Did You Know?

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Did you know that Google's Computer Science for High School (CS4HS) program is sponsoring workshops at more than 60 locations this summer? CS4HS brin gs computer science professional development and computational thinking workshops to middle and high school educators through three-day workshops, and gives them the tools and networking opportunities to succeed both inside and beyond the classroom. Google provides the funding for CS4HS (about $15-20K) to universities and the universities (often in conjunction with local Google employees) develop the curriculum.

One CS4HS workshop at Rowan University taught teachers how to use programmable LEGO robots. Gwen Herman, a seventh-grade math teacher from Gloucester City High School, said she was looking for ways to make math more exciting for her students. "Now I can incorporate math and science and get the children interested in programming and engineering," said Herman. "I'm going to start an after-school club. Kids love to play with Legos and they don't even realize that they're learning."

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Did you catch the piece on Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in this week's New Yorker? Many of you probably are familiar with her TED talk or her recent commencement speech to Barnard graduates, in which she implores women to "lean in," "sit at the table," and "don't leave before you leave." As one of the few women in C-level positions at tech companies, Sandberg's encouragement to women to maximize their participation in the workforce is powerful medicine. Yet it doesn't come without its critics, some of whom say Sandberg is overlooking the role of institutionalized bias in women's advancement.  We appreciate that Sandberg doesn't deny the existence of obstacles in the climb to leadership; she's simply encouraging women to make the most of their passions and ambitions. "Of course there will be barriers to your success" she says, "but make those barriers be external, not internal."

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Did you know that the percentage of women seeking venture capital for their startups grew to 20% last year, up rom 12.6%? According to the Center for Venture Research, the percent of these women who received funding also is up — from 9.5% to 13%. Dave McClure, founder of the venture fund 500 Startups, estimates that 25% of his portfolio companies have women founders and believes that for some markets, women have a better understanding of the product and the buyer. 

Julia Hu's story is a great example of this: as an MIT MBA drop-out she founded Lark, a silent alarm clock that wakes its wearers using a sleep sensor and without disturbing their partners. She "cited research explaining that women are more sensitive to high-pitch frequency noises and cannot fall asleep after hearing them," but says "male financiers didn't get it—until they ran the idea by their wives." 

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Did you see the Wall Street Journal story this week on the emergence of "perks" at tech startups? In a trend that closely echoes the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, many startups are implementing attractive benefits and unique work environments in hopes that these will help them compete for and retain top talent. "Working at Airbnb 'is like a really fun school where you get paid,' says Joe Gebbia, the 29-year-old co-founder of the company, whose offices have a two-story indoor tree house and a section of a retired Pan Am plane. 'Or maybe it's more like camp.'"

What do you think? Do you offer some unique perks at your company, or have you considered it? Wha t kinds of perks do you think might appeal uniformly to men and women recruits?

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Did you know that a new report from the National Research Council offers a "roadmap" for effective K-12 STEM Education? In the report, "Successful K-12 STEM Education," the National Research Council looked at existing research and results at STEM-focused schools and education practices, and identifies the characteristics and practices of highly successful K-12 programs and schools. The report offers two sets of recommendations: those for schools and districts, and those for policymakers. Some excerpts:

  • Consider the adoption of STEM-focused schools. The report identifies three models for such schools: selective STEM Schools for academically talented students, who need to apply for admission; inclusive STEM high schools, often referred to as "magnet schools;" and schools and programs with STEM-focused career and technical education.
  • Ensure that their STEM curricula are focused on the most important topics in each discipline, are rigorous, and are articulated as a sequence of topics and performances
  • Elevate science to the same level of importance as reading and mathematics.
  • Develop effective systems of assessment that are aligned with the next generation of science standards and that emphasize science practices rather than mere factual recall.
  • Invest in a coherent, focused, and sustained set of support for STEM teachers.

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Did you know that a recent study of doctors in ICU environments finds that having a physician "co-pilot" can reduce the patient mortality rate by 50 percent?  Researchers at Northwestern University discovered these positive results by sending doctors on ICU rounds with both a checklist of issues and a resident physician to prompt attention to the checklist (the checklist alone did not result in lowered death rates.) "Attending physicians are good at thinking about big picture issues like respiratory failure or whatever diagnosis brought a patient to the intensive care unit,” says Curtis Weiss, fellow in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Northwestern University. “But some important details are overlooked because it’s impossible for one person to remember and deal with all those details.”

Do you think an analogous approach might work when encouraging organizations to implement strategic changes in their universities or companies? What if NCWIT explicitly suggested both "checklists" and "co-pilots" to those working on changing their environments?

Did You Know? is a brief round-up of information and news that crossed NCWIT's radar this week that we think might be of interest to you. Practices or content of the news presented are not vetted or endorsed by NCWIT.