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The Power of Data: Notes from the STEM Summit 4.0

By James Cola, Communications Manager, Springer Nature

The STEM Summit 4.0 – The Power of Data was held by Scientific American and Macmillan Learning at the New York Academy of Sciences on October 14, 2016. Hosted by Susan Winslow, Managing Director, Macmillan Learning, and Mariette DiChristina, Editor in Chief, Scientific American, the summit aimed to further collaboration between educators, entrepreneurs and public policy leaders, and to highlight how data can impact and transform the way that people teach and learn.

Across the United States, there are kindergartens, schools and colleges that are using data analytics, adaptive learning platforms, apps, video streaming, images, gaming, and more to help inspire student curiosity, tailor content, enable students to work in ways that suit them and change the way students approach STEM subjects.

At the STEM Summit 4.0, real-life stories reinforced the view that using data in teaching and learning is vital — and is already making a huge difference by helping educators to not only just name challenges and problems, but to go underneath to the root of the problems to solve them. Several presenters noted that data will continue to be key in encouraging greater participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The summit championed the increased use of data in education, as well as focusing on specific strengths and weaknesses of data.  Through discussions about different types of data — and interactive breakout sessions that included “How do we get educators past phobias (the fear of teaching STEM)?” and “How Do We Use Technology and STEM to Create Globally Competent Citizens?” — attendees developed strategies to help educators and further encourage students to study STEM topics.

STEM summit image

The day’s highlight, an address from Paul Krugman, the renowned Nobel Laureate and New York Times columnist, captivated the audience. His talk, “Technology, Globalization, and Skills”, discussed how STEM represents 6% of the workforce in the United States (excluding healthcare), and the role that STEM education plays in countries’ ability to compete and succeed globally.

However, speakers were clear that the United States faces challenges.

Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, Senior Vice President, Curriculum and Content, Sesame Workshop, said: “The data are in. We know we have a problem, and students are underperforming in science compared to children in other developed countries.”

Terri McCullough of the Clinton Foundation also noted the fact that there are fewer women studying STEM subjects now compared to 30 years ago.  While Krishanti Vignarajah, Director of Policy and International Affairs, The White House, Office of the First Lady, discussed how a girl’s earning potential increases by 15-20% for every year of secondary school education.

Dr. Adam Black, Chief Learning Officer, Macmillan Learning, gave a presentation on “The Promises and Pitfalls of Big Data”. He suggested that there is a digital renaissance in education and we can start to measure many things empirically due to the growing use of digital and more touchpoints with the learner. These touchpoints include apps, websites, games, and other interfaces where information is recorded about the learner.

Elsewhere during the summit, a particularly joyous and charming presenter talked about “Tactics to Build Engaged Learners”. Renton Prep School 10th grade student Jennifer Fernandez energized the crowd by showing how she and her classmates benefitted from cutting-edge ideas and innovative teachers who use technology in the classroom.

Ms. Fernandez said that for her and her classmates: “Today, we have faster ways to share with each other and there is a community of other people collaborating. For example, when a CEO of a company responds to your app, no matter how young you are, you are challenged and you have to step up your game.”

For more information, the full list of presenters and to continue the conversation about the STEM Summit, visit www.community.macmillan.com/community/stemsummit.

For STEM resources and to find out how Scientific American engages citizen scientists, children, and adults with STEM topics, visit https://www.scientificamerican.com/education/.

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