CS Education Proponents – Don’t Forget Rural And Small-Town Students

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CS Education Proponents – Don’t Forget Rural And Small-Town Students

In August, Google and Gallup released a CS report focused on rural and small-town school districts. It is entitled Computer Science Learning: Closing the Gap. According to the report, rural and small-town students make up nearly half of the U.S. K-12 population – so anyone that is passionate about solving CS talent shortages needs to pay attention to these students!

Data in the Google/Gallup report highlights that while rural/small-town students show similar interest levels in learning CS, their access to CS education opportunities is more limited.

For example, when students were asked how interested they were in learning computer science in the future, the percent of students that were very interested or somewhat interested was the same (82%) for both the rural/small-town and large city/suburban student segments. On the flip side, rural and small-town students had fewer opportunities for CS learning. According to Google/Gallup, rural and small-town students are:

  • Less likely to have CS classes (58% rural or small-town, 57% large-city and 65% suburban).
  • Less likely to have CS clubs in their school (47% rural or small-town, 59% large-city and 65% suburban).
  • Less likely to say they have courses that specifically teach coding (37% rural or small-town, 41% large-city and 49% suburban).
  • Less likely to have advanced-placement CS courses (8% rural or small-town 9% large-city and 12% suburban).

When Google/Gallup queried principals about the reasons behind having fewer CS learning opportunities, the most common answers given were a:

  • Lack of CS-skilled teachers (64%).
  • Lack of budget to train or hire teachers (56%).
  • Need to devote most of their time to courses related to testing requirements, and CS is not one of them (52%).

In Couragion’s own K-12 research (completed in Q1 2017 with generous support from the National Science Foundation), we saw similar trends in rural CS education. In looking at rural versus non-rural populations, the data showed that:

  • Rural schools were less likely to offer Java (50% of rural, 53% of non-rural).
  • Rural CS teachers were less likely to have a CS degree or CS certification (46% of rural teachers report no CS degree/certification, 31% of non-rural teachers report no CS degree/certification).
  • Rural schools report ¼ of the ‘per student CS budget’ than non-rural schools report.
  • Rural schools are less likely to offer CS family education events such as coding nights or maker days (13% of rural, 18% of non-rural).

So where does that leave us? Google/Gallup make the following recommendations to help increase CS learning opportunities for rural and small-town students:

  • Broaden support for CS education among parents, teachers and school-board members.
  • Strengthen mechanisms and support for teachers in rural settings.
  • Use local, national and global partners to increase awareness of CS careers in rural areas.

I would add that those of us involved in creating CS programs and curriculum need to think beyond place-based solutions. Many of today’s programs (such as job shadowing or mentor programs or out-of-school learning events) are place-based and by nature exclude those in rural or small-town areas. When putting such programs in place, an excellent addition would be to think about how the program can be adapted to include online components that reach our students outside of cities and suburbs.

If you have implemented creative ideas for increasing CS education access for rural/small-town students, we would welcome hearing about those (info at Couragion.com).

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A New Spin on Workforce Readiness (& Labor Day)

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A New Spin on Workforce Readiness (& Labor Day)

Growing up in the Northeast, my memories of Labor Day focused on wrapping up your summer jobs and starting a fresh school year. This Labor Day we're not only celebrating back to school with all our amazing educators and students - but we also just announced our new partnership with CareerWise and we couldn't be more excited.

CareerWise is shaping Colorado's workforce through innovative, business-led youth apprenticeships that will ultimately shift the paradigm of labor readiness. The new CareerWise infographic highlights many of the reasons we are so aligned in our collective work. Here are just a few…

  • Multiple student pathways – encourage students to gain skills today that will prepare them for the multiple careers they will have in the future, especially skills in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)
  • Alternative postsecondary education options – illuminate industry certifications and debt-free college credit opportunities, while helping to dispel the myth that every student needs to pursue a 4-year degree immediately after high school as the only path to success   
  • Engaged industry partners – ensure that businesses are 'producing' the next generation of talent in ways that will meet their workforce demands and meaningfully contribute to their bottom line today

Perhaps future Labor Days can be celebrated for the pride we take in helping our students achieve livable wages in rewarding, high-demand careers that they’ll love! 

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Increasing CS Interest Among Girls – 3 Tips Based On Couragion Data

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Increasing CS Interest Among Girls – 3 Tips Based On Couragion Data

According to the National Center For Women In Technology, while women make up 56% of the overall workforce, they make up just 26% of the computing workforce. And in 2015, although 57% of bachelor’s degrees were awarded to women, only 18% of the bachelor’s degrees in Computer and Information Sciences were earned by women. So clearly there is much work to do to increase interest in CS among girls. My co-founders and I have all spent the majority of our careers building software apps – we have seen firsthand the lack of diversity in tech and as such we have personal missions to help boost that diversity. So, we decided to make some of our app data public in order to offer insights and advice to others like us who want to help girls see the opportunities that CS provides. Here are 3 ideas based on Couragion’s CS Career-related data:

