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Scientific Image Sleuth Works Magic

You’ve most likely had the discussion with your children not to believe everything they read on the Internet, and especially with the digital world that we are in, that you cannot believe everything you see. Image manipulation has become commonplace and has become increasingly common in scientific research as well, with images duplicated, manipulated and/or "borrowed" from other data sets. Elisabeth Bik has become one of the world's preeminent image sleuths because of her amazing ability to spot fraudulent images that accompany scientific research. A recent article talks about her unique skill set, how she got into the field, and how her sleuthing capabilities have become so prized. It may make you think that we all need to pay more attention to what we see online. Could you be an image sleuth? The article includes an interactive test you can take to see if you can spot 5 duplicated images.

Strategies to Help Kids Identify Fake News

Recently released PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) study results revealed that only 14 percent of U.S. students were able to reliably distinguish between fact and opinion. PISA is an international assessment that measures 15-year-old students' reading, mathematics, and science literacy every three years. These findings are particularly alarming in these times when many rely on social media to get their news – a place where everyone has an opinion. In a commentary reaction to these results, Chris Link of the Global STEM Alliance at the New York Academy of Sciences shares strategies to help teachers and parents improve students' ability to identify information that is false or biased. One of the exercises he suggests is providing students with links to legitimate looking sites containing false information to see if they are deceived. He says, “experiences like these, where students are challenged to consider the validity of information and sort what’s real from what’s fake, would better prepare them not only to be savvier consumers of news, but also to someday digest contradictory information to make complicated decisions about their own health care, finances or civic engagement”.

Girl Scout to Offer STEM Badge in Conjunction with Microsoft

Microsoft is welcoming Girl Scouts to its stores for the opportunity to earn badges in STEM subjects such as robotics, digital photography and movie making and coding. The program is intended to encourage more girls to consider careers in STEM fields.

Math Anxiety: Now There is an App for That

Cambridge University in the UK has done a study that shows that more than three-quarters (77%) of children with reported high math anxiety are between normal to high achievers on curriculum math tests. Math anxiety, which typically appears after the age of 6, is a factor in these students having little interest in careers in STEM fields, when in fact they would be perfectly able to perform well in STEM jobs. Two British moms have founded a start up called Funexpected to tackle this world-wide phenomenon. The app itself is a collection of 11 games located across the landscapes of Japan, Egypt and Greenland. Children tap, cut, slide, grab and move animated on-screen objects to propel the story forward, such as by feeding a monkey with the correct amount of juicy berries gathered from various branches or learning logic by catching the right type of fish with a net and filling a fish pond. Parents can use it with their kids as well. The app runs a subscription-based model of $5.25 a month or $42.00 a year. 

Toy Cars, Girls and STEM

Can a toy car teach girls about STEM? Maybe, and that’s the idea behind the “No Limits” program created by Mercedes-Benz, in partnership with Mattel and the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP). The program’s goal is to teach girls that they can do anything and be anything, especially in fields that are predominately male-dominated. In a press release, the companies state “Through February 2020, girls across the U.S., through more than 100 organizations, will engineer toy racetracks, design cars, engage with female role models and attend STEM workshops through programs designed to expand how they see their future.” As a takeaway gift, 50,000 girls will receive a toy replica of the Mercedes-Benz 220SE that Ewy Rosqvist, a famous Swedish race car driver, used to win the Grand Prix. The toy itself was designed to remind girls of Rosqvist’s feat, and to encourage the girls that they can also forge new paths for women.

LEGOS Empower Students to Try STEM

Many teachers use Legos in the classroom for hands-on STEM exercises, particularly as an enticement to get students who are less confident about their engineering aptitude to give it a try. Middle-school robotics teacher Ian Chow-Miller says he likes using Legos -- from the basic blocks to the higher-end robotics kits -- because his students learn something from every possible outcome. A Marketplace story from National Public Radio highlights some of the projects the class has tried, including videos.

Closing the STEM Gender Gap

Educators and parents can help to close the gender gap in STEM by examining possible gender biases that are integrated into their language. Meagan Pollock, executive director of the nonprofit Design Connect Create, also asserts that girls typically tend to go into helping careers, so showing how STEM makes a positive difference in people's lives could be beneficial in exposing them to other options, she writes.

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.

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