Sunday, September 30, 2007

Make the Text Relevant to the Learner

I am appalled by the state of literacy in today's children. As a child, I loved books—but that was before MTV, ten-second sound bites, and video games. BOOKS were my entertainment as a child...they were my companions. I am reading the Pennsylvania Literacy Framework for a class this semester and it states that we, as educators, must tap into prior knowledge and make the text relevant to the learner's experience. This sounds like common sense, but many times this is not done.

Even though, I loved to read, I remember, as a middle-school student, being 'forced' to read Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. For the life of me, I could not understand why I had to read this book of poetry. It did not make sense to me—they were just words written by a dead man. The teacher failed to make it relevant to a 20th-century inner-city child. Every time the teacher bought the book out for lessons, my mind shut down and the barriers went up. In fact, every time I heard his name in my adult life, I felt an inward shudder.

Years later, as I was watching the amazing documentary New York by Ken Burns, I learned about Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and his life in a burgeoning city, I finally saw the relevance of the poetry of Walt Whitman. It took a filmmaker to make the words of Walt Whitman make sense. Many times when I see a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge, these words come to mine from Crossing the Brooklyn Ferry:

Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt;

Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd;

Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d;

Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood, yet was hurried;

Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships, and the thick-stem’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

I finally get it. Ken Burns, you are a great teacher. :-)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Helping Teen Girls Tap a Future in Science and Technology

(ARA) - The growth of science and technology careers is that rarest of trends -- one we can see happening even as we live through it. By all accounts, demand for professionals with science, math, engineering and technology skills will continue to grow across a broad spectrum of industries.

Young women studying math, technology and science in high school and college have more opportunity than ever before to enter these high-pay, high-profile professions. Educators are fielding an array of initiatives to entice more high school girls towards math and science studies.

"There were few to no women in my classes through college and even high school," says Charna Parkey, who works as a digital signal processing engineer for Locus Location Systems in Melbourne, Fla. Parkey graduated from DeVry University in Orlando with degrees in computer and electronic engineering. "It definitely impacted my learning experience, as well as the preparation for working with men in the field. Sometimes it was tough just proving to newcomers that women are equals" in math, science and business, she adds.

While women account for nearly half the total work force in the United States, they hold less than a quarter of all the science jobs, according to the National Science Foundation. And while women continue to make about 70 cents for every dollar earned by their male colleagues with the same amount of education, the pay discrepancy shrinks or vanishes for women who study more math in college, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Continued stereotypes and the lack of female role models probably contribute to the lower number of females studying math and science careers in college, according to a study by the American Association of University Women.

"Providing young women with information and inspiration about science, math, technology and business careers benefits everyone," says Steve Brown, President of DeVry's Orlando campus. "Women can take advantage of opportunities for high-paying, high-profile careers and employers will benefit from an expanded work force of qualified professionals."

DeVry has created a program, dubbed "HerWorld," to help high school girls learn more about career opportunities in business, technology and science. The half-day interactive, multimedia workshop uses a variety of innovative vehicles to deliver information, including staging versions of popular TV programs through which participants learn about career opportunities. Activities include:

* Career Cribs, which portray the professional environment for women in business and technology.

* HerWorld Live, which highlights careers in high demand today and those likely to be in demand in the future.

* Mission Innovation, which uses team-based activities to teach participants creative-thinking skills.

* "For Real" World, which examines the college gender shift, women's issues and women's role in the global knowledge economy.

* Smart Girls, an exploration of women's contributions to today's society through pop culture trivia.

DeVry has produced HerWorld workshops in communities across the country, including New York, NY; Orlando and Miami, Fla.; Washington, D.C.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Phoenix, Ariz.

"Our goal for each HerWorld workshop is to break down stereotypes of what careers are or are not appropriate for women, and inform young women of the opportunities available to them in science- and math-related fields," says Adele Lisko, director of community relations at DeVry's Kansas City campus.

And for at least one DeVry graduate, being a woman in a male-dominated field has advantages beyond salary. "I believe being a woman will give me an edge," Parkey says. "This is because the attention to detail and people skills when interviewing and working will help the dynamics of each situation. Though sometimes it makes things more difficult, there are positives such as being able to make a point without being expected to yell!"

Contact your local DeVry University to find out about upcoming HerWorld events in your area. Log on to to find a location near you.

Courtesy of ARAcontent