  1. Help girls see the applicability of CS in other fields – especially Science-related fields. When asked to select the STEM category of greatest interest, Science is the most selected category with 43% of girls choosing it. That compares to 22% of girls choosing Technology, 19% selecting Math, and 16% opting for Engineering. With Science being such a strong choice among girls, it may be helpful to share examples of how Science relies upon CS. For example, our Climate Researcher role model shared that she needs to use Python in order to better study the effects of global warming on coral reefs.  She expressed regret that she didn’t take CS courses in college and instead had the tough path of teaching herself programming while also juggling the responsibilities of a full-time research job.
  2. Think beyond robotics projects! It seems that every time I turn around, I learn of another robotics camp or curriculum option. I get it, I think robots are cool and I like that they demonstrate how written code translates to action/movement in the robots. However, our data shows that middle and high schools girls have limited interest in robotics so these projects are not the best route to spark CS interest in girls. For example, one of our featured STEM role models is a Robotics and Computer Vision engineer. This is a popular Career Quest among boys with it being on the top 5 list of most selected Careers Quests. A high percent of boys (55%) also find that the Career Quest is a best fit for their interests, values, and desired work characteristics. But among girls, only 7% select the Robotics Career Quest and of those completing the Quest only a third find it to be a best fit.
  3. Select CS projects that focus on helping people, animals, or the environment. Our data consistently shows that girls want to have a greater purpose to their work. For example, in one of our profile questions we ask girls and boys how important it is to have a greater work purpose. Girls rate this as extremely important while boys rate it as just important. This trend remains true looking at the individual job level as well. For example, the CS job that receives the highest percent of best fits among girls (67%) is the CTO of a start-up that instantly mobilizes resources to help find lost children! So to spark CS interest in girls, consider selecting projects that incorporate a greater purpose – such as helping a non-profit with their website or designing an app that solves a local community problem.

How have you increased girls’ interest in CS? We’d love to hear your ideas (info at Couragion.com).

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Teaching Java Prepares Students for Next Generation Workforce

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Teaching Java Prepares Students for Next Generation Workforce

If you are responsible for setting or influencing the strategy for STEM, Computer Science (CS), or Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum, you might struggle to understand what industry needs and exactly how to prepare your students for the workforce. And as coding becomes increasingly more critical as a foundational skill, how do you decide which programming languages will provide the most employment opportunities for your students, especially when there are so many opinions out there about the most popular technologies? When we shared this Couragion Java Infographic (pictured also above) with our partner schools one of our amazing CTE champions responded, “This reinforces our strategies.” I hope it helps you as well!

While there are several studies regarding which programming language skills hiring entities want, we like the 2016 study conducted by New Relic and Indeed due to its huge sample size. In this study, Indeed reviewed 16 million job openings to determine which programming languages were mentioned most frequently as job requirements. Java was the clear winner - with 2,992 mentions per million listings - and this is more than the next 9 mentioned programming languages combined. According to Terence Chiu, vice president at Indeed, “It is not surprising that Java is such a popular programming language. It’s been around for a long time, runs in many computing environments, and has advantages of readability, scalability, and robustness.” I can attest to Java being around a long time as I have a Java t-shirt from the late ‘90s still in my drawer from my time distributing Sun (now Oracle) products when I worked at GE.

Job demand is one way to understand key technologies, but another important angle is what developers are using on the job. Stack Overflow conducted a Developer Survey in 2016 that included responses from over 50K developers across the globe. In fact, they proclaim it’s the most comprehensive developer survey ever conducted. The survey asks developers about what they build, which technologies they use, which jobs they hold, and the education they’ve received. Interestingly 69% of developers today are self-taught! But with your help – that will change! As Stack Overflow puts it “JavaScript is the most commonly used programming language on earth.” JavaScript emerged as one of the three core technologies of World Wide Web for content production. Initially only utilized by Front-End developers, even Full Stack and Back-End developers are more likely to use it than any other language today.

Since we are curious people, we wanted to understand what secondary schools are teaching today. So Couragion, with generous support from the National Science Foundation, conducted primary research around K-12 CS education. We were excited to find that Java and JavaScript were the two most popular programming languages being taught today by our CS educator respondents. Unfortunately, we saw disadvantages in access among regions with higher proportions of students of color or poverty levels. Here’s what we learned in numbers:

  • 53% of schools offer Java, while 42% of schools offer JavaScript
  • 57% of private schools and 52% of public schools offer Java
  • 45% of public schools and 32% of private schools offer JavaScript
  • Regions with higher populations of students of color offered Java 6% less
  • Regions with higher populations of students in poverty offered Java 17% less

What Should You Be Teaching?

Our vote based on the data is to opt for teaching your students Java and JavaScript. If you are already teaching them – congrats and keep it up! If you aren’t, here are some curriculum resources and considerations:

  1. Oracle has a great website with several resources and recommendations for younger learners.
  2. Greenfoot offers free software, a book, and an instructor community, all focused on teaching and learning Java.
  3. BlueJ is a free Java Development Environment designed for beginners.
  4. If you are looking for JavaScript resources, check out Khan Academy’s offerings.
  5. Keep abreast of reports that give insight into what hiring entities are looking for and what developers are using in their day-to-day jobs. Look not only for the most frequently mentioned languages, but also consider the year-over-year growth rates. A programming language with a large growth rate may indicate an up and coming language that will be very important in the future. In recent reports, PHP appears to be falling out of favor (especially in the enterprise) as programming languages like Node and Angular emerge.

