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Going Into STEM? Start Focusing on the ‘Soft Skills’

U.S. News & World Report – Alan Neuhauser

“Building a lucrative career in science, technology, engineering or math doesn’t mean merely excelling at chemistry or physics – it also demands broader skills, industry executives and education leaders said during a keynote luncheon Thursday at the U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference. “We’re looking for people who have a good grasp of the basic sciences, but we also look people who have the soft skills as well: people who have the ability to team…the ability to persuade,” said John Tracy, chief technology officer at Boeing. Those abilities, he added, “are just as important as the fundamentals of engineering.” Norman Francis, president emeritus of Xavier University of Louisiana, agreed. “The only thing that’s going to bring us where we need to be,” he said, “is to educate the people in a broad sense.” That education, he and other panelists said, needs to start at a young age, with strong support from parents and teachers.”(more)

Here’s why students need algebra

E-School News – Darren Glass

“In his recent book, “The Math Myth: And Other STEM Delusions,” political scientist Andrew Hacker argues, among other things, that we should not require high school students to take algebra. Part of his argument, based on data some have questioned, is that algebra courses are a major contributor to students dropping out of high school. He also argues that algebra is nothing more than an “enigmatic orbit of abstractions” that most people will never use in their jobs. There is no doubt that this kind of argument resonates with people who had bad experiences in a math class in their past, and for this reason Hacker’s book is getting lots of attention. On the other hand, there are many reasons why I and many others in the mathematical community disagree with Hacker’s opinions. Fundamentally, Hacker has a misunderstanding of what algebra is.”(more)

5 tips for creating a makerspace for less than the cost of an iPad

E-School News – Kristina Holzweiss

“You don’t need power tools and 3D printers to start a makerspace. Instead, get creative. Where others see trash, I see treasure. Reusing, repurposing, and recycling items that can be found in the kitchen garbage can, on the curb, or collected by friends and families helps educators to save money while protecting the environment. Today, our library makerspace has developed into a 21st century learning laboratory, with funding from grants and through the generosity of individuals and organizations that support our DonorsChoose projects. But it wasn’t always this way.”(more)

Teaching Character

Education Next – Jay P. Greene

“Education reform has fallen prey to one ill-conceived fad after another. Whether the trend du jour is tearing down classroom walls, adopting whole language reading, or pursuing “21st-century skills” such as creative thinking and collaborating, we eagerly latch on to reform after reform with little skepticism and before the effectiveness of a new approach has been tested by research. This historical pattern has made people understandably wary of all the recent excitement about noncognitive or character skills, like grit, emotion regulation ability, and growth mindset. This new attention to character skills has many of the markings of previous failed fads. Key school leaders are embracing the importance of character skills before we’ve even clearly defined the concepts, let alone how they could be measured. And a variety of vendors are hawking character-skill curricula and pedagogical practices before they have been validated by rigorous research. In short, school and educator practice with respect to character skills is running far ahead of knowledge.”(more)

The Key To Reducing School Suspensions? Treat Kids With Empathy, Says Study

The Huffington Post – Rebecca Klein

“A little bit of empathy can go a long way. Students who get suspended from school are more likely to later drop out and face jail time. By making students stay home, school suspensions — which disproportionately impact students of color — sometimes push kids out of school and into the criminal justice system. But there are easy ways for teachers to reduce their reliance on this punishment. A few researchers from Stanford University found that when teachers are reminded to approach students with an empathic mindset, rates of school suspensions go down.”(more)

Mom’s voice activates many different regions in children’s brains

Stanford Medicine – Erin Digitale

“Children’s brains are far more engaged by their mother’s voice than by voices of women they do not know, a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine has found. Brain regions that respond more strongly to the mother’s voice extend beyond auditory areas to include those involved in emotion and reward processing, social functions, detection of what is personally relevant and face recognition. The study, which is the first to evaluate brain scans of children listening to their mothers’ voices, published online May 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The strength of connections between the brain regions activated by the voice of a child’s own mother predicted that child’s social communication abilities, the study also found.”(more)