STEM: What role do minorities have in STEM?

I think this graphic pretty much sums it up. Obviously in order to solve this problem we are going to have to invest a lot of time, money, and effort. Here are some interested facts about STEM. Please see this article for more details

1. A whopping 73% of scientists and engineers are white
2. African-Americans, American Indians, and Hispanics between 18 and 24 account for 34% of the total U.S. population but earn only 12% of all undergraduate degrees in engineering
3. The gap between educational achievement in STEM grows even wider at the graduate level.
4. Minority students report desiring to go into a STEM major at the same rate as their white and Asian peers
5. Minority STEM grads are less likely to use their STEM degrees in a future career than their white or Asian counterparts
6. Most foreign-born STEM workers come from Asia
7. California boasts the largest gap between minorities and STEM degree achievement.
8. While the overall percentage of 24-year-olds in the United States with STEM degrees is 6%, it’s just 2.7% among African-Americans and 2.2% for Latinos.
9. More minorities switch to another major when enrolled in a STEM program.
10. Minorities experience large gaps in honors course enrollments.

PhoneGap: Building an app and classroom use

Well I have built my first mobile app using PhoneGap. Here are my thoughts:

Usability: Setting the software up was pretty easy although I did think the PhoneGap tutorials were not very good and had to look elsewhere to get the software installed on both Eclipse and Xcode. However once I was set up, all I needed to do was to drop HTML files into my WWW folder. Additionally, it was not easy to figure out how to publish my apps to the Android/iOS stores but very easy once I did figure it out. I would recommend one be familiar with Eclipse and Xcode before working with PhoneGap. Now onto building an app – very easy. Building an app using HTML was pretty easy. PhoneGap does have the ability to interact with the phone’s internal hardware just like a native app, which is nice. It does require javascript though, so be prepared to program if using PhoneGap.I did have to also modify things in both Eclipse and Xcode in order to get certain things to work, for instance, just adding external links to my app in Xcode required modification. I honestly think PhoneGap needs to work on their tutorials, for many things their software could do, and it would used by many more people. They are limiting themselves with the poor tutorials they have on their site.

Publishing – Publishing on multiple devices was pretty easy. After I had finished my app for Android, it took me maybe 30-45 mins to get it ready for publishing on iOS, which is pretty impressive. Keep in mind though that in order to publish on Apple (or even get your app on your iPad/iPhone) you need to pay the $99 developer fee. On Android, that fee is only $25 which is much more reasonable. Also, Android lets you publish your app without review, Apple needs to review (takes weeks at a minimum) and might actually reject your app.

Education use: I think this would be a very good tool for the classroom but there are a few things that an instructor needs to be ready for. The first thing is setting up this software. It was not that easy to set up. You have to download and install like 5 things for Android and like 5 things for Apple. Not only do you have to download/install but you need to create directories and move files around. While this was pretty easy for myself (and it did take a while), this is a nightmare waiting to happen in the classroom. You will have to walk your students through this process and I would expect errors. This process alone will turn off non technical students who will never use this tool after class due to this set up process. Once all set up though, its HTML, CSS, and Javascript. I do believe your students should thoroughly understand HTML and CSS with intro level javascript knowledge before attempting to use this tool. You at least need to know how to find/modify javascript to really do  anything ‘fun’ with the tool (unless you are just creating static HTML pages). Now, if you can look past all of that (and I probably can for my non programmer/non technical students even though I did sound rather negative in my review), I would recommend to require all students buy an Android develop account for $25 (vs iOS $99 due to cost) and let them each publish their apps to the Android Martketplace (Google Play). I think students would love to see their apps on the app store.

Kinect cameras being used to help detect autism in children

Very cool what gaming software and hardware can do. Kinect and Wii motion technologies are powerful and will be doing much more in the near future.

From the article:

“Detecting autism in children can be a difficult, expensive, and time-consuming process that requires the trained eye of a medical professional. But researchers Guillermo Sapiro and Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos believe that the Microsoft Kinect gaming sensor could assist in that task.

As part of an experiment at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development, Sapiro and Papanikolopoulos set up a series of five Microsoft Kinect sensors in the playroom of a school. There, the motion-detecting cameras recorded the movements of the children, aged 3 to 5, and sent the collected data to a series of PCs. The computers then calculated what children were most at risk for autism based on their hand movements and activity levels. Children whose activity levels differed greatly from their peers were flagged for further study by medical professionals.

Researchers admit the cameras are no substitute for the opinion of a real doctor, but say they could still help determine which children require closer examination for signs of autism. “The same way a good teacher flags a problem child, the system will do automatic flagging and say, ‘Hey, this kid needs to see an expert,'” says Shapiro.”

More of the article here

NYC passes social media law for K-12 Educators

I cannot say this is a bad law. While I wish it wasnt needed, unfortunately there are just so many problems that something like this needs to be in place. In fact, this probably just makes it easier for the teacher to say ‘no’ when their students ask because many students do ask their teachers to be facebook friends and it puts the teacher in an uncomfortable situation. Here is what the law says:

“NYC DOE Teachers cannot use social media accounts unaffiliated to the school on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and Flickr to contact students regardless of the nature of the message.”

Source: http://mashable.com/2012/05/02/social-media-student-teacher-contact/

Now the good thing to point out here: These services can still be used as long as its for educational purposes. So the schools are not banning the tools. If they were, I would have a major problem with this. They are simply banning personal connections, which I believe is fine. I warn all of my K-12 pre-service to teachers to say ‘No’ to any student that requests them on facebook. Not that I think its bad in all cases but that it just avoids a potential future problem.

Here is a video on the topic:

Free Educational Games at PBS

I really love PBS and not because I worked there while I was getting my Ph.D. They offer some great educational tools for educators. Last week in my courses we discussed gaming and gamification in K-12 Education. One of the sites my students were able to ‘play’ with during our game playing session was at PBS. This site offers tons of free educational games, so check it out and try to implement some into your lessons where you can. Keep in mind some are better than others so be sure to try out several:

pbskids.org/games/

Smartboards in the classroom

This post is more of a reflection on today’s class: I have always been pretty pessimistic when it comes to purchasing smartboards for classrooms. I tend to feel that a computer with projector might just be easier to manage and I really do not like the smartboard software that much as its not nearly as good as say PPT. However, my opinion may have been swayed this afternoon.

In my Educational Technology course with undergraduate students we went over ‘how to use the smartboard’. It was my normal lesson on smartboards and we talked about their implementation and use. My main question to the students was how can these improve learning? Anyway, while students were playing around with the software I had them go up in groups of 2-3 students and use the smartboard to get a feel for it. After 5-10 minutes I noticed many students were surrounding the smartboard, laughing, and having a blast using it. They really had a great time playing with this technology. I was impressed by the motivation it gave them to interact with anything in the classroom. If my college aged students are that excited to use something like that I would bet that K-12 students would appreciate it even more. Thus I now am beginning to see more potential in this technology that I always thought was a bit much for a classroom.

Facebook launches ‘Groups for Schools’ for Educators and Students

Facebook launches a new tool for Educators. It requires a ‘.edu’ email address and allows schools to create groups. Within these groups the schools can send emails, upload files, create calendars, post messages, etc. – pretty much everything you can do on Facebook but it’s private for your school. I would love to hear from a school that ends up using this as I am sure many are very apprehensive considering Facebook is ‘Taboo’ in most schools and universities.

Here is a link: https://www.facebook.com/about/groups/schools

Another article with more information at Mashable