts on learning as an interactive “informal” process in light of today’s science standards. One of the conclusions he reaches: “To create science standards that reflect a consensus among researchers in cognitive science, they must be written in such a way the content aims are combined with the skill or processes needed to help students have a chance at meaningful learning.” Good stuff.
Former Secretary of Education William Bennett is afraid that we’re facing a national crisis if U.S. students continue to turn out sub-par performances in STEM subjects. Bennett tells CNN that we’re on our way to a “disaster in the making.” Specifically, he points to the uncertain future of our GDP, job market, and national financial well-being if we fail to regain our edge as the most innovative country in the world.
Bennett does offer a five-part solution to the crisis, beginning with the suggestion that we “front-load STEM-related teaching.” Other steps he says we need to take on the path to regaining our strength in innovation include improving teacher training in math, integrate math and sciences more effectively within school settings, use forms of math and scientific methods in teaching across the curriculum, and take advantage of the teacher trainining opportunities offered by nonprofits focused on STEM education.
Thanks to a new $3 million grant from the Gates Foundation, a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) will soon be available from MIT to boost high school students’ understanding of STEM subjects. With the aim of engaging students on topics that run the risk of alienating many of them when taught via the traditional classroom model, the MIT Education Arcade’s MMOG will deepen subject matter knowledge while honing modern-day skills. In a MMOG sencario, players’ avatars interact in a virtual world. According to Professor Eric Klopfer, director of the Education Arcade and the Scheller Teacher Education Program at MIT, “This genre of games is uniquely suited to teaching the nature of science inquiry because they provide collaborative, self-directed learning situations. Players take on the roles of scientists, engineers and mathematicians to explore and explain a robust virtual world.” Boston-area teachers and students will participate in a pilot phase of the project this spring.
ECO Classroom, the product of a $2 million investment by global security company Northrop Grumman in partnership with leading green group Conservation International, aims to strengthen STEM education in the U.S. by providing science teachers with a rich field experience. Through an application process, 16 middle and high school teachers will be selected to travel to La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica in July for an intensive two-week field study.
ECO Classroom aims to immerse teachers in data collection processes, train them in advanced field technology, and ultimately guide them in the creation of a research project that they can replicate in their own schools.
Northrop Grumman president and CEO Wes Bush said that the program was conceived in anticipation of talent shortages down the line. “This is a longer-term effort to develop the talent for the future,” he said. “We have to be thoughtful about where we see the industry going.”