Nine Ways Technology Can Boost STEM Learning

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education’s blog, Homeroom

Across the nation, innovative programs are preparing students to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These subjects, often called STEM, can open up new pathways to success in the 21st century workforce and also means new opportunities for students and teachers alike.

Technology can play an important role in the STEM learning process. The Office of Educational Technology, in partnership with Digital Promise, reviewed research literature on how technology can enrich STEM learning. They found nine ways that technology can help students engage with these subjects which are highlighted in this newly released report from the U.S. Department of Education— Innovation Spotlights: Nine Dimensions for Supporting Powerful STEM Learning with Technology.  This report is the result of a systematic review of the current research on the impact of integrating innovative digital technology in STEM and computer science curricula and classrooms.

We hope that teachers, curriculum specialists, and other education leaders will learn how these methods can deepen students’ learning experiences. You can see these methods in action by clicking the link to each video.

1.Dynamic RepresentationsStudents learn or master STEM concepts through interacting with digital models, simulations, and dynamic representations of mathematical, scientific, and engineering systems.

2.Collaborative Reasoning. Technology tools support students’ collaborative reasoning around STEM concepts, equalizing participation among group members and helping individuals and groups improve their ideas.

3. Immediate and Individualized FeedbackDigital tools provide students practicing or learning STEM skills or concepts with immediate and individualized feedback, beyond right or wrong.

4. Science Argumentation SkillsStudents use technology that supports science argumentation skills including presenting and evaluating evidence about scientific or mathematical claims.

5. Engineering Design Processes. Students plan, revise, implement, and test problem solutions using engineering design processes and appropriate support technologies.

6. Computational ThinkingStudents use technology to formulate and analyze problems and their solutions, reason abstractly, and automate procedures through algorithmic thinking.

7. Project-based Interdisciplinary Learning. Students use digital technology tools in the context of authentic project- or challenge-based learning activities that integrate multiple STEM fields (e.g., science and mathematics).

8. Embedded Assessments. Digital assessments are embedded in STEM instruction to prompt students’ reflection on the quality of their explanations, models, or problem solutions.

9. Evidence-based Models. Students use technology to develop models based on data and evidence.

The United States is making strides in STEM literacy, innovation, and employment.


To read Innovation Spotlights: Nine Dimensions for Supporting Powerful STEM Learning with Technology and access the 10 school spotlight videos, visit https://tech.ed.gov/stem/.

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Bright Spot in Hispanic Education Google + Hangout Highlights Local Efforts on Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education for Latino Students

Posted by Jaqueline Cortez Wang, Senior Advisor, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

On March 16, 2016, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (Initiative) held its Bright Spots in Hispanic Education Google+ Hangout (Hangout) monthly session. The fourth Hangout highlighted the work of Bright Spots focused on STEM education and the Hispanic community. Melissa Moritz, Deputy Director for STEM Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, and I were joined by representatives from Bright Spots in California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, and Texas.  The Hangout featured promising practices and strategies helping to broaden participation of Hispanics in STEM education and related fields.

According to the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, between 2010 and 2020, the overall employment in STEM occupations will increase by 17%, yet Latinos are underrepresented in STEM fields and not enough are graduating with STEM degrees to match the increasing demands for these jobs. And, when it comes to accessing key math and science only 67% of Hispanic students have access to the full range. For Latinas, the underrepresentation in STEM is even greater, with only approximately 9% of Latinas obtaining a STEM-related degree at the post-secondary level [National Center for Educational Statistics, 2009]. The Bright Spots we spoke to are helping to combat these disparities through their hard work.

LNCES share their program with students in the background

In an effort to reframe the narrative suggesting the interest of Hispanic students, in particular of Hispanic girls and women, in STEM is low, we must work together to ensure access and opportunity. The Bright Spots also highlighted the importance of engaging parents, supporting educators and informing the community about the benefits of rigorous math and science courses and careers in STEM. They also stressed the need to expose students at earlier ages, starting in preschool, and to train and recruit more Latino STEM teachers who can serve as role models and can expose students further.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we also learned about efforts to increase the number of Hispanic girls and women entering STEM related fields. As a former employee working at NASA, it was especially encouraging to see Bright Spots focusing on this specifically. The Obama Administration has called for improvements in STEM education, increases in the number of STEM teachers, and additional opportunities encouraging all students, including girls and women, in science careers. Thanks to the efforts of our Bright Spots and the continued investments from the federal government, I look forward to seeing more Latinos enter and complete STEM degrees.

