While the majority of U.S. teachers believe technology helps facilitate learning, only 16 percent give their schools an “A” grade for incorporating it into their classroom, according to the findings of a new study from Edgenuity. This gap presents an opportunity for technology, when used the right way, to empower the classroom experience.
Additionally, 48 percent of teachers consider what technology they currently do have to be outdated, despite billions of dollars of investment in both hardware and software for the K-12 classroom. In 2015 alone, districts shelled out over $6 billion on educational tech.
Leaders of dozens of the nation’s top businesses — from Apple and Facebook to Target, Walmart and AT&T — are calling on Congress to help provide computer science education in all K-12 schools, arguing that the United States needs far more students who are literate in the technologies that are transforming nearly every industry.
They worry that the United States could lose its competitive edge without significant efforts to boost computer science among the nation’s youth. A bipartisan coalition of 27 governors has joined the effort, saying they see teaching coding and programming as a way to draw middle-class jobs to their states, and dozens of school system superintendents and nonprofit leaders say they see computer science courses as essential for giving children the skills they’ll need to be successful in the modern economy.
“Our schools should give all students the opportunity to understand how this technology works, to learn how to be creators, coders, and makers — not just consumers,” they wrote Tuesday in an open letter to lawmakers. “Instead, what is increasingly a basic skill is only available to the lucky few, leaving most students behind, particularly students of color and girls.”
How a clunky Swedish computer game is teaching
millions of children to master the digital world.
Nearly everyone who plays Minecraft, or even watches someone else do so, remarks on its feeling of freedom: All those blocks, infinities of them! Build anything you want! Players have recreated the Taj Mahal, the U.S.S. Enterprise from “Star Trek,” the entire capital city from “Game of Thrones.” It’s the most obvious appeal of the game. But I first started to glimpse how complex Minecraft culture can be when I saw what kids were doing with what’s called “redstone,” the game’s virtual wiring. My two sons had begun using it: Zev, who is 8, showed me an automated “piston door” and stone gateway he built. Gabriel, who is 10, had created a “minigame” whose actions included a mechanism that dropped anvils from a height, which players on the ground had to dodge.
I felt so blessed recently to have the opportunity to catch up with my fabulous high school biology teacher, Mr. Dennison, after way too many years. He told me about his work in teaching AP Biology to under-served, inner-city kids as part of the National Math & Science Initiative (NMS). Mr. Dennison and his wife Mrs. Dennison (aka Ms. Brown, our awesome English teacher) continue to inspire and motivate me, now in 2016 as they did in the 80s. I’m hoping we can bring this NMS program to San Francisco, as I see so many opportunities for the next generation of San Francisco students and leaders in health care and bio-science.
For the first time in 21 years, the United States team had won first place. Speaking last fall from his dorm at Harvard, where he is now a freshman, Stoner recalled his team’s triumph with quiet satisfaction. “It was a really great moment. Really great. Especially if you love math.”
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You wouldn’t see it in most classrooms, you wouldn’t know it by looking at slumping national test-score averages, but a cadre of American teenagers are reaching world-class heights in math—more of them, more regularly, than ever before. The phenomenon extends well beyond the handful of hopefuls for the Math Olympiad. The students are being produced by a new pedagogical ecosystem—almost entirely extracurricular—that has developed online and in the country’s rich coastal cities and tech meccas. In these places, accelerated students are learning more and learning faster than they were 10 years ago—tackling more-complex material than many people in the advanced-math community had thought possible.
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Parents of students in the accelerated-math community, many of whom make their living in STEM fields, have enrolled their children in one or more of these programs to supplement or replace what they see as the shallow and often confused math instruction offered by public schools, especially during the late-elementary and middle-school years. They have reason to do so. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, much of the growth in our domestic economy will come from STEM-related jobs, some of which are extremely well paid. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, much of the growth in our domestic economy will come from STEM-related jobs, some of which are extremely well paid. College freshmen have heard that message; the number who say they want to major in a stem field is up. But attrition rates are very high: Between 2003 and 2009, 48 percent of students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field switched to another major or dropped out—many found they simply didn’t have the quantitative background they needed to succeed.
Whether on a chess board, sports court or computer, quality games are still a fun way for kids to learn, think, create, and interact. It’s not a question of whether games are good for learning, but which games are most engaging, whatever the format.
Last year, third graders in Bennington (Neb.) Public Schools used Microsoft’s Minecraft video game to create and explore what life is like in three different types of model communities — urban, suburban and rural.
The project showcased the research skills and ingenuity of the students and demonstrated the power of game-based learning, says Jason Schmidt, instructional technologist for the K–12 district with four schools serving 2,000 students.
“Games like Minecraft, and predecessors like SimCity and Portal 2, are here to stay,” Schmidt says. “These games and game-related techniques help us do what good teachers have been doing for a long time, which is to stimulate interest, engagement, collaboration and critical thinking.”