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Boise gets a piece of the Pi…Raspberry Pi that is

Computers have come a long way since their inception. They are constantly changing and it can be difficult to keep up with the latest developments. Can you imagine working on a computer back when they were first built? Think of their size, speed and their ability. Think of the innovations in computer technology from the beginning, even in the last 10 or even 5 years. Computers have gotten smaller and more efficient. We have laptops, tablets, cell phones and cool innovated things like Raspberry Pis. Raspberry Pis? Nope, not a food blog and this definitely isn’t something you eat. According to Raspberry Pi’s website, a Raspberry Pi is a debit card sized computer that plugs right into a computer monitor or TV. It is a really low cost way that enables people of all ages to explore computing! It also allows people to learn how to program in languages like Python and Scratch. It’s a mini computer! How cool is that?

We at the Idaho STEM Action Center are super excited about it too! In fact, we are so excited that we partnered with Picademy, Raspberry Pi’s Foundation, to bring one of four national trainings to Idaho. That’s one of four national trainings, right here in the Gem State. What an incredible opportunity for Idaho!

Idaho’s Picademy professional development sessions will convene August 7-8 and 10-11, the two-day trainings will be held at Jack’s Urban Meeting Place (JUMP, 1000 W Myrtle St, 83702) in Boise.

Each of the two training sessions has 40 educators (formal, librarians, after school educational programs, etc.) each. Picademy had total control of who was selected but 36 educators from Idaho were accepted into the 80 available slots, go Idaho (remember, it’s national)!

The Idaho STEM Action Center is happy to provide selected Idaho educators with travel funds to attend the Boise trainings. Educators that complete the training will be an official Raspberry Pi Certified educator, receive a swag bag full of goodies, and have access to a network of other certified teachers across the world, while building their skills and knowledge of creative computing and much more. To find out more information about Raspberry Pi, click here. To find out more about the Idaho STEM Action Center, click here.

Help Idaho Define “STEM School”

House Bill 70, which is intended to honor and award STEM schools, passed both the House and Senate during the 2017 session with significant bipartisan support. This bill will allow schools to apply for a STEM School Designation that would be awarded by the State Board of Education in conjunction with the Governor’s Idaho STEM Action Center. The goal of this designation is to publicly recognize schools that offer a high quality, integrated STEM education that can serve to highlight best practices in STEM throughout Idaho. The established criteria will also serve as a guide for the creation of new STEM schools. The Idaho designation is voluntary and may come with a monetary incentive for successful applicants.

You can help Idaho determine the parameters that will be used to award the STEM School Designation. In its June bulletin, the State Board of Education will request that interested participants sign up to be part of the negotiated rule-making process. The committee will meet from July – September 2017. The final recommendations will go before the State Board of Education during the October meeting. If passed, these will move to the 2018 legislative session for final approval. This would mean that during the 2018 – 2019 school year, STEM schools could apply to the STEM Action Center for the designation.

Please click here to review the May Bulletin, page 50 to register for the negotiated rule making. Please contact Tracie Bent as soon as possible if you are interested in participating as the deadline has been extended to mid-June.

Leaving Salmon

Leaving Salmon, Idaho takes effort. So when asked to join MakerEd’s Convening 2017 located in San Francisco, I said yes, fully knowing the journey that lay ahead. Salmon sits nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains and is surrounded by sweeping landscapes of sagebrush to the south and pine forest to the north. Most locals enjoy the solitude and isolation that this remote region offers and I was wondering how my last two years here would affect me upon re-entering civilization. From the moment I stepped off the plane in Oakland, CA I quickly realized the gap in the technological world. Everyday citizens were using Uber and Lyft to mobilize and headphones attached to smartphones accompanied their morning commute. They had everything down to a science and it was a beehive of activity with each with person playing a part in the overall dance. At times I got caught up in it all. At times I longed for the slow pace of Salmon. But I refocused on why I was in San Francisco in the first place and that was to represent that very rural voice that had been missing.

