Since 2001, the National Science Foundation has invested more than $130 million to support ADVANCE projects at nearly 100 institutions of higher education and STEM-related, not-for-profit organizations across the U.S. CONNECT@RIT (Creating Opportunity Networks for Engagement and Collective Transformation) focuses on improving conditions for female STEM faculty, with a unique emphasis on women who are deaf and hard-of-hearing at the university. RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) will address issues of recruitment, retention and advancement of female faculty through reassessment of some of its academic and human resource policies, expanding a newly established faculty mentoring program and increasing professional development and leadership opportunities.
Part of the NSF research included looking inward at RIT where a climate survey and examination of HR data trends led to the identification of barriers for women faculty. These ranged from the recruitment and advancement of women faculty to balancing work and life. RIT had only 23 percent of its female tenured and tenure track faculty in STEM disciplines, below the 30 percent average represented in U.S. colleges and universities, even though the number of female faculty had tripled at RIT over a 15-year period. Further data revealed gender-based, average salary gaps existed at each faculty rank, and that women left the faculty ranks at a rate nearly twice that of their male colleagues. These findings mirrored national trends for women in STEM careers in academia and in industry.
Among the Connect@RIT project goals includes attracting 30 percent female applicants for RIT STEM faculty positions, at least 75 percent of STEM departments achieving a critical mass of female faculty, retention rates for female faculty that closely mirror those of male faculty, and an increase in the percentage of women in academic leadership positions to a level which maps to their overall representation at RIT. The finish line for the project is five years out and the researchers have plenty of work ahead. But we are confident they will have a similar finish to last year’s race team.
In summary, a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial for attracting and retaining top talent. This is especially true for colleges and universities, like RIT, that specialize in innovation. RIT has historically been a leader in developing new technologies, systems and approaches. RIT faculty and research teams often partner with business and industry leaders on research and development initiatives. In order to effectively continue in this capacity – to cultivate the best and brightest minds and to be an innovation resource for industry – everybody must proactively encourage diversity.
Diversity isn’t an altruistic aspiration; it’s a competitive demand.
- Article from Bill Destler, president of RIT (huffingtonpost.com)
- Women in STEM: Academics’ Advice for Young Women (nerdwallet.com)
- STEM Programs for Women (nerdwallet.com)
- CUNY Faculty Vote No Confidence in Transfer Program (insidehighered.com)
- Harvard Faculty Request Faculty Oversight of HarvardX (Their Usage of edX) (mfeldstein.com)
- Sigma-Aldrich Awards Grant to Girlstart, Supporting Its Nationally-Recognized Summer and After School STEM Program (prweb.com)
- Columbiana University Seeks to Improve Its Curriculum Through Biannual Faculty Meetings (prweb.com)
by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai (courtesy mashable)
President Barack Obama thinks American students aren't connected enough, and that access to faster Internet connections and technologies is crucial in today's schools. That's why he wants to make sure that 99% of students have high-speed broadband access within the next five years.
"We are living in a digital age, and to help our students get ahead, we must make sure they have access to cutting-edge technology," Obama said in a statement published by the White House.
- Pres. Obama wants high-speed Internet in schools by 2018 (fox6now.com)
- News News - Obama Wants to Upgrade 99% of Students to High-Speed Internet by 2018 (comeusmedia.wordpress.com)
- Obama wants high-speed Internet in schools by 2018 (wqad.com)
- Obama Wants to Upgrade 99% of Students to High-Speed Internet by 2018 (mashable.com)
The U.S. president message
President Barack Obama said “Digital Promise is a unique partnership that will bring everyone together – educators, entrepreneurs, and researchers – to use technology to help students learn and teachers teach. There’s no silver bullet when it comes to education, but technology can be a powerful tool, and Digital Promise will help us make the most of it.”
Digital Promise is a nonprofit corporation authorized by Congress “to support a comprehensive research and development program to harness the increasing capacity of advanced information and digital technologies to improve all levels of learning and education, formal and informal, in order to provide Americans with the knowledge and skills needed to compete in the global economy.”
