Early STEM exposure is key for the future of the workforce

A survey reveals that younger STEM workers had greater STEM exposure in early elementary school

More than half of today’s adult workers (62 percent) say they were never exposed to STEM-related studies and career possibilities in elementary school, according to a survey from littleBits and YouGov.

The findings support other research indicating that early exposure to STEM courses helps students stick with these studies even as the material becomes more challenging in high school and college.

U.S. workers with 1-2 years of STEM workforce experience say they had the highest exposure to STEM concepts in elementary school–46 percent of adults in this group experienced a science- or math-related track in school, and 53 percent of this group are working in a job that either entirely or heavily involves STEM.

Much research points to the worrisome prediction that the U.S. will not have produced enough highly-skilled workers to fill STEM jobs in the next few years. Those worries are compounded by the fact that many STEM jobs in the future don’t exist today–the Department of Labor estimates 65 percent of today’s students will find themselves in such jobs. Students will need an array of STEM skills to tackle those positions.

Two out of 5 Americans believe the STEM worker shortage is at crisis levels, according to results from the fourth annual STEM survey by Emerson, released in August.


Watch out for these red flags to help identify dyslexia

We need to be aware at every grade level to understand when intervention is needed

Children cannot grow out of dyslexia. Rather, the dyslexia will only have more severe consequences over time with lack of intervention. It is critical to keep an eye out for all possible red flags at every grade level to understand when intervention is needed. In their recent edWebinar, Kelli Sandman-Hurley, Ed.D., and Tracy Block-Zaretsky, co-founders of the Dyslexia Training Institute, reviewed the potential warning signs of dyslexia.

There is no definitive list of symptoms for dyslexia, Sandman-Hurley explained. Every individual is completely different, so educators must figure out each student’s strengths and weaknesses. In addition, depending on the severity of the symptoms, it’s possible that they could show up at different ages, which is why it’s critical to watch for these red flags throughout all grade levels. There is also a misconception that students cannot be screened for dyslexia until as late as second or third grade. In fact, early screening, if possible, is key.

Preschool- and kindergarten-level red flags
These may include:

  • difficulty learning nursery rhymes or recognizing rhyming patterns
  • lack of interest in learning to read
  • difficulty remembering the names of letters in the student’s own name or learning to spell or write their own name
  • difficulty reciting the alphabet
  • misreading or omitting smaller words
  • stumbling through longer words

Educators should keep in mind that letter reversal, as well as playing with sounds and making up words are still normal at these young ages (for the latter, it’s when they’re not doing this that could be a problem). There are also some comorbid conditions that could indicate dyslexia, such as rapid naming deficit, dysgraphia, and executive function or auditory-processing deficit.

Elementary-level red flags
These may include:

  • reversing letters or the order of letters (after first grade)
  • spelling phonetically
  • having accurate beginning and ending sounds but misspelling the word
  • not using words in writing that they would use in oral language
  • disorganized writing, such as a lack of grammar, punctuation, or capitalization. These students may also have dysgraphia.

Educators must identify needs and provide appropriate accommodations, which become even more important as the grade levels progress. Block-Zaretsky noted, “Accommodations do not replace remediation—we need to still do remediation. Remediation does not replace accommodations; some students may need accommodations throughout school, even after they’re had effective instruction.” Accommodations level the playing field, but do not provide an advantage.


4 ways education leaders can support better instruction

Not all teachers approach changes in teaching and learning in the same way--here's how school leaders can support educators' varying needs

It’s not always easy to move new ideas for teaching and learning from theory to practice, but a new theory offers a framework to help education leaders foster support among teachers for new initiatives.

Many school initiatives fail because education leaders “thrust new programs into classrooms in a top-down manner and compel teachers to change their practices to keep up with the new program,” according to research from the Clayton Christensen Institute.

“Lackluster results then follow because the initiatives never account for the goals, struggles, and day-to-day priorities of the professional educators charged with faithful implementation,” write authors Thomas Arnett, Bob Moesta, and Michael B. Horn.

In a paper explaining how to motivate teachers to adopt new practices, the authors say education leaders have to take into account the true interests and motivations of teachers. But, they add, knowing how to align a new initiative with teachers isn’t an easy task.


Psst! Here’s how parents really feel about classroom technology

Despite uncertainties around technology's impact on future jobs, most parents feel optimistic about their children's developing tech skills

Parents are unsure of the impact technology will have on the future workforce, but half of parents in a recent survey believe their children should learn coding and computer programming.