 

Accepting the proposal to speak in front of a group of 250 educators can certainly seem daunting, but knowing that most people in that room know more about making than me, having only started this journey a short 1.5 years ago, elevated that stress level. Having to wait around through keynotes, workshops, and demonstrations on the latest approaches to Making was the hardest part. How can one enjoy oneself at a conference like this knowing your moment is still to come? Deep breathing exercises and frequent walks around the building definitely helped ease the overwhelming feelings I experienced.

 

Prior to my 5 minutes of mini-fame, I made best use of my time and engaged. I had the good fortune of being toured around Autodesk’s 2nd floor display in the Landmark building where our conference opening reception was held.

 

 

Daniella Shoshan from MakerEd, pointed out the hack your name tag display as well as potential connections I should make during the evening’s soiree. I’m grateful to have received this inside information as it allowed me to connect with Nation of Maker’s Executive Director Dorothy Jones-Davis who has a passion for helping and doing, not to mention her resume is packed with years of experience. I got educated by Peter Wardrip from the Children’s Museum in Pittsburgh on how to become a better facilitator. He helped break down different learner types that enter your Makerspace and identify strategies with which to engage them. You can find out more by playing the “Making Connections” card game yourself. I got to meet with Tim Carrigan from the Institute of Museum and Library Services who taught me some core Makerspace framework principles to think about before creating one myself. I learned quick maker hacks for children’s books from Nora Peters, a librarian from the boroughs of Pittsburgh, which I’m excited to bring back to Salmon. All of that led up to the moment at the end of the conference when the 12 brave souls who signed up to speak would unveil their stories.

 

I was sixth to speak, right in the middle of the pack. I listened to the professionalism and poise of the first few speakers as they gracefully took the stage. An in-house facilitator, trained as a graphical artist quickly drew each talk as it happened. Then it was my turn. Knowing full well my talk deviated from the norm I was nervous. I was not up there to educate as a Maker Educator, but instead to tell them how I’ve been educated from Making. My story must have rung true as I felt the room’s applause. No matter where you’re from or what your experience, a simple story can still resonate. And that’s what I did, I told my story.

 

 

The simple lesson I shared was that through Making we’re learning to listen. If we listen, if we create a dialogue between two people, then we have a chance at discovery despite politics, experiences, race, gender, or any other pre-judgements we might enter with. It was with this that I felt joy in my heart, for I knew that my trip was a success. I felt I gave something of myself on the floor and someone in that room walked away a bit more empowered, a bit more inspired, a bit more ready to engage. That is all I could hope for. It’s the same when we approach Making, one child at time, one mind at time, one change at a time. I’m grateful to be on this path.

For more information on how you can help the Salmon Public Library on their Making adventure check out bit.ly/SalmonMakerspace For more information on our current happenings check out our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accts @SalmonPublicLib

Legislators Pass Computer Science Standards

We have exciting news for Idaho’s Computer Science community! Idaho legislators unanimously passed Idaho Content Standards in Computer Science (IDAPA 08.02.03.1601) during the 2017 session. The development committee for the Idaho Computer Science Standards was comprised of State Department of Education staff, Career-Technical-Education staff, STEM AC staff, K-12 educators and administrators, higher education, and industry experts invested in creating guidelines and a roadmap for K-12 CS education offerings and ensuring a common tool that could be used across the state.

Computer Science is a rapidly growing field and according to the Idaho Department of Labor, Idaho has 1,300 unfilled computer science-related job openings. Therefore, the intent of the CS standards is to help clarify student learning outcomes and to provide guidance to districts and educators that choose to implement CS for their students. To see the White Paper click here.

The STEM Action Center recognizes that CS might be unfamiliar for some educators, so we have teamed up with several organizations to provide high-quality statewide CS professional development workshops. K-12 educators are encouraged to apply for a variety of opportunities that will teach innovative ways to incorporate CS into classroom instruction and provide the ongoing support they need to be successful.

