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An Expanded Growth Mindset for Girls in STEM

Written by: Reagan Flowers, PhD

For years, there has been a noticeable gender gap in STEM fields, both in higher education and professions. Why is that? A more up-close and personal look reveals one of the culprits as being negative stereotypes. Further, there is also the issue of accessibility to STEM opportunities and how they are communicated to young girls in their homes, schools, churches, and communities.

Children are impressionable and more inclined to being heavily influenced by the beliefs and viewpoints of adults in their lives. Assertions have been made that differences in expectations of boys and girls by individuals whom they respect is quite noticeable.  For example, STEM is ridiculously believed to be hard, filled with masculine work tasks, and require minimal creativity; that is simply not the case. In fact, some of the drivers in STEM industries are creative thinking, problem-solving, innovation, and communication, which is how new technology, systems, and processes are developed. According to Mae Jemison, the first African American woman astronaut in space, girls should not let anyone rob them of their imagination, creativity, or curiosity.

One thing we know for certain, is that powerful women in STEM never back down from pursuing their passions and leave behind a legacy that continues to move women into STEM fields. Nichelle Nichols, former NASA Ambassador and Star Trek actress said it best, “Science is not a boy’s game, it’s not a girl’s game. It’s everyone’s game.”[1]

Today, social factors play an enormous role in the way females perceive their capabilities in the workplace. A common stereotype is that females do not have the same intellect or grit as males. An individual’s capabilities are expandable, not static. A point that must be emphasized when teaching and leading girls. It is important that parents, teachers, church leaders, and mentors are conscious of their implicit bias when encouraging girls and boys to explore and experience opportunities. A growth mindset requires eliminating misguided and limiting stereotypes of females that discourage the pursuit of STEM careers. Girls should be allowed to be just as messy and adventurous as boys. The world holds a place for girls in STEM and it leads to a fabulous life. It is important that girls move forward with their STEM talents and have fun in the process.

Let’s encourage girls to work hard, fail fast, and play hard! After all, girls dust off just as nice as the boys.

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[1] https://interestingengineering.com/25-quotes-from-powerful-women-in-stem-who-will-inspire-you

Link to Article: https://www.forbes.com/sites/rodberger/2018/03/31/stem-education-new-research-sheds-light-on-filling-the-stem-gap-for-girls/#2affbdc51cf9

 

Your Colleague, Artificial Intelligence

Written by: Reagan Flowers, PhD

“Standardized tests are ineffective tools in measuring a student’s talent and capacity to work smart alongside machines.”

Some people believe that “the fuel you need for AI is just pure data”[1], but that is only one component. You can have all the data in the world, but to make that data useful it must be understood and analyzed. No matter who is analyzing the data (i.e. engineers, computer scientists, artists, or artificial intelligence, etc.), they must first be taught the necessary skills to do their job with accuracy and efficiency.

This then leads to the concept of teaching students to be innovative in analyzing and finding patterns within data, starting as early as elementary school. Which creates challenges for educators who are required to teach students to pass standardized tests. Although such tests challenge students on straightforward problems with a clear solution, employers are relying more heavily on Artificial Intelligence (AI), something standardized tests have not been designed to measure.

Let’s face it, you are considered as being smart when you can problem-solve and utilize technology to create the best possible solution.  Testing should evolve to measuring the overall capacity of a students understanding and ability to interact with technology to solve complex problems.

The standardized testing process and language has created its own barriers. There are many people who criticize the testing movement and colleges that are making their admissions decisions more inclusive of accomplishments beyond standardized test scores.

AI is widely integrated in all aspects of our lives from the food service industry at McDonalds to the driverless vehicles that are sharing our roads. In the age of Industry 4.0, the academic gaps created by standardized testing are leading schools in the wrong direction, away from high skilled opportunities.  Standardized tests are ineffective tools in measuring a student’s talent and capacity to work smart alongside machines.

We are beyond the computer and automation age. Work platforms are increasingly more dependent on cyber platforms that can be integrated into our daily workflow.  Student’s must be taught how to work smarter with machines.

