STEM Education: The Foundation of Tomorrow’s Workforce (and Today’s!)
The following is a guest post by Martha Daniel. Her bio follows.
Learning STEM Subjects in the Modern Digital Classroom Remains Key to Societal Success
“[Science] is more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world…”
Let’s face it. The subjects of STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) have always been at the foundation of society’s ability to grow, adapt, compete, communicate and protect citizens. But, for too long, the way scholastic institutions have approached these subjects has been anything but exciting or dynamic. In fact, many people reading this article probably have a hard time imagining these fields being taught in any sort of engaging or fun way. However, in the last few years, thanks to the “digital evolution,” the traditional models of learning at all levels of education have begun to see the possibility of change in an unprecedented and progressive manner. But, if we don’t pay close attention to the vital benefits, we could be left behind.
With the advent of supreme mobility (laptops, iPads, eBooks, etc.), virtual reality tools and online forums, the modern-day classroom now has the amazing potential to become a truly interactive and inspiring experience for students of STEM, as well as the arts. The subjects of science, tech, engineering and math are nothing new, of course; rather, it is the method in which they are taught that has the ability to revolutionize our entire way of life, and engage a large, untapped swath of students who are just waiting to be inspired. Considering the United States is facing a sizeable gap in the digital/technology sectors, this cutting-edge approach could not be emerging at a better time.
Right now, countries all across the globe are furiously working to build better infrastructures and grow their digital workforces to compete in this fast-paced, 24/7 business landscape. In regions such as Asia and India, many of the aforementioned technologies have already been at play in the classroom for quite some time. And in fact, it is the U.S., who has been behind the curve. In the United States, the need for technology—and more specifically, cybersecurity—professionals continues to increase. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, information security employment is set to grow by 37% by 2022—making it rife with opportunity for the generation of college graduates.
“Only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career… The United States is falling behind internationally, ranking 29th in math and 22nd in science among industrialized nations.” – U.S. Dept. of Education
As one of the most powerful societies on the planet, there is no doubt we can be better leaders. Shouldn’t we be the ones to send our expert professional overseas? Shouldn’t we be just as focused on the digital classroom as the rest of the world? The answers are “yes” and “yes.” That is why it is more crucial than ever to connect teachers, professors, administrators and mentors of all kinds to the innovative techniques that can bring the American classroom into the future. Not only will this upgrade in STEM education lead to more creative minds, it will continue cultivate new ways of thinking and problem-solving skills that can be adapted to the workforce and spark even newer technologies down the line.
THE GENDER GAP
Another important factor to recognize, as society faces the need to adapt to better STEM learning, is the obvious lack of females in the digital and technology arenas. While there may be a whole slew of reasons for this, the solution is clear and straightforward. Educators and industry leaders simply need to find better ways to hold the interest of young girls and women, who seem to lose interest in STEM-related subjects at around the age of 12.
According to girlswhocode.com, only four percent of female college freshman are actually interested or enrolled in computing programs. Plus, females are on track to fill just three percent of the estimated 1.4 million projected computing-related jobs available in 2020.
Enter programs, such as E-STEM from non-profit, EmpowHer Institute, which partners with middle schools to deliver better STEM education to 7th and 8th grade girls and provides continuing support for program alumnae as they navigate through high school. Credentialed teachers, counselors and professional businesswomen serve as mentors; encouraging EmpowHer girls to examine and take on careers in a multitude of industries and build positive relationships. It is only through programs like these and a complete integration of modern STEM education tools that we, as a society, can get up to speed with the rest of the world.
STEM is, and always has been, the foundation of our workforce. But, in the last few years, that foundation has shown some wear, and faced the decreasing interest of students who feel uninspired by older teaching models. Of course, no one expects these on-the-fence pupils to somehow magically and fully develop a passion for ANY subject without positive, interactive learning experiences. The answer to a more technologically-versed society is two-fold: (1) Business and industry leaders need to take an active interest in bringing their business knowledge and expertise to teachers, classrooms and students; (2) teachers, professors and administrators at all levels need to better educate themselves on the STEM education technology available, and learn how to best utilize it for classroom engagement.
It is time to give young adults the education they deserve, by getting rid of the last remaining bits of chalk dust and leaving them with the lifelong skills to bring our nation into the world of tomorrow. The only way forward is through comprehensive STEM education that motivates students via fun, dynamic, and engaging online tools – all part of a universe that kids already know much more about than many adults. It is time for us to truly grow alongside the rest of the modern world.
About the Author:
Martha Daniel is the founder, president and CEO of Cytellix and its parent company, Information Management Resources, Inc. (IMRI), responsible for successfully deploying network security and asset management solutions to local, national and international organizations of every size in a wide range of industries including financial services, healthcare, municipalities, education, logistics and manufacturing.
The United States Small Business Administration, Santa Ana District Office, selected Daniel as the 2016 Small Business Person of the Year. Additionally, she was honored as one of the top women veteran leaders for the 2014 White House Champion of Change, and was named a Change Maker by the EmpowHer Institute in 2016.