Here are a few grants currently open that are aligned with the new Idaho CS Standards:

  • C-STEM Center Professional Development
  • Code.org’s Professional Learning Program
  • University of Idaho’s Dual Credit Training
  • Picademy USA PD Training
  • iSTEM Summer Institute

K-12 educator interested in getting ready to implement the recently adopted Idaho Computer Science Standards check out CS-specific professional development opportunities at https://stem.idaho.gov/grants

The role of out-of-school time in preparing a STEM Ready America

21st century skills like critical thinking and perseverance are in high demand in today’s workforce—but industry leaders report a significant gap between the skills they need and the skills workers have. New findings from the Afterschool & STEM System Building Evaluation 2016, previewed March 1st at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., demonstrate that afterschool programs play a vital role in closing the gap by helping students develop the skills to succeed in school, work, and life.

Supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and STEM Next, the study surfaced several key findings that illustrate the potential for afterschool to prepare students for future success:

  • 72 percent of students reported an increase in their perseverance and critical thinking skills
  • 73 percent reported an increase in their personal belief that they can succeed at science
  • 78 percent reported a positive change in their interest in science
  • 80 percent reported a positive gain in their science career knowledge
  • Check out findings from the study in the new “STEM Ready America” compendium, alongside articles from 40 experts and thought leaders in the out-of-school time and STEM learning spaces—and stay tuned for the release of the full study later this month.

    What Makes A Great Science Teacher?

    **Written by Jason George | Featured in November-December 2016 issue of Education Matters

    • Jason George is a teacher at Vision Charter School in Caldwell, Idaho. He has been recognized as one of Idaho’s top secondary science educators.

    After recently winning the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, I was asked what makes a great science teacher. Wow, what a question! Not sure I can sum it all up in one article because there is so much that goes into being a great teacher.

    First and foremost, I should start by saying that great science teachers are keenly aware that they don’t know everything, and research on teaching and learning is constantly yielding vast amounts of data that should cause us to reflect daily upon our teaching practices.

    Great science teachers—and all great teachers for that matter—are willing to grow as professionals and try new things. Parents, administrators, and education stakeholders shouldn’t worry too much about the teacher who makes a mistake because they are willing to step outside of their comfort zone and push their students. In fact, this should be encouraged!

    We should, however, worry about the teacher who claims to have it all figured out and is unwilling to change their teaching pedagogy regardless of what the research says about the way students learn. These teachers don’t want to rock the boat, are satisfied with the status quo, and go about their business as usual.

    We are dealing with a generation of students who are facing this rapidly changing world and that change dictates that we remain flexible and open to new and even uncomfortable ideas. Great science teachers understand this and that is why they are beginning to focus less on content and instead focus on how to develop critically thinking students who understand the scientific process, which is an invaluable decision-making tool.

    Our students today have to listen to a cascade of voices and opinions via family, friends, and social media. It is wise then for great science educators to teach them how to evaluate these voices and opinions and to help students make claims based on the weight of evidence before arriving at a decision. This is not just a scientific skill; it is a life skill.

    Great teachers want their students to wait to make a claim until they have had a chance to analyze the data and the patterns within that data. Great teachers want their students to understand that there might be multiple ways they can test and solve difficult problems. Great teachers want their students to evaluate the differing perspectives brought forth by a wide variety of stakeholders and make sure that their decisions are based on broad scientific consensus and not public opinion or past cultural norms.

    Here’s what great science teachers are:

    • In order to develop these problem-solving skills, great science teachers are not going to give students problems that have a predetermined pathway and a single answer already in mind.
    • Great science teachers are not going to dismiss creativity and ingenuity in favor of cookie-cutter labs that only measure the student’s ability to follow directions rather than their ability to design unique ways to test problems.
    • Great science teachers are not opposed to progress; they are opposed to blind progress that results from narrow-minded thinking.
    • Great science teachers are not opposed to hands-on learning; they are opposed to activities that are simply fun or entertaining but don’t really result in any sort of conceptual understanding or change.
    • Great science teachers look to identify student misconceptions and help them think about previously held understandings concerning the way the natural world operates.
    • Great science teachers are always conscious of a student’s zone of proximal development and seek to push their students out of their comfort zone so that real learning can take place. We don’t grow unless we are uncomfortable.
    • Great science teachers seek to have their students develop models (no, a model is not something that can be eaten later) to test and understand new phenomenon.
    • Great science teachers ask more questions that lead to more questions and refuse to just give out answers and teacher-centered directions.
    • Great science teachers don’t place a worksheet in front of students and call it “science”.
    • Great science teachers are coaches, facilitators, mentors, and leaders of student-led discussion and student-generated research.
    • Great science teachers ask why and how questions constantly.
    • Great science teachers lead students to develop claims, evidence, and
      reasoning to support their position.
    • Great science teachers invite students to argue with their peers, be critical of information, and don’t shy away from controversial topics for the sake of politics.
    • Great science teachers make real world connections for students, and invite them to pursue careers that will solve the difficult problems we face.
    • Great science teachers encourage their students to fail so that they can eventually come to a solution.

