Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How digital learning can lead to a career in STEM

Technology use in the classroom is here and is no longer an idea of the future. Thanks to grants and state-subsidized funding, more and more schools are using devices within their classrooms. Not only does the use of educational technology provide a new way of learning, but it also makes it easier for teachers to satisfy Common Core standards.  Furthermore, it also gives students an opportunity to access 21st century technology, which will be relevant and used throughout their entire lives.

However, given that flipped classrooms are a relatively new practice, some schools still struggle with adopting devices into their classrooms. While lack of funding and device scarcity are obvious barriers to digital learning, another barrier is the lack of teacher education and understanding of how they can use technology in the classroom. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the majority of the US education workforce is comprised of individuals whose median age is 45 years, meaning that they did not experience technology learning in their own academic careers, making it a new concept for everyone involved. However, the technical knowledge of teachers is ultimately up to their administrators, who can provide tutorials, workshops, and other methods of training; one example is the Baldwin County Public School District in Alabama, which has created a Digital Renaissance Leadership Academy for teachers, where teachers are given the opportunity to improve their skill set.

With the right instruction and use of technology, perhaps more students will be driven and prepared to enter careers in STEM. For example, while the lack of computers and adequate computer science classes/programs may have deterred students from programming careers in the past, the combination of the two is now possible through digital learning. Furthermore, if schools provide teachers  with resources supporting digital learning, teachers can then use technology to motivate, interest, and support students who are looking towards STEM careers.

Interested in learning more about how digital learning can lead to a career in STEM? Check out the original article, "Technology Education for Students Is Essential in Creating a Future STEM Workforce, and It Starts With Educating Teachers" by Felix W. Ortiz III.

Every year our Speak Up surveys contain questions regarding digital learning, STEM careers, and students' accessibility to devices. In our teacher survey we ask questions regarding those topics on top of questions about teachers' familiarity with technological devices, such as
How much do you agree with this statement: My pre-service education adequately prepared me to effectively use a wide range of technologies within my teaching practice.

Speak Up provides an easy way for students, parents and educators to participate in local decisions about technology, as well as contribute to the state and national dialogue about educational technology. Data from the surveys - including data regarding online classes - will be released in February 2015. Click here to register for Speak Up 2014 and mark your calendars for the survey's launch date on October 6!