Social Media MarketingThe US has an education problem, but is Big Tech really the...

The US has an education problem, but is Big Tech really the answer? – TechCrunch

It may have taken up congressional hearings, but America is beginning to wake up to the negative effects of ill-advised use of technology on our society – particularly our youth.

From the Facebook papers to Elizabeth Holmes’ ongoing experience, we’re faced with a clear reminder that in the tech industry, there is a widespread preference for slick marketing over real results. But why, when it comes to solving big problems, from healthcare to education, are we still willing to trust the big tech companies?

Having moved from corporate America to the tech industry to my current role of leading advocacy efforts to support racial justice in education, I’ve seen first-hand the harm in prioritizing flashy promises over real and measured impact and neglecting the engagement of existing experiences.

I also know very well that we need to reimagine our education system – particularly in STEM fields – to effectively prepare our next generation for the world they will inherit. But I don’t endorse the fact that the tech industry should be driving this effort. support it? Yes really.

With a seemingly increasing demand for individuals who can fill tech-skilled jobs, big tech companies have a natural agenda to build talent for increased tech education. This has led to high-profile efforts to teach coding and computer science to students from kindergarten through high school — from Tim Cook lobbying the White House to make coding compulsory for the curriculum to the early investors at Facebook and Dropbox who founded Code.org to get computer science into schools. the public. In the past 10 years, more than 100 million students around the world have participated in the Hour of Code and about 70% of parents now say it is important for their children to study computer science.

But we have to be careful not to treat a strong vision as an achievement in itself, like rewarding Elizabeth Holmes with big investment dollars for donning a Steve Jobs jacket and receiving accolades for promises that haven’t yet been kept.

Right now, we have some of the world’s smartest tech minds supporting “innovative” efforts to advance access to tech education. However, the populations that benefit most from the new pathways of opportunity are still left far behind. Since 2009, the percentage of female undergraduates in computer science (CS) in the United States has decreased from 20.7% to 18.7% and the percentage of African American male undergraduates in computer science has decreased by 3%.

Short-term educational interventions—organizations that create free online coding modules, how-to event series or global hackathons—have successfully garnered private sector interest and donor investment for an eye-catching brand.

But as a young STEM student, while I’m sure I would have enjoyed these engagements immensely, the momentary resources did not sustain my journey from initial interest to a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at one of the best institutions in the country.

To accomplish this feat, I needed teachers and professionals who were accessible and easy to communicate with, and they radiated faith in my potential. It has been a community of peers who can comfort me through difficult times and check my frustrations on constantly confronting others in predominantly white spaces. And then, at the very least, I needed access to continuous, rigorous STEM education and technical resources to complete the assignments.

For communities of color, breaks in the technology pipeline are not limited to access to laptops or the availability of AP’s computer science courses. With gaps emerging from high school education to college admissions to hiring practices at top tech companies, unconnected interventions are merely band-aid tools, even when applied at scale.

If the current scrutiny facing the social media giants tells us anything, it is that technology does not erase cultural differences or societal problems: it amplifies them. For the technology industry to make a meaningful investment in improving our education system, it needs to heed this lesson and strive to understand not only what is missing, but also how to meaningfully support the current work in progress.

At SMASH, the STEM education nonprofit organization founded in Auckland to bridge the opportunity gap in technology, 79% of our students graduate from the program to complete a Bachelor’s degree in STEM. Our national average for the same demographic is 39%.

Scholars begin with SMASH Academy when they begin their academic career in high school. This is our flagship program that provides multi-year, immersive, and culturally appropriate STEM education throughout the year and hires predominantly color instructors who are trained to provide technical and professional guidance – with an emphasis on the student’s voice and choice. These scientists move in groups through the software pipeline. High school seniors are paired with a college admissions coach and attend essay and financial aid workshops. Once their college admissions close, students are placed on paid internships and begin to build workplace experience with company partners like Raytheon.

Long-term educational interventions like these are more expensive, time-consuming, complex to implement and, ultimately, more effective in actually changing student outcomes.

The good news is that countless community-based organizations across the country have already laid the foundation for complementing our organization’s long-term investment and holistic approach.

With longstanding racial, social, and economic divisions widening in STEM education, donors now have a critical role to play. The knowledge and talents needed are there to make the change on which we all know our nation’s future depends, but we need to redirect the resources available to ensure they can deliver the full weight of the results they can achieve. When identifying investments, identify and stress-test measures of impact for potential recipients.

What does success look like? How will the benefits of this program fit in the next six months versus the next four years? Does this initiative substantially address the obstacles facing students of color?

Tim Cooks and Mark Zuckerbergs play a role in all of this – but their biggest influence may actually happen outside of a high school computer lab. If these companies are serious about closing achievement gaps in public education, we need to prioritize equity technology policies and educational programs that deliver tangible results and do more than just create a good narrative.

This means not only advocating at the sector level but funding education policies and partnering with existing community interventions that ensure that more than 20 million black and Latino students in K-12 public schools receive a culturally relevant computerized education and are prepared to contribute materially to a strengthening, workforce Diverse and socially conscious technology.

The future of STEM education will not be made more equitable by putting the latest technology in the hands of every student or creating a free coding course but by seeing the solutions already before us and acting accordingly. Tech companies paying to help with education shouldn’t fall back on bad habits in Silicon Valley.

For our young people, we can’t spend time on solutions that look good on paper but don’t really make a difference. Leaders of major tech companies, this is not an invitation, but an invitation. Let’s talk.

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