    Great science teachers are many things, but they are definitely not stagnant. I love what I do, I hope that I can continue to pursue the excellence demanded by this profession. I strongly believe that students need great science teachers more than ever.

    We have huge problems when it comes to complex issues such as climate change, global health issues, energy, infrastructure, and cyber security.
    As a society, we need creative students who are willing to move outside the box that might have been constructed for them and pursue solutions that were never even imagined prior to their generation.

    I am proud to inspire these students and I hope that a new generation of STEM teachers will rise up and take the torch so that we can continue to hope for a better future.

    Creative Young Inventors Are Exceptional Summer Interns

    Imagine hiring a summer intern with creative problem solving skills who can communicate effectively and is an independent, self-motivated worker!  The Invent Idaho High School State Finals Grand Champion inventor may be the very intern you are seeking for your business or industry.

    The team at Invent Idaho, the Northwest’s premier student invention competition, has a win-win proposal for companies in Idaho: As part of the student’s award package for earning the title “Invent Idaho Grand Champion High School Inventor”, one high school student will receive an invitation to interview with your company for a possible summer internship.  Please note that this does not in any way obligate you to hire a student who does not meet your requirements. The young inventor would have to earn that position themselves through the interview process. It does, however, provide the student with a guaranteed interview.

    This opportunity is a win-win situation because your company will receive the benefits of a high school intern with a proven track record of hard work, creativity, and real world problem solving skills, and a summer internship looks great on a resume and college application for that student.

    If you are interested in becoming the first company in Idaho to support our home-grown creative youth by providing an interview for the Invent Idaho Grand Champion, please contact Beth Brubaker, Invent Idaho State Coordinator, at bethbr@inventidaho.com.

    STEM Is A State Of Mind

    Timothy Hunt earned a Ph. D. in English from Northern Illinois University in 1971.  For many years he taught humanities, non-profit management and communication at colleges and universities in Arizona and Idaho.  He is now retired and lives in Hayden with his wife and their three cats.

    I very much liked what Angela Hemingway wrote recently, that the working definition of STEM in Idaho is an integration of two (or more) STEM fields and is broad, encompassing not only the traditional STEM fields, but also health care and social sciences. She hit on a very important point—most productive thinking is done by people who think in interdisciplinary terms.

    About thirty years ago, I met an inventor in Sandpoint named Jim Healy.  He had founded a company called Lead-Lok which I visited.  Their main product was a really neat looking apparatus (a locking lead) that enabled patients to be attached to electrical monitoring machines without the traditional discomfort associated with the removal of the leads.  I remember an EKG when I was seventeen; the worst part was tearing off those leads. Goodness, it hurt. Jim’s invention had clips that could be opened again and removed painlessly.

    He reminded me of Gyro Gearloose, the anthropomorphic chicken and famous inventor who lived in Duckburg, Donald Duck’s home town.  That is, Jim had a rare ability to leave this universe for another presumably parallel one where he could do some uninterrupted thinking and then return with his newly found knowledge.  In the instance I recall, we were standing in his garage looking at some water skis he had invented when it occurred to me that my neighbor back home in Flagstaff had a problem that needed fixing.  He had dropped and broken one of his two garage door openers; back in those days that meant you needed a new motor which was expensive. I asked Jim and he left me briefly for that other universe. Fortunately he returned, and with the answer. The difficulty was simply to ascertain the radio frequency of the opener and the motor.  A tool used in television repair, he told me, could identify frequencies.  Replacement was easy once that information had been obtained.  I returned to Flagstaff with that solution, my neighbor went to a television repair shop, and presto, a new opener was born for no cost whatever since the repairman got a kick out of being asked and rebuilding the old apparatus.  I have often wondered whether or not the television repairman advertised his newly found skill.  Today we have different ways of setting frequencies.  Now Jim Healy had no background in electronics.  His inventions were from an entirely different realm of STEM; but he was willing to think in interdisciplinary terms, at least long enough to solve a problem.

