Tag Archives: STEM

Encouraging Girls in STEM subjects

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

While girls show a lot of interest in science during elementary school, the interest often fades in the later grades. Around 2/3 of girls in the U.S. at the fourth grade level express an interest in science and/or math subjects.

U.S. Census Bureau statistics indicate that about 24% of the jobs in STEM (science, technology and math) fields are currently occupied by women. The gender imbalance is particularly notable in the physical sciences and in engineering fields, while women are better represented in the life sciences.

In computer science there is a very large imbalance, and yet this is a field where many jobs go begging today – there are hundreds of thousands of software development jobs in the U.S. in this field which are unfilled at present.

Verizon has developed a wonderful “Inspire Her Mind” commercial -

The message of the commercial is – don’t discourage girls from “getting their hands dirty” with science or engineering projects. Rather, encourage their curiosity and their interest in these fields.

Curriki contains a wealth of resources in STEM subjects, even full courses in math including algebra and geometry. And of course developing math strengths is key to pursuing majors and careers in science and technology fields.

Here’s information on one project to address the gender gap in software development – it is a global effort to teach 1 million girls to write computer code and develop applications.

http://www.cnet.com/news/girl-geek-academy-wants-to-teach-one-million-girls-to-code/

As CNET reports: “A new initiative aims to teach women how to create apps and launch their own startups, with the aim to reach one million people by 2025″. There has been progress in certain areas. For example, the number of women involved in the gaming industry, one of the largest for new software development opportunities, has increased from 11% to 22% in recent years.

Here’s an article about Women Who Code UK founder and software engineer Sheree Atcheson, who is just 23 years old.

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Sheree Atcheson, Software Engineer and @WomenWhoCode UK Founder

Curriki also has resources to help girls, and boys, learn to code, including the Oracle Academy courses for Java, one of today’s most important programming languages.

Curriki’s purpose is to broaden educational opportunity in K-12 for students in all countries, including supporting greater participation by girls in the various STEM fields. These fields are so critical to future job opportunities for students and to the progress of humanity around the world, whether through the life sciences, physical sciences, or engineering.

Got Curriki? Summer Tips for Teachers

Portrait of a mature woman lying on a sandy beach

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

I enjoyed a recent blog on Top 12 Summer Tips for Top Teachers from Edutopia that includes lots of great tips on how we, as teachers, can become more productive and better at our jobs.

I thought I’d build on these tips with some additional ideas:

  • Rework the Worst to Be the Best. Take the time to revise last quadraticyear’s lesson plans to make them even better. Incorporate recent events, videos or hands-on learning experiences to enrich the classroom experience. You can find lots of ideas on Curriki. For example, use the Curriki Search function to find games like Quadratic Review or Free Online Math Games to make learning fun. Curriki also has video collections like this Technology Video collection from STEMbite that includes how to make your own bone conduction headphones, and how you can use a new pair of sunglasses to explore the polarization of light.
  • Tinker. What better way to spur creativity, especially in the dog alicedays of summer! Why not explore 3D printing or learn a new skill? We follow Teacher Christine Mytko, who’s using 3D printers in her classroom and blogs about it in Tales of a 3D Printer. Did you ever want to learn programming? Check out the free workshop Getting Started with Java Using Alice, where you can learn basic Java programming concepts with little or no programming experience. It’s fun and you can spend time creating animated stories, movies and games.
  • Laugh. I’m sure you can find plenty of things that will have you laughing out loud. But as teachers, we sometimes appreciate a special kind of humor. “Like” Teachers with a Sense of Humor  or Grammarly on Facebook to get more of these posts.

grammarly

LOL. If you know a teacher, please share this post with them!

National Museum of Mathematics

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer

At Curriki, we believe that math does not have to be boring. One institution that shares this belief and brings it to life is the National Museum of Mathematics (a.k.a. MoMath) in Manhattan, New York City. It is the only museum in the U.S. devoted purely to math.

Science News said the museum is “the antidote to math phobia”. MoMath stresses interactive exhibits so that one can gain an understanding of math concepts by doing and exploring.

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According to the MoMath website: 

The National Museum of Mathematics strives to enhance public understanding and perception of mathematics. Its dynamic exhibits and programs will stimulate inquiry, spark curiosity, and reveal the wonders of mathematics. The Museum’s activities will lead a broad and diverse audience to understand the evolving, creative, human, and aesthetic nature of mathematics. 

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The museum was established at the end of 2012 to promote the understanding and importance of mathematics, and to present math concepts in a fun and engaging way. A particular focus is placed on kids in the middle grades (4th grade through 8th grade) but there are attractions for kids of all ages and adults as well.

