Posts tagged ‘STEM’
One year, I gave an assignment in my Objects and Design class (in Squeak!) to construct a personal newspaper by reading bits of news (based on user interest) from local news sites. The night before the assignment was due, so many students tested their buggy fetch-and-scrape code on one poor site that they killed the site — a pedagogical denial-of-service attack.
Should I or my students have been arrested and taken away in handcuffs? It seems like the direct computing world analogy from the story quoted below.
Fortunately, the student has now been cleared of charges. It’s still a scary story.
It’s a sad commentary on our alarmist society that a similar deed would probably land a modern day budding Oliver Sacks in jail. That is exactly what it has done to a young aspiring scientist named Kiera Wilmot from Bartow High School in Florida, and in the process it has almost certainly deprived this country of exactly the kind of scientist whose shortage its politicians and educators are so fond of lamenting. The student conducted a common experiment mixing Drano and aluminum foil on the grounds of a school. The exact details are unknown but the incident led to a minor explosion, hurt nobody and damaged no property. This relatively harmless bit of curiosity led to Ms. Wilmot being handcuffed, arrested and expelled from the school. Irrational State Overreach: 1, The Much Touted American Edge in Science: 0. Whatever else the school was trying to achieve, it definitely succeeded in squelching independent scientific curiosity in its students.
This is interesting to me both as an example of connecting Native American students with STEM education and as something cool that my alma mater is doing.
While attracting and retaining Native Americans has remained elusive due to a perceived lack of cultural relevance and/or support for STEM, Ferreira believes there is a way to break down this barrier.
“Native youth are taught to respect elders, and many elders are ‘keepers of traditional knowledge’ which interfaces with science,” said Ferreira. “Linking elders to postsecondary STEM education for Natives will improve perceptions of STEM as culturally relevant and culturally supportive of Natives, and impact Native student interest, pursuit and endurance in STEM careers.”
I find the result dubious, because they took only starting salaries as the comparison point. Do the following years leave those with shallower education “stuck in the shallow end”? But the point quoted below is clearly right — we need to know more about the downstream salaries. I’m not sure that we don’t have the data to answer the question. Aren’t there salary surveys in the Tech industry all the time? Doesn’t the BLS know about salaries?
The College Measures study makes the case for looking at the short-term gain. It found that, one year after graduation, those with two-year technical degrees earned, on average, more than $50,000, about $11,000 more than graduates with bachelor’s degrees. And compared with graduates of two-year colleges who had focused on academic subjects, those with technical degrees were making about $30,000 more.
Those who went on to receive master’s degrees earned, on average, $63,340, or $24,000 more than the median first-year earnings of those who stopped with a bachelor’s degree.
Mark Schneider, president of College Measures and a vice president of the American Institutes for Research, acknowledged in an interview on Thursday that the salary someone makes one year after graduation doesn’t necessarily reflect a person’s lifetime earnings potential. Many educators point out that, with rapidly changing work-force needs, students who complete narrowly focused technical degrees or certificates might land lucrative jobs right away but struggle to move on if those jobs dry up.
“We’ve all heard about the philosophy majors who start out as baristas at Starbucks and go on to become barristers, and the person with a technical degree who’s going to be replaced by robots,” Mr. Schneider said. But when it comes to tracking salaries 10 years down the road, “the truth is, we don’t know.”
Interesting — HP is offering a MOOC for “STEMx” teachers (below), and Google is offering CS teacher fellowships. Nice to see the companies stepping up. I’m not convinced that MOOCs are the best way to reach teachers, but a bigger question is how many teachers will identify with the term “STEMx.” We have seen that teacher identity drives teacher’s pursuit of professional development. Will they see themselves in this term?
Coined by the HP Catalyst Initiative, STEMx covers not only science, technology, engineering and math, but also other high-technology disciplines such as computer science, nanoscience and biotech. The modified acronym also refers to the skills of collaboration, creativity, communication, problem solving, inquiry, computational thinking and “global fluency.”
The MOOC was announced by HP’s education partners, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the New Media Consortium (NMC), during the 2013 HP Catalyst Summit in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The meeting attracted more than 120 educators and policy leaders.
This is actually pretty scary. The goal of these reviews is to “ensure efficiency and eliminate duplication,” especially between federal, private, and philanthropic programs. Does that mean that FIRST Robotics makes all other research and outreach for robotics in CS education “duplication”?
Subcommittee Chairman Larry Bucshon (R-IN) highlighted that the COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 requires the National Science and Technology Council Committee on STEM to develop and implement a 5-year strategic plan. This plan would specify and prioritize objectives and define the role of each of the government agencies which fund STEM programs and activities. In this process of strategic planning, Bucshon stated that he wanted to recognize the importance of private sector and non-profit collaborations in STEM education. He also noted that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggested that the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) should work with agencies to produce strategies that ensure efficiency and eliminate duplication and ineffective programs. The GAO also concluded in a 2012 report that there is a need for strategic planning in order to better manage the overlap of federal STEM education programs.
