Friday, January 25, 2008

Do Schools Do Enough with Inventiveness?

Interesting results from a survey of teens released from the Lemelson-MIT program that portrays both positive and negative news for schools (unfortunately eSchoolNews went for the sensational headline focused on the negative: Top News - Survey: Schools fail to teach innovation).

First, teens are optimistic that innovation can help solve many environmental issues today (72%) and that they could invent some of these solutions (64%), especially compared to only 38% of adults surveyed (interestingly, half the adults were 18-24 years old).

While a vast majority of teens (79 percent) believe there is value in
hands-on project-based science-technology-engineering-math
(STEM) education and learning in high school, they also believe schools can do more to prepare them for innovative work:
The Lemelson-MIT Invention Index found that more than half of American teens (59 percent) do not believe their high school is preparing them adequately for a career in technology and engineering. The disparity is more pronounced among some groups historically under-represented in these fields. Nearly two-thirds of African-American teens (64 percent) and teen girls (67 percent) believe they are not prepared in school for these careers. News: Press Releases

The director of the program believes this type of learning is doable for schools:
"Learning to invent is really no different than learning to throw a touchdown pass or play the trombone," said Schuler, noting that 40 percent of the teens who are most confident in their ability to invent are most likely to believe their high school is preparing them for a career in technology or engineering. "It takes practice. Students need the opportunity to get their hands dirty and invent," he said. "Generally speaking, there’s not enough ‘learning by doing’ taking place in today’s high schools, and our survey found that students recognize this."
. . .
"Support for new approaches in STEM education needs to start from the top," added Schuler, noting that the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index found that nearly one-third of American adults (30 percent) were unable to identify a presidential candidate who they feel has the most effective plan for improving this type of education in high schools. "Our nation’s proficiency in STEM education is an important issue to an overwhelming majority of people – 94 percent of adults and 80 percent of teens believe the U.S. needs to be more proficient. As we enter an election year, we hope to see increased attention and clarity from candidates around these issues."

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