My Dinner (-time meeting) with Arne

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My Dinner (-time meeting) with Arne

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At JobTrain today we had a visit from Arne Duncan (Twitter: @arneduncan), the former US Secretary of Education under President Obama. He’s currently the managing partner at the Emerson Collective, an organization looking to improve life for students, immigrants and Americans in general. I love this paragraph from their website:

We must equip students to thrive in the 21st century, but right now many are getting left behind. We can work together to develop innovative school models, use technology to accelerate learning, and push for success beyond high school graduation.

Make It STEM definitely shares those goals. Certainly the current math curriculum is not equipping anybody to thrive in the 21st Century. It certainly provided the necessary math for people to use at their jobs in the late 1800s, when it was created! Now we have different needs, and every job requires some computer skills, whether it’s being able to use Word and Excel or do some HTML and Javascript tasks on the company’s login page.

We’re not doing anybody any favors by restricting math education to tasks that can be done by any calculator (which we all carry around on our phones). We want citizens who can solve problems using a few lines of code. I’ve taught young kids to use a few loops or functions, so coding is no longer the domain of antisocial nerds and technical geniuses.

On the Emerson Collective website, there’s an interview with Catherine Brown, Vice President of Education Policy at the Center for American Progress. She says policymakers have raised standards and improved accountability but “the systems for recruiting, preparing, supporting, and compensating teachers have not risen commensurately.”

I’m all for improving the training of teachers, and my vision is to modernize math education from inside teacher training courses in universities. The only reason math is taught the same way it was 50 years ago is because teachers don’t know how to use computer programming to explore math topics deeply and rewardingly.

We at Make It STEM are all about improving teacher’s preparing and planning side. We offer a way to ramp up teachers’ knowledge of their subject and we provide resources like experiments and projects in all STEM topics that can be put into practice immediately in the classroom.

In all our projects, from Ken’s waterbug to my Processing sketches, a number of seemingly unrelated skillsets are engaged like never before in math and science class. From the planning stages to execution to programming’s all-important debugging process, our projects are real-time exercises in 21st-century thinking and creating.

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