    For many years I taught interdisciplinary studies, the humanities.  I recall that I came to understand Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” only after I came to understand the nature of the medieval cathedral.  I also remember hearing about a linguist who was working on the development of languages in Scandinavian countries.  He met an ichthyologist at a cocktail party and the two began discussing the research problem in linguistics. It happens the fish doc had been working with the migration of herring in the same geographical region and knew that the fish moved in regular patterns. By backing up the movement of the herring through the centuries, the linguist was able to figure out how fishermen moved to follow their prey and after that the language patterns virtually worked themselves out.  Yes, I am a firm believer in interdisciplinary thinking.  I am delighted that Angela has introduced her readers to the notion in STEM fields.

     

    Defining STEM – Critical, But Not As Easy As You Might Think

    This is a guest blog post by Angela Hemingway, Executive Director, Idaho STEM Action Center, that was featured recently by Education Commission of the States –

    As the term STEM has become more widely used, people can recite the words associated with the acronym: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. However, beyond this seemingly simple definition, various stakeholders often have significantly different conceptions of what STEM actually means in application. To some it’s a very single-subject, segregated expression of disciplines, such as chemistry or biology or engineering. Others describe STEM as the integration of two or more disciplines, such as math and engineering. Still others focus on the need for STEM to mirror professional practices, which often include not only integration of two or more of the STEM fields, but also critical thinking and the ability to solve real-world issues.

    However, if one of the goals of STEM education is to prepare young people for careers in STEM occupations, it is absolutely essential that states adopt a definition of STEM on which all stakeholders can agree, and that the definition corresponds with how STEM knowledge and skills are applied in the world of work.

    To ensure consistency throughout the state when discussing STEM, the Idaho STEM Action Center has adopted a broad, integrated definition of STEM that aligns with the definition used by the Idaho Department of Labor. When educators apply this integrated approach in their classroom, students will ultimately benefit by entering the workforce with the frame of mind and skills they need for success.

    Relatively few states, though, have set out to adopt a statewide definition of STEM that is shared by the diverse STEM stakeholders. What led Idaho to embark on this process? Quite simply, after four meetings of the Idaho STEM Action Center Board, it occurred to me that the definitions of “STEM” that our industry and education representatives were using were very different. That is, the education definition was more the “siloed” vision of the STEM disciplines – students study math, or physics, or biology, not necessarily an integration of these subjects. Alternatively, many industries assumed integration of disciplines. In other words, most students taking advanced math in college do not necessarily pursue careers as mathematicians, but as engineers, physicists, etc. who use advanced math to do their jobs. I realized that if our Board’s education and labor representatives were defining “STEM” in different ways, ultimately it would be difficult for us to determine the end goal of our efforts.

    I decided to see what research had been done on defining STEM. I reviewed a variety of sources, from education and economics (i.e., jobs and labor reports), from both academic journals and government reports. I knew that doing so would help ensure the Idaho STEM Action Center defined STEM in a way that was not only true to the needs of labor (an integrated STEM approach), but also would differentiated the Center’s work from that of the Idaho Department of Education, which is very focused on specific subjects.

    Based on this research, the definition of STEM presented to and approved by the Idaho STEM Action Center board is that STEM is “an integration of two (or more) STEM fields” and that the definition is “broad,” encompassing not only the traditional STEM fields, but also health care and social sciences. This integrative and broad definition mirrors the occupations defined as STEM by Idaho Department of Labor and the requests from employers that STEM graduates integrate STEM disciplines in the workplace and possess the soft skills to succeed.

    Having a clear definition of STEM will allow the Center to systematically focus on projects and programs that are truly integrative while also tracking outcomes related to all STEM jobs.