President Obama has revealed that his next budget will request $80M from the Department of Energy to support new teacher training for math, science, and technology, an additional $22M will come from the private sector. Training will focus on teachers in training, preparing them to deliver the teaching in these subjects that is sorely needed. From Kindergarten to College a different approach will get to the goal more quickly and efficiently. Focus on existing teachers, who have the strongest impact on students now, and who create the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) leaders that colleges and universities desire. Here are four reasons why colleges can benefit from training teachers who are experienced and in place.
- Nearly half of teachers leave the profession within five years. This is bad for colleges from a technology perspective because that rapid turnover negatively impacts students’ technological preparation for college. As a result, colleges invest more resources in the technological education of students, including student teachers, who may leave within five years of their start. It’s a vicious circle for return on investment.
REMEDY: Offer technology training to seasoned teachers who are 10-15-20 years experienced. Give them tablets, programming skills, and experience with social media. The return on investment is higher and they are better equipped to integrate those technologies into the curriculum. Offer them the same access to college level teaching about technology as their less experienced colleagues receive.
- No Child Left Behind has meant teaching to the test, and technology isn’t on the test. Technological education will continue to languish in the background until it is more integrated into the curriculum. Teachers will have little incentive to learn about tech education until then.
REMEDY: College technology resources, with private sector partners, should be leveraged to offer training outside of the curriculum to educate seasoned teachers. The same colleges that offer Master’s level continuing education can integrate technological education directly into the course work, which should be cost neutral to the institution. Webinars can serve as substitutes for in-person classes, and be shown as a valuable technological tool.
- Colleges are losing math and science majors to other fields at an alarming rate. Students come to college poorly prepared for the rigors of math and science at the college level and/or they wander away from the majors for other fields that may provide more stability, more money, or less intensity. America competes with countries that rank ahead of the US in sciences, due to the “brain drain”, which should give us pause.
REMEDY: The most powerful influence for a student is the teacher. Technologically adept teachers will influence students to consider the sciences by revealing the connections to and importance of technology in daily life. Show and tell could include smart phones, and bulletin boards could feature great people and innovations in technology.
- The proposed $102M is about $1040 for each of the approximately 98,000 public schools in the US. Put another way, it is $2 per student for technological education. Programs are scalable, but in a classroom of 25 children, $50 is available for their STEM program – for the year.
REMEDY: Colleges and universities will have to supplement these totals, with cash or gifts in kind, if they wish to continue to reap benefits through smart, prepared students. Pooling money across a district or geographic region creates a real incentive, not to mention cost savings by eliminating redundancies for a college, or a consortium of colleges, to work with local schools to turn the tide in favor quality technological education. Put together eager college students with school sweatshirts, engaged elementary students, and well-presented cool technology and you have a recipe for real change.
Public and private colleges and universities have an important stake in the success of teacher training in the STEM area. The elementary and secondary system is inextricably linked to higher education. Colleges have an interest in being in the conversation and developing solutions for technological education that helps them to prepare the best teachers, and to receive the best students. Yes, train teachers, but get colleges and universities must get involved in the process so we all aren’t wondering why we’re losing science majors and we don’t build more technology in the US.