We’ll continue to keep an eye on things – check back for more infographics and insights in this series!

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Manufacturing Jobs - Good Or Bad?

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Manufacturing Jobs - Good Or Bad?

My first engineering job was a summer internship in an automotive manufacturing facility in Canada. Hardcore work was done there to machine engine blocks. I was the only American, the only female (other than the cafeteria workers) and the youngest person on the factory floor. It was quite the introduction to life as an engineer and I would be lying if I said it wasn’t rough. But it was also fascinating to experience manufacturing firsthand. I got to work with complex machinery and automation processes that efficiently produced the engine blocks with extreme precision. I learned about lean manufacturing and quality control. I earned a very high salary. And I know that the experience made me a better engineer.

Given my manufacturing history and my current focus on STEM, I was eager to read the US Public Opinion Of Manufacturing study written by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute.  This 6th release of the study provides insights about manufacturing job growth and summarizes the public’s views about the sector.

A few of the points I found most salient were…

  1. The scarcity of STEM talent is impacting manufacturing with an anticipated shortage of 2 million workers over the next 10 years.
  2. 83% of Americans believe manufacturing is important to America’s economic prosperity.
  3. Americans rank manufacturing as the third most important industry needed to maintain a strong economy.
  4. Many believe that the US manufacturing industry is high-tech, can compete globally, and will grow stronger in the long term.
  5. Yet, the public seems reluctant to choose manufacturing careers with 70% citing it was not a strong career path and only 50% believing a career in manufacturing provides good pay relative to other industries.
  6. And 1/3 of respondents would be reluctant to encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career. However those familiar with manufacturing are 2X more likely to encourage such a career for their kids.

To solve its talent shortage, the industry has some work to do to change public perceptions about the viability and attractiveness of a career in manufacturing. As the last point above highlights, building awareness is an important first step – people cannot be what they cannot see. 

We wholeheartedly agree and as such a critical component of our app is focused on showing kids jobs firsthand. The manufacturing related jobs in our app include an engineer that works in a toy factory or a physics technician that manufactures metal parts or a product designer that works with plants overseas to produce backpacks. These visual insights help build career awareness among students and their adult advocates.

Do you know a kid who might thrive in a manufacturing job? If so, help them determine if such a job is a good fit for their interests and values by building their career awareness. Expose them to potential careers in the field via our app, industry websites, or even factory tours. The manufacturing industry will thank you for helping to fuel their talent pipeline! 

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Half of U.S. Adults Regret Postsecondary Choices

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Half of U.S. Adults Regret Postsecondary Choices

Have you seen the inaugural report published in June 2017 by Gallup and Strada Education Network entitled “On Second Thought: U.S. Adults Reflect on Their Education Decisions”? I found several of the findings interesting and thought I’d share 4 key observations here:

  1. About half of all U.S. adults who pursued or completed postsecondary degrees would change at least one aspect of their experience. If they could press the reset button, they would change their major, the institution attended, or the type of degree obtained.
  2. When looking at those whose highest level of education is a bachelor's degree, 40% have second thoughts about their major.
  3. Individuals who complete a vocational, trade or technical program are more positive about their decisions than those with an associate or bachelor’s degree.
  4. STEM graduates at all education levels are the least likely to report they would make different decisions about their postsecondary education.

With this information, it’s obvious to Couragion that students need more information and guidance before making these critical education decisions. We are dedicated to helping students pursue the postsecondary options that are most relevant to their career aspirations and lifestyle goals. And those pathways are diverse and varied ranging from training to certifications to degrees. Read the complete report here for more information. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

@mristeff 

www.linkedin.com/in/risteff

Source:  http://www.gallup.com/poll/211529/half-adults-change-least-one-education-decision.aspx?utm_source=genericbutton&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=sharing 

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4 Career Activities To Do With Kids This Summer

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4 Career Activities To Do With Kids This Summer

My elementary-aged daughters had their last day of school on Friday. During breakfast that day, I introduced them to Alice Cooper’s old but relevant song – ‘Schools Out (For Summer)’.  They LOVED it – especially the line that says ‘No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks’. They are totally pumped for summer vacation and belted out this song with glee!

I too am excited for summer, but I also feel immense pressure to prepare academic activities that will help my daughters avoid the Summer Slide.  I am sure many of you feel similar pressure and so I decided to help you by providing 5 career activity ideas that you can do with kids this summer. While these activities are career focused, you can also mix in important academic practice such as literacy or reading or science!

