May 20th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

Our 'outrageous dream': Bringing diversity to science

Editor's note: Freeman Hrabowski has been president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County for 20 years. He was named one of the world's 100 most influential people in 2012 by TIME. He spoke at TED2013 in February. TED is a nonprofit dedicated to "Ideas worth spreading," which it makes available through talks posted on its website.

By Freeman Hrabowski, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Fifty years ago this month, I chanced to hear the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. I was a mild-mannered kid with a speech impediment and a love of math. That day, I was focused on solving math problems, not issues of justice and equal rights. But King broke through to me when he said this: If the children of Birmingham march, Americans will see that what they are asking for is a better education. They will see that even the very young know the difference between right and wrong.

I chose to march, and found myself among hundreds of children jailed for five terrifying days. Mind you, I was not a brave child. But even at 12 years old, I believed and hoped that my participation could make a difference.

Twenty-five years later, I had made my way to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. My colleagues and I had an outrageous dream: Perhaps a young research university - just 20 years old - could alter the course of minority performance in higher education, particularly in the sciences. Baltimore philanthropists Robert and Jane Meyerhoff shared our vision.

And now people ask: What magic have we hit upon that has enabled us to become a national model for educating students of all races in a wide range of disciplines? How did we - as a predominantly white university with a strong liberal arts curriculum - become one of the top producers of minority scientists in the country?

Read Hrabowski's full column

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April 8th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

'Brilliant Bus' shrinking digital divide

By Danielle Berger, CNN

West Palm Beach, Florida (CNN) - Working as a guidance counselor five years ago in Palm Beach County, Estella Pyfrom noticed that fewer students had access to a computer after school.

The sluggish economy forced many families to prioritize their money and use it for more pressing needs.

"They needed food. They needed to pay their mortgage or their rent," said Pyfrom, a former teacher. "Some of them lost their cars. So I knew it was a serious problem."

Without a computer at home, or reliable transportation to get to a computer, Pyfrom feared that many of these students would get left behind.

So she bought a bus, filled it with computers and brought technology to the kids.

Her mobile computer lab, Estella's Brilliant Bus, has provided free, computer-based tutoring for more than 2,000 students since 2011.

"If people don't have some knowledge of technology, they're going to be limited," said Pyfrom, who retired in 2009 and used money from her savings to buy the bus. "It's absolutely essential that they get involved technologically."

Read the full story

 

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Gates, Zuckerberg: Kids, learn to code
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates says computer programming is easy: "Addition, subtraction, that's about it."
March 5th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

Gates, Zuckerberg: Kids, learn to code

By Brandon Griggs, CNN

(CNN) - Hey kids! Forget trying to become a doctor or rapper or a football star, not to mention all the teasing you may get in school for being a nerd - computers are where it's at.

That's one message of a new video in which Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and other tech execs urge young people to learn computer programming.

"Learning how to program didn't start off with wanting to learn all of computer science or trying to master this discipline or anything like that," Zuckerberg says. "It started off because I wanted to do this one simple thing - I wanted to make something that was fun for myself and my sisters."

Gates says, "I was 13 when I first got access to a computer. I wrote a program to play tick-tack-toe."

The five-minute clip, called "What Most Schools Don't Teach," was posted online Tuesday by Code.org, a new nonprofit foundation that seeks to cultivate computer science in U.S. school curricula. The foundation argues there is a worldwide shortage of computer programmers but that only 1 in 10 schools in America teach kids how to code.

"Our policy (at Facebook) is literally to hire as many talented engineers as we can find," Zuckerberg says. "The whole limit in the system is that there aren't enough people who are trained and have these skills today."

Read the full story

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The high-tech return of high school shop class
Analy High School students watch while a 3-D printer makes a tetrahedron die in their Project Make class.
February 28th, 2013
09:31 AM ET

The high-tech return of high school shop class

Editor's note: Check out CNN Living's story about a college program creating jobs by training students to revive a 'dying trade.'

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

(CNN) - You can almost hear the old shop teacher asking - so, how is this going to work?

