STEM. It’s the new buzzword in education as jobs move increasingly towards the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In fact, data from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that a whopping 15 of the 20 fastest growing jobs require advanced mathematics or science knowledge.
Recently I stood in front of my class, observing an all-too-familiar scene. Most of my students were covertly—or so they thought—pecking away at their smartphones under their desks, checking their Facebook feeds and texts.
As I called their attention, students’ heads slowly lifted, their eyes reluctantly glancing forward. I then cheerfully explained that their next project would practice a skill they all desperately needed: holding a conversation.
A new project is tapping into mobile technology to increase community college completion for students in STEM fields. Nudging to STEM Success — a joint initiative from Persistence Plus, maker of a mobile app for student success, and nonprofit Jobs for the Future — will use text messages to help students “navigate the complexities of college, succeed in STEM studies and move toward college graduation,” according to a news announcement. The project is funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust.
Some things are worth memorizing–addresses, PINs, your parents’ birthdays. The sine of π/2 is not among them. It’s a fact that matters only insofar as it connects to other ideas. To learn it in isolation is like learning the sentence “Hamlet kills Claudius” without the faintest idea of who either gentleman is–or, for what matter, of what “kill” means. Memorization is a frontage road: It runs parallel to the best parts of learning, never intersecting. It’s a detour around all the action, a way of knowing without learning, of answering without understanding.
Public universities in the U.S. employ a dearth of African American, Hispanic, and female faculty members in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, according to a new survey of 40 such institutions. The study, published last week (August 16) in Educational Researcher, suggests that the disparity owes in part to a similar lack of diversity in PhD programs that fledge would-be professors. An exception to this appears to be black STEM faculty members who are underrepresented even beyond the proportion of PhDs granted to African Americans.