Social media is a must for America’s STEM future

Social media has become an integral and prevalent part of our society, especially within the younger generations.

Over the last several decades, the United States has declined as an economic and educational global leader in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). To regain economic success and global competitiveness in these fields, government at all levels should launch campaigns that raise STEM awareness and increase student engagement. Actively leveraging social media channels is one potential path to drive K-12 excitement in STEM education and jobs through challenges.

According to the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council’s (ACT-IAC) Quadrennial Government Technology Review, only about a third of bachelor’s degrees earned in the U.S. are in a STEM field, compared to more than half of university degrees earned in China and Japan. With the decline in K-12 interest and engagement in these fields, the U.S. may likely continue to fall short on maintaining an adequate pipeline of STEM-educated professionals. But just how troubling is this situation, and what does it mean for the nation and our future?

Jobs in STEM are increasing three times faster than jobs in the rest of the economy and as a result, by 2018, the U.S. faces a projected deficit of 230,000 qualified advanced-degree STEM professionals. To remain competitive, the U.S. needs to close the gap between the knowledge and skills needed in STEM, and the number of available professionals to fill those needs.

(Next page: How social media is taking root—and how it can help STEM fields)


App of the week: Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe

Name: Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe

What is it? Take a 3D tour of the Universe with Professor Brian Cox as your guide, in arrangement with the BBC. Cox provides insight in over 200 interactive articles pinned to the stars, planets, galaxies, and other wonders modeled in 3D, written in his accessible style and accompanied by two and a half hours of video from the BBC TV series “Wonders of the Solar System” and “Wonders of the Universe.” The app also includes hundreds of infographics and images of space objects supplied by astronomy experts, NASA, and other space researchers.

Best for: Any student interested in the Universe; Science curriculum.

Price: $5.99

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.

Rated: 4+


  • Explore the entire Universe in 7 interlinked scales from sub-atomic to the edge of the known Universe, or take Cox’s tours.
  • Two-and-a-half hours of BBC video from the Wonders TV series (requires wifi).
  • 50+ 3D models of planets, moons, galaxies and nebulae to discover.
  • Over 200 interactive articles by Cox telling the story of the Universe
  • Hundreds of images from around the cosmos
  • High resolution graphics optimized for the new iPad.



Twenty new curriculum software products for schools

Here are some of the curriculum software products showcased during the 2013 ISTE conference.

At the 2013 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in San Antonio last month, a number of ed-tech companies introduced new curriculum software products, or enhancements to existing curriculum software. Here are some of the highlights.

Benesse America announced that schools can sign up for free, three-month pilot licenses of its StraightAce supplementary eLearning system for middle school math and language arts (grades 6-8). The curriculum can be used on virtually any device, the company says—including computers, tablets, and even smart phones—and Benesse claims that 15 minutes of use per day can lead to higher test scores.

The software can be used with teacher-led instruction, or students can work on it from home or wherever they have internet access. The teacher version includes a dashboard for tracking students’ growth and assigning specific content to certain individuals, allowing for more personalized instruction.

In exchange for the free pilot, Benesse asks that educators offer their feedback on the software; to sign up, go to

Brain Parade, whose See.Touch.Learn. app was named one of the 10 best mobile apps for education in 2013 by eSchool News, unveiled a school site edition for the app that includes training and support.


Personalized learning a key theme from 2013 ISTE conference

Preparing for personalized learning involves making sure you have the right IT infrastructure.

How technology can provide opportunities for more personalized learning that meets each student’s unique needs was a key theme to emerge from the exhibit hall of the 2013 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in San Antonio last month.

For instance, Dell released a document called “Path to Personalize Learning,” a blueprint that comes from the company’s research and its work with school districts such as Clear Creek Independent School District in Texas and Fargo Public Schools in North Dakota.

Here are five steps to implementing more personalized learning environments with the help of technology, according to the document:

Establish a vision for learning. While leadership at the top is essential, schools also must involve other stakeholders in this process, such as teachers and students. “School districts should set aside one day as a ‘Visioning Day’ to discuss the reality of students’ lives and ways the district is not meeting their needs,” the blueprint says.

Determine the right IT infrastructure. Students should have personal access to learning devices, but this will create strains on the school’s wireless network. “Often, an assessment of the district’s IT capacity is a first step,” Dell’s plan says. “Key elements in a solid IT Infrastructure plan include mobile device management (MDM), access security, and identity provisioning management to ensure student information protection.”

(Next page: Three more steps to personalized learning—and seven new ed-tech products that can help)


Primary curriculum ‘abolishes childhood’

Children in England will be required to cover subjects up to two years earlier than their peers in top-performing nations, a study suggests, BBC News reports. Education Secretary Michael Gove uses international comparisons to justify plans to bring forward topics such as fractions and decimals in maths. But some academics say “cramming” children with complex concepts “too soon” will not raise standards. The government says it makes no apology for having high expectations of pupils…

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7 inspiring TED talks on the 21st Century curriculum

The rigid teacher-centered instruction does not fit in  the 21st century classroom, Educational Technology and Mobile Learning reports. Learning now is more open and networked. Students thrive best in spaces that engage and challenge their thinking and allows them to use the technology that they use in their everyday life. This dynamic shift in students learning styles requires a specific kind of curriculum, one that responds to their different emerging needs and help them make the best of their learning experiences and most important of all, prepares them for jobs that are not yet created…

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Back-to-school tax breaks on…guns and tech?

Many states with back-to-school sales tax “holidays” are expanding them to cover almost any purchase, in addition to the usual kids’ clothing, shoes, books and school supplies, Stateline reports. As schools and students replace ink and paper with pixels, some states are expanding their holidays to cover sales taxes on low-cost computers and tablets. These electronics are eligible for the tax breaks in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. But some states have broadened the popular holidays beyond school-related items to include other types of clothing, large desktop computers and other electronics. Some now include sheets, blankets, pillows, bedspreads, diapers and baby products

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Missing the fit: Low-income students and college success

Recently, the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution issued a report addressing the problematic under-matching of low-income students to the most selective colleges in America, says Karen Gross, president of Southern Vermont College. This means capable and deserving students are deprived of often less expensive and remarkable educational opportunities. Early data also reflect that low-income students who do enroll in the most selective institutions progress more effectively through the higher educational institution they select. The solution suggested by this research is straightforward enough: provide greater informational outreach about elite colleges, the admissions process and financial aid to these students…

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July: Five education grants you don’t want to miss

School funding difficulties show no sign of abating, and school budgets are stretched to the limit. Many educators and administrators rely on school grants to fund important projects and opportunities for students.

During the beginning of every month, the editors of eSchool News compile a list of the most current education grants expiring soon—from STEM engagement to school lunch programs. You don’t want to miss out on these school funding opportunities for teachers, students, parents, and administrators!

(Next page: Arts, STEM, and energy projects)