In his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama talked about redesigning schools for a high-tech future. He gave a shout-out to a technical high school in Brooklyn, and to 3-D printing. In a moment of seeming agreement, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio mentioned incentives for schools to add vocational and career training.

But long gone are the days of shop class, or even "vocational training," said Stephen DeWitt, the senior director of public policy for the Association for Career and Technical Education. For many years, he saw career and technical education cut by shrunken budgets or "literally and figuratively left in the back of the school, separate from academics."

What's emerging in schools now is something tougher to pin down. In one district, it might be a fancy new school dedicated to teaching tech. In another, an apprenticeship program. Some schools design career and technical classes to line up with college-prep courses that guide students to become engineers, chefs, CEOs or doctors. Almost 80% of high school students who concentrated on career and technical studies pursued some type of postsecondary education within two years of finishing high school, the U.S. Department of Education reported in 2011.

"We’re hearing policy makers talk about it more often. Certain districts are looking at career and technical education as a way to reform schools," DeWitt said. "The focus on project-based learning, how to get students engaged more, is something that’s caught on."

That might mean more maker spaces sprouting up at schools, too.

Students helped build out the maker space at Analy High School.

They are exactly what they sound like - a space to make things. The workshops and warehouses have taken off in communities around the country during the last few years, but the push to add them to schools is still fresh.

"Maker spaces aren't in schools and they need to be," MAKE magazine founder Dale Dougherty told a crowd at Maker Faire in Michigan last summer. "Not just a summer camp, not just an after-school program."

MAKE secured a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to build the "hacker spaces" in schools - a move some criticized because of its military ties. The money helped to launch maker spaces at a handful of Northern California schools this school year.

The goal: more than 1,000 by 2015.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNschools

FULL POST

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My View: Governors, stop bashing liberal arts
Students attend New York University's commencement at Yankee Stadium in May 2012. The jobless rate for grads is 8.9%.
February 21st, 2013
04:00 AM ET

My View: Governors, stop bashing liberal arts

LZ GrandersonBy LZ Granderson, CNN contributor

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) - It seems everyone knows a college degree is important but few have a plan to keep it affordable.Just this past academic year, tuition went up twice as fast as inflation and the cost of textbooks rose faster than tuition. Meanwhile, The New York Times recently reported that "wages have fallen to a record low as a share of America's gross domestic product."As a result, the average 2011 graduate left school with $26,600 in student loan debt, helping to push the country's total student loan debt past $1 trillion.

Combine that with an unemployment rate for recent college graduates of 8.9%, and you see the impetus behind the First World question du jour - "Is college really worth it?" That's a question that is easily answered by the 23% unemployment rate for folks without a bachelor's.

Still, the threat of leaving school with crippling loan payments does bring up a more valid question: Should students continue to take out huge loans to pursue majors that don't have a clear path to paying that loan back? In other words, a job?

In an ironic showing of big government, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, both conservatives, decided to introduce plans in which state institutions charge less for STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering and math) than liberal arts degrees.

"We're spending a lot of money on education, and when you look at the results, it's not great," Scott told a crowd in Tallahassee in 2011. "Do you want to use your tax money to educate more people who can't get jobs in anthropology? I don't."

That's a pretty good zinger but it doesn't pass the smell test.

First of all - to borrow language from the GOP script - I don't think the government should be picking winners and losers. And state officials massaging tuition costs to lure students away from fields they don't approve of does just that.

There is a difference between an education and training. Just because the vocational outcome between the two might be different doesn't mean it's government's role to assign its value to society.

Not to mention the initial outcomes are not always black and white.

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February 13th, 2013
01:10 AM ET

5 education ideas from the State of the Union

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

(CNN) - To guess the education plans in Barack Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday night, look no further than the guests in first lady Michelle Obama's box.