I’ve heard about the STEAM movement (STEM + Art) and thought it was a good idea. Thinking of the “Art” piece as also including Design makes it a great idea.
According to the website, the movement aims to include art and design in STEM policy decisions; encourage the integration of art and design in K-20 education; and influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation.
“Design is increasingly becoming a key differentiator for technology startups and products,” the website states, and art and design “provide real solutions for our everyday lives, distinguish American products in a global marketplace, and create opportunity for economic growth.”
Georgia’s Department of Education is revising their curricula for computer science. You can see the existing pathway definition for “Computing” (here), and the definition of the existing first course “Computing in the Modern World” (CiMW). CiMW is based on the CSTA Standards, and includes computing topics like data representation, Moore’s Law, algorithmic thinking, and problem solving.
The proposed new first course is linked here, as part of the now-called “Information Technology” Pathway. It’s called “Introduction to Digital Technology.” It does include computational thinking, but removes most of the computer science pieces.
Why are they doing this? We are not sure — Universities have not been involved in the revision, only high school teachers and industry folks. One theory is that the Department of Education wants to better align high school courses with jobs, so that high school students can graduate and go into the IT industry (perhaps same goal in NYC?).
I suspect that another reason for the change is the challenge of teaching teachers about CiMW topics. Teachers can’t teach everything in CiMW because (I suspect) many of them teaching the course don’t all know the content yet. Some of the high school teachers involved in the redesign told us that they were asked to use fewer computing buzzwords, because the teachers don’t know all those terms. The teachers in this pathway are Business teachers, often with little STEM background. Professional development budgets in Georgia have been slashed since 2007 when the Computing Pathways was launched. It’s disappointing (if I’m right) that the decision is to reduce the scope of the curriculum, instead of helping the teachers to learn.
The new course is open for public comment (here). If you are interested, please consider leaving your comments on the changes in the questionnaire.
Overall, this feels like the last time that Georgia un-decided to let AP CS count towards high school graduation. Two steps forward, one step back. “Constant vigilance!”
Interesting model. To be effective, I’d suggest hiring the STEM faculty with an eye toward STEM education. Hire faculty who want to make improving the quality and retention of STEM graduates, not just more STEM researchers. Make it count.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy announced Thursday a plan to dedicate $1.5 billion to growing the science, technology, engineering, and math programs at the University of Connecticut. The money will be used to hire more faculty members, enroll more students, build new STEM facilities and dorms, and create new doctoral fellowships and a STEM honors program.
The proposal, called Next Generation Connecticut, spans UConn’s three campuses. If the program passes the state legislature, it would increase the number of engineering undergraduates enrolled by 70 percent and the number of STEM graduates by 47 percent. UConn currently enrolls 7,701 undergraduates and 1,973 graduate students in STEM fields. It would also fund the hiring of 259 new faculty members, 200 of whom would be in the STEM fields.
“It’s transformational,” said UConn President Susan Herbst. “It’s really every president’s hope that they get this kind of investment from their state or from their donors.”
A realistic description of the barriers into STEM for students who are not from the schools that are expected to succeed. I can believe that these kinds of problems exist. Figuring out a way around them is the hard part.
This type of pre-judging of students happens all too often. Students from poor and poorly performing school districts, students who wear sagging pants or speak slang or with accents, students that may not make good grades, students from single-parent/multi-generation homes – these kids are denied an opportunity to participate at the gate. I cannot count the number of students I have encountered who have promise but absolutely no idea where to start or how to get started.
I have seen in at the high school and college level - professors that turn away students with GEDs or those who struggle academically, but who show up anyway. So many students who have been dismissed or passed over by teachers, guidance counselors, and professors because s/he may not be polished enough for top-level science. (Whatever that means.)
Mylène is describing in the below blog post about how she’s helping her students develop a set of cognitive skills (including a growth mindset) to help them build models. What I found fascinating in her post were the implicit points, obvious to her, about what the students didn’t know. One student said, “I wish someone had told me this a long time ago.” What are the cognitive skills necessary to enable people to build models, or program? Causal thinking is absolutely critical, of course. What else is necessary that we haven’t identified? We need to check if students have those skills, or if we need to teach them explicitly.
Last year I found out in February that my students couldn’t consistently distinguish between a cause and a definition, and trying to promote that distinction while they were overloaded with circuit theory was just too much. So this year I created a unit called “Thinking Like a Technician,” in which I introduced the thinking skills we would use in the context of everyday examples.