  1. Write A Self-Reflection – have your child reflect on the school year in order to inventory their likes and dislikes. What subjects were most fun? What projects did they enjoy the most? What was their favorite field trip? In what area do they need to work harder next year? Such a list gives insight into the child’s interest and values and can be used as their checklist when evaluating potential career options. This is also a great way to integrate writing and spelling practice into their summer. For example, one of my daughters is really working hard on remembering to capitalize the first letter of sentences or proper nouns. So, I will have her focus on checking for capitalization while writing her self-reflection.
  2. Find A Career Role Model – encourage your child to look for career role models in their life. Perhaps your child can interview someone in a field they are interested in. For example, one of my daughter’s friends is interested in photography and emailed questions (aka practiced literacy skills) to one of his favorite photographers. That photographer emailed back with all sorts of insight into what it is like to have a career as a photographer! Or urge your child to visit an aunt, uncle, or family friend at work for a couple of hours. This will provide your child with ideas about career options outside of your own work area which broadens their perspective about what is possible and increases the chances that they can ultimately find a career that best matches their interests and values.
  3. See Jobs First-Hand – take your child on a tour that exposes them to careers. For example, if you have an engineer buff, there are many automotive factory tours that you can do in the United States. Or if you have a budding actor, you can find a theatre that offers ‘behind the scenes tours’. In my area, the Denver Center For Performing Arts offers guided tours that give insight into all the work that goes into putting on a performance. Such experiences not only show kids career options but also let’s them see the work environment – which can be an important factor in job satisfaction. With older kids, you can turn this into an assignment that boosts their research skills by having them find tour options via Internet searches.
  4. Acquire Skills – urge your child to acquire a new skill this summer that aligns with their career interests. Attending summer camps is a great way to do this. Our local university offers an amazing array of camps covering topics such as robotics or climate change or medical science. If camps are not an option, your child can complete online courses. Do they like to program? Check out Khan Academy’s programming classes and video overviews – like this one on Python. Are they a data geek interested in math careers? Have them complete Microsoft’s free excel training exercises. Or maybe they have an interest in architecture? Encourage them to download SketchUp (there is a free version for K-12 students) to start building their 2D and 3D design skills! You can use insights from activity 1 to guide your search for a camp or online course that is right for your child.

And lastly, a bonus tip (and shameless plug for the Couragion app)! Consider purchasing the Couragion app for your child and encourage them to complete one Career Quest each week of the summer. Our app provides an easy, virtual way to do all of the above activities. With it, your child can explore careers, see role models, experience jobs first-hand, and receive STEM skill building tips.

I hope you have an amazing summer and if you have other ideas about supporting kids’ career discovery, please message us (info at couragion.com). 

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Hidden Figures Who Encourage Future Generations

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Hidden Figures Who Encourage Future Generations

Yesterday, I was sitting in the final plenary of the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Summit 2017 in Tucson, AZ. If you aren’t familiar with NCWIT – it is a community of nearly 900 universities, companies, non-profits, and government organizations nationwide working to increase girls’ and women’s meaningful participation in computing. NCWIT was chartered in 2004 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and equips change leaders with resources for recruiting, retaining, and advancing women from K–12 and higher education through industry and entrepreneurial careers. These people are our tribe and we’re proud to be a partner and part of the NCWIT K-12 Alliance. Lucy Sanders, their CEO and Co-Founder, and the organization have been a force and source of encouragement for Couragion’s founders for nearly two decades. In 2016, Couragion was proud to win startup of the year at the same awards ceremony where Lucy won a well-deserved lifetime achievement award.

Margot Lee Shetterly who is the researcher, entrepreneur, and the author of “Hidden Figures" was the seminal keynote. She spoke about race, gender, science, and the history of technology. Margot talked about creating the lexicon for ‘hidden figures’ as people who have contributed, were not previously acknowledged, and now deserve to be celebrated. The term as discussed is nuanced as the identities of these women were hidden as were their contributions. Margot’s commitment was in elucidating these talented woman as individuals but she also strove to intimately understand the science and technology behind their stories. It moved me and further edified Couragion’s own journey. We’ve told the stories of over 40 female STEM professionals as part of our NSF work. We’ve respected each personal journey, their vulnerability and confidence, and the paths these role models have taken.

Allison Schroeder, the screenwriter of “Hidden Figures”, was honored at the Summit right after Margot’s speech. Allison won the Reel WiT Award - an honor created by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Google, and NCWIT. She herself is a notable STEM role model who studied math at Stanford University. Allison shared a fantastic story in her acceptance speech about one of her friend’s young daughters who recently saw three young African American females walking down the street and said, “Look Mommy, astronauts!” These narratives are rarely told – and when done with this type of clarity and honor can encourage future generations. I aspire that our work continues to make a difference in classrooms and in the lives of all the students we reach and influence.  

You can continue to contribute to the conversation by leveraging NCWIT resources for recruiting, retaining, and advancing girls and women in computing. Special thanks to the incredible staff and sponsors for the Summit!

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Adults – Thank A Former Teacher This Week!

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Adults – Thank A Former Teacher This Week!

May 8 – 12, 2017 marks Teacher Appreciation Week – an event sponsored by the National PTA to celebrate teachers and deliver gratitude to them.

During this week, it is very common for people/kids to thank the their current teachers. But I bet very few of us take the opportunity to thank teachers who influenced us in the past.

I have heard more than one teacher talk about how meaningful it is when former students contact them, years later, to say thank you.  

For example, I recently attended my children’s school auction. A former student gave an inspirational speech about how the school and teachers helped shape the person she is today. She is just on the cusp of adulthood but has already helped save the life of a person and a dog. She credited her ability to do that because one of her elementary teachers believed in her and allowed her to explore her interest in a career as a paramedic/fire fighter at a very young age. This put her on an early path to seek training in the medical field and gave her the skills she needed to help out when she unexpectedly came upon a car accident. You could just see her former teachers beam and cry with joy as they listened to her heartfelt thanks!

