Academic journal article Technology and Engineering Teacher

Using Role Models to Increase Diversity in STEM: The American Workforce Needs Every Capable STEM Worker to Keep America in a Global Leadership Position

Academic journal article Technology and Engineering Teacher

Using Role Models to Increase Diversity in STEM: The American Workforce Needs Every Capable STEM Worker to Keep America in a Global Leadership Position

Article excerpt

It is no secret that particular populations of Americans, specifically minorities, women, and students from high-poverty schools and districts, are underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) jobs (Presidents' Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2010). In the 21st century, technology drives innovation and invention, and STEM is critical for American economic competitiveness, national security, and quality of life for all citizens (Dasgupta & Stout, 2014). The American workforce needs every capable STEM worker to keep America in a global leadership position. Research indicates that the underrepresentation of particular demographic groups in STEM careers contributes to the shortage of STEM workforce candidates and limits the extent to which members of the underrepresented groups can participate in lucrative, fast-growing careers (Malcom-Piqueux & Malcom, 2013).

Even if students do not intend to pursue a STEM career, they still need to be STEM literate to participate in the 21st century economy and workforce. American jobs require multidisciplinary problem-solving approaches that include technology in industries such as manufacturing, defense, health care, finance, government, weather forecasting, and even digital arts and music (Machi, 2009; Baron, 2015). Technology is evolving faster than ever before. To that end, technology standards have been , developed by teachers and experts, under the direction of ITEEA, to define what every student in Grades K-12 should know in order to be considered technologically literate for the 21st century (ITEA/ ITEEA, 2007).

ITEEA has been a strong advocate for the promotion of technological literacy for all students by supporting national technology standards in American classrooms. Teachers who use the standards for technological literacy spend less time on specific details and more time on concepts and principles, with the goal of producing students with a conceptual understanding they can use for years to come as technology evolves (ITEA/ITEEA, 2007). Students must be aware that technology is shaping the global society in ways that cannot yet be imagined. Technology solves problems, but it also creates new problems and challenges that must be addressed. Technology is taught independently in classrooms but is also used to teach other core subjects. The technology education standards are most evident in integrated, project-based STEM classrooms.

Students need role models to show them how to use technology to learn, how to use technology to meet a need, and how to use technology responsibly. Students need to be educated on the legal ramifications and liabilities of what they do online. They also need to be aware of the finality of posting information on social media sites and the internet at large. Technology is a significant part of everyday life and, like many other socially acceptable behaviors, students must have individuals who teach and model desired behaviors. All students use technology and deserve an education that includes training for safe and responsible usage. All students deserve an opportunity to participate in the 21st century workforce, which requires the integrated use of technology to solve complex problems.

Deliberately increasing diversity in the STEM workforce is a matter of equity and social justice. It is also imperative for meeting current and future workforce demands for STEM talent (Dorie, Jones, Pollock, & Cardella, 2014). Diverse groups of STEM professionals often find more creative solutions to problems than homogenous groups because of their different approaches to problem solving and unique experiences, both academic and personal (Knight, Mappen, & Knight, 2011). One way to ameliorate both the STEM workforce shortage and demographic underrepresentation problem is to better prepare all students to pursue postsecondary STEM education that leads to a STEM career. Frequent interaction with role models for at-risk students is a key component of K-12 STEM preparation. …

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