A constant theme we are seeing across our country is focused on resourcing.  How to get more of them and what to do with the resources we have.  In tight economic times the pressure to have “answers” is heightened and let’s face it we live in tight economic times.

Evolving, Yet Expanding Needs

K-12 education is not immune to this trend.  We are seeing a real drain in our schools where the need for resources is particularly acute as is the pressure to deploy these limited resources in the most effective ways possible. Longer school days.  New books. Computerize everything!  Bring back all those wonderful enrichment programs.  Scrap the existing enrichment programs and create even better ones!  All valid ideas and only the tip of the iceberg.

The Realities of Budgets

On the other side of the coin we are all dealing with “the coin.”  Literally how are we going to pay for all this?  We need cash resources to drive other resources.  Education budgets across the board are tight.  STEM education (our focus) is not immune.  To highlight that point take a look at the below, which is pulled directly from NASA:

Page 2 – http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/622632main_FY13_NASA_Budget_Education.pdf

Do you notice a trend?  Do you really think years 2014+ are going to hold firm?  And this is from NASA – the same agency that literally put man on the moon!  Yikes.

The upside is that President Obama has repeatedly expressed an earnest interest in STEM education.  Having the President weigh in is meaningful.

The Department of Education is requesting greater funding as well…

The Department of Education is requesting $69.8 billion in discretionary funding for Fiscal Year 2013, an increase of $1.7 billion, or 2.5 percent, from 2012.

The Official Blog for the Department of Education

Perhaps Congress will see to it that such increases happen, but again, resourcing is a real concern here and this is an election year….

So Where Does That Leave STEM?

The truth is we need to go further.  And we need to do it together.  We need to dig deeper.  Some of that digging will come from our teachers.  Some of that digging will come from school districts.  States will have to do their part.  So will parents.  And yes… so will students. Going even further, private enterprise will have to help.

Resources Being Re-Resourced

While the challenges are certainly real, if we are going to overcome them another area we are going to have to look at is the idea of being able to “get more from less.”

STEM education will have to adhere to core STEM ideas in order to thrive.  That means STEM education will also have to utilize the same principles in practice that we advocate in classroom education.  Using science and math to determine the best ways to teach science and math.

We will have to continually be analyzing how we are utilizing our resources.  Not only do we need to analyze how we utilize resources, but we’ll also need to analyze how we analyze!  Are we even measuring the correct attributes?  Is the “end game” actually where we currently think it is?  Should our focus on outcomes be directed at entering college or do we need to go further out in a person’s life to correctly measure our performance and if so, where exactly is the perfect place to measure against?  Do we need to measure values against not only individuals but also to factor in those around them in order to get a better read?

In tough times such as the ones we are living in, these are the questions that we start to ask because we have a renewed appreciation for scarcity.  So asking questions is a great start.

Solutions In Challenging Budgets

The pool for solutions is only as shallow as our collective imaginations and our willingness to continue to explore.  So much of our spirit is derived from continually pushing these boundaries, so in this regard we are well positioned to see some very positive change enter the education system of the coming decades (much as the prior decades have really advanced the outcomes for students) but we have to dig deep.

We also have to all be willing to accept some of the burden.  Federal, State, District, Community, Schools, Teachers, Parents and Students.

We will also have to look to take advantage of efficiencies that have been developed outside of traditional education circles and see how we can implement these solutions in our own educational efforts.  And this is of course where the conversation really starts to heat up.

The Silver Lining

Yes, there are real challenges.  In particular at the basic level resourcing is an issue.  But the good news is that as Americans we know how to dig deep.  We know how to innovate and we know how to sacrifice in times of need.  We also know how to use these challenging periods to look inwards and to innovate. To use our challenges to motivate and inspire us.

In addition we happen to be living in a boom time for technology.  Technology has really impacted and motivated the lives of everyone over the past 20 years.  The way we consume has been unalterably changed in ways that only a few decades ago seemed likely purely the work of fiction.  Technology has changed the way we all consume media. It has changed the way we structure our everyday lives.  And yes, it is very much poised to play a big role in how we learn.

And for our part here at Why Science, where we provide blended STEM learning solutions with an emphasis on technology, we are acutely focused technology driven education innovation. Toward that end we have been hard at work with Poly & Mer, crafting a solution to help engage and enliven our students with regard to STEM learning.  And the great news is that in addition to our efforts there are also a number of other companies driving hard to help find solutions and to help add more value to how students learn STEM.  And it is not limited to just STEM.  There are many companies hard at work, focused on providing amazing educational outcomes.

Many companies trying to craft many solutions for many different outcomes.  That is after all one of the great attributes of our country and while on some levels these companies are all competing, on other levels WE are all winning!

Budgeting for Solutions

While it is easy to say “dig deeper” and “do more with less” we’d be remiss if we also did not mention that budgets need to be reflective of not only the needs of right now, but budgets also need to be carefully building in a process that allows schools to modernize, teachers to recharge and for students to have access to the tools of today AND tomorrow.  Budgeting for solutions does of course take a leap of faith – faith that the students we are educating today will be able to come back into the system at a later time and introduce positive change in ways that we cannot even fathom today.  Investing in today, budgeting for all time.

 

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