Jaqueline Cortez-Wang and Melissa Mortiz host the STEM Google Hangout

The next Google+ Hangout will take place on Wednesday April 20, 2016 on Latino Teacher Recruitment. We hope you will join us as we work together to move the needle on progress for Hispanic students across the nation.

Resources:

Encouraging Girls in Math and Science Practice Guide

Educate to Innovate

Funding for Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Programs

Funding for HSIs and STEM Programs

Green Ribbon Schools

Bright Spots In Hispanic Education National Catalog

Civil Rights Data Collection – College and Career Readiness Snapshot

 

View the full engagement video here: https://youtu.be/afImTdQ3DOk

Visit Your Favorite Museum or Cultural Center on Museum Day Live!

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

Where will you be on Saturday, March 12, 2016? In honor of Women’s History Month, the Smithsonian Institute is hosting a special edition of its annual Museum Day Live! encouraging everyone, in particular, women and girls of color, to participate in a day of exploration, fun and hands-on learning. Hundreds of science centers, libraries, aquariums, libraries, zoos and museums will be opening their doors for free across the country to celebrate the theme “Inspiring Women and Girls of Color.”

This month, and all year, we recognize the importance of educating and supporting the educational attainment and advancement of our girls and women, in particular girls and women of color, around the nation. We also take this opportunity to celebrate the educational progress they continue to make. For example, from 2009 to 2012, the graduation rate at four-year colleges and universities increased by 0.9 percentage points for black women, 3.1 percentage points for Hispanic women, 2.7 percentage points for American Indian/Alaska Native women, and 2.1 percentage points for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women.

Yet, in spite of this tremendous progress, barriers continue to exist for girls and women of color. In order to help them reach their full potential, we know we must continue to invest in their education. Learning can and should take place across many contexts and formal and informal (or free-choice) settings such as summer camps, via the web, in afterschool programs, and at museums or science centers. Additionally, informal education providers are increasingly gaining recognition as key educational partners.

Access to a well-rounded, high-quality education and exposure to student-support services and informal-learning experiences that focus on supporting students’ social and emotional growth are critical components to ensuring their success. Museum Day Live! provides an opportunity for anyone to connect content that they learn in schools to their lives and communities – no matter where you live.

First Lady Michelle Obama has said “One visit, one performance, one touch, and who knows how you could spark a child’s imagination?” Join us for Smithsonian Day Live! and help expand the horizons of young people and encourage our girls and women of color and their peers to learn about the world around them, avenues of creativity, and arts and sciences while sparking their imagination. Find a participating institution in your community and reserve your spots by visiting www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/venues/museum-day-live-march-2016/.

If there is not a participating institution easily accessible, there are many virtual opportunities that you could engage with on that day. Further, you can check for updates on Twitter with @museumday and join throughout the day, by sharing your photos using #museumday and #ImagineHer.

To learn more and for a toolkit designed to help you spread the word, visit: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/museum-day-live-march-2016/registration/materials/

Maribel Duran is the Chief of Staff for the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanics and Ellen Lettvin is the Robert Noyce Senior Fellow in Informal STEM Learning at the U.S. Department of Education

Girls and Coding: Seeing What the Future Can Be

This is crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

From left to right, Gilliam Jacobs, Brittany Greve, Andrea Chaves, Noran Omar, Angela Diep.

“You can’t be what you can’t see.”

This is a common expression that, perhaps like me, you’ve heard many times. For the girls at the Young Women’s Leadership school where I teach in New York City, this is – sadly — the case. My students couldn’t see themselves as women in STEM careers, and in fact, knew little about the opportunities offered within the field.

That’s why I made it my mission to bring computer science to our school.

My principal was excited at the idea of incorporating computer science (CS), but took me by surprise when she said I would have to teach it. As a certified Spanish teacher, I had no background in CS other than being digitally competent. But, after starting to learn through an online training program, I decided to blend computer science into my advanced Spanish speakers class because I figured why not have students learning Spanish dive into coding, too.

