Role models can help students think about possibilities and define goals. Students are willing to try harder and persevere if they can connect to interesting people doing great work. Recently, the media has thrown a spotlight on accomplished figures in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
The “NASA Mohawk Guy” has become a media sensation with his rocker-style in a profession with a straight-laced reputation. His real name is Bobak Ferdowski, and he is a flight director at NASA. His twitter account has grown from under 200 before the Mars Curiosity rover landing on August 5th to over 50,000 followers as of August 20th. As a young, social media-savvy guy with changing hairstyles, not to mention part of the team that sent a rover to Mars, Bobak is one of the coolest scientists around – and potentially a great role model for aspiring young STEM achievers.
There are lots of websites profiling success stories in STEM professions. The Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC) hosts a website called Great Minds in STEM, offering profiles of dozens of Latino/a success stories in STEM industries.
100 Woman Leaders in STEM, offers in depth profiles for success stories that may be useful to motivate girls to excel in STEM studies. Sally Ride’s recent passing reminds us of the important of women’s leadership for young science and math learners.
What have your experiences been with the role of professional examples in education? Have you had any successful role models visit the classroom to provide an incentive for learning?
Share your experiences!
Last Tuesday, President Obama hosted a science fair at the White House to underline the importance of S
ngineering, and M
athematics learning, or STEM education
. At the fair, the president proposed an $80 million increase in federal funding directed toward math and science education
. A large chunk of that money would be used to train specialized math and science teachers. Some would function to incentivize math education at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. While this proposal, along with the rest of the president’s 2013 budget plan, requires approval by Congress, it acknowledges STEM’s critical importance and potential for growth. In addition, President Obama stressed the positive impact of many educational grants from private sector businesses and organizations.
By taking part in science fairs and other STEM activities aimed at exploring practical problems, students become engaged with the subjects and are more likely to pursue them at a higher level. And since many students find math to be a particularly difficult subject to grasp, focusing funding on teacher training could boost student success markedly. As the Common Core makes its debut in classrooms, U.S. math education is already in a state of evolution. Greater emphasis on STEM and better teaching practices will hopefully increase math’s popularity with students.
The President’s overarching goal of promoting and strengthening STEM education is to encourage students to pursue these subjects at the collegiate level and in their careers. Currently, only 40 percent of math and science majors complete their degree, and projections show that the country will need one million college graduates in the next decade to fill anticipated job openings requiring math and science skills. We need to attract students into these fields, and the government’s commitment to STEM is encouraging. With our country’s rapid technological growth, it’s important to keep math education up-to-date both in its content and how it is taught.
Over the past few years, a new educational media platform has emerged in the form of applications, or “apps,” for smartphones, video iPods, iPads, and other tablet devices. According to “Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America
,” a new study released by Common Sense Media
, 52% of all children ages 0-8 have access at home to one of the mobile devices listed above. In addition, 29% of parents have downloaded apps specifically for their children.
Schools and teachers are also incorporating these newer mobile devices into the curriculum. In fact, a recent episode of CBS’s “60 Minutes” featured an inspiring segment called Apps for Autism, which shared how special apps on iPads and other tablet computers are helping autistic children and adults make social and academic breakthroughs.
We see young children, even toddlers, reaching for their parents’ smartphones and tablets. We know that these interactive mobile devices have the power to engage young children, but how do we find educational, age-appropriate apps?
Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group based in San Francisco, reviews almost 1,500 apps designed for children and teenagers on their user-friendly website. An educational games category allows parents and teachers to browse through almost 100 apps—each containing a description, overall rating, and age level. Viewers can also sort apps by theme and age, which ranges from 2 to 17. The website provides the same type of reviews for other media sources, including television shows, computer games, websites, and more.
A few weeks ago, the Obama administration launched Digital Promise, a nonprofit initiative that intends to transform learning and teaching by advancing classroom technologies. According to a September 16, 2011 White House press release, a coalition of leading educators, researchers, technology firms, and entrepreneurs will collaborate at Digital Promise to harness the power of learning technology and “bring all of America’s schools into the 21st century.”
According to the White House press release, Digital Promise intends to tackle three significant challenges in order to advance learning technologies:
- Identifying breakthrough technologies
- Learning faster what’s working and what’s not
- Transforming the market for learning technologies
The Digital Promise website encourages “us”— educators, innovators, researchers, and citizens—to “join the discussion” by sharing our experiences with technology in the classroom and by identifying the challenges we face which learning technologies could potentially solve.