Obama's action points often reflected their stories: an undocumented college student who took part in Obama's "deferred action" plan; a 16-year-old winner of the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair; a recent community college graduate who now works on wind turbines; a young machinist who laid the foundation for his manufacturing career at his Kentucky high school; a first-grade teacher from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut; an early childhood educator from Norman, Oklahoma, and a NASA Mars Curiosity rover team member who volunteers to mentor students in FIRST robotics.

Here are the education ideas that rippled through Obama's State of the Union speech - and afterward, in Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's response:

Yes, another rating system: the "College Scorecard"

There was talk of money-crunching "scorecard" last year, but Obama announced during his speech that it would be released Wednesday - it's up now at whitehouse.gov/scorecard. The "College Scorecard" will show which schools offer the best value, "where you can get the most bang for your educational buck," he said. That wasn't all: Obama also asked Congress to change the Higher Education Act to attach schools' federal aid to their "affordability and value."

Preschool for all kids

Obama said investing in high-quality early childhood education saves money later, boosts graduation rates and reduces teen pregnancy and violent crime. “I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America," he said.

He gave a shout-out to Georgia and Oklahoma, states he said make early childhood education a priority. Obama will be visiting a pre-Kindergarten school in Georgia this week, and Susan Bumgarner, an early childhood educator from Oklahoma City, watched the speech with Michelle Obama.

Higher rewards for high-tech education

Some states and schools have discussed charging students less to pursue majors in science, technology, engineering and math fields, and more for majors like English or anthropology. Obama wasn't so specific, but he said he wants to "resdesign America's high schools" to gear-up grads for a high-tech economy.

“We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs," Obama said.

FULL POST

America's brain drain dilemma: immigrant students who leave
Shailesh Deshpande is a Virginia Tech grad who lost his fight to stay after working for several U.S. consulting firms.
February 4th, 2013
09:24 AM ET

America's brain drain dilemma: immigrant students who leave

By Jose Pagliery, CNNMoney

New York (CNNMoney) - An immigration system overhaul might finally address a growing problem: America's brain drain.

Smart foreigners who study at U.S. universities - often at taxpayer expense through scholarships - face a tough fight after graduation if they want to stay in the country.
Many share the experience of Shailesh Deshpande, who lost his fight to stay after graduating from Virginia Tech. He returned home to India and is now launching a company there.

"Don't hate me when I take jobs away from U.S. shores," he said. "Blame your government for it."

There's fear U.S. immigration laws could cripple the nation's economic growth. That's why a group of senators this week suggested creating a fast track to award green cards to foreign students in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math).

The current system sets quotas that limit individual countries to no more than 7% of all green cards. That makes it harder for applicants from India or China, compared to applicants from Belgium or Iceland.

Immigrants make up a surprisingly large share of STEM students in Master's and Ph.D programs: more than 40%. The sheer number has ballooned to 205,600 students as of 2011, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement records.

Although federal officials say it's difficult to accurately track how many of them leave, companies and colleges that interact with foreign students say they are increasingly being driven out of the country.

Read the full story from CNNMoney

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My View: Hear the music - STEM studies aren't the only path to a better future
Abington Avenue School jazz band students in Newark, New Jersey, learn music through the Jazz House Kids program
January 22nd, 2013
05:00 AM ET

My View: Hear the music - STEM studies aren't the only path to a better future

Courtesy Peter Smagorinsky and BootsyBy Peter Smagorinsky, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Peter Smagorinsky is a Distinguished Research Professor of English Education in the University of Georgia College of Education’s Department of Language and Literacy Education.

(CNN) - “Do you want to use your tax dollars to educate more people who can’t get jobs in anthropology? I don’t.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott , October 2011

Scott, in this statement, articulates a belief held by many: that education is an entirely pragmatic experience. If a course of study does not produce a useful trade or skill, then it is of little value. What, after all, has anthropology ever done to improve the human condition, except to help us understand our past, perhaps so that we won’t repeat its errors?

Here’s an error you can dig into (if you’re an anthropologist, or perhaps a structural engineer): Dating back to at least the ancient era, when I was a schoolboy in Alexandria, Virginia, people have believed that school-based arts and music programs are frivolous extras that should be the first items on the financial chopping block when budgets are tight. Who actually becomes an artist or musician? Why support a curriculum that doesn’t directly lead to employment?

