Tag Archives: STEM

Technology Helping To Personalize Student Learning Experiences

SU13StudentsReportCoverBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Students learn in many different ways, whether they’re a visual learner preferring pictures and shapes, or an auditory learner preferring sounds and rhythms. Oftentimes, we use a mix of learning styles and techniques to process information.

Unfortunately, traditional textbooks simply can’t meet students’ diverse learning styles, since every student has unique interests, attention spans, and needs. So how do we ensure the success of every student? The key to a personalized learning experience is technology.

A recent study from Speak Up published this month explored how K-12 students are using digital tools and resources to enhance their schoolwork activities.

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Infographic- The New Digital Learning Playbook: Mobile Learning

Key findings from this year’s report entitled The New Digital Learning Playbook: Understanding the Spectrum of Students’ Activities and Aspirations include:

  • Girls outpace boys in use of many digital tools for learning, particularly the socially based tools like texting and collaborating online.
  • 29 percent of high school boys say that they are very interested in a job or career in a STEM field, but only 19 percent of girls say the same.
  • Students continue to report less regular interaction with traditional social networking sites like Facebook, while 44 percent of students in grades 6-12 report using social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Vine. Nearly one-third of high school students reported using Twitter.
  • One-quarter of students in grades 3-5 and nearly one-third of students in grades 6-12 say that they are using a mobile device provided by their school to support schoolwork.
  • In four years, the percent of middle school students taking tests online increased from 32 percent to 47 percent.
  • High school students reported a mean average of 14 hours per week using technology for writing.
  • Only one-third of middle school students say that for schoolwork reading, they prefer to read digital materials rather than printed materials; more than half, however, say online textbooks would be an essential component of their “ultimate school.”
  • Digital equity, including to student access to the Internet outside of school, is a growing concern among district technology leaders with 46 percent saying it is one of the most challenging issues they face today (compared to just 19 percent in 2010).

With the right access to different kinds of educational resources that fit different learning styles, we can allow children to learn at their own pace using various learning methods that meet their individual needs. We have an opportunity to customize education for students everywhere and to provide the education they need to shape their futures.

Beyond the Classroom: Community-based Learning

An interview with Curriki CEO Kim Jones…

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Tell us about Curriki’s new discussion boards.

We’re very excited because our new Discussion forum unites people with similar interests so we all can have conversations with each other and become part of a larger, global community focused on learning.

We’re no longer limited by “classroom walls” – you can ask questions, share ideas and gain inspiration from like-minded individuals around the world. The beauty is that each person brings a unique perspective resulting in a much richer experience.

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We encourage you to try it out. You can host multiple discussion threads, where people can respond to each other’s comments, give comments a “thumbs up,” and share interesting and important ideas through social media/email.

What kinds of topics can we expect to see?

The possibilities are endless.  Curriki hosts more than 775 groups, from Teach for America Teachers and STEM, to interest-specific groups like Australia Education Group and Adama University, which is a technical college in Ethiopia experimenting with discussions. If you don’t see something that interests you, you can start your own group.

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Can anyone host discussions?

Yes.

How easy is it to start a discussion?

It’s as simple as a couple of clicks. Just go to the discussions tab in your group and any member can create a new topic for discussion or participate in a discussion that someone else has initiated.

Do you have to be part of a group to join a discussion?

 Yes, currently Discussions are available only within groups.

What other capabilities can we expect from Curriki in the future?

First, I want to make sure you’re aware of our recently announced Curriki Geometry, which incorporates a project-based learning approach and is designed for mobile devices. This latest mobile curriculum adds to the rich variety of content (more than 55,000 learning resources!) already on Curriki.

Our focus this year is to make it easier to find the resources you need and to continue to make Curriki more interactive to enrich the community aspect.

If you have ideas for Curriki, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at KimCEO (at) curriki.org. I appreciate your continued support and enthusiasm for Curriki!

Cool Careers in Science: Meet Dr. Becky Carlyle

Becky orienteering_web

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

If you’re a student studying the sciences, you may not know what you want to be “when you grow up.” Behind the Scientist provides an engaging, personal look at several working scientists and reveals “how real scientists looked when they were kids.” Recently, I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Becky Carlyle on what it’s like to be a scientist, as well as learning more about her passion for running, orienteering racing and adventure!

Describe your current job.

I am a Post Doctoral Researcher in Molecular Psychiatry at Yale University.  There are lots of different levels that you can study the brain – mine involves looking at how conditions inside the body (such as getting old) and outside the body (drug taking and stress) affect the molecules that are produced by your major brain cells – the neurons.  I study how the brain adapts to these conditions, and what might happen when these changes don’t go according to plan. 

What would you be doing if you weren’t in your current job?

Probably teaching of some kind, while spending the summers orienteering racing throughout Europe.  Orienteering is a kind of crazy sport where you race a route through the forest with the help of a map and compass, I’ve done it since I was born, pretty much!

What is your greatest accomplishment to date?

Running an almost elite marathon (3:15:26) and qualifying for an A Final at the orienteering World Cup.  I feel like the accomplishments of my career are yet to come, they don’t yet match up to that unique sporting high!

