Through the use of social monitoring and analytics, school systems, local, state, and the federal government can gain a deeper understanding of students’ overall sentiment toward STEM by tracking and listening to the online conversations around the challenges. In performing sentiment analysis, agencies could more effectively monitor and determine the success and outcomes of the challenges over time as a means of driving STEM excitement and engagement among K-12 students.

Leveraging social media to organize STEM ‘challenges’

In addition to the White House, a few agencies already employ challenges for students to solve real problems. NASA uses social media tools to engage with citizens and inspire an interest in STEM, as well as promote opportunities for students and teachers to participate in challenges via NASA Education. NASA currently has nearly 300,000 subscribers on YouTube and around 4 million followers on Twitter, and has held more than 50 social media events over the past four years to provide followers with direct access to what their STEM professionals are currently working on.

On February 22, NASA held its first official Google+ hangout where more than a thousand participants from around the world asked questions to astronauts on the International Space Station. Participants included K-12 science classrooms. NASA already has taken the lead in organizing challenges, as well as having social media strategies in place. By leveraging their social strategy to drive STEM challenges in schools, they would pioneer this integral educational platform.

Many Americans consider the U.S. a leader in STEM education and jobs, but the reality is, unfortunately, the opposite. As social media becomes an ever more important part of our culture, we should reach out to prospective STEM participants in the world they live in.  By leveraging social media to drive government STEM challenges in school-aged children, we can effectively generate excitement, interest, and most importantly, long-life knowledge in STEM education.

Wendy Henry is a member of the Quadrennial Government Technology Review steering committee at the Industry Advisory Council (IAC). She is also a Deloitte Consulting Specialist Leader.