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Kids Take the Lead in Designing Educational Technology

Most of the classroom technology designed for kids is created by adults who think they know what kids want, but kids across the country involved in the Conrad Challenge (a global STEM and entrepreneurship contest for students in middle and high school) argue they know more about what they need in the classroom. These student education-technology entrepreneurs are using their own experiences to design classroom tech that can help support learning. One group of high schoolers in Texas is designing a mobile app that will provide students with real-time feedback to help them prepare for class presentations. Others are designing platforms to increase student engagement by emphasizing the “how” and “why” of what they learn, help girls master programming, create virtual reality learning opportunities, and embed SmartBoard technology in students’ desks.

Why Middle School is so Important to the Future of Technology

Paula Grisanti, CEO of the National Stem Cell Foundation, asserts that future space travel, medical cures and other scientific breakthroughs will be made possible by the middle school students of today. In her recent article in The Courier-Journal, she explains why it is vital to attract their interest to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects at that critical age, citing the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology’s report that “the US needs approximately one million more STEM professionals than it can produce at current graduation rates”.  The National STEM Scholar Program, in which Grisanti's foundation is a partner, gives middle-school teachers training, classroom projects and other resources designed to spark a lifelong interest in STEM subjects and is something worth mentioning to your child’s teacher if your middle school is looking for ways to further integrate STEM into the classroom.

LEGO Continues to Make it Easier for Kids to Learn Engineering

LEGO steering kids toward STEM learning is nothing new, a recent article in Wired reminds us. But now the company is offering Spike Prime, a new set of tools and bricks, which caters specifically to middle-schoolers, and aims to teach the basics of coding and robotics. The Spike Prime set aims for accessibility, opting for bright colors, friendly shapes, and drag-and-drop coding tools that gently nudge students towards coding. Spike Prime will, at least at first, be available only to schools so it may be something you want to bring up at your next parent teacher conference.

Pilot Project Uses Nintendo Projects to Foster Tech Skills

A recent EdSurge article reports that teachers in 100 schools are using Nintendo Switch and Labo kit products in lessons as part of a pilot program launched by the nonprofit Institute of Play. The program is intended to help cultivate collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The kits include cardboard materials for five different “toy-construction” creations—a RC( Radio Control) car, a fishing rod, a house, a motorbike and a piano—so each student in the class can get a chance to build one using both digital and real world construction techniques. Many of these kits are also available for separate purchase for home projects as well

Want More Engineers? Start Early

More schools are introducing engineering lessons in early grades to help nurture interest in science, technology, engineering and math, Lillian Mongeau writes in The Hechinger Report. Camille Jones, an elementary-school teacher, says shortly after introducing the Engineering is Elementary curriculum, she discovered that a student who struggled in other subjects excelled in STEM and worked to enroll him in advanced classes in these areas. Looking for materials to help your school get started? The Museum of Science in Boston provides an engineering curricula for elementary school students. The Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley, offers Amplify Science, which incorporates engineering principles of problem solving. Various other like TryEngineering.org, PBS Kids and NASA organizations offer engineering resources for K-12 classrooms.

Survey Looks at Gen Z Views on Tech Careers

A survey by Dell computers of Generation Z high-school and college students in 17 countries shows 80% want to work with cutting-edge technology as part of their careers, and 57% say their education has prepared them for a job. The data also show 98% have used technology during their education and 52% are confident in their tech skills.

Virtual Field Trips Connect Girls to STEM Careers

The Signal (Santa Clarita Valley, Calif.) has reported that a local Boys and Girls Club is introducing girls to careers in marine conservation by partnering with EarthEcho International. Interactive virtual field trips connected the participating girls to 30 women in the profession. During Skype sessions, each professional gives a tour of what she does in her job and answers questions about her career and how she got there. Other interactive virtual field trips, which are now accessible to anyone online, are available at stemexplore.org.

Five Year STEM Plan announced

President Donald Trump's administration recently released a five-year plan to expand science, technology, engineering and math education. The plan calls for more basic education about STEM concepts and an increase in STEM access and support for students who want to pursue careers in STEM fields. The plan also urges educators to make STEM "more meaningful and inspiring" through project-based learning, science fairs, robotics clubs, invention challenges and gaming workshops – anything that pushes students to identify and solve problems using knowledge from various disciplines. The biggest obstacle to more STEM education? The lack of STEM teachers in K-12 education.

The Gender Gap in Cybersecurity Needs to Close

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, there will be up to 3.5 million job openings in cybersecurity by 2021, but experts say there is a serious shortage of those trained to fill those spots. Furthermore, only 20% of cybersecurity workers currently are women, which can limit perspective when it comes to solving cyberthreats. "The wider variety of people and experience we have defending our networks, the better our chances of success," says Priscilla Moriuchi, director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future according to Forbes. Got a daughter interested in this field? Take a look at the tips for women entering cybersecurity in the article.

Black Girls Code and Mattel’s Barbie Team Up

According to KPIX-TV (San Francisco), Mattel has teamed with Oakland, Calif., nonprofit Black Girls Code to develop a new black Barbie that builds robots and may inspire girls and minorities to pursue careers in science. "Black Girls Code is breaking barriers, pushing down walls and really empowering our girls to let them know they can be here," says the nonprofit's Amber Morse.

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