Becky (3rd from right) at the Genève Marathon.

What is the single most important issue in the world of science today?

This is a really difficult question.  Can I have two answers?  The biggest global issue for me is not just acceptance of Climate Change, but getting everyone to realize that unless we voluntarily change the way we live and run our societies now, then Climate Change will do that for us.  The first option is likely to be the better one for the human race.  

If I’m talking as a scientist wanting a career in science, then government investment in research is the most important issue.  Millions have been spent on training people exactly like me, but there are very few places that now have the money to support bright new ideas and people into the next stage of their careers.  At the end of the day, this all comes down to education – if you can convince people that what you do is vital, interesting and beneficial, then you’re halfway there.  I don’t think scientists as a whole do this particularly well at the moment, although awareness of our responsibility to the public is growing.

Only about 1/4 of STEM jobs in the U.S. are filled by women. Why don’t more girls pursue STEM careers?

If we’re talking biology, which is the only field I really know about, then it’s not a case of lack of interest.  Even at my level of career, women outnumber men in my field.  But once you get to the next stage, that’s where the attrition starts.  It’s a combination of many things – lack of job security, lack of alternative options outside the traditional tenure track, balancing a family with work.  I’m lucky that right here in our department we have some excellent female role models – highly accomplished scientists with a rich family life and a wonderful sense of humor.  There is no doubt that walking past these women in the corridor and sharing small snippets of information with them about your life inspires you to keep working hard to get to the next stage.  If you’re interested in who they are, you can look for Marina Picciotto, Jane Taylor and Amy Arnsten.  

What can we do to encourage students to pursue STEM?

Make our teaching as accessible and interesting as possible.  Lots of real-world applications, problems to solve, and group work to make people realize that it takes a whole bunch of people with different skills to tackle a scientific problem.  We need positive role models, but most of all, we need to really value STEM careers within our society by improving working conditions, academic pay in the early years, and job opportunities.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a city called Bradford in the North of England.  In the Victorian Era it was a bustling town at the center of the wool trade; these days it has a lot of poverty and some deep racial tensions.

Favorite subject in high school and why?

physicsProbably chemistry.  I loved the mechanisms and the processes we learned about, and how apparently complex systems could be broken down into really neat, simple concepts.  I also had two incredible teachers, which helped a lot!

When you were growing up, when did you realize you wanted to be a scientist? What inspired you?

It took me a long time to realize I wanted to be a scientist.   As a strong student with plenty of good grades and not too many definite ideas, my school pushed me down the Medical Doctor route.  After three years of Medical School at Oxford, with plenty of exposure to the basic science behind many of our medical principles, I realized that I liked the science and the molecules more than being a clinician.  Luckily the structure in the U.K. is flexible enough that I graduated with a B.A. in Medical Sciences, not too much debt, and then moved on to a PhD program.  It was quite a shock at first, but definitely where I wanted to be!

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If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?

The old chestnut – flying would be super cool.

Favorite band?

Too many to mention!  The National and Death Cab for Cutie are long standing favorites, but I am hooked on Wild Beasts and Mum right now.  I’m a bit of a music snob when it comes down to it, and I miss the U.K. Music scene.

What’s the first website you check every day?

Attackpoint  – a social network for orienteers and adventure racers.  It helps me keep in touch with my sporty friends from around the world.

What one piece of advice would you give to young, aspiring scientists?

 Make plenty of friends.  Unlike the common perception of scientists as geeky loners, scientists are interesting people with lots of opinions.  You’ll meet people from every culture, and from most countries in the world.  And the best science is almost always done by collaboration.  It’s amazing how something you mention in an offhand way, that your friend comments on during a lunch break can turn out to be something really important.

If you’re a young person (or not so young) who fancies a career in science, you can ask questions of Behind the Scientist (use option on the right) or email behindthescientist@gmail.com directly.

Don’t forget that Curriki offers thousands of high-quality science, and math learning resources for you to use, customize and share – all for free!

Girls and STEM: Bias begins with Toddlers?

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

Even when girls and boys demonstrate similar actual competence levels in math, during the early school years, boys are more confident about their math skills. Already by kindergarten, boys have more interest in pursuing math learning than do girls.

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STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related jobs are some of the best jobs out there, and increasingly important in our technology-driven economy. But the percentage of women in many STEM jobs remains very low. Only about 1/4 of STEM jobs in the U.S. are filled by women. Women’s share of computer jobs has actually been falling in recent years. At present, only 18% of U.S. computer science majors are women.

According to the Office of Science and Technology Policy, women in STEM professions earn 33% more than those in other fields.

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It’s generally understood that by school age, girls receive less encouragement in math and science pursuits than do boys, from both parents and teachers. What’s interesting is that it now seems this bias starts from a very early age, less than the age of 2 years!

In a study entitled “Gender Biases in Early Number Exposure to Preschool-Aged Children”, published in 2011 in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology, researchers at the University of Delaware found that mothers spent fully twice as much time talking to their sons about numbers and numeric concepts as they did with their daughters! The average age of the children in the study was only 22 months, for both the boys and the girls.

