When we think about securing the participation of all students in the use of high performance computing (HPC) and encouraging their informed use of the Teragrid,and other emerging technologies, we must think of the hurdles that students have to vault to achieve any kind of proficiency in the use of technology and to be involved in just science, math and engineering.
Some students must feel like the character in Ralph Ellison’s Book, ‘Invisible Man’ when they listen to Marc Prensky talk about ‘digital natives’ when in reality they are ‘digitally deficient’. They simply are not there, often lacking access and not being invlted to use technology in meaningful ways. They are not taught the skills they need, nor involved in learning STEM content. They may not have had much access to learning coding skills and be unaware of the levels of emerging technologies beyond a few Web 2.0 applications. They may or may not be socially savvy in cooperative collaboration projects such as FaceBook or My Space, or make any advanced use of media. Invitations to participate in high school are often way too late.
The National Govenors Association has some ideas about intervention. See their site on Innovation America. www.nga.org/center/innovation and a dedicated website for student learning. Gov. Napolitano also announced a new Web site at www.youinnovate21.net. The Web site, a partnership between NGA and Scholastic Inc., the global children’s publishing, education and media company, was developed to provide middle school students with the tools to become innovators and leaders of tomorrow.
The National Governors Association has a website and is pursuing academies for education. Will the minority students make the cut to be included? The website is a great example of outreach. So many web pages, so little broadband.
“We must prepare students of today to become the innovative leaders of tomorrow,” said Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, who developed NGA’s Innovation America program. “This web site will bring science, technology, engineering, and math to life for children, which–in turn–will give them the tools to become innovators.” The site, which is the result of a collaboration between NGA and global children’s publisher Scholastic Inc., features standards-based content, interactive games, a career simulator, and activities designed to encourage students to pursue STEM fields and careers. The site’s content is pulled from the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science in Boston, and other institutions.
Other minority students have to figure in a language disconnect. Many hours of their school day are in pursuit of NCLB and the acquisition of language skills in very old fashioned ways , pedagogy that is outdated. They often lose two years in ELL classes. There are amazing new reading programs that are interactive that anchor learning of languages.
Long ago, Martin Luther King addressed these problems: “There can be no gainsaying of the fact that a great revolution is taking place in the world today… that is, a technological revolution, with the impact of automation and cybernation . . . Now, whenever anything new comes into history it brings with it new challenges and new opportunities… [T]he geographical oneness of this age has come into being to a large extent through modern man’s scientific ingenuity. Modern man through his scientific genius has been able to dwarf distance and place time in chains… Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this.”
That was Rev. Martin Luther King, March 31, 1968.
We still have the problem of the lack of inclusion.
It seems there are too many variables to have to overcome to create the possibility for students to succeed as they make their way toward use of technology.
There are so many divides.
There is the digital divide. There is a funding divide. the knowledge divide, the technical divide and then the problem of access. Moreover, many of the students do not have access to well-trained or tech- savvy teachers or administrators with sufficient understanding to help them create a pathway to the uses of emerging technologies in their school, homes or community centers.
Most parents do not have a background in the fields from which the students are being excluded, to know how to create possibilities for the students in their learning communities. There may be accidental discoveries on the Web.
The Digital Divide
The digital divide Is traditionally defined in terms of access to computers and the Internet.
Digital exclusion is part of a broader divide contributing to social and economic exclusion of people and there are multiple aspects: economic, geographic, languages, gender, etc.
A report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), “Computer and Internet Use by Students in 2003” (NCES, 2006) reveals that the digital divide continues to exist, particularly along demographic and socioeconomic lines. Though an exact definition remains elusive, the term ‘digital divide’ generally refers to the disconnect that occurs between those with access to technology and those without, while recognizing that myriad factors can have a direct impact on that inequity.
Digital equity is defined as equal access and the opportunity to use digital tools, resources, and services to increase digital knowledge, awareness, and skills. When considering the role of technology in development of the twenty-first century learner, digital equity is more than a comparable delivery of goods and services, but fair distribution based on student needs.
