Cal State Northridge has been awarded a $150,000 grant from Hewlett Packard to participate in the HP Catalyst Initiative, a global social innovation program designed to develop more effective approaches to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
The network of educational institutions belonging to the program will use an interdisciplinary approach and emphasize creativity, collaboration and cross-cultural expertise to transform STEM teaching and learning, and to inspire students to use their technical and creative ingenuity to help address immediate social challenges.
“This grant is going to allow us to work closely with urban schools in our area to bring their teaching into the 21st century,” said Brian Foley, a professor in CSUN’s Department of Secondary Education. “The grant provides computers for science classes. We are training teachers on how to use laptops and cloud computing tools to make science classes more collaborative and engaging.”
Foley said the project, which is aimed at middle school teachers and their students, will explore a new pedagogy in education that encourages both teachers and their students to go “outside” the isolation of the classroom to share ideas and learn how to work collaboratively in exploring scientific concepts and ideas.
Middle school teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s San Fernando Valley Local Districts 1 and 2 will take part in a two-week training course this summer on how to use the laptops in a cloud environment when teaching science.
“This is a way of helping them learn to teach more effectively,” Foley said, pointing out that in this type of classroom environment, students aren’t sitting passively while a teacher lectures, but are actively engaged in exploring the topic.
“It allows the students to take a greater role in class because they are collaborating on figuring out ‘what is going on,’ pooling data they collect and then working together creating explanations,” he said. “When you have more students working collaboratively in creating a spreadsheet of data, the students have a greater opportunity of spotting outliers and trends than if they were working individually or in small groups. And they are also more vested in doing the work because their peers are relying on them.”
Foley said more than 50 middle school teachers applied for the 22 spots in this summer’s training session.
Through the HP Catalyst Initiative, HP has invested more than $10 million since 210 and engaged with more than 55 educational institutions in 15 countries to further innovation in STEM education.
The HP Catalyst Initiative created five global consortia in 2010, each focusing on a specific theme focused on transforming STEM education. These “sandboxes” of innovation are developing new approaches to teacher preparation, online education, technology to measure learning outcomes and engagement with students in global, collaborative learning experiences.
In 2011, an additional 14 organizations have been funded as members of the five existing HP Catalyst consortia. The program also is adding a sixth theme, “STEM-preneur,” to focus specifically on novel ways to combine STEM education with the skills and passion of entrepreneurship. In total, 21 organizations from 12 countries are part of the network.
“Education has the power to transform the lives of individuals and communities,” said Gabi Zedlmayer, vice president of the Office of Global Social Innovation for HP. “By bringing together leading education organizations to work in collaboration, HP is creating an international network of innovative educators who are showcasing new and powerful student-centered approaches to STEM education.”