Here’s a related set of resources on Curriki – Math for Girls. This link includes a series of videos featuring women working in mathematics and presenting pieces of math that excited them when they were in middle and high school.

Help girls realize that math and sciences education is not just for the boys. Even if they don’t end up pursuing STEM careers, there is a lot of useful and interesting knowledge to be gained in studying math, science and engineering topics. The use of math in traditionally non-STEM careers, such as finance and marketing, is only increasing. And maybe they are better at math than they think they are!

http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_jpinto/MathforGirls

You’ll also find other resources at this link including profiles of women in Math, and in STEM careers in general.

References:

http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/09/10/2599491/women-stem/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alicia-chang/bridging-the-gender-gap-encouraging-girls-in-stem_b_4508787.html

http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/women

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/24/mothers-talk-less-to-young-daughters-about-math/?_r=0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_11rwb4vEc#t=40 – Girls in STEM: A New Generation of Women in Science

The Future of Energy: Student and Teacher Resources

Oil refinery and train tank carsBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officerjanetpic_preferred_cropped

A local California-based company, Silver Spring Networks, has created an educational program designed to educate teachers, students and their families on how the smart grid addresses our energy challenges. A Smart Energy Future is a curriculum-based program for students to learn about how technology is changing the future of energy and is being tested in California and Ohio schools.

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The curriculum features lessons on energy concepts, interactive assignments and community-facing projects, as well as career exploration activities relating to the energy industry.

In unit one, students begin by taking an inventory of their household energy usage. For example, which activities used the most energy? During what times of day was the most energy used? During what times of year are your utility bills the highest? What sources of energy does your household use?

“Students really enjoy learning about energy sources since it is practical and relevant to every-day life. The household inventory is always an eye-opening experience for both students and parents.”

Students also learn about the advantages and disadvantages of various energy sources (solar, water, geothermal, nuclear, etc.) and learn ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

“My students now know what renewable and non-renewable energy is, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.”

Careers in Energyenergy_career

In unit two, students research existing jobs in the energy industry and create a career profile for a print or online energy career guide. The career profiles include information about career preparation, responsibilities, and actual work scenarios.

10 Most Popular Teaching Resources in 2013

2013-top10By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

janetpic_preferred_croppedWhether you teach math or language arts, Curriki offers thousands of free resources to help with lesson planning.  Here are Curriki’s ten most popular resources this year. I encourage you to check them out!

grammar1. Grammar Collection by Rob Lucas – This is an extremely rich resource offering a complete unit on teaching grammar in a fun way. Inclusion of a version of Mad Libs and a project requiring students to collaborate in a small group presentation offers as much creativity for teaching grammar as possible. A humorous poem in worksheet form makes the lesson engaging and interesting. A scoring guide for the presentation makes the unit meaningful and understandable to students.

biology2. Developing Biology by Rob Lucas – This collection contains a wide variety of activities, labs, slide shows and worksheets on the topics of Cells, Cellular Transport, DNA, Photosynthesis & Respiration, Mitosis & Meiosis, Genetics, Evolution, and Classification. Much of the material is suitable for both middle school and high school students, although some of the pieces (such as the Photosynthesis PowerPoint presentation) have complex material better suited for more advanced biology classes.

physics3. Physics by Khan Academy - This collection contains about 100 videos, covering all topics in a complete high school or college course in Physics. Many of the videos demonstrate solutions to sample problems. This is excellent primary material for long distance learning, or rich supplementary material for any physics course.

fractions4. Math eTextbooks - Free mathematics textbooks ranging from calculus and statistics and probability, to geometry and trigonometry.

5. Teaching Fractions - This highly-rated collection of resources includes videos and lessons for teaching fractions.

tuck6. Tuck Everlasting Novel Study by Holly Mercado – This resource provides an excellent 25 day unit on the novel Tuck Everlasting. With an emphasis on questioning, particularly question-answer relationships, the novel study materials guide students to develop critical thinking skills.  All materials like question cards, game instructions, graphic organizers, rubrics, templates for character development, vocabulary development, etc., are included in this thorough, comprehensive, highly usable resource.

esl7. Grammar Lessons, Practice and Worksheets - This site offers general writing, research writing, and ELL resources. Each section is well developed and contains a wide variety of information and resources to help students become excellent writers.

bingo8. Geometry Bingo This is a bingo game involving visuals to help students learn and identify key vocabulary for geometry on the 5th and 6th grade levels.

alice9. Getting Started with Java Using AliceThis workshop engages students with little or no programming experience to learn basic Java programming concepts. Participants use Carnegie Mellon’s Alice* platform to do something fun – create animated stories, movies and games.

grammar210. Word Search Games and Other Fun English language activities - This web site is for people studying English as a Second Language (ESL) or English as a Foreign Language (EFL). There are quizzes, word games, word puzzles, proverbs, slang expressions, anagrams, a random-sentence generator and other computer assisted language learning activities.