A National Consideration of Digital Equity
Recently, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) shared research in the form of a white paper, which was an examination of issues related to digital equity in education — that is, equal access to technology, resources and services. This was part of an effort to broaden the awareness of digital equity issues and provide resources to educators and policy makers.
Technologies emerge, evolve and change and there will always be a digital divide at some level. Current education policy focused on “proficiency” misses the opportunity to raise achievement levels among the brightest, lower-income students. This is not news to many in minority education, or to parents in the supporting communities. An interesting report that points out the trouble with this concept can be found here, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, along with Civic Enterprises, LLC released a report on Sept. 10 on the Achievement Trap: How America is Failing Millions of High-Achieving Students from Lower-income Families. Read the full report: Achievement Trap: How America Is Failing Millions of High-Achieving Students From Lower-Income Families.
Are All Students Digital Natives?
According to a 2005 study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life project, more than one-half of all American teens — and 57 percent of teens who use the Internet — could be considered media creators. For the purpose of the study, a media creator is someone who created a blog or Web page, posted original artwork, photography, stories or videos online or remixed online content into their own new creations.
Most teens have done two or more of these activities. One-third of teens share what they create online with others, 22 percent have their own websites, 19 percent blog, and 19 percent remix online content.
Contrary to popular stereotypes, these activities are not restricted to white suburban males. In fact, urban youth (40 percent) are somewhat more likely than their suburban counterparts (28 percent) or rural counterparts (38 percent) to be media creators. Girls aged 15-17 (27 percent) are more likely than boys their age (17 percent) to be involved with blogging or other social activities online. The Pew researchers found no significant differences in participation by race-ethnicity.
If anything, the Pew study undercounts the number of American young people who are embracing the new participatory culture. The Pew study did not consider newer forms of expression, such as pod-casting, game modification or machinima. Nor did it count other forms of creative expression and appropriation such as music sampling in the hip hop community. These forms are highly technological but use other tools and tap other networks for their production and distribution.
The study does not include even more widespread practices, such as computer or video gaming that can require an extensive focus on constructing and performing as fictional personas. Their focus was not on individual accomplishment but rather looking at the emergence of a cultural context that supports widespread participation in the production and distribution of media.
The Knowledge Divide
Today in America, there are millions of students who are overcoming challenging socioeconomic circumstances to excel academically. They defy the stereotype that poverty precludes high academic performance and that lower income and low academic achievement are inextricably linked.
They demonstrate that economically disadvantaged children can learn at the highest levels and provide hope to other lower-income students seeking to follow the same path.
Sadly, from the time they enter grade school through their postsecondary education, these students lose more educational ground and excel less frequently than their higher-income peers. Despite this tremendous loss in achievement, these remarkable young people are hidden from public view and absent from public policy debates. Instead of being recognized for their excellence and encouraged to strengthen their achievement, high-achieving lower-income students enter what we call the ‘achievement trap’ — educators, policymakers and the public assume they can fend for themselves when the facts show otherwise.
We can look at the difficulties in entering STEM subjects in this way. Nationally, there is a huge gap in science, particularly for low income students.
Poverty: The Gap in Science
In 31 states, a gap of more than 20 scale-score points existed in the average scores of low-income 8th graders and their non-poor peers on the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress in Science. States’ average poverty gap was 28.1 points.
Henry Jenkins analyzes the problem with connectivity in several ways as:
“The Participation Gap — the unequal access to the opportunities, experiences, skills, and knowledge that will prepare youth for full participation in the world of tomorrow.
“The Transparency Problem — The challenges young people face in learning to see clearly the ways that media shapes the perceptions of the world.”
“The Ethics Challenge — The breakdown of traditional forms of professional training and socialization that might prepare young people for their increasingly public roles as media makers and community participants. ”
Marc Prensky has written about “Education and Learning in the 21st Century: What We Need to Do Differently”.
Do we keep, change, or delete the metaphor of ‘Digital Natives and Immigrants’?
Unfortunately, there are many students who are just digital receivers. Most of their interaction with the use of technology is on the receiving end of the media. They use the media, but they are not meaningfully or interactively involved, particularly in school.
