Nearly every leader in our nation is saying that we need to have students get more STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), so that our country will not fall behind technologically and economically from the rest of the world. But, what they don’t say (possibly, because they don’t know), is that the type of math that is needed for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Computer Science (CS) is not the math that is normally taught in high school.
Information and Communication Technology
Yesterday, I saw a demo of the Aspen SIS from Follett. For full disclosure, Dylan Holcomb, the Sales Consultant who came out, was a friend of mine from high school, but honestly I wasn’t expecting it to be an SIS that we would be interested in, especially because the price tag is high for the size of school that Highlands Community Charter currently is. But, after seeing how Aspen works, and how they addressed my blog article about the 3 features that SIS providers are missing, it is on our school’s radar as a potential. Here is a quick review of what I was impressed with, and what things I still think they could do better.
I wrote recently about my thoughts on whether MOOCs have been a failure. Udacity is showing that they are not, and is an example of where the potential of technology to “disrupt” a market is finally entering the realm of education. And it has now put its “money where its mouth is”, by doing something no college (that I know of) has done: guarantee its graduates a job. But what is the catch (if there is one)?
Recently I had a bit of a debate with a coworker who said that the Stanford MOOCs have been a failure. While her point was more about why she didn’t think online education alone is good for our students with Highlands Community Charter School, which I don’t disagree with, I do disagree that we can judge MOOCs as a failure yet; especially the most open of them, such as the original Stanford MOOCs.
It is a given that the 21st century economy will be driven by information and communication technologies (ICT), in which nearly the entire human-created world that surrounds us will have a basis in computer science. And while our high schools require a graduate to know about the underlying structures of biological and physical sciences, there is no consistent requirement to understand the underlying structure of the information world. While groups and legislators have worked to make computer science, not just computer literacy, being a high school graduation requirement in California, this has not yet come to pass. And possibly it is not the best answer to the problem. Instead, I’m going to suggest that a more appropriate solution, which can be implemented immediately, is to have high schools allow an introductory Computer Science course to be used as a graduation requirement alternative to Algebra I.
I have not wanted to post too much about the Common Core until I had some time to learn more about it, think about it, etc. So I’ve been sharing tidbits so far. But I think it is time to share some of my critiques about the math standards, which I hope may filter into the next set of standards.
Since at least 2007, I have used winning the game Minesweeper as an assessment to determine whether adult students were ready to join technician training classes that I have taught. And in 2010, I conducted a Minesweeper and Hypothetical Thinking Action Research & Pilot Study as my Master’s project, in which I found some initial indications that ones computer ability was correlated with their ability to play Minesweeper. (Although, the sample size of that pilot study was so small, it should not be considered as any form of proof)
And, as I prepare to start a new technician training program with Highlands Community Charter and Technical Schools, I am again using Minesweeper as a prerequisite assessment.
On August 18, I am starting a small computer science and IT training program with Highlands Community Charter School, that will have no more than 10 students in it. This program is open to students who are 22 years of age, or older, and who don’t have a high school diploma. Students must also have sufficient computer skills before entering the program, although, students who don’t yet have sufficient skills may join a self-paced IT Prep program with the school, to work up to joining the class. This is a full-time program, where students go to school 6 hours per day for a full school year.
It is clear that the U.S. still has a major unemployment problem, and yet there is a lack of computer programmers. To solve this problem, many technologists are calling on schools to teach computer science within schools. But, for all the talk about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in education, the reality is that thus far our schools continue to not truly teach the Technology portion of STEM.
As an instructor who has been teaching Microsoft Excel to students for over a decade, I have found key problems of learning to often occur with students due to the structure of curriculum. The following five fundamental principles are those that I have found to be true for how students can best learn spreadsheets.