STEM Education News
April 27, 2012
In This Issue:
- Student Interest in Math and Science Soars in Classes Utilizing Technology and Student-Directed Learning
- Department of Education Presents Free Virtual Conference on Education Technology
- Celebrate STEM This Weekend
- NCES Examines the Math, Science, and Reading Achievement of English Language Learners
- Why Engineering, Science Gender Gap Persists
Student Interest in Math and Science Soars in Classes Utilizing Technology and Student-Directed Learning
According to the 2011 Speak Up survey, students are more likely to express a strong interest in a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) career when they have an active role in directing their own learning, especially through the use of technology. Among high-school students who have experienced this type of setting in math or science classes, nearly one-third say they are interested in a future career in a STEM field, compared to only 20 percent of their peers in traditional, teacher-directed classrooms where the use of technology is limited.
“This is the first time we’ve noticed this correlation between the type of math and science instruction and the students’ interest in STEM careers,” said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, the national education nonprofit that coordinates the Speak Up initiatvie. “For a nation concerned with developing the next generations of scientists, engineers and innovators, this finding should raise some eyebrows.”
The majority of middle and high school learning in math or science falls into one of these three classroom paradigms:
- Teacher-directed instruction, with lectures, textbook assignments, group projects and labs – 43%
- Teacher-directed instruction, but with some technology used to support instruction – 33%
- A mix of teacher-directed instruction and student-directed learning with the use of technology tools to support both – 9%
“For three-quarters of today’s students in grades 6-12, math and science class is still much like it was when we adults were in school: predominately teacher-centered with little or no opportunities for students to direct their own learning, at their own pace, with their own tools,” says Evans.
“Think about that in contrast to what is being called for by the new Common Core Standards for math. The Common Core approach is based on teachers laying out a specific task and inviting the students to dig in and solve the problem using appropriate tools and resources,” explain Evans. “If our schools are able to implement this type of teaching and learning, the potential for interest in math and science should grow.”
The survey also finds that students have greater access to new technologies and are utilizing them both inside and outside of school. Findings include:
- More than half of all students (urban, suburban and rural) report access to mobile internet outside of school through 3G/4G mobile devices.
- Students’ access to personal tablet devices doubled from 2010-2011 (26% of middle schoolers and 21% of high schoolers now report personal access to a tablet).
- Students are adopting technologies and then adapting them to support their own self-directed learning (tweeting about academic topics, tutoring other students online, using mobile apps to organize school work, using Facebook as a collaboration tool for classroom projects, etc.).
These findings can be found in the Speak Up 2012 report, Mapping a Personalized Learning Journey – K-12 Students and Parents Connects the Dots with Digital Learning.
Department of Education Presents Free Virtual Conference on Education Technology
On Monday, April 30, 2012, from noon to 6:00pm EDT, the U.S. Department of Education will host the National Rural Education Technology Summit 2.0., a free virtual conference for educators, students, and rural education stakeholders. The summit is designed to provide examples of how technology is being used to overcome the challenges of distance and increase access to educational opportunities in distant and remote rural areas.
Sessions were designed specifically for administrators, teachers, as well as students, and include interactive presentations and resources. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will address the audience; and experts will discuss a range of topics related to technology in education, including these STEM-focused sessions:
- Bringing the Smithsonian to You – Interact with Smithsonian experts and learn how to access unique resources and opportunities, such as collecting data for ongoing science investigations in partnership with Smithsonian researchers and other schools around the world. Also, learn about the exciting new initiatives of the Shout environmental education program (shoutlearning.org).
- (Student classroom participation is encouraged!)
- Ready, Set, Robot GO! – You will learn how to assemble and program a calculator robot and see how other students raced their robots in a giant relay competition.
- Including presentation by Tyson Tuchscherer, Education Specialist and Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow ’05-’06.
