By Lee Ann Murphy
As the United States falls ever lower in global rankings in the professional fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, some educators are hustling to find ways to make the subjects more interesting to girls in order to fill the void.
“It’s not simply a matter of saying that it’s
nice to have women in the
IT arena,” says Carroll McGillin, national initiative manager with Cisco Networking Academy who participated in a webcast on the issue. “It’s really mission critical. We need women and other underrepresented groups in order to have the diversity of thought to be able to generate new ideas and better decision-making.”
One method is as simple as changing how courses are described and conducted. “Girls in particular are interested in how technology affects communities around the world,” says McGillin. “So a lot of the focus of our educational programs is around showing girls how technology can make a difference in critical issues and problems, things like the tsunami.”
That strategy is working for Adam Fisher, director of information services and technologies at Kent School in Kent, Connecticut, for grades nine–12. Fisher runs a technical help center where students assist other students with computer problems. At first Fisher had difficulty getting girls involved in the program. But a few tweaks rectified this issue.
For one, he made the environment more social and more collaborative. “We have pizza parties and other social events, so the student tech room becomes more of a community.” Also, he required no previous knowledge of computers. “I can teach them what they need to know. What I really need is to get them in the door and participating. When all they see is a bunch of boys hanging out in the computer lab, they’re turned off.”
Tech Boston, a program to increase technology awareness among younger students, also strives to remove the “boys only” stigma in the field. The project, run by Northeastern University and the Center for Engineering Educational Outreach (CEEO) at Tufts University, works to integrate an innovative robotics curriculum in the Boston public schools and other racially diverse and economically disadvantaged school districts in Massachusetts. The project targets sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade teachers, each of whom receives 80 hours of summer professional development and 40 hours of follow-up support in leading yearlong after-school robotics programs. The program is geared toward attracting all underrepresented groups, and more than 1,800 students are expected to participate.
Randal August, principal investigator of the program, says one of the biggest problems is recruitment, specifically, the “geek factor.” August hopes to overcome the supposition that technology is dry or boring by using long-term projects that keep students invested, allowing them to work collaboratively in groups, and using robotics in a way that incorporates real-world problems. “Our biggest goal is to present robotics in particular, but also engineering and mathematics programs, in a way that will keep all these students interested on into high school and will influence their college and university choices.”
While a recent survey conducted by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) at its annual T+L Conference shows that teachers overwhelmingly believe technology in the classroom has increased educational opportunities for students, not all agree on how.
Teachers surveyed felt that with technology:
Students are more engaged 92 %
Have a stronger ability to communicate
Have increased critical-thinking skills 49 %
Have improved their test performance 31 %
New technologies and tactics make the nation's schools safer.
Looking for a way to justify the installation of that expensive new security surveillance system? Be sure to download the latest Indicators of School Crime and Safety from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), released in November 2005. While the paper does not conclusively prove a direct correlation between increased security tech and crime reduction, the numbers, as they say, speak for themselves. To get the whole report, go to nces.ed.gov.
Violent crime at school declined from 48 victims per 1,000 students in 1992 to 28 in 2003.
- Serious disciplinary action taken by schools
Suspensions lasting five or more days 83%
- Types of serious offenses
Physical attacks or fights 35%
Threat or intimidation 22%
Possession or use of alcohol or illegal drugs 20%
Distribution of illegal drugs 10%
Possession of a weapon other than a firearm 19%
Use of a weapon other than a firearm 5%
Possession of a firearm/explosive device 4%
Use of a firearm/explosive device 2%
Other nonacademic infractions 14%
Although the case of Hurricane Katrina is extreme, it proved the importance of backing up and storing data. “We saw massive damage to data servers,” says Tim Margeson, general manager at CBL Data Recovery Technologies, Inc. “So if a school had a data server on site, that data was wiped out.” Luckily, most schools in the area were storing data in a central location unaffected by the storm.
While it’s impossible to prevent all property and equipment damage in the event of a catastrophe, there’s little excuse for losing electronic data—ever. If you haven’t checked on your backup system recently, now is the time.
While most IT purchases at a district level will have a backup solution as part of the bargain, the onus is still on the user to ensure data are being backed up correctly, regularly, and without glitches. Testing the system on a regular basis is the only way to be sure this is so. Ben Castro of Maxtor Corporation suggests five basic rules to follow for backing up data whether you’re dealing with an entire district or individual teachers’ computers:
1. Develop a backup schedule. Back up your data daily, weekly,
or even monthly. Just set a schedule and stick to it.
2. Back up everything. You never know.
3. Do it automatically. Use a solution that provides automatic backups.
4. Rotate backups. Give yourself added protection in case of an earthquake, fire, flood, or theft by making sure you have some kind of off-site backup, even if it isn’t updated as regularly as your on-site system.
5. Don’t procrastinate. Unfortunately, the need to back up data is often a lesson learned from bitter experience, but it doesn’t have to be.
Margeson also points out that natural disasters, although attention grabbing, are not the main causes of data loss. Ordinary mishaps are much more likely to cause problems, even major ones. That’s why it’s important for all schools, everywhere in the country, to regularly test backup systems. After all, once the data are gone, who will have to answer for that? You guessed it.
2006 Annual Convention & Exposition
Technology Gone Wild
February 6–10, 2006
TCEA is the largest state organization in the nation devoted to the use of
technology in education. TCEA 2005 attracted more than 8,000 attendees with
more than 350 exhibitors and 500 educational sessions. This year’s keynote
speakers will be Henry Winkler of Happy Days fame and award-winning grade school
teacher Rafe Esquith.
Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE)
Technology in Education ... Reaching New Heights
February 7–10, 2006
Oregon Convention Center
For teachers, technology coordinators, library media specialists, administrators, and district decision-makers, NCCE 2006 will host more than 130 targeted sessions, 60 workshops on educational technology, and 100 “technology for education” exhibitors. NCCE this year will also focus on some of the latest ed-tech applications, such as blogging, podcasting, distance learning, and a reprise of last year’s IT Leadership Summit.
eTech Ohio State Technology Conference
2006 Ohio Connects! Bridging Learning, Technology, and Achievement
February 13–15, 2006
For the eighth year, thousands of teachers, technology coordinators, administrators,
students, educational service providers, and exhibitors will gather in Columbus
from Ohio and beyond to share ideas, products, and projects.
CoSN’s 11th Annual K–12 School Networking Conference
Measuring the Value of Education Technology
March 6–7, 2006
Hyatt Regency Crystal City
The K–12 School Networking Conference is the premier event for education
leaders on technology and learning through the Internet. The conference attracts
more than 800 district, state, and national education-technology leaders.