The Challenge We Face

Teaching students to be the creators, not just consumers, of technology.

GUEST COLUMN | by Paula Golden

CREDIT Computer History MuseumPreparing young people for the 21st century workplace may be the greatest challenge facing communities throughout the United States. Whether students aim for college or the trades, whether they aspire to be engineers, educators, medical technicians or journeymen service providers, technological literacy will be at the heart of their success in life.

Studies confirm that students are more motivated, sustain focus longer and engage deeply when they have access to computers, the Internet, and other technological resources. In addition to bringing Wi-Fi, tablets and learning apps into the classroom, students need user-friendly, hands-on immersion with technology, no matter what their interests and aptitudes.

Just as the school of 10 years ago looked very different than the school of today, the workplace these middle schoolers will be entering many years from now will be different as well. 

Schools exist in a complex reality in which many do not have sufficient access to the latest tools and technology. Especially in underserved communities, opportunities for students to engage in hands-on exploration of applied science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the classroom – the fields expected to have the greatest job growth in coming decades – are limited.

On average, American students spend about 20 percent of their waking hours in the classroom, thus applying effective technology solutions as part of our overall education infrastructure takes many forms. Bringing project-based learning and hands-on experiences to middle school students is at the heart of the Broadcom Foundation’s signature STEM education initiatives, Broadcom MASTERS®, and Broadcom Presents Design_CODE_Build. The premise of these programs is that many students either turn toward or away from STEM courses in middle school, and capturing the imagination and sparking the interest of 12 to 14 year olds does not necessarily need to take place in classroom, if the tools and inspiration are deliberately presented in the out-of-school environments such as home, after school programs or informal learning environments such as libraries and museums.

Broadcom Presents Design_Code_Build, a partnership between the Broadcom Foundation and the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., provides middle school students with the opportunity to engage in fun, hands-on applied mathematics and coding challenges that require teamwork, problem solving and critical thinking – with a special emphasis on young women and students from societal groups who are the untapped talent in technology professions today. Students of all economic backgrounds are already well familiar with consumer technology; they text, play video games and download social apps to smartphones at every strata of society – one might even call the smartphone the common denominator between cultural and economic differences. The challenge we face is to teach kids that they can be creators of technology, not just consumers, which is why Broadcom Presents Design_CODE_Build is such a powerful platform for technology learning outside the classroom.

At the Broadcom Presents Design_CODE_Build events, students have the opportunity to learn computer programing on the Raspberry Pi, a remarkably inexpensive, credit card-sized computer that runs on a Broadcom chip and teaches “coding” in a fun, interactive way. At only $25, the Raspberry Pi is a uniquely scalable teaching tool that the students can play with in the classroom, library, in an after school program, or at home. In addition to coding skills, the program gives young people exposure to critical 21st century skills of critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity through trial and error. Without realizing, they are actually learning to apply mathematics to exciting team-based activities that require problem solving, attention to detail, logic and discipline.

In the Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering Rising Stars), a program of Society for Science & the Public, sixth, seventh and eighth grade students take part in a national science and engineering fair competition sponsored by Broadcom Foundation. It is designed to inspire middle school students to continue their studies in STEM throughout high school by igniting a personal passion for science, technology, engineering, math and innovation through their personal science fair project.

The overarching goal of these programs is to encourage students to develop their skills in collaboration, organization, planning, measuring, observing, analytical thinking, and communications – skills that will benefit them in any career they ultimately pursue.

In both experiences, kids dive into a project that builds upon traditional math and science skills through the application of technology – in the case of Broadcom MASTERS, to do research, engage in measurements or to develop a prototype, and in the case of Broadcom Presents Design_CODE_Build, to master basic coding in order to run a simple computer game or engage in robotics.

In addition to students developing important skills, these programs also allow teachers and program administrators to draw upon community support, such as professional mentors who volunteer from companies like Broadcom or retired professionals who act as docents at the local science center like the Computer History Museum.

Just as the school of 10 years ago looked very different than the school of today, the workplace these middle schoolers will be entering many years from now will be different as well. The emerging Internet of Things, for example, is projected to comprise tens of billions of “smart” connected devices and create infinite new business opportunities, touching virtually every industry, every organization, and every job, including education. We need to use every avenue, in and outside the classroom to give kids the know-how and confidence they need for these technology careers.

By thinking outside the box and outside the classroom, programs such as Broadcom MASTERS and Broadcom Presents Design_CODE_Build give students the kinds of technological literacy they will need to thrive now and in the future, while providing educators with new, scalable tools and ideas for integrating technology into and outside their lesson plans.

Paula Golden is the President and Executive Director of Broadcom Foundation and Director, Community Affairs of Broadcom Corporation. She is responsible for managing all aspects of the Broadcom Foundation and ensuring that the mission and goals of the Foundation are achieved through strategic philanthropy that promotes innovation in STEM education, creates opportunities for the untapped talent in our society and fosters volunteerism by Broadcom Corporation employees around the world.


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