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[1] https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2018-06-22/human-iq-and-artificial-intelligence-can-work-together-business-professor-says

STEMing Up During Summer

Written By: Reagan Flowers, PhD

The first day of summer is fast approaching. Schools across the U.S. are preparing to downsize for the summer months and are re-tooling for the upcoming school year. There are students preparing for summer camps, adventures, and vacations; while others are preparing for whatever the day brings.

During the academic year, every student enrolled in a school excelled at learning something because of their teachers, mentors, peers, siblings, and/or family members.

I find summer to be a perfect time to add to students’ personal stories of achievement with experiences that add value and propels them towards what will come next in their learning journey.

Because students do not choose the life they are born into, making available summer STEM programs aid them in choosing paths, and seizing opportunities that will make their collective hopes and dreams a reality. It is important that our students understand that each of their paths are different. Their experiences are not all equal or equitable and as a result the road to accomplishing their goals could be longer or shorter and filled with challenges or lucky breaks.

No matter what some might think, summer for students offers a window of time that should be filled with learning experiences that are positive, enlightening, inspiring, challenging, engaging, fun, and empowering.

Let’s face it, whether we are working to achieve success with creating awesome memories or being a scholar, it will only be achieved through demanding work, commitment, focus, determination, endurance, gratitude, humility, thoughtfulness, failure, and a good balance of knowing when not to take yourself too seriously.

STEM summer experiences aid students in taking closer steps towards achieving the life they hope and dream for themselves. It is important that students are directed during the summer to not limit themselves, set grand expectations, and to push beyond urges to spend time on activities that will cause the valuable time of summer to slip away.  Resulting in having nothing good to show for their time.

The learning gains achieved during the summer months helps to remove barriers that limit opportunities, restrict exposure, and stifles competitiveness. Students that do their part as scholars, thoughtful leaders, and examples of what is good in the world, continue to make advancements and eventually take hold of futures better than what many of them inherited at birth.

All students can have awesome STEM summers whether enrolling in a camp or assuming a curious, creative, and innovative mindset that leads to STEM discoveries at home, in their neighborhoods, and city. I hope that within all our communities, we continue to be deliberate and unwavering in providing as many STEM summer learning experiences for children that their brains can hold.

Live Smarter

Written By: Reagan Flowers, PhD

 

To surpass academic achievement goals, to help greater numbers of our children break the chains of generational poverty, we must be intentional and deliberate in cultivating talent that has the capacity to take advantage of economic opportunities that are available in STEM.

We do not choose the life we are born into, but we do choose the paths that makes our collective hopes and dreams a reality.  Our paths are all different, and for some, the road is much longer and the challenges are greater.

Choosing the correct path can be challenging especially when there are no Google Maps to point you in the direction of opportunities, when you never receive invitations to experience the world of possibilities, and when the standards by which you have been measured have been watered down so much, until you have developed a false sense of preparedness and competitiveness.

Living Smarter is the only way to rise above unjust education systems that continually leaves Black and Hispanic students behind their White and Asian peers.

C-STEM, Communication, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, is what gets young people to work with us, to become self-reliant, to do their part as scholars, to be thoughtful leaders, and to be examples of what is good in the world.

By 2042, minorities will begin to cross the threshold to becoming the majority. Many urban schools serve majority minority students.  In these schools, particularly with native Black students, common trends you will find are:

  • Low gains in math and reading proficiency
  • School ratings at the bottom and they remain at the bottom for three or more years
  • Lower enrollment in Advanced Placement Courses
  • Lower numbers taking the ACT/SAT
  • And, Higher incidences of out of school suspension than their white peers

When it comes to top-scoring schools in math and reading, minority students on free or reduced lunch are less likely to enroll and they experience double digit achievement gaps.  For many minority students, particularly native Black students, many of their futures mirror their inheritance at birth.

To get different outcomes, we must start early, at the foundational level of education developing students to be superb communicators, critical thinkers, problem-solvers, innovators, and creators.  STEM provides the environment to do just that.  STEM is a way of life and allows students to apply classroom learning to the world around them.  It leads to futures as entrepreneurs and to careers that pay dividends towards achieving economic empowerment and a wealth base that strengthens families and rebuilds communities.

