Articles About STEM Education

Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

Articles About STEM Education

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Lately (and about time if you ask me)  the problem of computer science enrollment in particular and STEM (science, technology, engineering and Math) in general seem to be getting more attention. Here are a couple of articles that people have brought to my attention that I think are worth sharing.

Save STEM or watch America fail – It doesn’t get more blunt than that! This article from eSchool News covers a recent summit in Washington DC. It seems like people are saying the right things. People like Bill Gates and Michael Dell are putting their foundation’s money where their mouth is. But is it enough? Are we really committed as a nation to fix this problem?

Fewer students pursue computer-related degrees – Well I’ve been saying that for a while. And according to the article:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 854,000 professional IT jobs will be added between 2006 and 2016, an increase of about 24 percent. When replacement jobs are added in, total IT job openings in the 10-year period is estimated at 1.6 million.

The bureau estimates that one in 19 new jobs created in the 10-year period will be professional IT positions.

"The fact remains that technology permeates all businesses now," said Lou Gellos, a spokesman for Microsoft Corp. "All companies have that person down the hall to help with computer issues."

This is not a problem we can fix by bringing in people from overseas or by offshoring. One of the big needs these days is computer security professionals and no one in their right mind wants to off shore that!

And on the positive note, in this interview with Bill Gates (Bill Gates Unfiltered ) one of the things Bill talks about is that he is taking online courses on a regular basis. Yes, the “smartest man in the world” works hard to keep learning and to broaden his knowledge base. If that doesn’t inspire people with the need for life long learning what will? Some of what Bill studies is science – biology and chemistry come up – but there is history in his schedule as well. Having a well rounded education never gets old. BTW there are lots of Bill Gates interviews this week as he prepares to step down from full time work at Microsoft to focus on his foundation. This video interview at Channel 8 is very good.

  • >> "One of the big needs these days is computer security professionals and no one in their right mind wants to off shore that!"

    I understand your point, but this looks a little xenophobic.

  • Xenophobic? Took me a while to understand that remark because of course I would not expect people in any country to send that work to any other country. It has nothing to do with who that other country is. I would not expect China to off shore security work to the US for example and I think very highly of American security professionals.

  • I would like to complete my post :)

    For example, take The Manhattan Project

    Enrico Fermi - Italian

    Rudolf Ernst Peierls - German

    Otto Robert Frisch - Austrian

    John von Neumann - Hungarian

    Stanisław Marcin Ulam - Polish

    So if you can use those people to help construct an atomic bomb, why not allow them to work in security also ?  

    :D

  • Are you really saying those people worked from and information was sent to Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Poland DURING the Manhattan Project? That's the only way your comment contradicts my thinking. :-)

  • Sorry, I posted the second comment without seeing your response. You are right I misunderstood your text.

    Sorry I don't want to polemicize :)

  • Regarding IT training/education.  I am the IT guy at a small (200 kids) Catholic high school.  I meet regularly with the IT people from other schools in the area to discuss issues, drink coffee and eat doughnuts so I have a feel for what is happening in the public schools in western Montana.  In my school there is a CS teacher and me.  The CS teacher teaches apps and business.  I teach an occasional programming course but mostly I fix computers, do new installs, try to figure out why the network just crashed, etc.  Nobody in my school or the public schools in the area teaches an IT course at a level to prep students for college or votech IT course work.  A couple schools I know of teach the Cisco program but the number of students does not justify the expense.  To teach IT is expensive.  I am not just thinking of the hardware and software needed but the staffing.  If someone is good at IT and security they are probably not going to be too happy with a teacher’s salary.  Most of the IT people I know in the local schools are not trained in IT but are ex-math or tech teachers with a pure on-the-job training experience.  I know of no school IT person with IT experience prior to being hired as a teacher.  It seems the teachers become school IT people, but no IT people become teachers.  Our former IT guy (a wizard) is now making close to six figures as a private consultant.  Why would any competent IT person become a teacher unless they suddenly have a calling to be a teacher?  Unless the funding system for education changes the possibility of attracting qualified IT teachers is slim.  (A snowball in hell comes to mind.)  Are the European and Asian teachers getting rich in their teaching jobs?  Not even, but if they want to improve their ability to teach a subject by going back to school their government pays the bills.  I would like to take the course work necessary to teach an upper level IT course but I cannot afford the lost wages, time or the tuition.  Neither can my school.  This is all a Catch-22 argument.  Speaking of IT work, I had better get back to it.

  • Quick follow up on the good insights by "gflint": As you point out, so many schools are not teaching CS or IT at a college-prep level -- and let's face it: the nature of our school system really doesn't encourage IT.  CS/IT isn't part of standardized tests.  Administrators aren't judged by the IT courses that their schools offer.  And as gflint points out, too many teachers with little IT background are being called upon to undertake the mammoth tasks of learning and then teaching difficult IT material -- which is commendable (and underappreciated!), but certainly not a viable approach to solving the STEM-education issues discussed by Alfred above.

    And yet...when good CS/IT courses are available, we discover that students really do have a hunger for this, especially at the 6-12 grade level or even below.

    There's an opportunity here for someone to capitalize on.  Does the high-tech business community need to "take matters into their own hands" and have a more active role in getting students involved at an earlier age?  We already see companies getting more directly involved at the university level -- will they need to do more?

  • I think that companies do need to get more involved and are getting more involved. Though not enough of them are as far as I can tell. Microsoft's faculty connection is one attempt http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=7185840 the Innovative Teachers program is another. http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=7185836 One of the things I and others I work with do is to try to help university outreach programs into K12. And our Tech Trends events are an attempt to help as well. http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=9038991

    But industry has to be careful not to step on education toes. Educators are the experts on teaching and student motivation. Industry really needs to work with educators and not try to take things into their own hands. Partnership is the way to go. Industry can supply some resources (Microsoft is working on some curriculum with educators for example and trying to help share other educator developed resources through the faculty connection site) but a lot depends on schools finding the will and people to use it.

  • It's a fair point that industry should tread lightly.  But how do we make our school systems (not just certain teachers) truly buy in to the importance of improving the STEM situation that you describe?  The administrators I know are focused instead on mandates like No Child Left Behind etc.

    Many individual teachers are doing great things and you're right that MS and the IT industry have a bunch of high-quality resources available, but if institutions don't have good incentives to support sci/math/CS, I'm worried that the system won't change.

    Definitely a challenge worth thinking about...

  • As part of the emphasis on STEM preparation, Missouri Department of Higher Education has posted Draft Optimal Entry-level Competencies with a Feedback Form.

    There are "Mathematics Entry Level Competencies for Engineering Program"

    and "Engineering & Information Technology Entry-Level Competencies" listed.

    http://www.dhe.mo.gov/optimalentrycomp.shtml

    Optimal competencies are not meant to reflect minimum entry level competencies into collegiate coursework. These competencies represent specific skill sets that students will need to possess prior to entering particular career fields, especially METS-related fields.

  • In recent times we've seen enrollment in STEM (Science technology engineering and math) majors plummet. 

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