It’s been more than 50 years since The Jetsons came into living rooms and promised viewers things beyond their wildest dreams. Of course, not all of their predictions have come true yet, but since the show is set in 2062, science has quite a few years to catch up. Still, the world is pretty futuristic these days. Maybe you don’t have a car inside a briefcase, but you probably have a computer, a calculator, a jukebox, a camera, several books, video games, mail, and a flashlight all in a telephone in your pocket. And while you don’t have Rosie to vacuum your floors, you probably own, or know someone who owns, a robotic vacuum.
In fact, when you think about it, robots are everywhere. A robot almost certainly helped to assemble your car, and your latest order from Amazon was likely moved around the warehouse by robots. Maybe you have eaten at the new Boston restaurant where robots do the cooking. If you have been a patient at the UCSF Medical Center, it is likely that your meals were delivered by a robot and your prescriptions were filled by a robotic pharmacist. You may even know someone who has bought a robo-pet—be it a cuddly robotic kitty to keep a senior company or a robotic dog to load the dishwasher.
Where Is Robotics in the NGSS?
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have brought many U.S. classrooms into the 21st century. In a world increasingly ruled by computers and robotics, this knowledge and these skills will be instrumental to the success of tomorrow’s workforce.
NGSS has brought something else to the classroom—inquiry-based learning. Gone are the days when a science teacher would write facts on a board and explain topics to a classroom. The NGSS expects students to participate in their own learning. The standards call for students to form hypotheses, test theories, and analyze data for themselves. Students are active learners. Thus, the NGSS guidelines have changed the methods used to teach science. This presents challenges to teachers. So how to implement these standards in today’s classroom? Here are five challenges teachers face.
Why Do We Need the NGSS?
To understand the impact of the NGSS, take a look around. What do smartphones, multivitamins, organic pesticides, self-driving cars, solar panels, and kevlar have in common? Science. Science touches everyone in the United States every day, yet the U.S. national standards for teaching K-12 science remained unchanged from 1997 until 2013. During that time frame,
- researchers found evidence that neutrinos have mass in 1998
- scientists discovered three new synthetic elements: livermorium (element 116) in 2000, moscovium (element 115) in 2003, and tennessine (element 117) in 2010
- the human genome was published in 2001
- Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006
- the first clone of an extinct animal was born in 2009
- NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars in 2012
Each one of these breakthroughs highlights how closely intertwined science, technology, and engineering are. With all of these advancements and innovations, the curricula for science were badly in need of an update. This is why the National Research Council (NRC), National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), along with lead partners from 26 states, came together to design the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a comprehensive guideline for teaching science from kindergarten through 12th grade.
This blog was exclusively written for victoryprd.com by: Jarrah Bulton
STEM Education Today
Why is there a lack of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers? A graph shared by The Atlantic shows that only 25% of STEM graduates in the United States are women. Educators are working to address this issue and encourage more females to pursue these careers.
A scatterplot of countries based on their number of female STEM graduates and their Global Gender Gap Index (y-axis), a measure of opportunities for women (Psychological Science)
Throughout history women have excelled in various fields of science. Some of the biggest names in STEM are women. From Marie Curie’s discovery of radioactivity to Esther Takeuchi’s achievements in reengineering batteries, women’s contributions in STEM fields have improved the way people live today. However, this history of women in STEM has often not gotten the attention it warrants in educational materials. This is starting to change.
California now has a law that requires textbooks and materials to recognize the full range of diversity among the ranks of scientists who have influenced the many different fields of science. In a recent project for the state of California, Victory developed short biographies of prominent scientists, including women, members of the LGBTQ community, and those who had physical disabilities. The biographies allow more students to see themselves reflected in textbooks and, it is hoped, to be inspired to pursue careers in science or technology. This recognition is important because it breeds a culture of active learning, student empowerment, and equal job offerings all over the world.
Another barrier that has kept women out of STEM fields is the belief that women don’t have the intellectual capacity to work in STEM. There are no current studies, however, that can demonstrate that male and female brains function differently. This essentially eliminates gender difference as a reason to discourage women from pursuing careers in STEM. The case then lies in our educational systems and how they present topics to their students.
Regardless of our age, we all share a common rite of passage in early education— the mastery of math facts. Although the way we practice math facts has changed over the years, we all remember doing them over and over again. For me, it was learning the multiplication tables by using physical flash cards, a task I often found rote and boring, and which I believed had no merit whatsoever. “Put a damper on my creativity,” I thought years later. Little did I know I was developing automaticity, a foundational skill critical to my future success not only as a learner but also in the workplace.
Automaticity is the ability to perform skilled tasks quickly and effortlessly without occupying the mind with the low-level details required to do it. Automaticity is attained through learning, repetition, and practice. In math, students have attained automaticity (also known as math fact fluency) when they can easily retrieve basic facts from their long-term memory in all four operations (+, −, ×, ÷) without conscious effort or attention.
Why Is Automaticity Making a Comeback?
Research has shown that automaticity is a building block for mastering higher-level math concepts. It helps students avoid math anxiety, and it is a significant predictor of performance on standardized tests. Fact retrieval speed as a predictor of performance is not limited to test items that directly assess computation skills; it also predicts performance on more conceptual problems that require students to solve word problems, interpret data, or exercise mathematical practices.
Automaticity is essential to turning basic skills into tools for future learning, which creates an independent learner who is self-confident and successful in his or her studies. Researchers see the difference between a struggling learner and an independent learner not just as the mastery of a skill but also the speed or fluency with which the skill can be performed.
If a child can’t automate a basic skill or has little fluency, he or she will experience limited success in quickly mastering new skills. This will cause ongoing frustration over the time it takes to accomplish a task and distracted learning. Having to think consciously about basic skills while doing a higher-level task results in a cognitive conflict that leads to fatigue. It can also cause a downward spiral where a learning problem can turn into an attention problem that then becomes a behavior problem. Continue reading
We continue to explore the changing landscape in STEM assessment. This 5-minute video gives a whirlwind tour of our prototype Science CEPA (Curriculum-Embedded Performance Assessment).
In this video, two of our content experts share their thoughts on the changing landscape in STEM assessment.