On the first day of class, I announced to the girls in Spanish that we were going to do tons of reading, writing and editing – but in a language called JavaScript. I made it clear that I wasn’t fluent in this language, but reassured them that we were on this journey together.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the gender gap is not due to women lacking STEM-related skills, but rather because young women are conditioned to believe that careers in technology and science are reserved for men. That’s part of why I also decided to start two after-school programs: a partnership with an existing organization, Girls Who Code, which works to inspire and educate women to pursue careers in technology and my own program, TechCrew – an internship program that exposes girls to coding, graphic design, animation and film.

Watch the girls in Chaves’ class who created the nutrition game, Healthy Bunch, which won the MIT-sponsored competition “Dream It. Code It. Win It.”

Each club started with eight girls, but TechCrew now includes 30 girls working collaboratively to create and produce technology-driven projects. Students have coded video games and apps about recycling, healthy eating habits, carbon footprints, space debris, learning Spanish and more. As one of my students, Brittany Greve, says, “Computer science has allowed me to look at a problem from multiple perspectives and use logic to come up with innovative solutions.”

My students have also become leaders within the CS community. We’ve worked together on all sorts of projects, such as a summer coding camp in Queens where girls learned to build apps that advocate for social justice. Additionally, my TechCrew is currently leading 50 girls in the creation of a Digital Dance, in which dancers, filmmakers, graphic designers and coders are bringing together their expertise to create a beautiful piece of art.

Watch Chaves’ students talking about why they love to code and how coding has influenced them (in English).

Watch Chaves’ students talking about why they love to code and how coding has influenced them (in Spanish).

I am a Spanish teacher by training, but I took a risk to integrate CS into my curriculum and learned that this language does not have to stand on its own. It can be infused into any subject in any classroom. All it takes is a little innovation, trust and risk-taking.

One of my students put it best, “CS has opened a new pathway in my life. It has made me discover a part of who I am that I didn’t know existed. I can now see what I would like my future to be,” she said.

Andrea Chaves is a Spanish and computer science teacher and creative director at the Young Women’s Leadership School in Astoria, New York. She was recently named a White House Champion of Change.

STEM Programs at the Department of Education: Supporting Teachers and Students

This is crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

This week, the President recognized some of the best and brightest science and engineering students from across the country during the 2015 White House Science Fair. At the Department of Education (the Department), we share the President’s commitment to supporting science education that is student-centered and grounded in real-world settings. We have made great strides in improving and broadening science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education for all students by including STEM priorities in dozens of competitive grant programs in recent years. Most recently, the Department announced that the 2015 Ready-to-Learn Television grant competition will, for the first time, include a priority to support the development of television and digital media focused on science.

STEM has also been included as an area of focus in the Race to the Top-District program, which is focused on providing students with a personalized educational experience — meaning where the pace of learning and the instructional approach are tailored to the needs of individual learners. Highlights include: Galt Joint Union Elementary School District in California, which has launched afterschool STEM clubs to provide students the opportunity to explore robotics; and in Springdale Public Schools in Arkansas, students are using spatial technology to map bus routes and have created an interactive online system for the local community.

In addition to targeting resources to support the development and implementation of STEM programs, we have also begun to make steady progress towards the President’s goal to recruit and prepare 100,000 additional STEM teachers by 2020. At last year’s White House Science Fair we announced the inclusion of a STEM priority in the Teacher Quality Partnerships grant competition. This past fall we announced grant awards that support 24 new partnerships between universities and high-need school districts to recruit, train and support more than 11,000 new teachers over the next five years — many in STEM fields. A number of other grant programs focus on providing STEM teachers with the training and resources necessary to teach to rigorous standards in these fields, including: the Investing in Innovation (i3) grant program, the Teacher Incentive Fund, the Math and Science Partnerships program and Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow.

Ensuring equity within the STEM fields is essential to our overall efforts to transform educational opportunity for our most underserved students in urban and rural communities. To commemorate this year’s 25th anniversary of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the launch of the 25th Anniversary Year of Action: Fulfilling America’s Future. Part of this effort focuses on increasing educational outcomes and opportunities for Hispanic students in STEM. One effort already underway is the Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) – STEM program which supports HSIs in increasing the number of Hispanic students attaining degrees in STEM to prepare them for success in the 21st century STEM economy.

