Did You Know?

Did you know that Google has been working to advance computational thinking (CT) as a curriculum foundation in K-12 schools? Engineers at Google have been pow-wowing with California-based teachers over the last year to explore how to incorporate computational thinking into K-12 curriculum, in a way that enhances student learning and builds this critical 21st century skill for everyone.
Now the group wants to share its explorations in the form of an online resource, “Exploring Computational Thinking”. The goal of this resource is to provide educators with access to the group’s curriculum models, resources, and communities, which were developed to reflect both the teachers’ expertise in pedagogy and curriculum as well as problem-solving techniques that Google deems critical to our industry. You can check it all out at http://www.google.com/edu/ect.

Last night Women 2.0 held its annual Pitch Night — an annual startup competition for startups in beta to gain exposure to investors and valuable feedback for next steps — and announced that it was being awarded funding from the Kauffman Foundation for its Founder Labs program, a 5-week pre-incubator focused on the first phase of launching a startup. Today there’s a great piece on Women 2.0 in the San Francisco Chronicle, in which CEO and co-founder Shaherose Charania said, “Less than 5 percent of tech startups are founded by females. We see that as a problem. Diversity is strength. The only way to change that number is by having more females as founders.” (Huzzah to that!)

You’ve probably seen or maybe you even own one of those iconic Dyson vacuum cleaners. But did you know that their creator, James Dyson, cares deeply about the future of technology innovation? In a piece at The New York Times this week called, “How to Make an Engineering Culture,” he talks about the cultural stigma of manufacturing and “making things”, and the importance of institutions – including government and corporations – in supporting an image of technology that inspires young people to enter the field.

“[Dyson] pointed to the wave of young students who went into science and engineering because of the post-Sputnik race to put a man on the moon. Very few, he added, were ever engaged in the space race, but it inspired many. Consider France, he added. For decades, France has nurtured big engineering endeavors, like nuclear power and high-speed trains. The graduates of France’s leading engineering schools are among the elite of French society.”

Did you know that only 13 percent of universities nationally offer six weeks of guaranteed, continued stipend support to graduate students who become new parents? A profile of a computer science PhD student at Michigan Tech University highlights the often difficult-to-navigate intersection of graduate studies with the desire to start a family. Michigan Tech is hoping to make that intersection easier for its students by implementing a support system within its academic departments and administrative offices that includes extension time for degree programs, subsidies for campus childcare, local resources to help new parents, and a Graduate Student Parental Accommodation Policy, which applies to the mother or father. 
Under the policy, the graduate student-parent is excused from courses, research, teaching assignments or other responsibilities at Tech for up to six weeks. Research has shown that these kinds of flexible arrangements can increase retention and help prevent women from leaving the pipeline.  Does your institution offer support like this for graduate student-parents?

How do you recruit more K-12 minority students to science- and tech-focused public schools if those schools’ admissions decisions are made “without regard to race or ethnicity”? This was the subject of a recent article in The Washington Post that looked at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ), where the number of students who are African American or Hispanic has been low and falling. Although these populations account for one-third of the demographic in TJ’s counties, they make up only four percent of TJ students.

“Like other public schools with competitive admissions, TJ screens applicants through grades and test scores. A key requirement is that students take Algebra 1 by eighth grade. Many disadvantaged students don’t clear that threshold, which presents a national challenge for science and math instruction.”

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