Promoting Science and Technology

I participate in the LinkedIn community, and I was intrigued this morning to find a question posted by Bill Gates (yes Microsoft Bill)!

“How can we do more to encourage young people to pursue careers in science and technology?”

It is a question that is near and dear to me, and something that I’m quite passionate about. I found my answer flying off my fingers onto my computer keyboard.
Alas, when I went to post my answer, I found it was well over twice as long as the allowed responses; Aarrgghh!
So, here are my thoughts about how can we do more to encourage young people to pursue careers in science and technology…
To foster interest and excitement for science and technology there are many things that many different groups must do; there is no one silver bullet solution to such a simple question that is exceedingly complex to answer and effectively address.
Much time could, and should, be spent on this topic. However, here are a few thoughts off the top of my head…
What schools can do:
· Provide curriculum that truly engages children, from day one of kindergarten in all grades up through secondary school and then college, in learning and actively participating in science and technology activities.
Too many schools now use outdated, often largely erroneous, curriculum that is dry, boring to kids, and does not address all types of learners. There are three basic types of learners:
1) Visual learners; those who learn by seeing. This is the only type of learner that most curriculum addresses.
2) Audio learners; those who learn by hearing and listening. The trend for teachers to JUST tell children to read books must stop. Teachers must also clearly verbalize and provide explanations, and effectively provide effective discussions with students.
3) Kinesthetic (hands-on) learners; those who learn by actually DOING. Students must be given projects and activities to actively engage their minds. Good Montessori style schools (yes, many of them do go through to the 12th grade) provide great examples of this.
· Provide teachers with ongoing training for science and technology.
Science and technology quickly changes. Most teachers do not get continuing education of any kind, let alone for science and technology. How can we expect children to be excited about science and technology if their teachers cannot teach them about the latest developments and the potential for improvements?
· Provide more programs, throughout K-12, that allow students to create and demonstrate science and technology ideas and inventions.
Make these types of activities just as important as the sports teams (yes, I’m optimistic). Hold competitions. Provide recognition (in school newspapers, with ribbons, certificates, gift certificates, at the local museums and science centers, etc.) to motivate students. Promote and publicize their accomplishments. When kids know that they will be recognized for their work, and when they see other kids have been recognized, they are more motivated to also participate in such activities. When they participate, they get engaged, interested, and then develop a love of learning.
· Pair up kids who are strong in science and technology with kids who need help; peer mentors. Have the pairs do projects together.
· I could go on with more ideas for many, many more pages…
What parents can do:
· TALK with their kids about things science and technology topics. Point out while watching TV programs and news reports how the science and technology being reported impacts their lives.
· Get subscriptions to Scientific American, Science Digest, one of the many computer and technology magazines, and sit down with your kids and read the issues with them, ask them questions about the articles, and work with your kids to do the experiments described.
¬∑ Get copies of ‚Äú2600 The Hacker’s Quarterly‚Äù and other so-called hacking magazines, and look at the information WITH your kids. Point out the activities within the articles that they should not be doing, and explain why.
· Take your kids to museums and science centers instead of dropping them off at the mall to go to a mindless movie. Participate WITH your kids at the museums and science centers in the many hands on activities that are typically there.
· If your school does not hold a science or technology fair, have a fair of your own at your home for your kids and their friends.
· I could go on with ideas for hundreds of more pages…
What Microsoft can do:
· Fund continuing education efforts within schools for teachers. Most schools do not have the budgets to give their teachers the ongoing education they need. Most teachers, with their very low salaries, cannot afford to pay for ongoing education.
· Sponsor science and technology challenges for students in K-12. Get them involved! Give them a challenge and then recognize their efforts for participating, and award those who have done amazing, creative and breakthrough work.
· Sponsor science and technology camps for kids in K-12. Don’t let their interest in science and technology lapse over the summer. Keep them engaged all year round.
· I watched the PBS series, “Buffett and Gates Go Back to School;” do something similar for elementary and secondary schools. Bill, encourage your fellow entrepreneurs to do the same. You and (most of) your successful friends are great role models for our children; tell them why they should be excited about science and technology. They will listen to you.
· Produce a high-quality show, addressing all three types of learners, about science and technology for kids. Provide challenges, contests and spotlight kids who have done outstanding things with science and technology.
· I could go on with ideas for many more pages…
What businesses and science and technology professionals can do:
· Be mentors to teachers. Give them the ongoing training and education they need. Keep them up to date on what is going on with science and technology developments.
· Be mentors to children. Offer your time to help children get involved and excited in science and technology projects.
For example, I’m hoping to get 10 – 19 year-olds interested in information security and privacy by having them write articles within my quarterly subscription security and privacy awareness communication ( Reading about their viewpoints and experiences with various security and privacy issues has been very enlightening to not only the kids, but also to their parents, the professionals who subscribe to the quarterly communication, and to me! I hope to plant seeds of interest within my youth writers so then they can spread their enthusiasm with their friends.
· We need to start teaching children about security and privacy from the first day they start using computers or going to school all the way through graduation. Both my sons (now ages 8 and 10) started using computers when they were 2 years old. They started using the Internet around 3 years ago. I have told them often, and still do, about security and privacy issues related to using computers and using the Internet. They question suspicious activities they notice online. They talk to me often about computers, security and privacy. Through my ever-present communications they have established some good internal antennas to set off alarms for what may be scams, inappropriate activities, and so on. All parents should do this. If parents don’t have this knowledge, enlist the help of someone in your area who can; find a professional willing to be a mentor as mentioned earlier.
· And yes, I could go on for several more pages…
There are, of course, other entities, such as government, that can do many things as well.
We must instill an appreciation of science and technology within children from a very young age, and on an ongoing basis through to their adulthood.
We must demonstrate to children from a very early age why they must always consider the information security and privacy issues involved with science and technology throughout all phases of science and technology lifecycles, instead of viewing security and privacy as add-ons to address after a product or process has been created. They must know that security and privacy must be built in and not an afterthought.
Just imagine what great business leaders they will become when they are adults if, by their very nature learned from a young age, they question how good security is and how privacy is being preserved instead of viewing them as add-ons or as “necessary evils.”
Just imagine having business leaders who adequately fund security and privacy instead of resisting every little penny that goes to those efforts.
I believe if we can do this, our future business leaders will, as a result, have many fewer security incidents and privacy breaches than we have now, and as a result their businesses will be even more successful.

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