School of Education earns $7.7 million grant to foster STEM teacher recruiting and training

Posted on Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 by Michael Tarrant under Updates. Tags: , , , , , ,

This story was originally posted on UNCGNOW.

Credit: UNCG School of Education

Credit: UNCG School of Education

UNCG’s School of Education has been awarded a five-year, $7.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant will further UNCG’s efforts to emphasize technology integration across all teaching fields as well as recruit, train and support more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) teachers.

The grant was one of just 24 Teacher Quality Partnership grants awarded by the Department of Education. UNCG will receive approximately $1.6 million per year over the next five years. Including that first $1.6 million allotment, the School has received just under $2.7 million from a variety of external sponsors since July 1, 2014.

“The project is about leveraging emerging technology to enhance teaching and learning,” says Dr. Christina O’Connor, who will direct the project for UNCG. “It’s not all about specific cutting-edge technology because that changes. It’s about how we can use technology to better prepare teachers so that students become more creative and more innovative, and learn by doing.”

That innovation might include anything from educational gaming to use of 3D printers, O’Connor says. Or even loading sewing machines with conductive thread.

UNCG will team up with seven public schools in Guilford and Forsyth counties to launch the project,Transforming Teaching Through Technology, in Fall 2014. This fall, UNCG will select four elementary schools in the Guilford County system and two middle schools and a high school in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth system as partners. In Fall 2015, UNCG students will be placed in the partner schools.

Partner schools will see several benefits from the collaboration with UNCG:

UNCG will install a tailor-made Makerspace — a technology workshop based on the theory that we learn by making — at each school. Makerspaces include high-tech equipment for hands-on learning.

UNCG students, including graduate students from the UNCG-NC A&T Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, will serve as content experts for classroom teachers to further learning through technology.

UNCG will host a summer Maker Camp for kids in 2015, utilizing the new Makerspace on the third floor of the School of Education. High school students will be recruited as camp counselors, and teachers will take part as a way to learn how to better integrate technology into their classrooms.

What does UNCG gain from the partnerships? A hands-on training ground for its teacher candidates, says O’Connor. And a tool to recruit future STEM teachers.

Recruiting and training teachers in STEM fields is a major focus for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. According to a recent DPI report, almost all of the 30 occupations expected to grow the fastest in the next decade will require at least some background in STEM fields.

In North Carolina there are approximately 400,000 STEM-related jobs, and more than 70,000 net new STEM-related jobs are projected to be be created by 2020, according to DPI. This reflects a growth rate greater than for all other jobs in North Carolina. STEM-related jobs in North Carolina pay 64 percent more than the average job, yet employers still face difficulties recruiting qualified workers.

Summing up the issue, O’Connor quotes a viral video by teacher Karl Fisch: “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

For more information, contact Christina O’Connor, at 336.256.1082 or ckoconno@uncg.edu.

Story by Michelle Hines, University Relations