This book is for educators, parents, and community partners!

Resources, ideas, examples, for both beginners and experts.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Free STEM Online

Keeping up with STEM at no Cost

I was blown away the other day when someone from an organization called Online Universities got in touch to say they'd been following my blog and that they had connections with all kinds of free online S.T.E.M. resources, professional development and advanced courseware. No kidding! My follower gave me a link to a blog that lists all kinds of great resources including classes, lecture series, videos, forums, and an array of instructional opportunities to study or simply keep up in the so-called STEM fields. It seems the acronym has really caught on and is being used as a marketing tool. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's a way to say in one syllable what could take several paragraphs otherwise, right? It's a way to provide an umbrella for content in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics...all the left-brainers under one roof, so to speak.

The blog post is titled, "50 Best Sources of Free STEM Education Online." The post provides links to programs such as MIT Open Courseware, Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Channel, iTunesU, Muppet Labs, Discovery Channel...all great stuff, even help with math. There was a time one would have to spend weeks gathering all this information. Technology has freed up our time for more creative endeavors. Making best use of technology-based resources like these and others provides us with so much more than the task at hand. It changes our world and how we interface with it....changes how we learn, how we communicate, and the depth and breadth of what we can ingest and digest. In many ways, it's how effectively one uses the tools. Learning where to find the information is one of the key steps to effective use of digital tools.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Curiosity Inspired the Kid

Jay Matheson

What Inspires a Students' Passion?

...the journey to find out.

Passionate teachers and role models grab children's attention, engage their interest. There are so many stimulations competing for a child's interest and attention these days. It's a wonder they can focus on or become engaged authentically in anything.

A colleague inspired me to write the book, Connecting Students to STEM Careers. We worked together on a project of his invention to help rural students gain awareness of potential career fields through meeting and talking with role models, mentors, and other professionals, from a distance, by using the new digital tools.

As an online facilitator and teacher trainer for this federally-funded project, I became aware of the issue of isolation, not only isolation in the classroom, but isolation from the world as a rural student. I also became aware that it's not necessary for these students to be cut off from the world any longer because of the wealth of distance learning tools and programs, because of all the generous professionals willing to share their time with classroom students.

Jay built a successful career awareness program around the belief that " have a natural curiosity about people," he says. "I don't know if kids are really very curious about jobs, but they are curious about adults and what adults do, so we're tyring to play on that. The content might have been science or math related, but then to spend some time allowing kids to do that natural kind of chatter with the presenter....There's a natural curiosity that young people have...because in their minds they're going to be doing some of those things. You never know when you're going to come across an interest in a child."

He is one of those special educators who has, over the years, come to understand the workings of the brain of a child. He is one of those special educators who get it and apply it with amazing innovation and care. Recently, Jay started a blog telling his story as a 40-some year educator, from his days as a student teacher to his time as an administrator at one of Oregon's Education Service Districts.

Check out the beginnings of the story. I can already tell it's one I'll follow with interest:
one educator's memoir........ 

You can also learn more about the Extending Career Options for Rural Students project in the book.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Funding STEM Programs and Projects

Fundraising and Grantwriting Tips

So many good ideas, so little money. In the last decade, there has been an overwhelming surge of innovation for education. Fueled by technological advances, by the invention of new and improved digital tools at extraordinary speed, we are inspired. Perhaps I should say the kids are inspired and educators have grabbed onto the tail of the comet. And rightly so. Snooze and lose. We can organize the chaos for good, connect students to all kinds of people, all kinds of opportunities that once would have been way beyond the grasp of a classroom student, Anywhere, USA.

Here's the rub: it costs so much just to have access to the technology, how will we fund the projects and programs the technology will support? Where will the money come from to fuel the innovation? We must be clever and thoughtful fundraisers. Gone are the days one was able to write up a good idea, organize a grant proposal, and wait for the check to arrive.

I've raised millions of dollars for educational projects over the years, through grants, partnerships, and dreaded cold calls. Here are a few tips to help if you're struggling to find ways to fund your STEM project, your STEAM project, or if you're still trying to come up with enough iPads or laptops to go around:

  • Don't try to do it alone....establish working partnerships. Show potential funders how you can make their dollars stretch and support more than one classroom, more than one school. Show them you have learned to cooperate and to share.
  • Do find partners in cyberspace. Check out Classroom 2.0, Teacher 2.0, and the many forums on LinkedIn to find like-minded colleagues and classrooms. Use the tools to build something meaningful together and demonstrate to potential funders that you are a mover and a shaker.
  • Read grant guidelines carefully. Pay attention to details such as deadlines, grant dollar ranges, and areas of interest. Keep calendars of deadlines and NEVER ask for money for equipment if they state in their written material they do not fund equipment. Remember the adage: "What part of 'no' don't you understand?" (My 7th grade English teacher taught us about 'File 13,' where papers go when someone hasn't followed directions.)
  • Before you start fundraising, be sure your program has measurable goals, objectives, and outcomes. Demonstrate that you have a business sense. What will be the return on their investment? How is it measured? How will you collect the data?  Express your goal, and also WHY this goal is critical.
  • If your project is funded once, how will the program fly on its own down the road? After all, you wouldn't ask someone to throw money into a blackhole would you? Or would you?
  • Know your audience. Who will be reading your materials and making decisions? Get inside their heads if you can. Peruse their websites and understand their mission. Don't invite the president of a company to your science fair on the day of their company's annual marathon.
  • Keep your funders and your community informed about your programs and your progress. Promote, promote, promote. Share the good news, share the struggles, engage the community. Make them want you and your project to succeed. Use social media, and use it wisely. Model cyber citizenship for your students. Get students to help.
  • Don't be afraid to make a call to local industry presidents, board members, and other decision-makers to solicit their help. Listen to public radio make their bids for membership donations and from them, get tips on sales strategies. In their relentless bids for community support they focus on the benefits of public radio. What are the benefits of well-educated kids who are prepared to participate in the world ahead, prepared and inspired to attend college, to innovate and invent?
  • If you believe, potential funders and potential partners will believe.
  • By the way, there are avenues of support other than money: time, materials, and even moral support will get you to your goal.
There are many grants databases for schools.  Once upon a time, the only place to find foundations was through the Foundation Center (which is still a great resource), but now there are a plethora of specialized references online.  One example of a site I like is Grant Wrangler, check it out, they feature grants and awards by grade level, subject area, and deadlines. Very cool.

In the book, Connecting Students to S.T.E.M. Careers, Social Networking Strategies, you'll find more of these resources in Chapter 6.

If you are seeking help with your funding strategies, contact me at Schoolhouse Communications.