The Microsoft and YouGov survey takes a look at technology, parenting, and education. The survey finds that 60 percent of surveyed parents say they feel optimistic or hopeful about the role of technology in their child’s life as they grow older, while 30 percent say they are unsure or scared.

Despite parents’ optimism about the future of technology, 37 percent say they believe technology will eliminate more jobs than it creates, and 23 percent believe technology will create more jobs than it eliminates.


Empowering superintendents to connect technology and learning

Here are 5 imperatives to help school leaders adapt the learning environment to keep up with the world outside of the classroom

“If it’s edtech, it must be good,” used to be the mantra in schools. In fact, many district technology plans fluctuated depending upon the latest fads and what someone learned at a conference and had little connection to curriculum or learning goals. Now, recognizing the disconnect between school and district leaders, the realities of the technology infrastructure, and classroom needs, CoSN and AASA have created the Empowered Superintendent initiative, which is dedicated to helping superintendents, aspiring superintendents, and district leadership teams build their knowledge, skills, and confidence as technology leaders.

During “The Empowered Superintendent: Leading Digital Transformation,” the first in a new edWebinar series, Dr. David Schuler, Superintendent of (IL) Township High School District 214, and Dr. Chris Gaines, superintendent of Mehlville (MO) School District, along with host Ann McMullan, project director of the CoSN Empowered Superintendents Program, discussed the goals of the program. Overall, they implored listeners to move away from using “tech for tech’s sake” and to become intentional adopters of technology that enhances teaching and learning.

Focusing on the first module of The Empowered Superintendent Toolkit, 3.0, The Five Imperatives of Technology Leadership, the presenters explored how they have shifted their approaches to integrating edtech in the classroom.

Imperative 1: Strengthen district leadership and communication
The first imperative isn’t just about telling the school community about the district’s tech plan, but, more important, ensuring they understand the learning goals are attached to the plan. Once a technology plan is adopted, superintendents needs to make sure all constituents have a laser focus on implementing it as developed, evaluating successes and failures, and then discussing how to move forward. The instructional team can only be effective when everyone agrees on the non-negotiable goals.

Imperative 2: Raise the bar with rigorous, transformative, and innovative learning and skills
Technology allows teachers to expand their lessons outside of the classroom and make connections beyond their communities. Instead of isolated lessons, students learn how to connect their studies with real-world problems. School leaders should encourage educators to use edtech that promotes skills like creativity and problem solving, which will serve the student no matter what profession they choose.

Imperative 3: Transform pedagogy with compelling learning environments
Classroom design today often looks like it did 50, or even 100, years ago with rows of desks facing the teacher. That stagnation of the environment mirrors the stagnation in how many classrooms still work (a teacher at the front, lecturing students and asking them to repeat back what they learned). Schools need to throw out that


Genes are key to academic success, study shows

Genes determine more than 60 percent of individual differences in school achievement

Parents always worry about whether their children will do well in school, but their kids probably were born with much of what they will need to succeed.

A new study published in npj Science of Learning by researchers from The University of Texas at Austin and King’s College London explains the substantial influence genes have on academic success, from the start of elementary school to the last day of high school.

For many years, research has linked educational achievement to life trajectories, such as occupational status, health, or happiness. But if performing well in school predicts better life outcomes, what predicts how well someone will do throughout school?

“Around two-thirds of individual differences in school achievement are explained by differences in children’s DNA,” says Margherita Malanchini, a psychology postdoctoral fellow at the Population Research Center at UT Austin. “But less is known about how these factors contribute to an individual’s academic success overtime.”


Here’s my secret for better classroom management

An elementary SmartLab facilitator and longtime tech educator shares how she keeps students on track and on task

At Flagstaff Academy in Colorado, I am lucky to head up the SmartLab facility and offer guided lessons to all K-5 classrooms. Couple this with 15 years of teaching technology, and you could say I’ve learned a thing or two about bringing technology into the classroom successfully.

Over the past few years, advancements in technology have greatly improved the classroom experience for both students and teachers alike. Tools like Chromebooks, SMART Boards, and even virtual reality headsets have allowed teachers to bring instruction to life and make learning more engaging.

But these tools are only as good as the classroom environment in which they exist. Truly successful education depends on teachers’ ability to create and maintain organized instructional environments that keep kids engaged and on task while encouraging the sharing of ideas and questions.

Classroom-management challenges
Unfortunately, that’s much easier said than done. It can be incredibly hard to tailor a classroom-management plan that takes into account all of the various personalities that make up a class. After all, kids learn at different speeds, and some are more likely to speak up than others. It can be tough to understand who needs help, let alone provide effective one-to-one instruction. Likewise, creating an organized structure–both physically and instructionally–is vitally important for focused learning, but often difficult to achieve, especially with larger class sizes.

