I am behind
in my reading but Prism does get my attention. The February
issue on K-12 education was excellent, but it missed two
things that I feel passionately about.
The first is
the almost tired complaint that the U.S. is not keeping up in math
and science. I recognize that this is true, but I believe
that the real cause is that math and science are generally treated
as rather pure subjects. I believe that the reason that putting
engineers in the classroom (or having other creative introduction
to engineering in the classroom) works is that engineers help the
students understand the technology around them. Kids are fascinated
with the technology, but without understanding they just become
users. The key element is teaching about technology and using that
to motivate interest in the math and science. I believe that we
need technology, math, and science in the schools and that the first
will lead to excellence in the other two. Note that this not the
is that some school districts are beginning to get it right. Today
this seems to take a committed staff person who knows technology
education and the willingness to integrate technology into the curriculum
from K all the way to 12. I am sure that there are a small number
of programs that do this, but one I have discovered is the Quaker
Valley School District, a mixed middle class Pennsylvania school
district. While they use technology in education, they teach technology
starting in kindergarten. In fourth grade every student learns about
electric circuits. In eighth grade there is a technology lab that
every student takes which is coordinated with math and science teaching
(the math and science teachers have been taught to teach the technology
course). In high school a vocational option is Cisco systems management
with Cisco certification along with the high school diploma.
did not invent this whole curriculum, but they have made remarkably
good use of it. All of their students are given some degree of technical
literacy, even those with special needs and an IEP. Their Web site
Browse through the curriculum for different grades. Dr. Joseph Marrone,
now director of administrative services, had a great deal to do
with developing the program. As the Web site shows, he is very interested
in measurement of what the district does. I will be interested over
time to see what portion of the graduating class turns to engineering
or other technical fields.
is whether model programs such as this and other around
the country can serve to show how to run schools with the excellence
needed to develop a technically literate population and enough technology
people to meet our needs. Once we have a good model it should be
easier to replicate.
IBM T. J. Watson Research Center
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