STEM Education: Helping a Generation of At-Risk Youth

The days when a teacher’s lecture was a student’s only source of information is long gone. The students of today’s increased access to technology and information is allowing them to be more digitally savvy than ever before, often causing students to know more about technology than the teachers.

So how can the advances in technology allow underfunded and underprivileged children the ability to learn and receive the same education as all other students?

STEM and Global Education Standards

Within the next decade, China, South Korea, and India will produce well over half of the world’s engineers and scientists, with the U.S. contributing well below 10 percent, according to economists’ projections.

Large technology companies are hearing this news and doing what they can to make sure we are educating the young people in this country to ensure we have future mathematicians and scientists. The large corporations are not just educating and sparking interest in these fields, but also creating brand loyalty in these young minds.

Technology companies like Apple and Google are creating mentoring programs and holding workshops to show kids what they can accomplish with a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. These companies are getting a headstart on educating the future STEM professionals of the country and ensuring that their future applicant pool is large and capable of solving the issues of tomorrow.

Technology-First Classrooms

The education of teachers is just as important as the students’ because if the teachers are not using new technologies to their fullest potentials in their classrooms, the students are missing out on valuable resources for their education. Microsoft offers teachers an “expert education” program to educate them on technology, provide free software, and offer a network to talk about ways to use technology in the classrooms.

Many studies of at-risk students have proven that their success and graduation rates increase with the use of technology in the classroom, even if they have limited access at home. A study written by Professor Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor Shelley Goldman, and doctoral student Molly B. Zielezinski at the Stanford Graduate School of Education identifies three important components to successfully using technology with at-risk students: “interactive learning” via tools like apps and simulations, encouraging creation and exploration of ideas, rather than “drill and kill” the facts, and employing the right mix of tech and teachers.

The goal of technology-assisted education is to make kids comfortable using technology. Google and Apple have completely transformed the way students learn in the classrooms by providing smartphones, interactive boards, and laptops. So even if a classroom cannot afford to conduct a physical science experiment or dissection, students can see it on their screen and get the experience virtually.

Cultivating a Thirst for Knowledge

Some large software and technology companies are creating programs for young kids to spend their summers on college campuses. They are using technology in ways to solve problems that affect their communities and are getting excited about the possibilities of college life at the same time. Others are donating money to offer after school programs that focus on fun while learning science and math.

One such program allows students to build LEGO® robots.  Another teaches kids to build small airplanes that can actually fly to spark interest in aeronautics. Google donates large amounts of money to colleges and university programs that offer coding lessons to kids in after school programs.

Companies that support technology education programs for at-risk youth realize that our high-tech future depends on today’s kids getting excited about these careers and developing the skills and knowledge necessary to take them on, as they will be their future employees and customers.