In addition, there are a large number of lecture videos on various math topics available at the MoMath web site and on YouTube as well, go to http://momath.org/gallery/ to access these.

The museum’s approach is compatible with the principles behind project-based learning. Curriki has developed two mathematics courses built around the project-based learning methodology. These are for Algebra and Geometry and can be accessed here:

Algebra course = http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_kathyduhl/Algebra1

Geometry course = http://www.curriki.org/welcome/resources-curricula/curriki-geometry-course/

If you live in or happen to visit New York City, we encourage you to take your class or your own children to visit the National Museum of Mathematics. You’ll probably have fun too!

References:

www.momath.org

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/national-museum-mathematics-antidote-math

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/roots-of-unity/2014/05/23/moma-to-momath-mathematical-art-new-york-city/

Coding

janetpintoBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer

 

 

Programming, or coding, or writing code, is an important and well-paid skill today. There is a shortage of good programmers. But most students approach computers or mobile devices as consumers. They use computers or devices to play games, or as social media platforms. And they also use computers to search for information, as part of the learning process, which is all to the good. In some cases they are users of interactive games that promote learning.

But all of these use cases are students being consumers of code, and not creators of, producers of, code. Photo by popofatticus via Flickr Creative CommonsProducing is harder than consuming – coding is more difficult than using an app. Yet our modern economy is increasingly reliant on coding and computer science technology more generally.

This blog on the topic at the New York Times is actually entitled “When Kids Would Rather Play Computer Games Than Code Them”. Here’s another article from the New York Times on the topic of learning to code.

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These articles note that coding instruction is trending. In the U.S. there are over 20,000 teachers involved in teaching how to code, according to code.org. The organization states: “Every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science.”  And they believe all kids can learn to code. Code.org helps train high school teachers to instruct coding. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) have contributed $10 million to Code.org in support of their mission.

Public school systems in Chicago and New York City are building the capability to offer more coding instruction to their student populations. Chicago is looking to make the ability to code a graduation requirement within the next 5 years.

The challenge is getting students over the initial learning hump and frustration around creating code that doesn’t work the first time it’s used. Coding requires persistence, and the ability to think logically. One must eliminate every mistake found in the first version of the code, through testing, modification and iteration. Persistence and logical thinking are great skills and attitudes for students to learn and are important life skills more broadly than just around coding.

Scratch is a simple programming language freely available from M.I.T. The site provides small code blocks that can be tied together to help create stories, games and animation. It is designed for children from age 8 and up, and is used in more than 150 different countries.

And here’s a unit on Curriki for game design in a science classroom, using the Scratch language. Check it out!

 

PBL and Robotics

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Project-based learning (PBL) is becoming increasingly well-regarded and important in education. We learn more by doing, by active engagement, than we do through passive memorization. Engagement reinforces learning and long-term memory acquisition. PBL can provide, according to Wikipedia, “greater depth of understanding of concepts, [a] broader knowledge base, improved communication and interpersonal/social skills, enhanced leadership skills, increased creativity, and improved writing skills.” 

Here are two related video resources on Curriki. The first is a four minute overview of PBL and its benefits. And the second is a particular PBL activity for mathematics.

In the real world, whether someone works in private industry or in a government organization, the work often revolves around projects of one sort or another. So PBL is a great way to introduce students to skills they will need in the future. These include:

  • Recruiting team members
  • Teamwork
  • Finding sources for advice
  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Decision making
  • Planning
  • Breaking down problems into component tasks
  • Sequencing tasks
  • Researching required information and alternatives
  • Trying, failing, and trying again (persistence!)
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Measuring success
  • Iterating to reach desired quality
  • Presentation of results

One great area to look at for PBL is Robotics. Here’s an article from Science Friday that talks about the benefits high school students experienced working on a robotics challenge, including the teamwork they developed and the friendships that ensued.

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Photo courtesy of The Bot Side

And here is a resource for a high school level robotics project on Curriki. The project involves building a robotic machine to sort M&Ms, Jelly Beans, or Lego Bricks by color. This is a fun, two to three week project that involves engineering, physics, science, math, writing, and programming. Students will acquire a solid grasp of the programming language RobotC. You need familiarity with solving problems with robotic devices designed and built from Lego kits. The resource includes a video providing inspiration and a glimpse at other students’ solutions to the color sorting problem.

There are many resources on Curriki that could be part of PBL activities. We encourage you to search on www.curriki.org/welcome with “PBL” and “project-based learning”.

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.

SU13_MobileLearningInfographic
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.

groups

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!