Our role models share similar stories of how their teachers’ encouragement was a critical factor in their confidence to pursue STEM careers or other tough challenges. Here are a few examples…

  • “One of the biggest influences in my life - for me to move forward and excel - was my elementary school teacher. She was awesome, she believed in me and she encouraged me. I tended to panic and think I could not do things but she always supported and encouraged me to ‘just do it’!” - Sibel, Spacecraft Flight Software Engineer
  • “My PhD advisor was really great at teaching me how to think critically about problems and forcing me to be self-motivated!” - Carolyn, Cancer Researcher
  • “My botany professor was the first person to say ‘I see it in you, this stuff is easy for you’. He made me think of life differently in terms of what I could achieve. People would always say ‘whatever you set your mind to you can achieve’ but it wasn’t until working with him that I saw myself in a role as a professor or scientist or whatever I wanted to be!” - Violeta, Business Owner & STEM Initiatives Consultant
  • “My high school physics teacher was the one that brought me into the world of engineering. He showed me that even though it is really hard and its intimidating to do all of this physics and to go into engineering, he always said ‘YOU CAN DO THIS!’ and that is when I decided I wanted to do engineering.”  - Alexandra, Electrical Engineer
  • “When I was in 7th grade, the teacher was great at getting us out and seeing the environment instead of just sitting in a classroom and that helped me to fall in love with environmental sciences!” - Colleen, Senior Aviation Planner (Geo-Environmental focus)

Teachers – take these stories to heart and know that even if you don’t hear about it, your influence can positively shape your students’ lives even years after they were in your classroom.

And for the rest of us, I challenge you to take 5 minutes this week to reach out to a former teacher. Share with them how they positively impacted you and say thank you!

Our teachers have difficult jobs – hearing from former students can make a huge difference in helping them get through tough days! We are all counting on today’s teachers to inspire the next generation of STEM workers so let’s give them the gratitude they well deserve!

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We Need More Diverse Role Models in the Outdoor Industry

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We Need More Diverse Role Models in the Outdoor Industry

I recently met with the team at Camber Outdoors. We were talking about strategies to cultivate a more diverse talent pipeline with programs like REI’s Force of Nature, Paradigm for Parity, and Camber’s own CEO Pledge and Pitchfest in July. In looking deeper at REI’s Force of Nature campaign, one fact caught my eye. 63 percent of women said they could not think of a female outdoor role model. While making diverse role models more accessible will encourage and recruit people to head outdoors, I’d love to extend this focus to inspire more girls to join the outdoor industry workforce where they can be creative, innovative problem solvers.  

In many ways, the outdoor industry suffers from the very same optics issues that the rest of the STEM professions do. People don't understand what opportunities are available to them and the perceptions about who is welcome can be discouraging. I love that the outdoor industry is focused on changing the narrative to specifically show more diversity in outdoor media. But media isn’t just about entertaining people with magazines and movies. It’s also about the education-based media and video content that we put in front of our students every day. And when people think about the outdoor industry – STEM jobs don’t necessarily pop to mind. Deanne Buck, the Executive Director at Camber and outdoor industry role model herself, told me that the outdoor industry is about engineering and technology all wrapped in fun. I think we need to educate the incoming workforce about these opportunities they can pursue that often tap into their passions and add that fun quotient into the workplace.

This month Couragion added an amazing role model from Icelantic Skis – a company with 100% of their skis, apparel and accessories manufactured in the USA and led by another incredible exemplar CEO Annelise Loevlie. Lauren Kwan (see her pic above) is an inspirational role model in technology who owns everything from the brand identity of their organization straight down to creating the graphic design for the ski's top-sheets which is crucial to the product development lifecycle.

Couragion’s mission is to inspire underrepresented students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. 87 percent of the role models we feature in our app are traditionally underrepresented in STEM. STEM role models in the outdoor industry can range from industrial engineers who are developing gear to environmental scientists working on conservation initiatives to creatives making the next adventure film. Could this be one of your kids?

 

Sources:

REI's Force of Nature campaign http://blog.rei.com/news/force-of-nature-lets-level-the-playing-field/

Deanne Buck featured in Outdoor Magazine article about diversity https://www.outsideonline.com/2150426/outdoor-industry-too-white

Media & Diversity in the Outdoor Industry article in Outdoor Magazine https://www.outsideonline.com/2172896/why-we-need-women-outdoor-packaging

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Taking A Kid To Work On Thursday? View These Tips!

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Taking A Kid To Work On Thursday? View These Tips!

This Thursday, April 27th, is Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day (TODASTW)! It is a wonderful opportunity for kids to see a parent or mentor’s career and work environment first hand.

If you are taking a kid to work or if your students will be participating in the event, you can help them prepare by sharing these tips:

  1. Review The Day’s Plan - Prior to the event, make time to meet with the person that is taking you to work. Ask them about the agenda for the day and have them tell you about the activities you will participate in.
  2. Prepare Your Materials - Bring a notebook and pencil to take notes. Pack a water bottle and snack. Also, take a book or homework so that you have something to do during breaks or downtime during the event.
  3. Practice Your Introduction - You will meet several new people during the day. Upon meeting new people you should shake their hand, greet them and tell them your name. Practice doing this with a friend or family member.
  4. Formulate A Few Questions - Think about questions you can ask the people you meet during the day. Such as: “What is your favorite part of your job?” or “Can you show me something you do in your job?”
  5. Remember Your Manners - The people that you will interact with are volunteering their time to help you learn. Treat them with respect and kindness during the day and send a thank you card or email after the event.