In 2008, Digital Promise was formally authorized as the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies through the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush. With an initial Board of Directors recommended in part by Members of Congress and appointed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Digital Promise was formally launched by President Barack Obama in September 2011 with startup support from the U.S. Department of Education, Carnegie Corporation of New York, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Digital Promise League
The Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools is a unique national coalition of 32 school districts in 21 states that serve more than 2.7 million students. Through partnerships with start-ups, research institutions, and one another, League districts are committing to demonstrate, evaluate, and scale up innovations that deliver better results for students.
- Discovery Education And Digital Promise Host Summit On The Transition To Digital Classrooms: ‘Future@Now’ Accelerates National Discussion On Digital Learning And The Impact On College And Workforce Readiness (sys-con.com)
- “How can we expand personalized learning?” Adam Frankel (studereducation.wordpress.com)
- Here’s how to scale school innovation (eschoolnews.com)
- EU Digital Agenda chief promises single mobile market by 2015 (zdnet.com)
- ‘The New Digital Age’: Promise and Peril Ahead for the Global Internet (business.time.com)
How learn if robots run the world?
Science fiction writers and blockbuster movies have been predicting a world run by robots for decades, and for most of us, the fantasy has stayed in the realm of fiction. But artificial intelligence has made rapid progress and robots are becoming more a part of everyday life than many people realize. Those who study robots and their impact on life foresee a day not too far off when many jobs now held by people will be automated.
Computers & incremental creativity
As artificial intelligence improves and slowly takes over aspects of daily life, the only way for people to continue to be useful is to “up-skill” — and that takes creativity. “Incremental creativity is just improving on something, but radical creativity is thinking something up,”. We can believe that, in time, computers will be capable of incremental creativity, slowly improving a process and building on its success. What they will never be able to do is generate a radically new idea.
The role of educators
“The role of the educator is to channel and guide what is fundamentally an improvisational process”. Education has to focus on learning how to learn – metacognition. School will still be important, but not to impart what happened during the Revolutionary War or to teach the quadratic formula. School, he said, should focus on teaching young people the intangibles, the things that make humans unique: relationships, flexibility, humanity, how to make discriminating decisions, resilience, innovation, adaptability, wisdom, ethics, curiosity, how to ask good questions, synthesizing and integrating information, and of course, creating. In the future, computers and humans will be working together to create the next big invention and when that happens, people can distinguish themselves by controlling the process and the strategy. Humans will define the goals and will think creatively about solutions.
To produce more creative thinkers
Most political leaders and education experts agree that the education system needs to adapt to the technological realities of the age and work to produce more creative thinkers. “The whole culture is coming out with support for more and greater creativity in students,” said R. Keith Sawyer, professor of education and psychology studying creativity and learning at Washington University in St. Louis, at the same conference.
Recognizing that much of the creative work generated comes out of collaborative group work, teachers can think about their classrooms as places for improvisational flow, where teachers and students are building knowledge together. Structure is needed, but some flexibility as well.
An incremental learning model
To arrive at an improvisational classroom, educators can move away from an instructional model for the classroom. The traditional model clings to the notion that children need to learn particular facts and it’s the teacher’s job to impart that information to students. Facts and information build incrementally and turn into more complex ideas, and learning is measured by testing knowledge of facts.
But many argue that this model results in superficial knowledge and low retention, weak transfer to new situations, inability to integrate facts and apply to other situations, Sawyer said.
Sawyer proposes that schooling should be constructionist, focusing on a deeper, conceptual understanding of topics with the ability to build new knowledge in new situations. To do this, students need to take facts, skills, and concepts and apply them to real-word problems. Learning should start with a driving question. This way, students can explore the topic through inquiry and discussion, working in teams, just as they would in the workplace or other life situations. Students create a tangible product that addresses the issue at hand, and along the way an instructor guides the process.
Every teacher as creative professional
Every teacher is a creative professional,” Sawyer said. “And in the ideal world, every teacher is contributing these small ideas, engaging in mutual tinkering. But we have to share with others, we can’t keep it in the classroom.” The creative act of teaching needs to be a collaborative one, like a startup team working on the next innovative product. If each teacher continues to tinker and offer ideas to the larger group, a creative breakthrough will emerge.
“It’s going to be every one of us that contributes ideas along the way,” Sawyer said. And in doing so, teachers everywhere can create the institutional change that stands between them and implementing the ideas that to many are obvious and instinctual.
