Top universities will help train STEM teachers

A group of Tier 1 research universities — the Stanfords, Harvards and MITs of the world – will join the White House-led effort to train 100,000 new math and science teachers by the year 2022, Scientific American reports. A $22.5 million gift from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), announced by the White House Monday morning, will make it possible to expand a successful teacher-training program called UTeach to 10 top research schools over the next five years. “Historically, Tier 1 universities have not been focused on turning out teachers through their science and math departments,” said Tom Luce, the founding CEO and chairman of the National Math and Science Initiative, the group that is leading the expansion effort, in an interview following Monday morning’s announcement. They are focused on turning out PhD students, and they will continue to do so, he said, but the gift will help emphasize that educating new teachers is a mission that all universities “need to embrace if we’re going to reach our goal.”

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From STEM to STEAM: Science and art go hand-in-hand

In the wake of the recent recession, we have been consistently apprised of the pressing need to revitalize funding and education in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and math, Scientific American reports. Doing this, we are told, will spur innovation and put our country back on the road to prosperity. Renewing our focus on STEM is an unobjectionably worthwhile endeavor. Science and technology are the primary drivers of our world economy, and the United States is in the lead. But there is a growing group of advocates who believe that STEM is missing a key component one that is equally deserved of renewed attention, enthusiasm and funding. That component is the Arts. If these advocates have their way, STEM would become STEAM. Their proposition actually makes a lot of sense, and not just because the new acronym is easy on the ears. Though many see art and science as somewhat at odds, the fact is that they have long existed and developed collaboratively. This synergy was embodied in great thinkers like the legendary Leonardo Da Vinci and the renowned Chinese polymath Su Song. One of Carl Jung’s mythological archetypes was the artist-scientist, which represents builders, inventors, and dreamers…

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Could this be a way to speed up learning?

One of the most difficult tasks to teach Air Force pilots who guide unmanned attack drones is how to pick out targets in complex radar images. Pilot training is currently one of the biggest bottlenecks in deploying these new, deadly weapons. So Air Force researchers were delighted recently to learn that they could cut training time in half by delivering a mild electrical current (two milliamperes of direct current for 30 minutes) to pilot’s brains during training sessions on video simulators, Scientific American reports. The current is delivered through EEG (electroencephalographic) electrodes placed on the scalp. Biomedical engineer Andy McKinley and colleagues at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, reported their finding on this so-called transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) here at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting on November 13…

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