You may download a print version of these tips here and for additional resources, visit the TODASTW website.

If your kids aren’t able to attend a TODASTW event, consider gifting them the Couragion app where they can see careers and work environments first hand via videos.

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Secrets To Math Success

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Secrets To Math Success

I have always LOVED math. From 3rd grade when I rocked the math fact races (the ones where a teacher flipped over a flash card and the first student to shout the answer won). To high school where I took the highest-level math courses offered at my school. To college where I worked as a Calculus tutor to help pay for my tuition. To my career where my favorite tasks are building spreadsheets, crunching numbers, and analyzing data.

So, it really concerns me that one of my daughters (age 8) is already saying things like ‘I hate math’ or ‘I am not good at math’.  I am on a constant quest to figure out how to help her see the benefits of math and to support her in approaching it with a positive, open mind.

In honor of Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month, I thought I would share one of the studies I have run across during my quest.

The study was sponsored by Moody’s Analytics and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). It surveyed 1,680 11th and 12th grade students that excel at Math and asked them about their math and study habits.

When asked which method works best for math, ‘understanding the underlying concepts behind math formulas’ was at the top with 64% of respondents selecting this answer. 23% selected ‘lots of practice at solving math problems’ while just 4% selected ‘memorizing formulas’. And 7% felt ‘applying math to real world problems to help increase understanding’ was important.

On the topic of getting help when they have trouble understanding a math concept, persistence was key. 29% cited that they kept working on it until they figured it out on their own, 25% stated they would ask a teacher for help, and 17% said they would search for answers on the internet.

And when asked about what contributed most to their interest in math, 51% said they were naturally interested, 25% credited a good teacher, and 11% said they were motivated by the prospect of better college and career opportunities.

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, provided additional insights beyond these findings. He suggests the following to help boost math interest and success:

  • Plant the seeds of interest at a young age by doing such things as playing board games, using online programs and gaming sites, or completing brain teasers
  • Demonstrate how math is used in every day activities such as analyzing sports scores or in calculating retail discounts
  • Convey a message that math can be a lot of fun

I apply several of these strategies with my daughter. For example, she often asks how many years it will be before she gets to go away to college. So reminding her about how important math is for college is especially effective. Also, she enjoys time with older kids. Therefore, I have found it helpful to share with her that teenagers recommend lots of math practice and persistence.

I hope the above tips and information will be helpful for you as you work with those students who also have negative thoughts about math.

Have a related tip? Share it with us via Twitter (@couragion). And for more details on the study – check out this infographic!

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Robotics For Engaging Educational Experiences

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Robotics For Engaging Educational Experiences

This week celebrates the eighth annual National Robotics Week April 8-16, 2017. While the week aims to celebrate technological advancement and advocate for continued R&D, Couragion is especially keen to support the overarching goal of inspiring students to pursue careers in robotics and other Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.

Robotics professionals are specialists across multiple disciplines and bridge computer science, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. Because the careers are interdisciplinary in nature, there are many different paths one can pursue academically.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment as a robotics engineer is growing slower than average, this can be misleading. The skills perfected through robotics programs like systems and design thinking are needed for many careers of the future. And robotics is revolutionizing technology and engineering jobs in the automotive, agriculture, healthcare and manufacturing industries among others.

Recent Google-Gallup studies have shown that robotics offerings in schools grew 12% year-over-year. In a new Couragion study, we asked educators which computer science concepts were offered at their schools. Notably, 55% of schools offer robotics in the classroom – and robotics was the 2nd most common response. But why the growing interest?

Robotics programs can offer engaging, hands-on experiences for students that encourage collaboration and problem solving. Robotics can be a great way to introduce computer programming to students because the robot provides them with automatic feedback in response to a set of changing instructions that they control. Check out our partner Ten80’s robotics courses, camps and competitions as an example of quality educational programming. 

Do you have any great stories to share about how robotics has inspired your kids? We'd love to hear about it!

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Internship Season – What’s In Demand?

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Internship Season – What’s In Demand?

With intern recruiting season in full swing, I felt it was timely to share an article that I recently read in the New York Times. It is entitled ‘Top 20 Fields for Internships: Get Your Skills On’ and it features the fields and skills most in demand in the intern market. 

STEM fields are featured prominently in the list and include:

  • Engineering
  • Data Analytics
  • Finance
  • IT Development
  • Science & Environment
  • Healthcare
  • Database Administration
  • IT Support
  • Economics

In addition, the list of the most sought after skills is helpful. The list spans both general skills and job specific skills. Top mentions of general skills include project management, customer service, and mathematics.

The above info can help the students or children in your life that are looking for an internship. The list of fields with the most job openings will help them narrow in on where they are most likely to find an internship. While the list of skills can give them ideas of what skills are important to develop and subsequently highlight on their resumes.

Gaining internship experiences is invaluable and can really help differentiate your students/children as they search for full-time jobs. Our role models repeatedly tell us how their internship experience helped them standout in the hiring process. For example, when we asked our Network Planning Engineer role model how difficult it was for her to get a job with AT&T, she replied by saying…

“This job was not as hard for me to find as it was for others because I had an internship before I hired on.”

