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The STEM Leadership Alliance 2021 Virtual Summit brought together STEM Leaders from around the world. The Summit focused on reflecting on the past year and how to propel the work moving forward. Tools, resources, and ideas were shared. Below is a synopsis of the Summit.

The Summit opened with Dr M.S. Vijay Kumar, Associate Dean, Open Learning and Executive Director, Jameel Abdul Latif World Education Lab (J-WEL), Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The topic was Envisioning Education Today for Tomorrow. Dr. Kumar discussed innovative learning and how do we create the future of learning. All learners are anywhere. We need to move away from the notion generating people who take jobs, to people who are creating opportunities. The future is fluid. Therefore, students need to learn for life not just for the classroom. So, there is a need for disruptive innovation which is about changing the structural relationships among learners, education institutions, and educational resources. In order to drive cultural change their needs to be consistency.

The next session was a conversation among leaders in STEM. Steve Barbato, Executive Director/CEO for the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA); David Barnes, Associate Executive Director, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM); Geraldine Gooding, Manager Strategic Partnerships American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE); Christine Royce, Professor of Teacher Education and Co-Director of MAT in STEM Shippensburg University. The panel focused on working together to address challenges ensuring there is equity and access, as well as addressing the challenges that everyone has faced in the last year and how do we move the work forward. These organizations and individuals have resources to support educators in their practice but also, they have shown authentic connections across STEM and breaking down the silos by connecting the dots.

Our next panel was with NAACP that focused on Education Initiative with STEM in the New York Public Schools which included, Dr. Hazel Dukes, NAACP NYS President; Councilman I. Daneek Miller, New York City Council; Jeff Huart, NAACP, Education Director of Project, New York State; Dr. Beverly Mitchell, Community Superintendent District 29, NYC. The NAACP has started a program with numerous districts throughout New York City that supports students with laptops, but also providing professional development to educators and families on how to develop an integrated STEM culture and to leverage existing resources to build integrated STEM across all the content areas. This work is changing the way teachers teach. It is creating the opportunity for teachers to work across the content areas so students are connecting the dots from subject to subject and solving real world problems within their local communities.

The conversation moved to Stephen Pruitt, Executive Director for the Southern Reginal Board of Education. STEM is not just a buzz word, sometimes we see S.T.E.M. but we should never use the periods because we want STEM it is all about integrating these things to explain phenomena that is in a student’s life every day and for our students to find solutions to problems. This is a time for us to pivot. COVID has accelerated how we need to think about our changing workforce. We also need to recognize that COVID has impacted all of us. We can no longer have invisible children; we must recognize our children! #NoInvisibles

Our next group of panelists was the NASA Education Team. Dr. Elicia “Dynae” Fullwood, K12 STEM Education activities related to NASA’s Artemis program; Becky Kamas, JSC Office of STEM Engagement; Carrie Olsen, Project Manager for Next Gen STEM in NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement; Dr. Jessica Sain, NASA Lead Education Specialist in the Office of STEM Engagement at NASA’s Johnson Space Center; Gina Blystone, K12 STEM Engagement lead, Educator Professional Development Collaborative Technical Officer, Aeronaut-X Mission Focused Activity Lead for the Agency. NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement shared resources that connect your students with NASA’s mission and work. The team shared how we explore aeronautics, the Earth, the Moon, and the solar system and beyond. Don’t forget to sign up for the NASA Express newsletter to find out about ongoing projects and resources.

We then had the pleasure to hear form Chip Heath, Professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He is the co-author (along with his brother, Dan) of four books. Their latest book (an instant New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller) The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact was published in the fall of 2017. Decisive: How to Make Better Decisions in Life and Work was published in spring of 2013 and debuted at #1 on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list and #2 on the New York Times. Their 2010 book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, hit #1 on both bestseller lists. Their first book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, spent two years on the Business Week bestseller list and was an Amazon Top 10 Business Book for both editors and readers. Their books have been translated into over 30 languages including Thai, Arabic, and Lithuanian. Chip has consulted with clients ranging from Google and Gap to The Nature Conservancy and the American Heart Association. Chip has a new book, Making Numbers Count: The Art and Science of Communicating Numbers. This is a must read book for educators. There are many comparisons people make about numbers that are ludicrous. Such as, dollars stacked to the Washington Monument or how many dollar bills would it take to wrap about the world. Instead, we should be thinking about human scale and help people to understand numbers. If we can tell the story of numbers then we can make people care and emotionally connect.