Data has shown us that more than 50% of individuals who have ever been arrested and more than 30% of individuals on welfare did not attend pre-school.

These are desperate times in public education.  The exceptionalism in leadership and student achievement cannot be found in many urban schools as we prepare for more school closures and take overs.  And the alternatives given for some school take overs will not provide the innovation needed to achieve the academic gains we hope for.

To meet the demands of the fast-changing high skills technologically driven world, Public schools must have assistance.  Overwhelmingly, data continues to report enormous challenges with tapping into the potential and capacity of minority students and in raising our Nation’s overall academic competitiveness.

The lack of innovation and the lag-time by which schools access current technology and instructional tools and resources, causes our students to fall further behind and under prepares them for life and work.  Many low skill jobs that were once done by humans have been completely taken over by robots and machines. There are more high skilled jobs, particularly in markets heavily supported by automation, artificial intelligence, and cyber security.

C-STEM helps schools innovate how instruction and learning happens.  All of the services C-STEM provides are working for the good of students by helping them achieve academically and gain access and exposure to opportunities. It is incumbent upon us all to be intentional and thoughtful in immersing our future leaders in STEM.

The Diploma to College to Career Mismatch

Written By:  Reagan Flowers, PhD

It appears that minority students are less likely to enroll in college, remain in college, and are more likely to go directly to work post high school.  Factors impacting their choices to attend college are finances, access to opportunities, awareness, proper preparation, supportive networks, and exposure.  And for many minorities enrolled in college, they are first generation.

According to NCES, minority students are obtaining their high-school diplomas with completion rates in the U.S. for Hispanic’s being 76.3% and 72.5% for Black students. However, nationally these percentages are not representative of the number of minority students enrolling in colleges, 17% Hispanic and 14% Black.

The mismatch in the numbers does cause one to wonder how this has come to be.  I wonder if today’s high school graduates have determined that they will yield less of a return on their investment in a college degree if it is not in a STEM field.  Additionally, I wonder if high school graduates see more of an income advantage in forgoing a college degree and going directly to work in a blue-collar STEM field.  Looking further into gender numbers, there are more females enrolling in college than males.  The low enrollment numbers of males in college suggests that they experience more pressure to earn wages right after high school as opposed to females. The practicality of forgoing college long-term, in most instances, is not good. Such decisions create economic gaps and stagnation.

A growing trend are student success programs that colleges are putting in place to increase minority student enrollment and completion rates.  There are designated institutions such as HBCUs, MSIs, and HSIs that are intentionally and thoughtfully creating environments to improve their overall numbers.  And, there are groups such as AHSIEHBCU Faculty Development Network, and PennGSE Center for Minority Serving Institutions that are sharing best practices to help move the needle.

A recent presentation of C-STEMs research on minorities and females attitudes towards STEM education and careers at an AHSIE conference was fairly consistent with common themes being expressed by colleges from across the U.S.  We are not short on problems to solve, are working to eliminate the mismatches, and are increasingly using technology to identify and trigger responses to student academic and social challenges, sooner rather than later.

STEM: Are we really Making Progress

Written by: Reagan Flowers, PhD

There were so many great take-a-ways from the Women’s Global Leadership Conference (WGLC) in Energy.  The Theme, “Inspiring the Next Generation of Female Leaders”, was well received.  It is hard to imagine how anyone could have left not feeling inspired, encouraged, energized, more knowledgeable, and dreaming bigger.
Leading in male dominated industries can be challenging.  It was refreshing to hear from women who are figuring it out and paving the way in STEM industries.


When we look at were we are currently with Women in STEM, data shows that we must begin in elementary school with getting girls interested in science.  The gender gap widens in middle and high school, 3% to an 11% gap with boys demonstrating more interest than girls.