By the way, if you know a student that has excellent design skills, have them check out our current opening for a Graphic Design Intern.

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STEM Starts Early

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STEM Starts Early

New research entitled STEM starts early: Grounding science, technology, engineering, and math education in early childhood builds a case that the technology revolution has made it critical for all children to understand STEM – even in early childhood, defined as birth through age 8. Conducted by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop with generous support from the National Science Foundation, the goals were to understand STEM learning challenges and opportunities, to make recommendations that help trigger new research and policy, and to encourage cross sector collaboration that will affect real change.

The findings examine the STEM landscape and the primary players and suggest that families and educators are motivated to introduce STEM learning into early childhood education but that the educational, social, cultural, and economic systems are often lacking. While we can reprioritize research, develop improved teacher preparation programs, and put plans in place to transform early childhood education – there are some fundamentals that can be used to inform and jumpstart initiatives today.  

  • Don’t underestimate the power of family engagement in STEM learning.
  • Strive for STEM fluency by engaging kids in place based and educational digital media experiences.
  • STEM topics can be taught successfully in informal environments like libraries and museums.
  • Parents and teachers alike need to be supported as many lack the confidence to encourage natural STEM abilities in young children.

This research is part of a growing body of studies that are showing a correlation between STEM experiences, improved perceptions of STEM, subsequent success in those subjects, and increased likelihood that those kids will pursue STEM expertise and careers. At Couragion, our mission and research is highly aligned. We inspire kids to pursue STEM pathways through improved awareness and perception of the amazing opportunities in STEM. Let's all make sure that STEM learning starts early! 

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Women in STEM Give Rise to More Women in STEM

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Women in STEM Give Rise to More Women in STEM

GE recently announced their corporate goals of having 20,000 women in STEM roles by 2020 which would require them to hire 5,000 women into STEM positions and achieve a 50:50 representation for all technical entry-level programs over the next few years. With GE being my first employer, the announcement as you might imagine stood out for me. Many companies who care deeply about cultivating the STEM pipeline have announced their own workforce diversity efforts. I was curious how GE’s proclamation and #BalanceTheEquation campaign compared.

First, GE’s new white paper asserts that doubling down on the gender-equal playing field will widen their pool of potential hires and could lead to significant productivity and performance gains. The research points to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), The World Economic Forum, and McKinsey – each highlighting how increased female participation in the labor force correlates to economic strength.  

Second, in order to support this announcement, GE recently launched a STEM role model campaign complete with YouTube video called “What If Millie Dresselhaus, Female Scientist, Was Treated Like A Celebrity”. The ad’s details play on pop culture by featuring a nursery with a boom in babies named Millie, a gray-haired emoji available on our smart phones, a boon of Millie imitators and Halloween costumes, and even a “One in a Millie” headline in a superstar news magazine.

Third, the company has put out a multi-point action plan to achieve gender parity and address these ambitious goals. These strategies for both recruiting and retaining talent include the following:

  • Shift the focus of university recruitment efforts to institutions that have a balanced gender mix
  • Develop robust career advancement and leadership development opportunities for diverse employees
  • Implement employee programs and benefits that foster an inclusive culture and environment

I think GE’s #BalanceTheEquation campaign is well conceived. At Couragion, we too strongly understand and advocate for the importance of role models and applaud the aspirational efforts. With dedication and focus, I hope they will attract more women into the STEM fields, nurture more STEM role models like Millie who will inspire future generations, and drive enhanced innovation by keeping women productive and fulfilled within their careers – all exemplifying something Couragion strongly champions. Women in STEM give rise to more women in STEM.

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Boost Kids’ STEM Grades – Simply By Talking!?!

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Boost Kids’ STEM Grades – Simply By Talking!?!

Researchers at University of Chicago, Northwestern University (my alma mater - Go Wildcats!), University of Wisconsin-Madison, and University of Virginia recently published a study titled ‘Utility-Value Intervention With Parents Increases Students’ STEM Preparation and Career Pursuit’.

In the study, the researchers evaluated the long-term effects of an intervention designed to help parents talk with their high school kids about the importance of mathematics and science courses. The researchers provided a group of parents with materials that helped them talk to their children about the relevance of STEM- showing how school subjects factor into specific careers or how math and science make cell phones work, for example.

When comparing the children that had such talks with their parents to a control group, researchers found that the intervention promoted STEM course-taking in high school and improved mathematics and science ACT scores by 12 percentile points. Such factors are associated with increased STEM career pursuit 5 years after the intervention! 

Christopher S. Rozek, the lead researcher, says “Parents are potentially an untapped resource for helping to improve the STEM motivation and preparation of students. We could move the needle by just encouraging parents to have these conversations about the relevance of math and science.”

Do you think that talking to your kids might boost their STEM interest and grades? As the saying goes, ‘talk is cheap’, so this seems worth trying!    

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Take Our Daughters & Sons To Work Day 2017 #COUNTONME

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Take Our Daughters & Sons To Work Day 2017 #COUNTONME

Take Our Daughters & Sons To Work® Day occurs in the US on the 4th Thursday in April. This year it takes place on April 27th and the theme is #COUNTONME. The idea is that parents and guardians take their kids work to expose them to careers held by them and their coworkers and focuses on expanding their future opportunities. When done well, kids return to the classroom full of cool stories about the people they met and the things they learned about themselves.