We know that students are on the Internet and what they do. What most do not know is how to engage and involve them, and how to encourage teachers and students to examine and explore a new world of learning resources that are available to them on the Teragrid and other HPC initiatives.
Many states provide the fewest funds to districts with the most poor and minority students, according to a new Education Trust report. On average, U.S. school districts in 2005 spent $938 less per pupil at schools where incomes were low versus more affluent districts, while districts with a large proportion of minority students received $877 less per pupil compared with predominately white districts.
There are some ways we can remedy the problems.
There are models that share the concepts of learning that students can access in the computational sciences. See for example http://www.shodor.org, particularly Project Interactivate.
To share the ideas of grid computing at basic levels, the site ‘Try Science, the Grid’ gives basic lessons on understanding some parts of HPC as part of the emerging wave of new technology.
Try Science, the Grid can be found at http://www.tryscience.org/grid/home.html
More extensive is the project ‘Kinetic City’, which calls itself “a Web site that finds fun in science”.
Kinetic City is an online supplementary education program that seeks to spark an interest in science among minority and female students through interactive games, experiments and other activities. It can be found at http://www.kineticcity.com.
The site seeks to build interest in myriad ways. Public access to the site is free, but the project works best with a science kit that furnishes resources. The lessons are based on key concepts from the AAAS ‘Benchmarks for science literacy’.
And what do the experts say?
The National Science Board unanimously adopted a motion to release for public comment an action plan to address critical 21st century needs in the nation’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education system.
Two overarching actions stressed in the plan are increasing coordination of STEM education — both horizontally among states and vertically through grade levels — and increasing the supply of qualified K-12 STEM teachers.
In support of its “Innovation America” initiative, the National Governors Association (NGA) has launched a web site aimed at getting middle school students excited about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, with the goal of inspiring and preparing them to become 21st-century innovators.
“Adolescents need to learn how to integrate knowledge from multiple sources, including music, video , online databases ,and other media. They need to think critically about information that can be found nearly instantaneously through out the world. They need to participate in the kinds of collaboration that new communication and information technologies enable, but increasingly demand. Considerations of globalization lead us toward the importance of understanding the perspective of others, developing a historical grounding, and seeing the interconnectedness of economic and ecological systems.”
Bertram C. Bruce (2002).
Meeting the Needs of Students
All children need the intellectual development, motivation and skills that equip them for successful work and lifelong learning. These result from having quality learning environments, challenging expectations and consistent guidance and mentoring.
The number-one predictor of whether you will be successful in life is whether you graduate from high school. In today’s competitive global economy, effective education is more important than ever before.
Yet more than 25% of our students do not finish high school. The figure is nearly twice as high for African American and Latino students.
According to Every Child, Every Promise:
Only 39% of our teens are receiving this Promise
More than 40% of parents of younger children and two-thirds of adolescents say their children’s schools do not emphasize academic achievement
60% of 10- to 21-year-olds say their schools should give them more preparation for the real world
One way of meeting the need is by mentoring and guided practice as provided by organizations such as Joint Educational Facilities, Inc. (JEF). Community involvement and after school organizations can provide resources that often schools do not.
JEF is an all volunteer, non-profit, community-based K-12 organization that works primarily with junior and senior high school students and teaches them advanced computing sciences and contemporary mathematics topics with an emphasis on Intelligent Technologies.
For more information about Joint Education Facilities please see http://www.jef.org
JEF reports that “on the one hand, over the last few years all the seniors in the JEF program have entered college and are doing well. On the other hand, JEF feels that a vast majority of minority students at the junior and senior high school level are not getting the appropriate level of education/training to be fully successful at the collegiate level.
“Large numbers of our students upon entering undergraduate school are burdened with the inability to do creative thinking in the sciences and mathematics, and to communicate orally and in writing with people other than their peers.
“JEF’s programs are designed to acquaint students with research techniques, advanced mathematics, emerging technologies in computer science and computer communications, and computational science and public speaking.”
