Tag Archives: girls in STEM

Obama announces over $240 million in pledges at White House Science Fair

Yesterday at the 2015 White House Science Fair, President Obama announced over $240 million in pledges to inspire more students – especially those from underrepresented groups – to pursue education in science, technology, engineering, and math. Included in Obama’s announcement were:

  • $150 million philanthropic effort to empower a diverse cadre of promising early-career scientists to stay on track to become scientific leaders of tomorrow;
  • $90 million “Let Everyone Dream” campaign to expand STEM opportunities to under-represented youth;
  • $25 million Department of Education competition to create science and literacy themed media that inspires students to explore;
  • 120 universities and colleges committing to train 20,000 engineers to tackle the “Grand Challenges” of 21st century; and,
  • CEO coalition Change the Equation committing expand effective STEM programs to an additional 1.5 million students this year.
This year’s White House Science Fair focused on diversity and included students from underrepresented backgrounds. The Fair also featured more women and girls in science than in previous years, with over 100 students from more than 30 states. Among the participants were a high school student from Arizona who created an algorithm to identify other medical applications for existing drugs, a student from Pennsylvania who designed an innovative carbon-dioxide powered battery, and a group of 6-year-old “Supergirls” who invented a batter-powered page turner to help people with disabilities read books.
To learn more about the White House Science Fair and yesterday’s events, watch the video above or visit the White House Science Fair’s homepage and the fact sheet about Obama’s new STEM commitments.

Memo #5 from Mobile Learning Week 2015

Paris, France
February 27, 2015
The last day at this year’s Mobile Learning Week was a research seminar. The goal of the seminar was to bring together researchers as well as practitioners and policymakers to discuss the types of research that is available and needed around mobile learning, with an eye this year on women and girls.  With our longstanding interest and work in mobile learning research, I was excited participate in these discussions and to be part of the closing MLW2015 panel about the intersection of mobiles, women/girls and leadership.
At first glance, these three terms or concepts – mobile devices, women/girls’ empowerment, leadership – may seem to be an odd mix with little apparent commonality.  Each is a rich topic in their own right and in many circles, justifies their own dedicated conferences and research.  That is why this year’s Mobile Learning Week, as a collaboration between UNESCO and UN-Women, was such a fascinating idea and experience.  The big question is where do these three weighty concepts intersect and how can they be leveraged together to yield greater impact for all.  With the benefit of hindsight now, it is obvious that through the week’s keynotes, panel discussions, breakout sessions and workshops, the real goal of this year’s event was to uncover this unique intersection.  Not an easy task but one that I think was very successfully summarized in this closing panel.  I felt honored to be able to share my interpretation of this challenge (and potential solutions) as a panel participant.  Here is a short synopsis of some of the remarks I shared on this panel.
As we learn from the annual Speak Up data, while girls and boys have similar perceptions on the value of digital tools and resources, including mobile devices, on their learning, the way they want to use technology can be very different. Girls are particularly interested in using mobiles to connect, create and collaborate with others.  Underlying these activities is a deep felt passion to share ideas and to have a voice in local as well as wider range issues that affect their lives. After spending the week with conference representatives from all over the globe, I have a new appreciation for the immense power of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to enable girls and women to have a voice, a voice that in many parts of the world is not socially or culturally the norm.  In that sense, the impact of mobile devices on women and girls is indeed a new sense of empowerment.  And while we don’t often think about that in the United States, I think the impact can be similar in many circumstances.  Beyond sharing ideas, we also learn from Speak Up that girls like the idea of using their mobile devices to create and share various forms of content.  This type of content creation can be to develop skills or to gain feedback from others on their work. Earlier in the week, I learned about an interesting Silicon Valley nonprofit called Technovation (http://www.technovationchallenge.org/home/) that provides a program and competition for girls around mobile app development to solve local problems. This type of activity brings together the idea of skill development with content creation in a way that has high relevancy for girls.  Again more empowerment at play!

 

When I think about the types of skills that girls are acquiring through their use of mobile devices and mobile-enabled content, the concept of developing a next great generation of women leaders comes clearer into focus. When I talk with corporate and university leaders about the types of skills that today’s youth need to acquire to be successful in the new economy and society, the refrain is amazing consistent.  The skills that have the highest value include communications, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and computation thinking.  These are also the same skills that leadership gurus say are essential for leadership in a global, information-intensive era.  As noted earlier, the girls themselves articulate the relationships between their use of mobile devices and the development of these types of skills. Given the need for the development of new skills, and a new attitude about the potential of women and girls to be full participants in leadership roles in work and society, the responsibility of mobile devices in supporting these twin goals cannot be ignored.  It simply makes common sense now.  So, as we close out this year’s Mobile Learning Week, our new discussions post-2015 should be not about if access to mobile devices is important for women and girls, but rather, what we need to do to position these tools to enable and empower new capabilities and opportunities for all.  I look forward to continuing this discussion throughout the year and leveraging what I have learned at this year’s Mobile Learning Week to inform our work at Project Tomorrow.