Our next session focused on STEM through the Eyes of Gen Z by Cristiano Lima, Head of Research, Youth Insights. He explored the trends and themes emerging through the tracking of young people’s perceptions of STEM, with a particular focus on existing gender differences in the Philippines and Australia. He provided insights around the impact that key influencers such as parents, teachers and career advisors have in shaping the views of young people. The research explores some variations in behaviours and attitudes towards STEM observed between these different cultures.

As we closed out day one, participants reflected on their learnings from the day. The past year there were challenges, but there was also a silver lining. We must use the reflections to create the future. This is where we picked up on day two. Propelling the Work Forward.

Day two began with a very powerful presentation for STEM Leaders across ASIA. Sheryl Lyn C. Monterola, Ph.D., Professor, Science Education, Division of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education, University of the Philippines – Diliman; Prof. Yong Zulina Zubairi, Associate Vice Chancellor (International), Universiti Malaya; Prof. Manabu Sumida, Professor, Ehime University and Director General, Japan Society for Science Education

Dr. Kessara Amornvuthivorn, Program Director, SEAMEO STEM-ED; Ms. Linartes Viloria, National Program Coordinator, Women in STEM Workforce Readiness and Development, ILO – Philippine Country Office. The panelists shared the work they have done the past year that kept integrated STEM at the forefront of learning. We can learn a great deal from these panelists to advance the work of moving STEM from an acronym to real world connections that will grow our students and allow them to be problem solvers and critical thinkers.

The program then shifted the discussion with a focus on Artificial Intelligence. Jamie Sachs, Senior Director of Education, UBTECH Education, a division of UBTECH Robotics discussed how Artificial Intelligence is increasingly impacting our world; Algorithms decide everything from what shows you watch to who gets hired for which job to where your child goes to school. She provided an understanding the importance of introducing AI concepts to all K-12 students and some simple ways to get started.

Speaking of AI, we then entered the area of robotics, but not the typical way we think about robotics but rather using robots to help with social and emotional learning. Mark Nixon, CFO, Robokind and Mary Shaw, a former special educator and Sr. Director of Professional Development and Content shared the research on special need students and their social emotional learning needs. They shared how a robot can change change the way a child expresses themselves through a technology-delivered curriculum which embeds evidence-based practices from applied behavior analysis, speech language pathology, and occupational therapy.

The next session looked at how the state of Nevada navigated STEM during the pandemic. Craig Rosen, Director, Nevada STEM Networks, Manager, Southern Nevada STEM Regional Network, Desert Research Institute shared the diversity of Nevada and the need for the state to create regional STEM hubs. He led us through the journey of developing these hubs and how each STEM hub has created a strategic action plan that will continue to move the work forward.

Participants then had the opportunity to explore mathematics data during COVID by Woody Paik, Executive Vice President, Curriculum Associates LLC. The data revealed there was unfinished learning for students, especially in low-income areas. When students return to school we need to know where they are. Do we spend all the time on grade level or do we spend time all the time of filling in the learning gaps? Assessments need to support the learning so, that the gaps can be identified to keep students on task.

Our closing speaker was Angelica Infante-Greene, Commissioner of Education, Rhode Island. Rhode Island was able to keep students engaged during the pandemics. State-wide professional development occurred, which allowed for rural, suburban, and urban educators to learn with and from each other. As one teacher called the new learning was forced innovation and students embraced this type of learning. Students rose to the occasion and this was a wake-up call to Rhode Island and that there needs to be more pathways for students. The education system will use the learning to move the system forward with higher expectations, more experiences for students, and bridging the learning that occurs in rural settings compared to urban settings. It was inspiring to learn how one state continued the momentum and how they are moving forward.

We wrapped up the two days thinking about how education will move forward. The comments summarize the Summit best:

“The information presented by several speakers about how to deal with effectively educating our students in STEM using both online and in person methods during COVID restrictions was extremely helpful. I also appreciated the presentations on equity and inclusion.”

“Practical STEM leadership”

“STEM education should be more advocated especially in remote areas. The world, as what I’ve learned is headed to a more advance world of tech, communication, info., we need to be at pace with all these transitions. This summit is one way of spreading the need for STEM education.”

“The sharing of best practices in STEM education and authentic integration provided me with so many beautiful insights”

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