Accelerate STEM Innovation with FREE Ed Tech Tools

jim brazell's picture

It is generally accepted that one can not design education today to prepare young people and adults for the future because we do not know what the future will be. Today, technology has zoomed past schools, industry, government, consumers and civil society. The modern world needs a new way, or more accurately, an old way of seeing technology. 

The question is not whether we can design for the future; rather, the question is: Can we update antiquated practice more closely aligned to what is emerging today in our own backyards?

Education is one of the key areas where technologies and even human systems outside of the educational domain are 20x to 100x ahead of public K-12 schools in many areas of learning and human performance. This surplus of innovation and the accompanying market gaps represent immediate unrealized growth potential and efficiencies in education markets and the educational technology industry.

In this essay, I will address some of the latent innovation capable of fueling transformation and growth through technology in K-12 schools. In the new draft essay titled Third Market, I have addressed broader opportunities for economic growth and transformation for markets beyond education for those who may be interested.  

The Technology Availability Education Market Gap
Recently I was asked by a colleague to help raise support for free STEM resources in schools. I was really surprised when virtually all of the principals, superintendents and K-12 state and regional contacts we selected responded with a quiet "Thank you, we do not have time after some consideration."

When we approached people who are outside of schools but interested in school transformation, we experienced an overwhelming, "Yes. How can we help facilitate." An example of the kinds of resources that are available today free to schools and often packaged with free online teacher professional development include:   
100's of free online webinars for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education are available from the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded MATEC Networks paid for by U.S. tax dollars. The programs are successful in reaching a broad array of teachers and administrators focused on "Advanced Technological Education."   
Numedeon's is a free virtual world with 100's of micro simulations across virtually all middle school subjects. it is designed and sustained especially for tweens (11-14 years of age). is focused on professional development and robotics, environmental science, and microscopes for U.S. schools. Science House is also giving away microscopes and online teacher professional development for schools around the world.

Finally, Computer Science Student Network ( is run by  Carnegie Mellon Robotics and funded by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The initiative aims to bolster Computer Science and STEM (CS-STEM) and American competitiveness. Specific resources for K-12 schools today include "cloud-based" delivery of computer programming, 3-D animation, and simulation environments. Programs include the popular ALICE (the legacy of Dr. Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture) to connect ARTS and STEM education and virtual environments for VEX and FIRST Robotics.

Calling All K-12 Innovators

Innovation is where invention meets human need (demand-side markets). Entrepreneurs are actors who are successful bridging the gap between technologies potentiality, industry state of practice (supply-side) and human need (demand-side markets).

Innovation is not exclusively the domain of business. Innovation in the commercial marketplace (the traditional notion of entrepreneurship) and in the domains of art, governance, strategy, defense, civil society, and education are important for global competitiveness and collaboration. 
As adults, we must find the time to facilitate innovation in the best interest of children. We are well served when we are planning educational transformation initiatives to ask: "How are the children?" Nobelist Herbert Simon (June 15, 1916 - February 9, 2001) said: "The availability of technologies to youth is its own instructor."

We have the technology for educational transformation. Our cell phones, automobiles, tablets and video game consoles now each have the equivalent of the computing power used to land man on the moon and return safely. When it comes to closing the gaps between technology availability and market adoption in schools, the path to technology integration is facilitated by children rather than the other way around.

More accurately, children and technology are our path to the future, all we have to do is enable the access to technology and treat the technology as a subject of discourse in every educational discipline. In this way, we empower children with the processes and tools of technology and at once prepare children for the critical questions and designs they will pursue in creating the future.      
With hope for the future,
Jim Brazell