MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT hosts STEM workshop—Participants gather to discuss "STEM: What Works, What's Broken, How Do We Fix It?"

November 18, 2011

On October 27 and 28, MIT hosted a workshop on STEM education entitled, "STEM:  What Works, What's Broken, How Do We Fix It?". Workshop participants included STEM experts, teachers, and policy makers from around the country. Richard Larson provided attendees with an initial overview of the workshop and chaired two of the panels. A reception at the MIT Museum included a BLOSSOMS demo. The MIT Administration was represented at the workshop by Dean of Undergraduates, Dan Hastings, and Dean of the School of Engineering, Ian Waitz.

Presentations included descriptions of innovative STEM programs being carried out in Florida, Nevada, Washington, Ohio, Washington, DC and Massachusetts. Danielle Sherdan described how Florida has implemented their CPALMS program.  CPALMS is an Internet-based  infrastructure project to build systems and tools to support the implementation of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS). The project is led by the Florida Center for Research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (FCR-STEM) at Florida State University (FSU). CPALMS is a collaboration between K-12 teachers, researchers, the Florida Department of Education, universities, district curriculum specialists, and many others. CPALMS has been certifying MIT BLOSSOMS video modules as appropriate for classroom use and applicable to Florida teaching standards.

As described by Richard Vineyard, the Nevada STEM Coalition (Gathering Genius Inc.) started in 2006 to bring the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) to Reno in 2009 and has now significantly expanded its work, recently implementing STEM magnet programs in district and state charter high schools.

Washington, DC public high schools were represented by Camsie McAdams, STEM Director of the DCPS. She described an aggressive program in which STEM education must expand beyond six "Catalyst schools" to all schools of the DCPS. MIT BLOSSOMS is teaming with her program this academic year, training DCPS STEM teachers to use and create BLOSSOM modules—with a contest for the teachers to design and create new BLOSSOMS modules.

Ellen Ebert (Director of Teaching and Learning Science, Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington State) described her group's approach to STEM: STEM literacy is the ability to identify, apply and integrate concepts from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to understand complex problems and to innovate to solve them.

Massachusetts—a national leader in K-12 STEM education—was very well represented by STEM innovators at the state and local level (including Reen Gibb, a current high school STEM teacher in Westwood and contributor to Eric Klopfer's student certification program), from STEM-focused NGOs, and from Dr. Christos Zahopoulos, Executive Director of Northeastern University's Center for STEM Education.

Representatives from the company supporting the workshop, Fujitsu Laboratories of America, presented their systems concepts for Technology-Enabled Education in K-12 settings, with pictures of working classrooms in southern Japan.  Their system design includes routine weekly email updates to parents of each student in the classroom. This feedback loop in the system was very well-received by all workshop participants, who recognize the importance of parental support and encouragement. BLOSSOMS corporate sponsor IBM was represented by Rick McMaster, who has done two BLOSSOMS video modules on the physics of super cold. He presented the latest figures on the leaky K-12 and K-16 STEM student pipeline and reported how firms like IBM wish to hire university graduates who are "T-people," explaining that a "T person" is deep in a STEM discipline and broad in leadership and related skills.

There was consensus that current weak STEM results from the national K-12 education system represents a severe national security threat—and that improvement will require concerted efforts from many individuals and groups.

The workshop participants left with a strong intent to keep together as a group, both virtually and in another face-to-face meeting in about a year.