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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The STEM Education Center: Who Are We Teaching?

By Heather Smelser, M.Ed., NBCT
Teacher Consultant for the STEM Education Center

When someone mentions the words mathematician or scientist, what image comes to mind? If you’re like most people you picture an older gentleman wearing a white lab coat and running his fingers though his Einstein-esque hair. The truth however is that today’s mathematicians and scientists are male and female and range in age from 1-100.

In order to meet the diverse educational needs of this wide range of mathematicians and scientists, educators need to be able to have immediate access to an array of material on a correct and specific learning level. As it stands at this time, teachers must wade through a mire of websites that purport to have scientific material on various topics. Those sites may have the topics covered but the readability and comprehension levels of this material may well be geared only to those Einsteins mentioned above. What is a teacher to do?

A typical search from any of a number of popular search engines will garner a multitude of responses to a broad science topic such as ‘plants’. In order to find the most pertinent information on a level that a young student can read, the teacher will need to spend an inordinate amount of time sifting through each hit and following links and wasting precious time. Unfortunately teachers don’t have that kind of time to spend on a wild goose chase without something productive to show for their endeavor.

The work of the STEM Education Center is making it possible for teachers to avoid this problem with the GLS, or Grade Level Stratification. This is where the team sorted the educational content in the science and math standards to bring about the determination of the Learning Level of a particular standard. This is exactly the piece of the puzzle that has been missing for educators across the country. This piece will allow teachers to go to one website, www.scienceeducation.gov and access the desired topics they must teach and in that topic they will also find information for that topic at the most appropriate Learning Level for their students.

This will go a long way to further science and math education by giving teachers the tools they need to tailor instruction directly to the students in their classes in a timely and efficient manor.

1 comment:

C. Livingston said...

I was impressed with the www.scienceeducation.gov link that you mentioned. I know it is only in BETA form, however it was helpful. I was able to enter a term (planets) and I got the website title, Learning Level, and a list of its tags. I had 646 hits, however it didn't take me long to find what I wanted and in the approprate learning level for my students. (Just to give you a comparison, when I searched the internet for the same term, I got 22,700,000 hits, which took me hours to look through. I grew disappointed because some were inappropriate and some had in accurate information in them)

As a teacher, I love the idea of being about to search for my science concepts on a website that I know will give me appropriate website articles. The bonus is that someone already applied a "learning level" to them.