In Florida, this idea is now realized in a plan to charge engineering majors less for their tuition than English majors, because the technological revolution requires graduates in science, technology, engineering and math, not people who can read poems and write papers about them. I have not yet seen what the Florida plan provides for music majors, but I suspect that soon they’ll be paying a lot more for their courses than even those effete English majors. (Full disclosure: I was an English major at Kenyon College and got a master’s and doctorate in English education at the University of Chicago.)

The science class of the (not too distant) future

Education in Rick Scott’s sense is entirely utilitarian. The arts has traditionally been defended on aesthetic grounds because of their contribution to truth, beauty, goodness, and the human spirit, as people like Howard Gardner of Harvard University have long asserted. The aesthetic argument has rarely successfully challenged the pragmatic argument because the premises follow from such different assumptions, and because utilitarian premises are impervious to appeals to beauty. If you don’t believe me, go to Moscow and gaze upon the Soviet-era architecture, which is all business and no pleasure. And it’s plug-ugly.

I contend, though, that music’s inclusion in the curriculum can be defended entirely on utilitarian grounds. Music has often provided the social updraft that gives young people a worthwhile activity through which they can find a way to succeed in mainstream life. School music programs in this sense are cost-effective and of great long-term value to society, rather than serving as a wasteful distraction to the real business of education, which is to produce today’s workforce. Or so Gov. Scott would have us believe.

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December 20th, 2012
10:23 AM ET

The science class of the (not too distant) future

By John Martin, CNN

(CNN) - Years ago, maybe years upon years ago, you probably sat in a classroom and learned how chemicals combine to form new substances. You watched your teacher write on the board, drew a few pictures and completed a worksheet. Maybe you read the textbook at home and studied images of electrons being shared and transferred to form chemical bonds.

If you step into a high school chemistry class late next year, the students might be learning the same thing. But they could be manipulating foam or paper mache models to show how bonds are made, or moving electrons around on a computer screen, testing what happens when a transfer occurs.

Science classrooms in America will begin to change next year, when 26 states are expected to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards. How those students learn will often differ from the education their parents, or even their older siblings, had.

Twenty-six states helped develop new science standards.

Whatever they're doing, they won't just be reading science translated into kid-speak by adults. They'll be making models, solving problems and getting messy, the standards developers said. They're expecting the next generation to gain an understanding of science and engineering that makes them competitive on a global scale.

“The Next Generation Science Standards… could potentially have a profound change on how we teach science,” said Gerry Wheeler, executive director of the National Science Teacher Association. “Parents need to know it’s a different kind of classroom their child's going to see.”

So exactly what will change?

FULL POST

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My View: Help young Latinos succeed in STEM fields
October 3rd, 2012
04:10 AM ET

My View: Help young Latinos succeed in STEM fields

Courtesy Thomas G. LeoBy Lorelle Espinosa, Special to CNN

Editor’s Notes: Lorelle L. Espinosa, Ph.D., is a senior analyst with Abt Associates, a global research and program implementation firm, where she contributes to the evaluation of higher education and training programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

(CNN) - The recent Mars landing of NASA’s rover Curiosity — and the stunning images it is sending back from the Red Planet — will hopefully inspire a generation of students entering college this fall to pursue an education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Yet for many students — particularly Latinos — those very valuable STEM degrees remain out of reach, practically ensuring that America’s growth in these important fields is stifled.

Despite being our fastest growing demographic group, Latinos remain practically invisible within the STEM workforce. According to the Department of Commerce, Latinos represented just 6% of STEM workers in 2009, in large part due to the fact that only 14% of Latinos hold bachelor’s degrees —  the credential most in demand by STEM employers. Given recent Census Bureau estimates that show Latinos making up nearly one-third of America’s population by 2050, it becomes immediately apparent that Latinos are quite literally our largest untapped pool of talent.
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