Can STEM Education Help Promote Peace & Prosperity?

Image: @stemdotorg / STEM Peace

 

Written by: Andrew B. Raupp / @stemceo

Headlines about automation and job loss dominate the news daily, and an anxiety about the future of work is present not only here in the U.S., but across the entire globe. But within these fears about the impact of technology on jobs, there is also a bright sliver of hope for the future. The nature of work is changing, and new opportunities in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields (STEM), may yet bring about a new age of peace and prosperity for citizens of our country, and beyond.

The Poverty Problem (and the STEM Solution)

Poverty rates nationally and internationally have continued on a path of steady improvement, but there is still much work to be done so that all members of our international community can live a life of peace and prosperity. According to the most recent estimates from the World Bank, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen by 35 percent since 1990, and yet that number is still incredibly high: more than 10 percent of the world’s population makes do on less than $2.00 per day.

In the U.S., poverty statistics paint a similar picture. The latest census figuresindicate that poverty rates have declined in recent years, but 13.5 percent of Americans still live in poverty, a figure 1% higher than the pre-recession rate in 2007. That’s over 43 million people living on just over $12,000 for a single person household, or less than $25,000 annually for a family of four.

The scope of the problem of poverty on our planet cannot be overstated, but, fortunately, the potential impact of STEM education has an outsized footprint as well. An education based approach to creating peace and prosperity in our lifetime is not only possible, it’s vital if we are to create a rising world community of leaders prepared to create solutions, as well as greater equity and safety.

How STEM Expands Opportunities for Peace and Prosperity

Increasing access to STEM education for youth who are currently in school or adults looking for retraining opportunities is an excellent way to boost access to income and increase stability. According to a 2015 report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, “STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), health, and business majors are the highest paying, leading to average annual wages of $37,000 or more at the entry level and an average of $65,000 or more annually over the course of a recipient’s career.”

But much work still needs to be done to ensure that greater access to STEM education actually helps alleviate some of the current inequities that serve as a barrier to peace and prosperity, including the gender gap. A 2017 World Bank blog notes that the gender gap between women and men employed in STEM continues to be quite significant, but that “recent work suggests that correcting gender segregation in employment and in entrepreneurship could increase aggregate productivity globally by as much as 16 percent.”

In other words, if we collectively work to ensure that all people are granted greater access to high quality STEM education, and are then provided equal access to work in the STEM field, we could see a massive boost to our prosperity on a global scale.

Image: @stemdotorg / International STEM

 

Pursuing a career in STEM is individually rewarding for both the mind and the pocketbook, but it’s our collective efforts to get more young people into STEM that has the potential to, quite literally, transform our world economy from a place of crisis, into one of peace, prosperity, and solutions for the myriad concerns of our modern times.


Andrew B. Raupp is the Founder / Executive Director @stemdotorg

“Democratizing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education through sound policy & practice…

What’s Driving STEM Education? Emerging Trends on the Road Ahead

Image: Shutterstock

Where is STEM education heading in 2018? A look back on the years leading up to 2017 to predict what lies ahead for STEM

Written by: Andrew B. Raupp / @stemceo

In many ways, 2017 has been a year of great acceleration and progress in the field of STEM education.

In the roughly dozen or so years since the term ‘STEM’ was first popularised, the acronym referring to the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics has become something of a household term.

Not only are traditional primary-school science educators talking about STEM, but it seems that our entire global culture has started to shift towards recognising the power and importance of scientific innovation as we collectively look towards solutions to the challenges of our modern times.

It’s truly an exciting time to be a young person exploring the various subjects and disciplines of STEM, and, while the work is challenging, it’s also never been more invigorating to be an educator or educational leader devoted to furthering STEM education opportunities.

As we look back on 2017 and the years preceding it, we can also look forward to the trends emerging on the horizon.

Reports from the field: What research says about STEM education trends

It can be difficult to forecast the trends and influences in STEM education due to the rapidly changing nature of the technologies that inform STEM pedagogy.

However, referring back to a 2013 report tasked with forecasting STEM through 2018 offers some key takeaways for STEM practitioners across the globe. The report keys in on a dozen “technologies to watch”.