Memo #1 from Mobile Learning Week 2015

Paris, France
February 23, 2015
According to Dr. Patience Stephens, Director/Special Advisor on Education for UN-Women, it is no longer appropriate or tolerable to do a minimalist job of providing girls and women with the tools they need to improve their lives – most notably with a second-class education. What a true statement – so obvious, but still not reality, especially not in many places around the globe.  With that inspiration and a call to more fully examine how mobile devices in particular can enable and empower change for girls and women, this year’s Mobile Learning Week 2015 was off to a great start.  Today was the workshop day of the weeklong event and I was honored to be chosen from a field of 70 proposals to lead one of the 12 workshops today.  Additionally, our good friend, Dr. Kari Stubbs, Vice President of Innovation and Learning at BrainPOP asked me to participate in her workshop to provide Speak Up research support.  It was a fun and exciting day examining the intersections of STEM, digital learning, games, coding, mobile devices – and girls!  I am excited to share with you 2 big takeaways based upon the workshops today that I hope may lead to deeper discussions on these important issues in your schools, districts, organizations and communities. If they do, I would love to hear back from you!
Take-away #1:  The morning workshop was led by the BrainPOP team and focused on girls’ interest in playing learning games, creating their own games, and learning how to code using mobile devices. Speak Up data provided the contextual background for many of the learning experiences within this workshop.  What I especially liked was the high level of audience participation and interactivity within the workshop.  Participants had multiple opportunities to play different kinds of games and even try their hand at coding.  While playing learning games is always fun, the play/learn experiences was grounded in examining the content through the lens of gender-sensitivity.  While it may seem easy to identify Game X as a “boy-oriented” game and Game Y as “girl-focused,” the audience quickly realized that those superficial stereotypes were inconclusive.  Using a guide developed by Project Tomorrow for this workshop, the participants had a chance to do a deeper dive as game and content evaluators and in the process, learned a lot of about their own biases and potential blindness to gender issues in digital content, games and other instructional materials.  The guide is available with other workshop materials at http://www.tomorrow.org/UNESCOworkshop.html.   We already know that the inclusion of mobile devices increases student engagement in learning. But what if we could prove that using mobile devices helps create more gender-responsive, transformative learning environments for all students?    We have much more work to do in this arena but I was excited to see the level of interest in this topic amongst the Mobile Learning Week attendees.
Take-away #2:  In the afternoon workshop, the focus was on how to design, implement and evaluate a gender-sensitive mobile learning project.  I led this workshop with support this time from Dr. Stubbs. Based upon Project Tomorrow research in this area, we shared a new way of thinking about the evolution of a mobile planning project from a gender-sensitivity perspective, starting from the identification of your project purpose through the synthesis of research data to share with stakeholders.  But first we had to review what we meant by gender-sensitivity.  A simplified version is basically becoming more aware of gender norms, roles and relationships and how those inherent or un-intended biases or opinions influences students’ learning. The real goal here is to develop new mobile learning projects that recognize gender issues and then, strategically and deliberately create ways to minimize the impact of any gender-blind or unequal priorities or values. As you might imagine these workshop topics instigated new questions and ideas about understanding and identifying gender-sensitivity.  Several points that the audience made on this topic intrigued me; I need to do more thinking on several of the points raised. However, several questions came up as to whether the goal of gender-sensitivity was to right the wrongs of the past in terms of unequal learning opportunities for girls, or to aim for how gender issues can be mitigated to the point of truly equal education for all genders. Both approaches are important to consider especially because in some communities, there is an emerging “boy crisis” where male students are feeling like second class citizens in their schools and that perception is affecting their school performance.  Sound familiar?  So, how do we really design, implement and evaluate new mobile learning projects that enable girls to reach for the stars in educational opportunities while not dashing the dreams and aspirations of their brothers?   I have a few suggestions.  Check out the PowerPoint from today’s workshop.  Spoiler alert – the powerpoint includes brand new data findings from Speak Up 2014. Review, enjoy and pass it on: http://www.tomorrow.org/UNESCOworkshop.html.
Tuesday is the first day of the two day Mobile Learning Symposium.  The Symposium includes inspiring keynotes and plenary sessions – and a myriad of small, TedTalk like sessions on all kinds of topics related to girls, women and mobile learning.  It is going to be a full day.  Be part of the experience by following me on Twitter (@JulieEvans_PT).  I can’t wait to share with you tomorrow my new learnings from this event in our Memo #2 from Mobile Learning Week 2015!