- College and Career – Ready Standards Implementation – Learn the effects of the standards on education policy, as well as common hurdles and questions associated with the new standards. The presenters will also discuss resources to support educators in the implementation of the CCSS.
Participants will have access to a “Resource Hall” designed to highlight programs across the federal government that can be used in rural communities. Summit attendees will also earn a digital badge for their participation. To learn more or to participate in the National Rural Education Technology Summit here.
Celebrate STEM This Weekend
The 2nd USA Science & Engineering Festival, the nation’s largest celebration of STEM, takes place this Saturday, April 28, and Sunday, April 29, with a free expo and book fair in Washington, DC, and an additional 50 satellite events scheduled throughout the country. The Festival, first held in 2010, was created to excite the nation’s youth and increase public awareness of the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields by presenting the most compelling, exciting, educational, and entertaining science festival in the United States.
The finale expo, taking place at the Washington, DC Convention Center, will feature over 3,000 different hands-on activities and experiments, 150 stage performances, and 40 leading science and engineering authors. Over 550 different organizations are participating and 130 corporate sponsors are supporting this year’s festival. New this year, the Festival will include a book fair and a career center for high school students that includes a college fair, a job fair, and a Meet the Scientist/Engineer Networking area. Science celebrities, including Bill Nye the Science Guy, Mayim Bialik from the Big Bang Theory, and Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman from the MythBusters will perform. The event is free and open to the public and will be enjoyable for people of all ages.
Earlier this week, DC- area middle and high school students had the chance to connect with more than 125 of the nation’s most dynamic and influential scientists and engineers through its “Nifty Fifty” program. This year’s Nifty Fifty participants include Camsie McAdams, ’09-‘11 Einstein Fellow, and Triangle Coalition Board Member, Elizabeth Parry, representing the American Society of Engineering Education and North Carolina State University.
Can’t make it to Washington, DC for the Festival? Find a satellite event taking place near you, or learn how to host your own event here. Learn more about the USA Science & Engineering Festival at usasciencefestival.org.
NCES Examines the Math, Science, and Reading Achievement of English Language Learners
Students who are proficient in the English language upon entering kindergarten, regardless of their home language, will score higher on reading, math, and science assessments during middle school according to a long-term study on early childhood learning. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K) followed the Kindergarten Class of 1998–99 through 8th grade to examine the impact of the timing of English proficiency on student achievement.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released its report this week, Reading, Mathematics, and Science Achievement of Language-Minority Students In Grade 8, which presents a picture of students’ achievement at the end of the study by focusing on test scores for standardized assessments that were administered in the spring of 2007, when most students were in grade 8. Students were categorized into four groups according to language background and timing of English language proficiency. Additionally, assessment scores were reported by three background characteristics—students’ race/ethnicity, poverty status, and mother’s education—that have been found to be related to achievement.
- Students who entered kindergarten as proficient in English, regardless of their home language, scored higher on the ECLS-K 8th grade reading, math, and science assessments than language minority students who became proficient in English after starting kindergarten.
- Non-Hispanic language-minority students who were English proficient either when they started or when they completed kindergarten scored higher than their Hispanic peers in reading, math, and science in grade 8.
- Regardless of home language or English proficiency, those students with the most highly educated mothers generally had the highest scores in all three subjects, while those students with the least educated mothers generally had the lowest scores.
Access the full report. This Issue Brief is a product of the National Center for Education Statistics at the Institute of Education Sciences, part of the U.S. Department of Education.
Why Engineering, Science Gender Gap Persists
PBS NewsHour – April 25, 2012
This week, a PBS NewsHour article by Jenny Marder explored the some of the factors that contribute to the gender gap in STEM fields, particularly in engineering and computer science. Shree Bose, an 18 year-old female high school student and winner of the Google Global Science Fair, discusses reasons why she was drawn to the science fields. The article also cites recent statistics of women in STEM fields and current initiatives and steps being taken throughout the country to encourage more females to enter these careers. Read the full article.