2013–2014

  • Learning analytics
  • Mobile learning
  • Online learning
  • Virtual and remote laboratories

2014–2016

  • 3D printing
  • Games and gamification
  • Immersive learning environments
  • Wearable technology

2017–2018

  • Flexible displays
  • The internet of things
  • Machine learning
  • Virtual assistants
Getty: Machine Learning

 

These technologies have already begun to play out in our classrooms and our lives, and this report provides a solid glimpse for what’s to come.

It’s surprising to look back at the use of mobile and online learning tools as a ‘new’ idea just a few years back. Today’s classrooms at the primary and university levels have, for the most part, fully integrated the use of personal technologies with instruction.

It’s no longer strange to see a smartphone or tablet being employed in the classroom, and this comfort with technology has set the stage for what’s to come.

In addition, the use of ‘out of the box’ approaches, such as gamification and alternative or immersive environments, seems like it just might be paying off.

A recent article in US News and World Reportshares some promising news for STEM strides, noting that “the number of students who took an AP exam in mathematics or science has never been higher. Students taking these exams nearly doubled from 273,000 in 2003 to 527,000 in 2013.”

Greater interest in advanced courses in mathematics and science is a trend that seems like it will only increase as educators and administrators continue to invest in not only off-the-shelf STEM pedagogical products, but also invest in a mindset that values the power of properly prepared educators and prioritises meaningful, rich opportunities for students to engage with science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the classroom, and the real world.

Looking ahead: The future of STEM education in 2018 and beyond

Many thought leaders in the educational community remain excited and forward-thinking about the future of STEM and, increasingly, STEM initiatives are happening via global collaborations that reach far beyond political borders.

In a report focused on the future of STEM education, the tenets of the STEM 2026 Vision are put forth as follows:

  • Engaged and networked communities of practice
  • Accessible learning activities that invite intentional play and risk
  • Educational experiences that include interdisciplinary approaches to solving “grand challenges”
  • Flexible and inclusive learning spaces supported by innovative technologies
  • Innovative and accessible measures of learning
  • Societal and cultural images and environments that promote diversity and opportunity in STEM

Most notably, none of these “six interconnected components” are prescriptive or specific to one particular approach of achieving success.

Image: Getty / Successful Learning

 

Flexible by design, the goal of STEM education going forward is not that all classrooms come equipped with a 3D printer and the latest software package that promises results, but rather that educators and students work together to radically transform our traditional notions of what a STEM classroom looks like.

What do these emerging STEM trends look like in practice?

Some experts predict that more schools will invest in multi-use makerspacesin which students can engage in truly hands-on problem-solving through experimentation, robotics, coding or even low-tech group activities that model the experience of solving engineering problems in the real world.

Others predict that Silicon Valley technocrats will continue to have a major influence on STEM education trends as companies such as Google continue to proactively grow their employment pipeline. But, at the same time, it seems likely that individual products or services will become far less important than a more holistic commitment to digital literacy and self-directed learning.

And, while collaborative learning is far from a new trend, many expect that increased access to free or low-cost collaborative technology will make for more dynamic, group-driven classroom work that better prepares students for the experience of working together for a common cause, on a common problem.

The future of STEM education will likely involve some shiny bells and whistles, such as AI or even new funding streams for coding courses, but what’s most essential about the future is that we are now building upon our successes in a way that’s different from building the plane as we fly it.

With more than a decade of experience and experimentation behind us, the next steps in STEM education look brighter than ever and, together, we can light the way towards global solutions that can collectively advance us all — with our foot on the accelerator.


Andrew B. Raupp is the Founder / Executive Director @stemdotorg

“Democratizing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education through sound policy & practice…

A Decentralized Internet Will Preserve Innovation In STEM Education

Image: Getty / White House plugged-in

If money can be decentralized and, to some extent, anonymized, can’t the same model be applied to other things?

Written by: Andrew B. Raupp / @stemceo

Net neutrality may be dominating the news headlines this month thanks to recently proposed policy changes at the federal level, but to understand this important issue beyond the sound bites, it’s important to get a sense of what net neutrality actually is and what’s at stake. The larger movement is bigger than the question of whether or not your favorite streaming TV shows will slow down — it actually impacts how we communicate, learn, earn money and share and store our most personal information.

Net neutrality may be currently positioned as a polarizing political issue but, in reality, the efforts to preserve an accessible, open and secure internet are bipartisan and totally essential to the work of growing a rising class of STEM-educated Americans.

