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Telepresence Key to Boosting the Nation’s Science and Math IQ

January 11, 2012
at 7:46 am PST

Though it’s wonderful to read about recent positive trends, there’s no question that the jobless rate has caused concern for some time now. Did you know, however, that in some sectors there are consistently more job openings than there are qualified candidates?

According to a U.S. News blog post by Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, a New Jersey-based charter school founder, fields including computer science, environmental science, medicine, and engineering all need trained professionals. The problem, Bonilla-Santiago says, is that America’s schools don’t provide adequate training in the STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—so there aren’t enough prepared people for the available jobs.

Part of the issue, Bonilla-Santiago suggests, is that teachers do not have adequate training in the sciences to effectively teach these subjects. Congress considered solutions that would bring more qualified instructors into the classroom, including encouraging STEM professionals to transition from their industry jobs to teaching positions. But wouldn’t this shift just exacerbate the current vacancy rates in the STEM fields?

Bonilla-Santiago offers a more feasible solution when she argues that partnerships with universities and professional institutions can help bolster STEM education by connecting teachers to professional mentors and linking students to job pipelines. The professionals stay in their jobs, but they share their knowledge with the teachers and younger generations.

Telepresence offers a great medium for forging these professional-teacher-student connections. We’ve already seen how telepresence enables students to explore scientific phenomena they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see because of logistical, funding, or other access constraints. Telepresence could bring STEM professionals from all over the world to schools all over the country, opening new worlds to the students and creating continuing education opportunities for the teachers. The scientists and mathematicians needn’t leave work—they simply need telepresence connections and with the touch of a button they can appear live, crystal clear, and ready to engage with rooms of eager learners.

Do you know a teacher or student who could benefit from a telepresence link to a real doctor or engineer? Are you a professional who would like to share your expertise without changing your day job? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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