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Computer scientist uses robots to draw students to STEM
A University of Texas at Arlington computer scientist and his students are using assistive robots to spur the interest of local middle- and high-school students toward STEM.
Gian-Luca Mariottini, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, has launched the Technology Education Academy, a pilot 12-week, after-school program funded by the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation and in collaboration with the Arlington Public Library and Arlington school district.
The Academy serves eighth- through 12th-graders from some AISD schools at “The Lab” at the East Arlington Branch Library. The Academy lasts through mid-May.
“Different than many existing ‘play-with-robots’ initiatives, the goal of the Technology Education Academy is to use robots and assistive technology to make students passionate about STEM fields,” Mariottini said. “We want to make it fun. At the same time, we also have developed an educational curriculum in collaboration with AISD teacher J. Smeaton to provide students with an practical way of learning about science and mathematics through robots, while exploring teamwork. We want to answer some more fundamental questions, like: Is robotics good to turn you on about STEM?”
Every Tuesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m., Mariottini and his students meet at The Lab to work with several junior high and high school students to create assistive robots and technology.
Carolyn Mentesana, executive director of the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation, said the foundation was delighted to play a role in bringing this high-tech program to the community.
“This is a great way to support the great work of Arlington’s educational powerhouses – the University of Texas of Arlington, Arlington Public Libraries and the Arlington Independent School District – and these organization’s dedication to enhancing technical learning,” Mentesana said. “There is a power in hands-on learning in this science and engineering lab. And to have some of UT Arlington’s world-renowned robotics program passed on to these students promises to be very rewarding for them.”
Gustavo Puerto, a UT Arlington doctoral candidate in Mariottini’s Robotics Lab, is playing an active role as a volunteer mentor in one of the students’ teams at the Academy. He said the main ingredient he wants to bring to the program is to let the students have fun and learn about problem solving.
EXO U, Clever partner for secure digital learning platform
EXO U Inc., developer of the newly launched EXO U Digital Education Platform, announced a partnership agreement with Clever, Inc., a provider of secure single sign-on access for school-based learning software and student information systems.
The company plans to continue to enter into agreements with additional partners and distributors to enhance its product offering and expand its reach into the education sector.
The partnership with Clever enables EXO U users to benefit from Instant Login, a single sign-on feature that delivers seamless, one-click login capabilities and secure data management for teachers and students.
Educators are asking for a secure single sign-on solution that will allow students access to an ecosystem of applications. Currently Clever is used by millions of K-12 students in more than 35,000 schools to improve the login experience.
EXO U joins more than 150 learning applications that currently leverage Clever's product to make the login process simple and efficient. Additionally, schools that use Clever can securely sync enrollment data from their school information system to EXO U and other applications they use. This partnership can potentially make the integration of EXO U's Digital Education Platform into K-12 schools easier.
Following an initial implementation period, EXO U will pay Clever a monthly usage fee for an initial term of one year.
Shan Ahdoot, CEO and Co-Founder of EXO U: "Clever's rapid growth and penetration into U.S. K-12 schools in less than three years demonstrates the strong need for educational solutions that can improve access to digital learning. That emphasis matches EXO U's commitment to providing secure, easy-to-use ecosystems where teachers can manage all their digital tools in one place and engage with their students instantly on any device. Clever is a natural fit for the EXO U platform."
Facebook helps makerspaces expand in the classroom
Robert Pronovost, the science, technology, engineering and math coordinator at the Ravenswood City School District, has a mission: to spark student interest in those topics by bringing tech-filled "makerspaces" to low-income schools.
Now with the help of Facebook and the Ravenswood Education Foundation, he's come close to reaching that goal.
By the end of this week, five out of seven of the district's public schools will have spaces filled with 3-D printers, Legos, laptops, robots and more for hands-on learning. Castano and Willow Oaks schools are expected to open their makerspaces in the fall.
As tech companies try to find ways to create a more diverse workforce, they're looking at education as a way to help increase the pipeline supply of women and minorities graduating in the STEM fields.
"It's clear that more minorities need to be pursuing an education in STEM and whatever we can do to support that growth we want to be a part of it and to make a positive impact on our neighbors," said Susan Gonzales, who heads community engagement at Facebook, which provided 90 MacBooks, furniture and funding to create makerspaces in the district. "For all we know, the founder of the next Facebook is right here in the Ravenswood School District."
In Ravenswood City School District, about 90 percent of students from kindergarten to eighth grade are low income and 67 percent are English language learners.
"Every kid deserves to find what drives them," Pronovost said.
At Brentwood Academy, students moved around a classroom, building objects out of blocks and duct tape, creating animated films, controlling robots using a program on an iPad and using a 3-D printer.
The spaces in the district focus on robotics, coding and creating. The first one was created at the Los Robles Dual Immersion Academy in 2014.
Global policy report touches on reduced testing reliance
ASCD, a global community dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading, released its first Global Policy Agenda, which makes recommendations to promote the success of students, educators, schools, and communities worldwide.
“The needs to promote a whole child education and to reduce the overreliance on standardized testing are just two of many priorities that span all education systems across the globe,” said David Griffith, ASCD director of public policy. “ASCD is committed to supporting policies that enable growth and success for all students, and we believe the introduction of this Global Policy Agenda lays out a comprehensive vision for international educators to support student achievement.”
Each January, ASCD releases a legislative agenda with recommendations concerning federal education policy in the United States. However, in our ever more global societies it is becoming clear that many of today’s key education issues are international in nature and must be addressed for all students in all countries.
It is important to establish an expansive and well-rounded definition of student success that includes all academic subjects, as well as social-emotional learning and whole child supports.