In August 2005 his Arapahoe High School in Colorado received funding for a proposal that was innovative, forward-looking, included a technology component, and not “education as usual.” The result took the education world by storm, and become a viral video on youtube. Later, others made “remixes” from his original work, until Sony BMG Entertainment asked permission to make the version below. This was shown in a meeting with 150 top BMG executives to illustrate the demand for change by consumers living in “exponential times”. I think the lessons still carry much deeper and wider than just to Sony BMG Entertainment — but man, they know how to spice up a video.
Posts Tagged ‘education’
MEET MR. EDUCATION, otherwise known as Steve Brugger. For the past 19 years, Steve has been providing IT Professional Training through his company, SQL*Soft.
Many technical professionals around the greater Puget Sound area have gotten their IT certifications through SQL*Soft. Steve’s company is one of the largest and longest-standing training providers in the Pacific Northwest.
During those 19 years, Steve has seen firsthand the positive impact of a highly-educated work force on the local economy. The brain gain and “brain growth” in the area has brought about the creation and migration of many technology companies. The result has been better quality jobs and opportunities, and an increasing bright economic future for the region.
It’s no wonder Steve is so passionate about education. He’s seen Seattle’s economic rise, and wants to make sure that those gains are not lost in the ensuing years. His passion, therefore, now has gone beyond just professional training. Steve also currently serves on the board for Explorations in Math, a non-profit organization dedicated in helping elementary students succeed in math.
“For years, our culture has been working to have high levels of reading literacy,” Steve says. “These efforts have resulted in a structure and some standard measurements for literacy. We really need something like that for math.” In other words, we as a society need the same will and resolve in making our population math proficient, that we had in making most everyone literate. Contrary to popular belief, math can be learned by all, just like reading and writing.
Although no formal study has identified the American “math culture” yet, media depictions have consistently portrayed persons interested in math and sciences as being antithesis to the modern “pop culture’s” ideal person – someone who is popular, physically attractive, and “kool”.
“Why is it that many avid NASCAR fans don’t know that the sport is all about physics and math?” Steve asks. “The efficiencies that are squeezed out of those cars in order to win races are pure math.” So, why is NASCAR cool, but not math?
Explorations in Math is trying to figure that out. First, a “Math Culture” that results in an appreciation for math and better math skills for all students needs to be identified and defined.
Then, there must be a concerted effort to replicate that culture on a national basis. The organization is in the midst of a two-year study on the matter.
In Steve’s opinion, if we (Americans) don’t change our general outlook on math and produce more young people with those skills, “we’ll eventually be done as an economic super power in the future.” (I also wrote about this in a previous blog, “Math Crisis in Washington State”).
Those are strong, but necessary words that need to be heard. Education is fundamental to economic and intellectual growth of a society.
I first got to know Steve when ARIS acquired SQL*Soft in 1996, a year before our IPO. Back then, he had hair down to his back, and was quite a rock climber.
As luck would have it, ARIS ended up acquiring another education company in the UK, Oxford Computing Group, a little later. Steve moved to Oxford to help integrate the new group, and had some fun mentally thumb wrestling with these passionate fellow educators. “That was one of the highlights of my ARIS experience,” he says fondly. When ARIS was later acquired by Ciber in 2000, Steve bought back SQL*Soft.
The blokes from Oxford enjoyed challenging Steve’s intellect as well, and when he was about to move back to Seattle, they gave him a punt pole (a 12-feet pole used to maneuver the punt boats on the River Thames around the Oxford colleges). They challenged him to figure out a way to take it back with him on the plane.
“I purposely left it there because I knew they were more interested in solving the problem than me,” he says. “I just let them do all the work.” Eventually, the pole arrived in Seattle via standard shipping at a high price. They couldn’t find a creative way either. In the end, it was the air freight company that had to calculate whether that 12 foot pole would fit through the cargo door in the plane and how much to charge the crazy people shipping it!
A charter school in New York city will open in 2009, promising to pay teachers $125,000 in annual salary, plus possible bonuses. No, it’s not a school for the outrageously wealthy families. In fact, the school will only use public money and charter school grants. So, what gives? The teachers will be asked to work longer days and throughout the year. They will also fill in on “other” traditionally non-teacher roles in school, such as attendance coordinators or discipline deans.
In the words of the school creator and first principal, Zeke M. Vanderhoek, “I would much rather put a phenomenal, great teacher in a field with 30 kids and nothing else than take the mediocre teacher and give them half the number of students and give them all the technology in the world.”
Now that’s thinking outside the box. Vanderhoek, a Yale graduate, put a budget together that allows for such high teachers’ salaries, meaning there will definitely be skimping elsewhere. I applaud such innovative thinking in trying to improve our education system. So, is it the teachers, or technologies and class sizes that most impact successful learning by students? I’m sure it’s a combination of all, but this “experiment” will give us a lot of answers to the correlation between teacher’s pay and effective teaching.
In the business world if people would ask me whether I’d start a company with talented people or all the technology in the world, the answer seems obvious. I would like both, but would definitely start with talented people.
At ZeroDash1, educational background in mathematics, statistics and/or economics are highly valued. As a web analytics company, the ability to analyze information and find patterns in human behavior is crucial. Most of the companies that drive the local economy are looking for the same type of a person.
Today, the state of washington public education system is failing in effectively teaching math and science. The unacceptable math WASL scores in our state is a harbinger of very difficult times ahead.
The local economy is becoming more and more powered by technology. Over time, this area will attract those with good educational backgrounds in mathematics and sciences. These people will have high earning power driving the cost of living up. At the same time, a statistically significant portion of the local children will be unable to fill these types of jobs as adults. Eventually, local children will grow up and only be able to work in the service sector for these more educated workers, or will have to move away from the area. The gap between the “have’s and the have not’s” in the Puget Sound area will become more pronounced, causing unfortunate social conflicts, including increased crime.
We need to change our attitude about math in schools. We worry about literacy rates, but not enough about our ability to teach math and sciences. It must start with parents. There is no such thing as a “math gene”. We all have the capacity to learn and enjoy math. Washington state public schools must fix its very poor math scores — otherwise, the repercussions to the society will be wide and deep. There are some grass root organizations devoted to improving the situation, one of which is “Exploration in Math”. There are others. Get involved.