JEF and BDPA provide resources and shine a light on the possibilities. An ancient Chinese Proverb says: “ the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is today.”
Basically JEF’s approach is one of confidence building through skill development. To evaluate the success of its programs, JEF over the last ten years has established informal relationships with a number of colleges and universities. These relationships are in the form of scholarships, Internet accounts, students for paper presentations at national and international conferences, etc. What JEF is able to offer and create depends on successful fundraising and partnerships.
JEF integrates activities relating to cyberstructure into its knowledge discovery paradigm. Students are taught to interact with HPC platforms such as the Computational Cluster at TRECC, TeraGrid, Open Science Grid and clusters at the University of Northern Iowa and Earlham College and the JEF Little-Fe. As a result students have competed in Student Competitions at TeraGrid 2006 and 2007 and SC07. Students have the opportunity to meet professionals, faculty and other students at the various HPC events.
JEF feels that a vast majority of minority students at the junior and senior high school level are not getting the appropriate level of education/training to be fully successful at the collegiate level. Large numbers of our students upon entering undergraduate school are burdened with the inability to do creative thinking in the sciences and mathematics, and to communicate orally and in writing with people other than their peers. Our programs are designed to acquaint students with research techniques, advanced mathematics, emerging technologies in computer science and computer communications, and computational science and public speaking.
Some of the grassroots techniques which have proved successful are: pairing African American youth with African American computer professionals (mentoring and role models), pairing African American high school students with African American college students (peer mentoring), development of computer projects which relate to their “real life” (e.g., the computer models of a Black teenager and a teenage girl’s shopping habits), and the development of oral and written language skills (confidence building).
The Internet to the Hogan
Another example of empowering students is the Internet to the Hogan project.
The “Internet to the Hogan” is an overall initiative to drive connectivity to families in remote areas, including to Chapter Houses and the hogan, which is a traditional Navajo dwelling. Before the introduction of the IP network, Nation residents had to spend up to 12 hours traveling great distances just for access to social, health, educational and informational services. Now with the roll-out of this network, expected to be fully complete in the next 12 months, Navajo Nation residents will have quick and easier access to numerous services using voice, video and data on a single line, all at a greatly reduced cost:
* Distance learning teleconferencing will feature classes from the major universities near the Nation, including Arizona State University, University of Arizona, University of New Mexico and the University of Utah.
* Telemedicine will allow medical patients to receive superior health care via access to doctors in numerous large medical facilities in larger urban areas.
* School children who travel as much as four hours daily on a bus to attend school will have after-hours access to the Internet for homework, ensuring that they keep pace with students in more populous areas.
* Elderly populations, many of whom speak only the Navajo dialect, will have access to information on agriculture in their native language.
* Central government services such as housing, children’s health insurance, e-government, job listings and voting will be as close as the nearest chapter House, versus hours away or even unavailable for those with no access to vehicles.
“Just as the Navajo Nation only recently upgraded itself by moving from the horse and wagons to the automobiles, it’s the same with the Internet,” said Harold Skow, director of information technology for the Navajo Nation. “The benefits of adoption are enormous for our people in terms of education, economic development, access to vital services, preservation and furtherance of our culture. And the savings will allow us to not only use the funds for other resources but also perhaps generate much-needed revenue streams.” The Navajo Nation expects to save as much as 75 per cent over present network costs for this greatly enhanced network and its related capabilities when the network implementation is completed.
Finally, there are reports that covers in detail the problems, and offers solutions.
There is an action plan from the National Science Board. electronically it is at http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/documents/2007/stem_action.pdf.
‘Before It’s Too Late’ is a report from the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century. Many long range solutions that benefit students are here.
In a report issued today by America’s Promise Alliance entitled, “Cities In Crisis” written by Researcher Christopher Swanson, suburban school systemsgraduation rate’s are higher than urban school systems. Some solutions are offered.
Could it be that suburban school systems spend more money on the system; parents are better educated and are more focused on educational achievement; per pupil expenditure is higher; teachers salary and support different? What a conversation we could have.