Net Neutrality 101

Put simply, those who favor net neutrality are arguing for a system in which internet service providers (ISPs) are not allowed to give preferential treatment to some content and/or users over others. The most common metaphor in use is that of the “fast lane” vs. slow lane”; for example, net neutrality supporters argue that ISPs will be able to control access to content and prioritize some content for some users into a fast lane.

This policy is getting attention because it is a clear shift from a February 2015 move by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that issued regulatory policies in an attempt to ensure net neutrality. The most significant portion of this policy was that it classified ISPs as utility companies, which then required them to be subject to regulation to protect consumers. Supporters of this policy argue that it prevents ISPs from providing inequitable access to content and security.

In November 2017, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced his intent to repeal the 2015 policy ensuring net neutrality. In a statement on the official FCC website, Pai argues that the 2015 “decision appears to have put at risk online investment and innovation, threatening the very open Internet it purported to preserve. Requiring ISPs to divert resources to comply with unnecessary and broad new regulatory requirements threatens to take away from their ability to make investments that benefit consumers.”

Image: Getty / Executive limiting access

 

The current battle over net neutrality attempts to position regulation as a barrier to innovation, but this assessment fails to take into account the tremendous innovation already happening within our STEM fields across the worldwide global networks that connect us. The future of innovation is here, but we need to preserve equal access to information for all, instead of just the corporate few.

Why K-12 Needs Net Neutrality

Educators and administrators have had their eyes on the net neutrality standoff for a long time. Today’s classrooms have begun to incorporate more and more technology, which means that even the smallest disruption in service or accessibility can throw off multimedia lesson plans designed to get students truly engaged with hands-on digital problem-solving.

Back in May of this year, a post in the Ed Tech Round Up made clear the dangers of doing away with an accessible internet, and quoted a statement from the American Library Association, which put it thusly: “Net neutrality is essential for library and educational institutions to carry out our missions … The internet has become the primary platform for learning, collaboration, and interaction among students (and educators).”

Not only could slower speeds and inequitable access disrupt the flow of instruction, but these concerns will also weigh heavily on administrators who have to constantly weigh the cost/benefit of incorporating technology into the classroom. As a recent piece in EdWeek Market Brief explained, “School and library officials worry that if those protections are curtailed, deep-pocketed companies could pay to have their content delivered more quickly, while the flow of other online resources for educational purposes would be slowed or otherwise diminished.” In other words, without net neutrality, schools could easily have their hands forced toward a smaller range of pedagogical products with more financial backing, as opposed to keeping their classrooms open to a range of tools that offer meaningful educational benefits.

The Future Of The Internet Is A Decentralized One

The upside of this debate is that it’s serving as a rallying cry for a broad range of STEMers, including students, parents, educators, scientists, engineers and innovators who see this as a chance to work together toward building alternatives to the current way we approach internet access. With our collective power, we can create a decentralization strategy to ensure that future generations have access to the same educational and technological opportunities that we have today — or even better options that we haven’t yet devised.

Image: Getty / Ethernet and the American flag

 

So, how do we create a path forward? A 2013 piece in The New Yorker compared the success of the Bitcoin revolution to the possible implications for internet decentralization. The piece describes Bitcoin’s use of blockchains to do away with the need for a single central control point and asks the very timely question, “If money can be decentralized and, to some extent, anonymized, can’t the same model be applied to other things, like e-mail?”

Decentralization has been in the news and in our culture, for some time. As Mashable reports, a character on the HBO show Silicon Valley recently proposed just such an idea, a kind of “new internet” that values privacy and security over big business control of information flow. If nothing else, the promise of a sort of new internet can inspire us to think more broadly today and to remember that the work of STEM education should be preparing our young people for precisely such work.

As educators, our goal is to expose young people to means and methods of problem-solving through experimentation and innovation. Today, we must take up that task with an even greater sense of urgency, because the problems that lie ahead of us — those issues of access, information security and the role we want to allow corporations to play in our daily lives — those problems can only be solved with the kind of innovative thought that STEM fosters in classrooms all across our country and our internet.

This article was originally featured in Forbes Community Voice™ on December 7th, 2017.


Andrew B. Raupp is the Founder / Executive Director @stemdotorg

“Democratizing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education through sound policy & practice…