Got STEM funding? Here’s how to use it

This three-pronged approach will help districts maximize their STEM investment

Schools lack the resources they need to properly offer coding education to students. So it’s not surprising that U.S. employers have only been able to fill 10 percent of available computer science jobs with qualified applicants. Progress was made this year when the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) was tasked to devote at least $200 million of its grant funds annually to STEM education, and this initiative was followed by an additional $300 million from tech giants and the private sector for K-12 computer science programs.

While many believe that these funds are a beacon of hope for schools in the future, there is some concern that schools won’t know how to best use the money to drive change in coding education. A solution that I have seen work is to increase the focus on STEAM in the classroom so that we don’t inadvertently squander the progress made this past year. We can do this by collectively committing to teacher training programs, investing in long-lasting edtech classroom products, and enhancing curriculums to emphasize coding in every subject.

First, invest in teachers
Even though some tech-forward students may know a thing or two about coding, most of their teachers haven’t been given a clear directive on how, or when, to incorporate technology into their classrooms. To properly integrate coding and computer science into our education system, it is critical to provide teachers with access to training programs that support their personal development and better prep them with technology they may not even be familiar with, themselves. Give teachers time and support to get trained. Make a commitment.

Schools need to invest in supporting teachers through lesson plans and help sessions that will give them the confidence to teach concepts they may not be proficient in. Teachers are the first line of communication for students. If they aren’t prepared to instruct on the coding or STEAM-related principles their schools are asking them to push forward, any funds afforded to increasing student understanding of these concepts are already being used erroneously.

Investing first in teachers is the best way to create a solid foundation upon which all students can learn coding and computer science, sending a clear message that STEAM learning is a classroom priority, and one we must rely on teachers to convey year after year. If this vital confidence deficit isn’t tackled head on, the remaining solutions won’t really matter.

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