Educators meet on how to improve STEM learning

October 10, 2011 8:41:23 PM PDT
For years we've heard complaints about California students falling behind in science, math and engineering. Monday, educators, business people and philanthropic leaders met at UC Davis to figure out what to do about it.

California's superintendent of public instruction is a former science teacher. He says there will be a big demand for jobs in technology, science, math and engineering and we won't have enough people locally to fill those positions. On the education front, what's been lacking is a true collaboration between teachers, non-profits and businesses to bring more stem initiatives into the classroom.

Some schools in California have focused more on math and reading and less on science. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson says that's already having an impact on our economy.

"We see that 15 of the 20 new jobs of the new economy are technical in nature," Torlakson said. "They need science education background."

That's why he and the non-profit California STEM Learning Network convened the summit to help launch new education initiatives in science, technology engineering and math.

"We need to focus on teachers and helping them get better," Torlakson said.

For example, Google hosted a demonstration on the many tools it has for helping teachers, from how to get grants to introducing apps to their students. Google already has 14 million people using its education apps.

The California STEM Learning Network is also pushing for more instruction after school.

"So we are partnering with the California After School Network and the Department of Education to really scale up rapidly the amount of STEM offering during that after school time that students will have access to," California STEM Learning Network spokesperson Chris Roe said.

Julia Roche is a senior in high school. Last summer she joined a science program just for girls.

"Through this program I was offered community connections and these young women who were basically my role models who showed me I can be a woman in a science field and it really inspired me to pursue my passion to be an engineer," Roche said.

Torlakson and the STEM community are promising results. Using a group decision making tool called Powernoodle, all the ideas from the summit are being inputted. Participants will then vote on them and rate them. The top ideas on how to broaden STEM education in California will eventually be adopted.

"So that the entire network will be focused on driving those very quickly with an agenda in the next 12 months," Powernoodle spokesperson Deb Krizmanich said.

Teachers can use Powernoodle in the classroom as a tool to discuss and debate any issue. It is free.

The summit continues Tuesday at UC Davis.


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