Because we know that learning happens inside and outside of formal school settings, ED’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program is collaborating with NASA, the National Park Service, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to bring high-quality STEM content and experiences to students from low – income, high-need schools. We are particularly pleased about these programs’ commitment to Native American students, which will provide about 350 students at 11 sites (across 6 states) out-of-school STEM courses on environmental monitoring and citizen science.

To support more students with opportunities to engage in “hands-on” activities to support STEM learning, we will be conducting a Makeover Challenge. This effort will seek innovative solutions to update Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs that meet the needs of employers in the advanced manufacturing industry. Currently in the planning process, ED hopes to launch a future competition that will prototype state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities by providing technical assistance, professional development, equipment, hardware, and technology to support CTE manufacturing programs.

Advanced manufacturing is not the only place where we are looking into the future. ED’s STEM team recently launched a series of workshops with STEM experts and visionaries — including teachers, researchers, and education experts — to develop a 10-year strategic vision for STEM education and innovation. This vision will inform future policy and research (both public and private). It will also guide us as we work to ensure all children have the opportunity to develop the skills that will ignite a life-long interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Stay tuned for more information on the future of our work and to learn more about other innovative STEM programs currently underway at the Department.

Russell Shilling is the executive director of STEM in the Office of Innovation and Improvement.

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Let’s Break Down Ethnic And Gender Barriers in STEM Fields

Cross-posted from The Huffington Post

As a Hispanic woman in a male-dominated field, I’ve experienced firsthand how one’s gender and ethnicity can create unjust roadblocks on the path to professional success. As a result, women and Hispanics are both underrepresented in the STEM industry, but I believe we can break through these barriers.

To share a personal example through my experiences and career, I’ve learned that you never know when one opportunity may lead to another. A few years ago, I was named to a Hispanic business publication’s list of Top Five Women and was invited to attend an awards ceremony. While there, I had a conversation that led to me being asked to join the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. It was one of those times where I paused and thought, “The White House?!?” Of course, I agreed to serve immediately.

It’s been a great experience for me, but you don’t have to serve on a White House panel to make a difference. We can all help inspire change, and to do so, there are key steps we can take with our children and mentees to encourage higher representation of both minorities and women in these critical fields. And they’re easy to remember — just think STEM:

  • Strong encouragement: It comes from parents, grandparents, teachers, friends and the media. A young person’s confidence should be developed and nourished so that they know they can do what they want to do even if it’s in a field where they’re outnumbered. Confidence is key.
  • Time and resources: Give a little bit of your time or financial resources. Collectively, we can support organizations that promote focus and leadership.
  • Exposure to industry leaders: Do this at an early age, and do it repeatedly throughout their education. Many students want to go into professions that help others, and think that they must become a doctor or nurse to fulfill that desire. But engineers have had profound effects on human civilization and the technological advances we all enjoy today. Their work has reached — and helped — billions of people.
  • Model behavior: Role models are important and can have considerable impact on a young person’s choices. If a young girl can see a woman whose profession is STEM-based, they can point to her and say, “If she can do it, so can I.”

If we can all work on these initiatives, young women and minorities will feel more supported and confident engaging in STEM and in their dream careers. Furthermore, the talent they can bring to the field will not only diversify, but help achieve our full potential of discovery and technological innovation.

Alicia Abella is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

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A Latina’s Perspective: Preparing the Next Generation of STEM Latino Leaders

Cross-posted from the MIND Research Institute blog

At six years old, I faced an unfamiliar culture, a new language, and insurmountable unknowns when I reunited with my family in Houston, TX after leaving El Salvador. Although my father only completed the second grade, he made sure that education was my top priority. My parent’s lack of a formal education and knowledge of the English language thwarted their capacity to support my academic experience, yet they were always engaged.

The early years were difficult but I persisted. Fortunately, my high school classmates introduced me to the importance of college preparedness and a college education. Through hard work, determination, and continuous effort, I graduated 3rd out of 747 seniors in my high school, earned my B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, and am a Cancer Biology Ph.D. candidate at The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. I must admit that without the mentoring of my peers and the emotional support from my parents, I wouldn’t have achieved a higher education.