Classroom management can be even more challenging in a one-to-one device environment. For instance, when every student has a laptop, tablet, or smartphone it can be difficult to tell if they’re doing their work or secretly playing Minecraft. How do teachers monitor kids’ activities and keep them on task?

Centralized classroom control
For me, the answer was a robust classroom management platform that brings all the needs together in one place. I came across a solution called LanSchool about 10 years ago and I’ve found that as the environment gets more challenging, this software provides me with the centralized control I need over all of my students’ screens from my own computer. I can easily see what each student is working on and if they have strayed off task.


10 ways administrators should be collaborating with their librarians

Long gone are the days when librarians were simply the “keeper of books”

Whether a principal, superintendent, head of technology, or head of curriculum, there is likely a gem of a resource among your staff who could push your Future Ready agenda forward. Long gone are the days when librarians were simply the “keeper of books,” and the administrators who have grown to realize this have found it much easier to accomplish their strategic vision by mobilizing this dedicated and knowledgeable part of their staff. Here’s how many are doing it.

1. Librarians facilitate curriculum development and instruction.
With textbooks waning, districts across the country are exploring other options, including the curation of open educational resources and other content. Curation comes second nature to librarians, who have specialized degrees to help them determine what is relevant, credible, and effective. Use them to partner with teachers and curriculum staff to curate the right resources for your lessons.

2. Librarians are ninjas in digital citizenship.
With each passing day, the need to develop students who are more critical of what they find online becomes increasingly important. Through training, librarians can help students, teachers, and all your other staff become better digital citizens, potentially authoring guidelines, offering classes, and professional development.

3. Invest in the right digital resources.
Your library is likely the first department in your district to truly embrace digital, as databases have been procured by librarians for the last 30 years or more. Librarians are an excellent resource to help you evaluate the quality of a new digital resource, as they have spent years perfecting evaluation rubrics and likely can also outline implementation challenges based on experience. They can also tell you what you should, and should not, spend your money on.

4. Create collaborative spaces.
A modern-day school library is looking more like an airport lounge than what many of us may have been accustomed to. Students are sitting in comfortable spaces, talking and sharing. Schools have the opportunity to work with the librarian to create these collaborative spaces to promote better interaction between students, teachers, and other staff throughout the building.


Video: How edtech connects

Want to see how schools are expanding students' networks? Here you go

At SXSW EDU 2018, The Christensen Institute’s Director of Education Research, Julia Freeland Fisher, reveals innovative schools that are creating learning models that strengthen teacher-student relationships, and emerging edtech tools that promise to expand students’ networks to experts and mentors from around world.

Julia’s current research focuses on emerging tools and practices that leverage technology to radically expand who students know–their stock of “social capital”–by enhancing their access to, and ability to, navigate new peer, mentor, and professional networks. She is the author of the forthcoming book Who You Know: Unlocking Innovations that Expand Students’ Networks. Prior to joining the Institute, Julia worked at NewSchools Venture Fund, a venture philanthropy organization that supports education entrepreneurs who are transforming public education. She also served as an instructor in the Yale College Seminar Program. Julia holds a BA from Princeton University and a JD from Yale Law School.

Visit https://www.sxswedu.com/ to learn more about SXSW EDU and subscribe to SXSW EDU on YouTube for more great videos.


6 STEM grants to try in the new school year

Got STEM funding hurdles? These grants might be able to help

There’s no arguing the importance of STEM education, but schools and districts don’t always have the money for “extra” STEM activities for students or teachers.

That’s where grants come into the picture–an enterprising educator can snag extra funding or additional resources for classroom STEM projects and can help students do the same.

Check out the following five grants; we have some for students, some for educators, and they all focus on STEM teaching and learning.

1. In the Powered Paper Airplane Challenge, students are challenged to design creative, aerodynamic paper airplanes that can hit a target–but there’s a twist. They get to use the POWERUP 2.0 Free Flight, a battery-powered propeller that gives a student’s paper airplane more than 30 seconds of flight. After registering, educators receive a six-lesson Teachers’ Guide that helps them teach students about aeronautics and challenges them to think critically while designing their paper airplane. When students are ready to test their airplanes, clip on the POWERUP 2.0 Free Flight motor, launch it, and record. Educators can upload their flight videos to POWERUP Toys’ FlightDeck online learning community between October 1-October 31.
Deadline: Sept. 28, 2018