Visit Digital Promise to learn more about the initiative, “join the discussion,” and collaborate with this innovative new center!
This past June, Education Market Research released its third report (the two previous reports were published in 2005 and 2008) about digital trends in math education. In conjunction with MCH Strategic Data, Education Market Research conducted a comprehensive survey of math curriculum supervisors, classroom teachers (grades K-5), math teachers (grades 6-8 and 9-12), and math department chairs (grades 6-8 and 9-12). The report identified what resources math educators rely on most in the classroom, and what new products and tools they’re most interested in purchasing.
While most math classrooms still use a basal textbook, the integration of digital resources is rising. On average, math teachers reported spending more than one full class period per week using digital tools or content, and many spent significantly more time utilizing technology. Specifically, among teachers who report using digital content or tools during more then 26% of class time (high digital use), the highest percentages are remedial math teachers and grades 6-8 math teachers. The most commonly used digital tool is interactive whiteboards. Teachers considered interactive whiteboards to be the most important supplemental material in addition to textbooks. This demand for whiteboards is a change from 2008 when interactive whiteboards were not even part of the survey. Math teachers and educators value the “faster reporting” and “detailed student/class information” generated by computer-based programs, features that traditional textbooks and workbooks cannot provide. Other important features and tools that math educators rate highly are:
Interactive whiteboard resources
- Practice for state and standardized tests
- Meets need of diverse students
- Abundant practice exercises
- Using games to practice basic skills
As digital resources continue to expand and improve, schools will certainly continue to adopt them. What tools do you think are the most important? And what do you think are the greatest needs for technology in math classrooms?
Recently, I have been thinking about how I might support my colleagues with their professional development needs, specifically those involving the integration of technology in the classroom. Although I have researched it a bit over the years, Lesson Study
is not a professional development technique that I have mastered. In the past, I just haven’t had the opportunity to convene a lesson study group. This year, however, I will explore this professional development model with some of my colleagues.
To refresh my memory of the ins-and-outs of Lesson Study, I visited a site authored by a research group at Columbia University Teachers College. It describes Lesson Study as a technique often used by teachers in Japan to develop and refine high-quality lessons. Essentially, teachers work collaboratively to plan a lesson. Then, one of the teachers teaches the lesson while others in the group observe. The group convenes to reflect on the lesson and, many times, it is refined and taught again by a different teacher in the group. This process can go on until the lesson is “perfected”. While the process may seem tedious to some, it helps teachers develop lessons using best practices and uncovers characteristics of a well-planned lesson that can be transferred to other instructional areas. This process helps teachers to plan, collaborate, and reflect as they hone their teaching skills and deliver lessons that will benefit all learners.
For some schools the formal lesson-study process may not be possible, but by learning more about the process and using resources such as the site referenced above, school leaders can develop a plan that works best for their situation. I hope to use the process to help my teachers develop and refine technology-based lessons. I will gladly share my experiences a few months down the road. Feel free to share your experiences, as well!
One of the most exciting facets of education is the availability of educational technology such as interactive whiteboards (IWB). It has been twenty years since the first IWBs were introduced to offices, with K-12 educators become leading users as the new millennium arrived. While this technology is becoming more prevalent in many school districts, it is still an instructional tool that many teachers have yet to master. I readily admit that I am not an expert, so I have been searching for tools and professional development opportunities for support as I integrate IWB in to my daily strategies.
In my search for training opportunities, I came across an article by Robert Marzano that summarizes some early research surrounding the use of interactive whiteboards in the classroom.
According to Marzano, research indicates that the use of IWB does contribute to increased learning progress. Additionally, three related components of IWB lead to an even greater increase in student achievement:
- Student response systems – enable students to provide answers while teachers gain immediate feedback to inform instruction.
- Graphical representation of information – makes data and information more engaging and provide connections to deepen student understanding.
- IWB reinforcers – draw attention to correct answers or important information through highlighting, a special noise, or movement of answers to a specific location.
While use of IWB along with the listed components may contribute to increased student achievement, teachers using IWB inappropriately may cause student scores to decrease. One must be careful not to jumble information, provide too many visuals, or use the student response systems but do nothing with the data. Just as proper use of IWB has a positive correlation on student achievement, using the tool ineffectively can hinder performance.