Currently, I have taken a break from my studies to serve as a policy intern at the White House Initiative on the Educational Excellence for Hispanics (Initiative), to help assess the state of the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education of Hispanic students in the U.S. This topic is close to my heart as I am on the verge of achieving something I never imagined possible.

As a six-year-old ESL student, I couldn’t fathom the idea of one day becoming a cancer scientist. Growing up, I enjoyed STEM courses although I didn’t quite understand their impact on my education. I did however realize that something was amiss; there were very few Hispanic students in my AP math and science courses. In fact, this observation followed a trend in which the higher my education attainment was, the fewer Hispanic students joined me in the classroom. This, along with the lack of a Hispanic STEM mentor to advise and guide me through college, was disheartening to experience.

As a result, it became engrained in my mind that other Hispanic students did not care about education and even less about STEM careers. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Hispanics represent 23 percent of students enrolling in STEM majors – comparable to their White counterparts. For the first time in history Hispanics are graduating in higher numbers than ever (76 percent), have cut the drop-out rate in half over the last decade (14 percent compared to 28 percent in 2000), and enrolling in college at higher rates than their White counterparts (69 percent in the class of 2012 compared to 67 percent, respectively). Despite these positive trends, only 16 percent of Hispanics complete their STEM Bachelor’s degree compared to 30 percent of their White counterparts Thus, this feeds into the lack of Hispanic presence in the STEM workforce.

At the postsecondary level, Hispanic students are not prepared to acclimate to new curriculum structures, diverse communities, and even the weed-out nature of STEM introductory courses. These new challenges, accompanied by academic underperformance, discourage Hispanic students from completing STEM majors. In addition, the financial status of Hispanic students, either the lack of financial aid or the need to support their families, is detrimental to the completion of challenging and time-demanding STEM majors.

And while ensuring more minorities, including Hispanics, are provided access to rigorous courses starting early in elementary school, there needs to be a collective effort on behalf of high schools and postsecondary institutions to support their enrollment, persistence, and success in STEM careers. Currently, 66 percent of Hispanic students enroll in community colleges, providing these institutions with a critical opportunity to retain, graduate, or successfully transfer them to 4-year institutions where they can pursue their bachelor’s degrees in STEM.

The challenges Hispanic students face start long before they enroll in college. While the numbers of Hispanic students enrolling in AP courses and exams in high school are at their highest, no STEM course is within the top 5 AP courses they take. Still, only 30 percent of Hispanic students with the potential to participate in AP classes actually enroll in them. Similarly, in spite of increasing numbers of Hispanic students taking college-entrance exams, only 1 in 7 Hispanics met all four college-readiness benchmarks, indicating a low chance to succeed in first-year college courses. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights reports that only 67 percent of Hispanic students have access to a full range of STEM courses (Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Calculus, Biology, Chemistry and Physics) in high school. This, along with cognitive and socio-cultural factors, attitudes/perceptions, institutional variables, and college experiences influence the representation and retention of Hispanic students in STEM majors.

As the fastest-growing minority group, Hispanics are projected to represent 70 percent of the nation’s population growth between 2015 and 2060. Thus, it is deeply encouraging to see a new movement taking shape towards supporting and mentoring minorities, and women and girls, into STEM fields. US2020, responding to the White House’s call for action to engage students in STEM, makes STEM mentorship accessible to girls, minorities, and low-income students in order to reinforce a quality STEM education suitable for STEM careers.

Further, the Obama Administration established the Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) to aid Hispanics in Pre-K-12th grade transition to a postsecondary education and into the STEM workforce through strategies that bring together federal agencies, communities, stakeholders, schools, and students.

Finally, addressing the important financial barriers for Latino families, the Initiative created the¡Gradúate! Financial Aid Guide to Success, which provides key information on resources to finance a STEM education. With the great strides Hispanics are currently making in education, it is imperative for us all to get involved now in order to create a sustainable environment for our students to become the next generation of fruitful contributors to the STEM workforce, the economy, and the collective success of our nation.

Sobeyda Gomez is a Ph.D. Candidate at The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. During the Summer of  2014, she was a Policy Intern for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics where she worked on the Initiative’s STEM portfolio

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