Some recommended best practices with getting girls more interested in STEM disciplines/careers includes:

  • Providing opportunities for girls to experience STEM as early as Pre Kindergarten to start building their confidence and to allow them to be wowed by what they can do and see the impact of applying what they know to something meaningful.
  • Use of inspiring messages and images that are not demeaning and don’t exacerbate gender biases or imbalances.
To continue to move the needle forward we have to do some things differently.  A great place to start is with ones self.  There is tremendous room for more individuals to take ownership by making a commitment to excellence to write a future for girls leading in STEM.  The call to action is to create, collaborate, and support opportunities that provide access to relevant high quality STEM learning experiences.
We are somewhat bridging the diversity and workforce readiness gap that exists in STEM fields of study and industries. It seems K-12 schools need additional support with bridging the information and knowledge gap that continues to persist, particularly with minorities and females.

How Curiosity Leads To a Rewarding Career with Jessica Autrey

Jessica Autrey on the STEMCast Podcast
Jessica Autrey is the Business Development Lead with AT&T Foundry For Connected Health. Jessica shares how she was able to combine her love of education, technology, and health into a successful career.

In this episode we discuss:
  • The joint venture between AT&T Foundry for Connected Health and the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute in Houston.
  • How start-up Aira and AT&T helped a Boston Marathon runner
  • Jessica’s advice on curiosity leading to career opportunities.

Sponsored by Halliburton.

STEMcast Podcast Hosted by Dr. Reagan Flowers

CSTEM-Podcast-AppStore

 

STEMCAST Introduction: Urban Nexus

Welcome to the CSTEM Urban Nexus Competition where Everyone is an Artist & an Engineer!  Dr. Reagan Flowers provides us with an overview of the 2016 Competition for Pre K through 12th grade students nationally.  Student’s experience STEM using robotics, civil engineering, computer programming, innovation, film making, photography, mural, and sculpture.  Listen Now!

 

Empowering Our Future: C-STEM’s Urban Nexus Youth Challenge
Dr. Assata Richards provides great insight on the correlation between sociology and STEM on how we need to understand the problems in society; yet preparing our students to become practitioners for advancement. How do you learn from the world around us?  Listen Now!

Education Reform: A Path Forward

education reform

The America COMPETES Act was passed in 2007, with an emphasis on technology and science, in an effort to promote and create opportunities for educational excellence. A reauthorization of the law was enacted a new reform of the law, dubbed the “Student Success Act”.   The proposed law would ban federal involvement in determining failing schools, eliminate required federal benchmarks for academic achievement, allow federal dollars for disadvantaged or disabled students to follow the pupil sort of like a voucher, and reduce the amount of federal dollars Title I school districts receive.

It is easy to see how many in the education reform crowd would support the idea, as it creates a pathway for students to leave failing schools and pursue their education at a school of their choice. The unintended consequence of such a policy would be a shift where public and charter schools will be competing to enroll students who qualify for those funds as a means of boosting the funds they receive. So while the schools benefit from the revenue that accompanies these students, the pupil does not necessarily receive the education they deserve, rather they end up with the same academic achievement outcomes they are experiencing today.

Not only will such a policy inevitably perpetuate widening of the achievement gap, it also stands to increase the disparity in public schools serving high numbers of economically disadvantaged students. The diminished learning opportunities will further bolster the inequity in urban vs. suburban education systems, and will further accelerate the closure of inner-city public schools, replacing them with charter and federally subsidized private schools.

The bigger concern for many public school advocates is the potential for the proposed Student Success Act to be the precursor for the evisceration of public school systems, in lieu of a further shift towards charter and privately run school systems.  Most public school advocates readily acknowledge that there are good and bad public schools, just as there are good and bad charter, private, and religious schools out there. One thing we know for certain is without Title I Federal funding, public schools serving high percentages of economically disadvantaged students would be greatly harmed by any reduction in the funding they receive. While many have been unsuccessful in their mission of providing equitable learning opportunities for their students, to withdraw funding at this point would only further turn a bad situation worse.

A better approach today would be to maintain Title I Federal funding based on the present formula, while implementing accountability measures that are meaningful and effective. Federal accountability guidelines should focus on improving early childhood education, reduce the emphasis on testing, tie teacher performance pay to innovative practices linked to student success, and create data share appendages to foster identification and sharing of best practices between the public and private educational complex.