I got this from Bill Jordan of the Florida Virtual High School and was intrigued. It’s a programming contest to make models — and not about speed of programming, not quality of games. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve had some good luck with competitions in terms of teacher professional development. Getting teachers to learn about modeling is even more exciting!
STEM Modeling Challenge (Register by Jan. 31)
Are you interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, or Math? How often have you asked yourself, “When will I ever use this?” Find the answers by participating in the STEM Modeling Challenge©. FREE registration is now open but the deadline is January 31, 2013. Don’t miss this opportunity to use your problem-solving skills to win cash prizes! For details and contest rules, visit
(Thanks to Beth Simon for pointing this out to me!) A new paper from Carl Wieman reviewing the literature on science education is always worth reading, but the one linked below is particularly useful to us in computer science. One of the issues that Carl addresses in this paper is whether competitions and other informal science learning efforts really do help with student learning. We do have a lot of different kind of competitions in computing education, from the First Robotics league to the USA Computing Olympiad. His finding (quoted below): “there is little evidence that such programs ultimately succeed, and some limited evidence to the contrary.”
We use competitions in “Georgia Computes!” but for a very different purpose, not considered in Carl’s analysis below. As he points out later in the article, most efforts at improving teacher quality through in-service workshops fail because the teachers don’t have enough STEM knowledge to begin with, and content knowledge precedes pedagogical content knowledge. What Barbara Ericson has found is that competitions inspire the teachers to learn more. Competitions inspire students, but even more, teachers are inspired to learn in order to support their students. When we have Alice or Scratch competitions, teachers start showing up for our Alice and Scratch professional development, because they want to learn in order to help their students. While the impact of the competitions on the students might be short-lived, I would love to see some measure of the longer-term impact on the teachers.
Competitions and other informal science programs: Attempting to separate the inspiration from the learning. Motivation in its entirety, including the elements of inspiration, is such fundamental requirement for learning that any approach that separates it from any aspect the learning process is doomed to be ineffective. Unfortunately, a large number of government and private programs that support the many science and engineering competitions and out-of-school programs assume that they are separable. The assumption of such programs is that by inspiring children through competitions or other enrichment experiences, they will then thrive in formal school experiences that provide little motivation or inspiration and still go on to achieve STEM success. Given the questionable assumptions about the learning process that underlie these programs, we should not be surprised that there is little evidence that such programs ultimately succeed, and some limited evidence to the contrary. The past 20 years have seen an explosion in the number of participants in engineering-oriented competitions such as First Robotics and others, while the fraction of the population getting college degrees in engineering has remained constant. A study by Rena Subotnik and colleagues that tracked high-school Westinghouse (now Intel) talent search winners, an extraordinarily elite group already deeply immersed in science, found that a substantial fraction, including nearly half of the women, had switched out of science within a few years, largely because of their experiences in the formal education system. It is not that such enrichment experiences are bad, just that they are inherently limited in their effectiveness. Programs that introduce these motivational elements as an integral part of every aspect of the STEM learning process, particularly in formal schooling, would probably be more effective.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS — the organization that publishes Science) sponsors a Science and Technology Policy Fellows program that places scientists and engineers into positions in the US government. The idea is to get more people who know science and engineering involved in public policy. In general, few of these fellows come from computer science and engineering, which is a real shame since an increasing amount of science and technology policy involves issues around computing.
I got a chance to chat with Becky Bates who was a AAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow last year, placed in the National Science Foundation (NSF). She told me, “I really care about the issue of policy, and the issue of how scientists and engineers interact with government.” She wanted to get involved because she saw that better understanding of science could inform policy, and that policy impacts what we do as scientists and engineers.
The program requires either a PhD in science or engineering or an MS in an engineering discipline plus eight years of experience. Many Fellows are placed at NSF, but there are also Fellows at NOAA, NASA, NIH, the State Department, Department of Defense, US AID, and other executive branch agencies as well as in various offices in Congress. Congressional Fellows are sponsored by professional societies (IEEE sponsors fellows, but ACM does not). What AAAS provides is matching, training, orientation, and coordination between all parties.
Becky’s degrees are in engineering, but she has worked as a CS professor for the last 10 years at Minnesota State University Mankato. She did the fellowship as a “not-quite sabbatical year.” It’s a fully-funded year, including travel money. Many of the fellows treat it as a kind of post-doc. Post-doctoral study years are still uncommon in computer science and engineering, so the fellowship doesn’t have a lot of visibility in computing.
She saw the fellowship as professional development and networking opportunities for her, and the government agencies appreciate having experts in science and engineering available. Fellows inform policy and help to create policy for issues that they care about. The AAAS-provided professional development goes on throughout the year. “Once a month, we go downtown to the AAAS mothership, to get seminars on cooperation, on working with the press, having ‘crucial conversations,’ on negotiation.”