Last year Couragion joined forces with Hosting.com – a technology company that provides always-on compliant cloud solutions empowering 2000+ global clients. The program included a datacenter tour, sessions on internet safety, a coding academy, and a career exploration workshop. Hosting.com gave the Couragion app as a gift to every daughter and son in attendance to expand their career planning and readiness. It was great to see the kid’s comments inside the application about their experience that day – here are a few for your enjoyment:

“I thought it was like telling my future.”

“I think that this industry would help me learn a lot and would also allow me to support a family with the amount of money I would make.”

“I have no questions but must say that is the best sounding job other than an engineer.”

Is your organization looking for the perfect activity for Take Our Daughters & Sons To Work® Day? Why limit career exploration to only one day a year - with Couragion, your kids can access new career ideas all year long.

There is still time to host your own Couragion career exploration workshop at your company! Contact us at info@couragion.com for more information.

Be sure to use the #COUNTONME hashtag in your social media posts supporting Take Our Daughters & Sons To Work® Day 2017!

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Advice For Future Engineers

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Advice For Future Engineers

As we near the end of Engineers Week, I have been reflecting on the amazing advice our engineer role models provide in their video interviews. The advice is focused on what the engineers would recommend to their younger self had they known they were going to pursue a career in engineering. This is the perfect information to share with students or children as you wrap up and reflect on your Engineers Week activities.

  • ‘If I had known I was going to be an engineer, I would have taken more vocational technology type classes to get more hands-on experience – such as welding or manufacturing. And, if you ever get the chance to take tours of plants or commercial buildings and can actually look at how equipment operates it really brings it all home and makes sense of things that you learn in the classroom.’ - Mandy Redfield, Mechanical Engineer
  • ‘A work ethic, interest in the subject, and being able to solve a problem in ways that other people wouldn’t figure out are great skills to build for being an engineer.’ - Natalie Mujica Schwahn, Engineer Technician - Physics/Laser 
  • ‘Sometimes people have to give you feedback, its not an attack against you, it is just feedback, so take it with a grain of salt.’ - Alexandra Kaufhold, Electrical Engineer
  • ‘Important high school classes for becoming an engineer are algebra, trigonometry, calculus, and any exposure to programming and coding.’ - Raymond Jose, Wireless Network Engineer
  • ‘We require a lot of critical thinking, creativity, and team player abilities – find experiences that help you build those skills. Physics, chemistry, biology and advanced math classes are key in high school. About a month ago, I had to dig into my college notes from linear algebra and numerical analysis to figure out a problem at work – you will use the information you learn in your high school and college classes.’ - Sibel Clark, Spacecraft Flight Software Engineer
  • ‘I would have tried a little harder to meet folks involved in the medical field and I could have shadowed a surgeon or a doctor to see what kind of tools they are using and materials they are interacting with. That way I would have learned more about the needs in the medical field for the devices that I am interested in making now. I’d also tell my high school and college self to do things like study abroad or learn a different language to differentiate myself.’ - Chelsea Magin, Product Management Director, Biomedical Engineering

I love these sage suggestions - covering everything from what classes to take to what skills to build to what extracurricular activities to pursue.

Are you an engineer? If so, what advice would you add? Are you a parent or teacher? If so, what recommendations do you think will resonate most with your children/students?

Enjoy the last two days of Engineers Week! I'm wrapping up my week by taking my daughters to University of Colorado's Family Engineering Day. My daughters are looking forward to building robots, inventing in the maker space, and developing a product with the 3D printers.

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Are you ready for Digital Learning Day? #DLDay

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Are you ready for Digital Learning Day? #DLDay

Instructional technology programs in the classroom and after the bell are improving student outcomes across our nation. In 2012, Digital Learning Day was started as a venue to showcase educators dedicated to digital learning and to spread those innovative teaching practices. The nationwide celebration held on February 23rd this year is an effort to engage students and empower educators through the effective use of digital tools to improve the learning experience in K-12 education.

In case you need help selecting some digital learning activities, here are a few actionable and useful ideas that will extend beyond just the #DLDay.

  1. Create a Classroom Run Blog – Being a blogger used to be just a hobby but for many people around the globe, it’s become a career. Blogging gives students a voice and a way to build real marketable skills. Check out this post Blogging? It's Elementary, My Dear Watson! for suggested tips and the digital tools to make it happen.  
  2. Create a Personal or Group Research Practice – Students and teachers can save online resources and share their research with members of their groups. And the bonus is that it doesn’t require an email to sign up and use the link sharing and social bookmarking service! Organize Your Research with Diigo (Part 1 of 3) will give you a quick primer – but I’d also check out Parts 2 and 3 for specific tips for group collaboration and K-12 teachers.

To further take part, you can share your digital learning activities and lessons with others.

Tell your stories by registering your #DLDay activities here:  http://www.digitallearningday.org/register-your-event/

You can also participate in live Twitter chats throughout #DLDay to learn from others. Don’t forget to use the #DLDay hashtag to monitor the conversations and tag your own contributions. Mark your calendar! 

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