To prevent ineffective use, Marzano suggests organizing content with clear objectives in mind, only using images that support content, provide immediate feedback when using response systems, and focus on the why behind correct answers. While each of these suggestions seems simple, they can go a long way towards the development of a rich, meaningful interactive whiteboard classroom environment.
Most students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors make the decision to pursue those degrees in high school or earlier, according to a recent report
released by Microsoft Corporation and Harris Interactive.
Our country will have more than 1.2 million job openings in STEM-related fields by 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. To understand why there is a shortage of students entering math and science fields to fill this need, two surveys were administered: one for parents of K-12 students and one for college students in STEM programs.
Some interesting insights:
→ Students don't feel prepared for college courses in STEM: Only one in five STEM college students felt that their K-12 education prepared them extremely well for their college courses in STEM.
→ The reasons young women and men pursue math or science differ. Forty-nine percent of young women said they decided to major in STEM to make a difference, and 61% of young men said that toys and games in their childhoods sparked their interest. For 68% of the female respondents, a teacher or class was reported as the top factor that got them interested in STEM; for male respondents, this figure was 51%.
There are many public campaigns to inspire a future generation of math and science students, including Change the Equation. Research has found again and again that interest is more predictive of young people pursuing STEM careers than grades or test scores.
How do you think we could promote K-12 curiosity about the wonders of math and science?
I’ve mentioned in the past that my district has a limited amount of technology. While the administrators understand the value of integrating technology into the curriculum, the funding has not been available for such updates. Despite the minimal amount of technology available, we have been able to implement a few technology-based programs in Language Arts and Mathematics. Just this year, we began using an online program that enables students to practice math skills and play games when they are successful. The program has been well-received by teachers and students because the students enjoy working towards the goal of playing a game, and from the teachers’ perspective, the games are so short that they don’t take away from instructional time.
While this level of technology integration is minimal, it is a step forward for our district. It has helped our staff understand that games and other fun activities can motivate students to willingly practice skills until mastery. As a district, I am hoping we can use the success of such programs to slowly integrate similar programs for a larger breadth of subjects and grade levels. Students are so stimulated by technology in their daily lives, so it seems natural that their education would also be infiltrated with technology. Most students as young as Kindergarten are more comfortable managing technology than some adults. So, it’s important that parents and teachers let go of their fears about technology and recognize the benefits that such tools have for children.
For schools that are low on technology funds, there are options. Programs are available in a range of prices. Because the “printing” cost of web-based programs is lower than print programs, companies are often able to offer them at a low cost to customers. Also, keep in mind that there are some no-fee programs available. Be careful, though, some of these programs inundate users (kids) with ads and pop-ups, so be sure you screen them before permitting students to use them. So go ahead, start looking into educational technology programs. I bet you’ll find some tools that motivate students and inspire teachers to change the way they think about educational games.
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We're excited to welcome back guest blogger, Cathy Tran, a former producer at Scholastic. She's currently a Ph.D. student in Learning, Cognition and Development at the University of California, Irvine.
The New York Times Magazine this week published a series of articels about educational technology that are worth a read. Highlights include articles about transforming a classroom with video games, a history of classroom technology, and the 8-year-old programmer.
One article that particularly caught my eye was on computer tutors that respond to emotional cues. In my chats with teachers about technology, many have expressed concern about their roles being replaced. I wouldn't be surprised if some find this news frightening: researchers are creating computer tutors that can detect and respond to students who appear to be too bored or frustrated. Students are hooked up to sensors that monitor sweat, fidgety movements on seat cushions are recorded, and how hard students press the mouse is on the record as well. A tiny camera tracks facial expressions.
I find educational technology to hold huge positive potential and its research to be inspiring. The human brain is such an intricate, complex work of art that I bet no technological creations will ever make it obsolete. To me, it's exciting when technological gadgets can step in to do human tasks well because that means we can free up our brain (and time!) to do something else to improve the learning environment. Those effective tutor creators have quite a challenging task, though, because each biological response and muscle movement may have multiple meanings. For example, sweat can indicate excitement or anxiety - very different! It's tricky business to figure out how to take in all the different data, analyze what certain combinations may mean, and turn out the students' emotions on the other side. And even if the emotions are accurately identified, the question then becomes, how well can a virtual tutor assuage the negative ones? That's one big research ambition!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/ / CC BY 2.0