My mission as a STEM educator is to seek ways to advance the work of closing opportunity gaps and achievement gaps for all students with an emphasis on equitable STEM education.
My Digital Learning Mission Statement and STEM Education
My area of focus in education is the integrated pedagogy described as STEM. The content contained in STEM comes from within and across the subject areas of science, technology, engineering, and math, but is also so much more than that in terms of general teaching practices. There is no nationally agreed upon standard for what STEM is and the multitude of definitions provided often vary by region and context, so truly defining STEM with a one-size-fits-all definition is next to impossible. This is part of what makes my work at AVID as a learning designer so interesting to me, because figuring out STEM is equivalent to solving a 21st Century pedagogical puzzle (sort of a Rubik’s Cube meets Rube Goldberg scenario). Helping guide educators through the myriad of STEM content, approaches, and pedagogy is at the heart of my digital learning mission. I realize STEM is at times a subset of and at times not contained within the digital learning sphere, but this is all the more reason for me to craft a contextually relevant mission statement around this work.
Deriving My Digital Learning Mission Statement
Penultimately, my educational mission is to advance the work around closing opportunity and achievement gaps for all students with an emphasis on STEM education. This means my digital learning mission statement is built upon this premise. The current panopticon of STEM education in the American educational system is a mix of intentional and unintentional factors that limit participation by population groups outside of the male gender and Caucasian ethnicity. Women and minority populations are often excluded. While these exclusionary practices may be largely unintentional at this point in time, they are mostly a result of inadvertently perpetuated practices that at one time or another were intentional and ultimately developed into system of practices across societal structures.
The work that I do in STEM education and my digital learning mission will focus around breaking down instructional barriers common to STEM pedagogy and STEM activities, increasing access for students at economically disadvantaged locations, developing models of applied STEM learning that all students can relate to and see themselves present in, and more. The professional development that I have the opportunity to jointly develop and lead focuses around taking abstract ideas from complex knowledge and simplifying that into more concrete and accessible hands-on learning opportunities. In this way, confidence can first be built among educators who can then model and instill that with all K-12 students. Increasing access means leveraging the reach of my organization and our partners to bring opportunities to locations and populations that wouldn’t normally have access to these kinds of opportunities. Lastly, students need to learn about and see examples of a variety of STEM professions that they can both relate to and see themselves represented in so that all students can envision themselves as STEM professionals.
My digital learning mission is to seek ways to advance the work of closing opportunity gaps and achievement gaps for all students with an emphasis on equitable STEM education. I will work to accomplish this within the broader reach of goals of the organization that I work for, AVID, while also leveraging AVID’s reach and impact to further the goal of making STEM accessible for all students. In this way, I seek to positively impact the digital learning landscape and the global society at large.
Closing Opportunity Gaps in STEM Education
Closing opportunity gaps is a critical aspect of improving our educational system. I hope to support this work through my efforts as a developer and designer of both student-facing curriculum and teacher professional development. This means also thinking of myself in the role of policy maker as described by Robbin Chapman in “Diversity and Inclusion in the Learning Enterprise: Implications for Learning Technologies”. I’d not thought of my work from this vantage point before reading Chapman, however, his reasoning does make sense in term of overall impact and repercussions of my work. As I work to develop and implement curriculum and professional development, I will seek to emphasize ways to enable and empower schools to provide additional opportunities for all students. This responsibility often falls to schools according to Marshall Jones and Rebecca Bridges in “Equity, Access, and the Digital Divide in Learning Technologies: Historical Antecedents, Current Issues, and Future Trends,” so it’s critical to support schools as much as possible with this work. Additionally, provided my role, I can work to negotiate discounts and donations of materials for the large swath of Title I schools that AVID supports as a group. AVID has already had some success in providing additional opportunities in this way through procuring robotics equipment and micro:bits.
Closing Achievement Gaps in STEM Education
Closing achievement gaps is closely related to closing opportunity gaps but different. Closing opportunity gaps means increasing access for experiences so that all students can have those same educational opportunities. In a lot of ways, there’s a component of equal opportunity there. Closing achievement gaps requires equitable opportunity and support which may look different across a variety of contexts. Some students experience more adversity and require higher levels of support to achieve at a given level. Increasing access via programs like 1:1 computing can support this work, but the key is the nature of implementation. In addition to increased support where appropriate, focusing on research-based approaches is critical. Mike Ribble and Teresa Northern Miller speak to this in “Educational Leadership in an Online World: Connecting Students to Technology Responsibly, Safely, and Ethically”. We need to prepare educators and the various professionals and community members that support them with accurate pedagogical information so that key stake holders can make well-informed decisions. My work can directly impact these efforts by providing educators with access to information that will both support their instructional work and empower them to advocate for sound practice by the variety of stakeholders that they interact with in their roles, e.g. classroom teachers, instructional coaches, principals, district coordinators, etc. Marc Prensky speaks to “Digital Wisdom” in “From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom”. While I may disagree with some of Prensky’s points, his overall emphasis on the need for “Digital Wisdom” is relevant in regard to making informed decisions around educational technology and important to strive for as part of the overall educational process.
Working Toward Equitable STEM Education
Working toward equitable STEM education circles back to efforts around closing the various opportunity gaps that exist. By closing opportunity gaps, all students would have access to similar experiences with additional opportunities provided to those that do not have the same level of home support. These additional opportunities in conjunction with research-based practices and approaches should lead to reductions in the achievement gaps that exist across the educational system. Sound pedagogy is key, and this is where I can play a critical role as I careful and intentionally work to develop student curriculum and teacher professional development. By providing teachers with the appropriate tools and resources then training them in how to effectively implement those things in their educational context, I can work to support more equitable STEM education. Most likely we’ll never actually arrive at Utopian views of education like those offered by Marcus Childress in “Utopian Futures for Learning Technologies,” however, we can continually work and strive toward this ultimate goal while making solid improvements to the overall educational system and a difference in the lives of millions of students along the way.
Connections to My Work At AVID
The organization that I work for is AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), and they’ve developed an integrated STEM standards crosswalk document. I think it makes sense that my digital learning mission statement would be in line with this document as I work to advance STEM education in line with AVID’s mission statement focus of closing the achievement and opportunity gaps for all students. I have tried to make some of these connections obvious via my digital learning mission statement. For reference, once it’s publicly available, I’ll publish a link here to AVID’s STEM standards crosswalk document.
- Chapman, R. (2016). Diversity and Inclusion in the Learning Enterprise: Implications for Learning Technologies. In N. J. Rushby & D. W. Surry, The Wiley Handbook of Learning Technology ( 287-300). Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.
- Jones, M., & Bridges, R. (2016). Equity, Access, and the Digital Divide in Learning Technologies: Historical Antecedents, Current Issues, and Future Trends. In N. J. Rushby & D. W. Surry, The Wiley Handbook of Learning Technology (327-347). Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.
- Prensky, M. (2013). From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom. In From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom: Hopeful Essays for 21st Century Learning (201-215). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
- Ribble, M. & Miller, T. N. (2013). Educational Leadership in an Online World: Connecting Students to Technology Responsibly, Safely, and Ethically. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), 137-145.
- Childress, M. (2016). Utopian Futures for Learning Technologies. In N. J. Rushby & D. W. Surry, The Wiley Handbook of Learning Technology (557-570). Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.