“The first two weeks were pretty intense orientation. 8am to 5:30 of training for two solid weeks. It’s like a professional masters in two weeks: History of government, how policy happens, how budgets get decided.” That last part was particularly useful to Becky. ”We know that money is good, and how it helps us to do what we want to do, but how it gets allocated and distributed is mostly hidden from us. We’re vaguely aware that it happens, and we definitely don’t know what kinds of influences are deciding who gets what.” That’s particularly important for readers of this blog, because how the money is allocated is important for STEM education and for support of research in computer science and engineering.
It’s a long application process, but both easier and shorter than a Fullbright. Written applications are due on December 5, 2012 (applications are now open at
). You have to write a couple essays and provide some letters of recommendation. ”Most importantly,” says Becky, “think about your interests and how that can connect to areas of fellowships.” Becky applied to Health, Education, and Human Services program area. ”I had been doing a lot of educational research, and care about Broadening Participation in Computing. I made a convincing case that I fit into education. I mostly supervise undergraduate researchers doing AI and speech, and I look for connections to community in order to inform student engagement.” Another program is Diplomacy, Security, and Development, which could be a good fit for a computing person interested in information security.
In February, you learn if you are a semi-finalist, and then you have a month to prepare a policy briefing memo on some topic related to your area. Then you have a 30 minute interview in early March, where you present your policy memo to a committee. If you make it through that round, you’re a finalist, which isn’t a guarantee of placement, but many agencies want Fellows. ”There’s a fun week, where you go around to different agencies to find the office for you. It’s almost like a residency match — they have to want you, and you have to want them.”
Becky said that producing the policy memo was challenging. She wrote about Race to the Top Funding. ”I connected it to my research on connections to community and self-efficacy, presented some brief statistics about the pipeline and what we know works for under-represented students. I also thought about things happening at different levels. If we’re thinking about this at a national level, you can’t just say, ‘I want more faculty doing this in their classrooms.’ You need to go beyond your own classroom. Moving to a national level, who are all the stakeholders? Companies, state and national agencies, industry, etc. Think about what solutions would have an impact. Some things are expensive. But if I could plan partnerships with agencies to highlight things that are already happening, it could have a broader impact.”
She said that it was a great experience that she recommends to others. She finds herself thinking about education as an engineering problem, viewing education challenges from an engineering perspective. ”Now, I think about engineering and STEM education. Can we imagine engineers engineering the education system? Modifying it using engineering principles? What would it mean to engineer the whole education system, mapping all the inputs, outputs and transformations, the way that engineers work with the power grid, or a transportation system, or even a very large software project?”
She told me, “Your perspectives get changed. It won’t ever again be as small as it was. I didn’t know how big it could be. I’ll go back to Mankato, but now think about state and federal levels. And think about how things I do at my university make an impact at multiple levels.”
I was pleased to see an essay in Inside HigherEd from a computing education researcher, Orit Hazzan. I’ll be interested to see what happens with her new program, that seeks to create more STEM teachers from former STEM graduates. Here’s the part that I wonder about: Will a graduate with a potentially high-paying STEM degree (say, in CS) stay in teaching when offered a better paying job in industry? We’ve had relatively little luck making that work in Georgia.
To this end, Views invites Technion graduates back to the Technion to study toward an additional bachelor’s degree in its department of education in technology and science, which awards a teaching certificate for high school STEM subjects. Technion graduates enrolled in the Views program receive full study scholarships from the Technion for two years and are not required to commit themselves to teach in the education system. Extending the program over two academic years enables the graduates to continue working as scientists and engineers in industry in parallel to their studies (one day or two half-days each week).
Technion graduates are not required to commit themselves to teach in the education system since the knowledge they gain in the Views program is useful also in businesses, where teaching and learning processes are crucial for coping with new knowledge and technological developments on a daily basis. Thus, even if they decide not to switch to education, they will still contribute to Israel’s prosperity, but in a different way.
In its current, first year of operation (2011-12), the program started with 60 Technion graduates. Sixty percent of them are males – a fact that indicates that the Views program indeed attracts populations that traditionally do not choose education as their first choice, and who at the same time are attracted to the program.
CS10K is the NSF effort to have 10,000 qualified high school teachers prepared to teach Advanced Placement Computer Science by 2015. 100Kin10 is a new one for me:
In January 2011, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Opportunity Equation, and NewSchools Venture Fund convened a diverse group of organizations to respond to this need. The focus: to prepare, deploy, and support 100,000 excellent STEM teachers over the coming 10 years in order to prepare all students with the high-quality STEM knowledge and skills needed to address the most pressing national and global challenges of tomorrow.