- If robots will run the world what should student learn (kqed.org)
- Let’s Hire Robots Instead of Human Teachers (jcsprenger.com)
- Robots to ‘Teach’ in Experiments in New York and California (theepochtimes.com)
- Gates Foundation wants cameras in every classroom – to help, of course (notthesingularity.com)
- 5 Practical Uses of Social Media in the Classroom (revolutionarypaideia.com)
Do girls need special attention to science?
In response, some readers strongly refuted the notion that girls need the extra nudge. But according to Claude Steele, author of Whistling Vivaldi and Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us, it’s not that girls aren’t necessarily interested in science and math, it’s whether they’re discouraged from following their interests because of the persistent stereotype that girls aren’t good at that sort of thing.
Claude Steele has examined this very phenomenon closely for years and has identified it as a stereotype threat. The issue is much more complex than the very basic tendencies of what naturally interests either gender. He pinpoints the problem to what happens after girls follow their interests in science and math studies, when inevitable obstacles come up. He says it’s a subtle but crucial mindset that can make the difference between a girl choosing to go into a STEM (for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematic) field — or trying harder on a math or science test — and choosing not to.
Is Math a Gift?
Stanford researcher Carol Dweck, who wrote Is Math a Gift? Beliefs That Put Females at Risk, takes it one step further. Carol Dweck has researched the topic of stereotypes, natural aptitude, and how praising effort or intelligence can be harmful, and she’s come up with a thought-provoking conclusion.
She writes. “Can anyone say for sure that there isn’t some gift that makes males better at math and science? What we can say is that many females have all the ability they need for successful careers in math-related and scientific fields and that the idea of the ‘gift-that-girls-don’t-have’ is likely to be a key part of what’s keeping them from pursuing those careers.”
Where do these stereotypes come from?
Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, associate professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, has also researched the phenomenon and says these detrimental stereotypes are enmeshed in our culture. “It’s pervasive in our cultural narrative,” he said at the Innovative Learning Conference. “‘I’m not this kind of learner or that kind of learner. I’m good at words, but not math.’… It’s a theory about how the world works.”
Societies without these stereotypes don’t impose the same burden, Claude Steele says, and as a result, there are a great deal more women engaging in science and math-based fields. “Poland, India, parts of Asia, where there are many more women participating in math and STEM fields, the stereotype is much weaker. The girls going into those fields don’t experience the same pressure they do in a society like ours where relatively few women participate in these fields. That strengthens the stereotype and the pressure they can feel.”
Where do these stereotypes come from? Cues from the environment that suggest there aren’t many women in this field, Claude Steele says. In short, a self-fulfilling prophecy. “The pictures on the wall don’t show many women as famous mathematicians,” Claude Steele says. “Examples used in math classes are more boy-oriented than girl-oriented.”
How to fix it?
It all comes down to our understanding (and thus, kids’ understanding) that it’s not about a fixed set of abilities, but about what can be learned. Carol Dweck observed in her study that, by the end of eighth grade, “there is a considerable gap between females and males in their math grades— but only for those students who believed that intellectual skills are a gift. When we look at students who believed that intellectual ability could be expanded, the gap is almost gone.”
If we as a society understand that ability is expandable and incrementable, and subject to deliberate practice, the impact of being stereotyped can be dramatically reduced, Claude Steele adds. Schools should practice this strategy, and parents should create an atmosphere at home that learning math and science can be as challenging for girls as for boys — and that the fun lives in solving the challenge.
At Techbridge, the after-school science and math program for girls, founder Linda Kekellis says the exposure to women role models has gone a long way in making careers in STEM fields a real possibility for students. She says more than 95 percent of girls believe engineering is a good career choice for women.
- Girls and math busting the stereotype (blogs.kqed.org)
- Chicks in Science inspires young girls in areas of STEM (billingsgazette.com)
- Don’t Be That Girl: Black Women And Stereotype Threat (madamenoire.com)
- Workshop shows girls beauty of engineering career (sfgate.com)
- Competitive Timed Tests Might Be Contributing to the Gender Gap in Math (theatlantic.com)
- STEM Sewing: The Merging of Art & STEM for Young Girls (prweb.com)