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Author Bio: Megan Gallagher works with CK-12 Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to K-12 STEM education materials to students worldwide. The CK-12 Foundation offers a range of customizable resources for students and educators. Learn more about what CK-12 is offering at http://www.ck12.org/about/whats-new/.
It’s no secret that the United States is falling behind when it comes to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. Our high demand for skilled scientists and engineers has created a wealth of lucrative career opportunities for those entering STEM-related fields. In fact, science and engineering careers are growing at close to twice the rate of the overall workforce. The problem is that our students simply aren’t interested. Nearly 60 percent of students who begin high school with an interest in pursuing STEM-related fields of study end up changing their minds by the time graduation rolls around.
The implications of this STEM crisis are startling, so much so that President Obama has made it his administration’s goal to move the U.S. back to the top of the pack in science and math within the next decade.
The President had this to say at the Fifth annual White House Science Fair earlier this year: “[Science] is more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world…”
Indeed it seems that primary STEM learning has become disconnected from the vibrant living, breathing practice of real world science and engineering. Which is why organizations like the CK-12 Foundation have made it their mission to bridge that important gap by making STEM education more attractive, accessible and engaging than it’s ever been before.
Traditional modes of STEM learning simply don’t correlate to the vast and exiting world of applied science in ways that stimulate the tech-savvy modern student, causing a deep disconnect between student and subject. And that is where CK-12 steps in. Throughout the past decade, CK-12 has been working alongside teachers, curriculum writers and education professionals to provide easier access to STEM education by creating a world-class digital K-12 STEM platform that can be accessed by students and educators all over the world for free. Offering unique interactive content and flexible authoring tools, CK-12 empowers educators and students by simultaneously cutting down on expensive textbook costs while providing stimulating, up-to-date content that can be seamlessly integrated into any lesson plan.
Packed an ever expanding database of games, fluid lesson plans, informative videos and immersive real world simulations and online activities, CK-12 is fast becoming an indispensable online resource for teachers and students alike. And since all of CK-12 content is fully customizable, it puts an end to the traditional one-size-fits-all approach by giving teachers the freedom to supplement their curricula with hand-picked content, texts, activities and quizzes that are perfectly tailored to their specific teaching style.
Another way in which CK-12 is changing the landscape of STEM education is with its highly versatile interactive FlexBooks. Much more than mere digital textbooks, FlexBooks allow teachers to totally customize their lesson plans with interactive multimedia content that connects each learning concept to the real world in ways that make STEM learning immersive and engaging again. And while traditional textbooks are slow and expensive to update, CK-12 FlexBooks are able to easily keep pace with the rapidly advancing world of science and technology.
Another major impediment to good STEM learning in this country has been accessibility. Quite simply, not enough students have had access to quality learning materials in science and math. Which is why CK-12 has dedicated itself to unprecedented openness. Offering multi-platform functionality, and nearly endless opportunities for customization, CK-12 allows teachers to shape their lesson plans as they see fit with content that can be accessed free of charge from pretty much any device, obliterating obstacles like expensive textbooks and impractical tutoring programs.
With math, science and engineering becoming more critical than ever before when it comes to solving some of the world’s most pressing problems, turning around this country’s declining STEM trend is absolutely essential to our future. CK-12 represents just one innovative approach to this national crisis, and although we’ve still got a long road ahead, it feels like a massive step in the right direction.