Are you ready for a STEM future? This morning as I listened to the local news, KSAT12 in San Antonio, Texas, the newscast highlighted the importance of STEM. Texas school districts like Bryan ISD, Crosby ISD, Killeen ISD, and Little Elm ISD are embracing STEM programs in their districts. In addition, there are female-friendly programs for enhancing learning through the STEM subjects, such as Women in Science Endeavors (WISE) in Amarillo. Let’s take a closer look why STEM learning is important and what we can do about it as educators.
No matter where you look, blending STEM into classrooms is critical. Consider these sources:
In 2015, there were nearly 8.6 million STEM jobs in the United States. That number is growing every year. In fact, STEM job growth in the past 10 years is three times that of any other field; but by 2018, it is projected that 2.4 million STEM jobs will go unfilled. (Source: eSchool News)
Or, as quoted in this STEM guidebook, The Big Guide to STEM, compiling multiple data points:
- STEM professions earn 26% more than non-STEM professions.
- There are 26 million STEM jobs in the United States.
- Twenty percent of all US jobs are STEM-based jobs.
- STEM occupations are projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations and wages in these occupations were generally higher than the median for all occupations.
As amazing as those statistics are, the statistics relevant to girls/women in STEM are even more so:
- Women make up less than 25% of the workforce in STEM professions.
- Seventy-four percent of middle school girls express interest in STEM yet…
- Only 0.4% of high school girls choose to pursue STEM in college.
These numbers mask an unsettling truth. Growth in STEM is primarily in the technology sector, focused on programming (a.k.a. coding).
As cited by the New York Times, “In the decade ending in 2024, seventy three percent of STEM job growth will be in computer occupations,” such as coding, cloud computing, data mining, statistical analysis, and writing smartphone applications.
Becoming a STEM Coder
What does it take to become a STEM coder? If you examine the numerous Hour of Code resources and tutorials, it will take introducing students at an early age to coding tools. You can find a list of TCEA Hour of Code resources. To reach a more diverse set of potential coders, you will need to embrace more than just math and science.
STEM skills development needs to be introduced and encouraged earlier in children’s education, the panelists agreed. However, success in the digital economy requires more than ramping up STEM capabilities — it requires participation from people with a variety of backgrounds, skillsets, and perspectives…Rather than confine innovation the way it has always been, “what you really need to do is get people with diverse opinions in a room with diverse education and skills in a room to brainstorm, and figure out how to best solve the problem and be creative,” said Abrams. “If you’re gonna get diverse skills and interests and backgrounds that ultimately means diverse people need to be in that room. That’s a key challenge.”(source)
Specific observations from research for helping students, including girls, become coders include the following:
- Make coding a creative and collaborative activity: Some suggestions for making this happen include having students using Minecraft: Education Edition’s built-in coding tools, working together to control drones using the iOS Tynker app, or introducing them to coding with Hopscotch.
- Teach computational thinking: This is a future-ready skill. Learn more about computational thinking and teaching algorithms; you may know more than you think.
- Add real-world problem solving: Check out project-based or problem-based learning resources available.
STEM Improves Test Grades
If STEM was not a worthy goal in and of itself, rest assured that it also improves performance on high stakes tests. “Standardized assessments revealed that students who used PBL by Defined STEM outperformed their peers by over +5 points,” reports MIDA Learning Technologies.
I Want to Help Students Become STEM Coders
If you want to assist students of all ages become STEM coders, then I invite you to attend the 2019 TCEA STEM Academy. Indicate your interest with this online form. This learning event will maximize STEM results for your students.