Archives for the month of: December, 2011

Becoming an ed-tech entrepreneur has not only taught me to think differently about creating a business, but it’s also changed how I approach being an educator. For example, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:

1.  Don’t wait for “someone else” to solve a problem. You know the issues that need solving because you live and breathe them, which means you’re in the best position to articulate and perhaps even develop the solution. You are also surrounded by other education experts who may also have workable ideas.

2.  Connect to an online community. You are not the first educator to encounter the problems you’re facing.  Others are trying, often successfully, to solve similar problems. We learn from the successes and failures of others. I also rely heavily on my online ed-tech community to help me discover new resources and keep up with ideas and policy changes.  This same strategy works with becoming a better educator.

3.  Develop relationships with mentors with different kinds of expertise.  Too often educators only find mentors in their specific discipline. While this makes sense on many levels, talking with others who have different perspectives can lead to more creative thinking.  English teachers can learn from biology teachers, for example, and there’s a whole world of professionals outside of the world of education!

4. Test your product effectively and efficiently.  During discussions of pilots in schools, I now find myself planning differently, advocating a more agile approach, so that we have a better understanding of how the individual components are working.  It doesn’t make sense to test too many “features” at once because there’s less clarity in knowing what’s led to a success or failure.

Also, instead of rolling out a program for the whole district with a single, final evaluation at the end of the pilot, advocate testing an idea in a handful of classrooms with frequent points of data collection. Make sure to know exactly what is being tested, so that the results provide the most usable feedback.

5. Think about scalability. Being an entrepreneur has taught me to think about scale differently. What works in one classroom/school may not work in all classes/schools. We’ve all heard the “hero” stories where a teacher or principal has turned around a class or school. The problem with these stories is that they’re difficult to replicate because the success story essentially relies on charisma rather than proven strategies. Before implementing a strategy that works in one classroom (or one school), make sure that it works in several others before implementing it district-wide. This extra step can save significant time, money and goodwill.

Perhaps most importantly, maintain a curiosity about the world! We can’t expect our students to be intellectually curious if we don’t model this curiosity for them.

Through my recently created position as STEM literacy liaison, I’ve developed a deeper understanding of the great need for STEM education and why all teachers need to make sure their students are prepared to enter STEM careers.  I thought it might be helpful if I gathered the resources and statistics I discovered this past year into one place that others could use as resource. Below are statistics, and links to reports, infographics and YouTube videos.


There were several great infographics published this past year on STEM. Here are a few of my favorites:


National statistics indicate that the US must prepare our students differently for the global workforce than we have been doing.

  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, in the next five years, STEM jobs are projected to grow twice as quickly as jobs in other fields. While all jobs are expected to grow by 10.4%, STEM jobs are expected to increase by 21.4%. Similarly, 80% of jobs in the next decade will require technical skills.
  •  The US Department of Labor claims that out of the 20 fastest growing occupations projected to 2014, 15 of them require significant mathematics or science preparation. The U.S. will have over 1 million job openings in STEM-related fields by 2018; yet, according to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, only 16% of U.S. bachelor’s degrees will specialize in STEM. As a nation, we are not graduating nearly enough STEM majors to supply the demand.
  •  To put these numbers into perspective, of the 3.8 million 9th graders in the US, only 233,000 end up choosing a STEM degree in college (National Center for Education Statistics). That means only six STEM graduates out of every 100 9th graders.  (The STEM Dilemma)
  • When compared with other countries, the numbers are even more alarming.


Preparing students for STEM careers extends beyond ensuring that those students with STEM majors enjoy successful employment; non-STEM careers are also expanded through STEM efforts.

  • In the report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5, the “National Academies Gathering Storm Committee concluded that a primary driver of the future economy and concomitant creation of jobs will be innovation, largely derived from advances in science and engineering. While only 4% of the nation’s work force is composed of scientists and engineers, this group disproportionately creates jobs for the other 96%.” STEM careers create jobs in other fields disproportionately.
  • National data on racial demographics show great disparity as well around which students pursue STEM careers. The chart below, taken from a U.S. Department of Commerce report on race and STEM careers, Education Supports Racial and Ethnic Equality System, illustrates the disproportionate number of STEM jobs held by Whites and Asians in relation to education.

Share of Workers with STEM Jobs by Race, Hispanic Origin, and Education, 2009

YouTube Videos: Here are some great videos that capture the need for STEM education:

And finally, H.B. Lantz does a nice job of summarizing these issues in his article, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education: What Form? What Function?

Would love to add other resources if you have them!