Technology from the Top: White House adviser Seth Andrew describes the Obama adm | Teachers College Columbia University

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Technology from the Top: White House adviser Seth Andrew describes the Obama administration’s efforts to close America’s STEM gap


For years, the discussion in U.S. education was about raising students’ IQs. More recently, the focus has been on EQ (emotional intelligence). And now, we need to be worrying about “TQ” – technological intelligence.

That, at least, is how Seth Andrew – charter school founder, former adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Education, and current Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the White House – frames the task the nation faces as it tries to narrow the gap in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Speaking at TC in early November, Andrew outlined the Obama administration’s efforts to boost STEM achievement among students of all backgrounds.

In 2013, Andrew recounted, the administration launched the ConnectED program in 2013, which aims to bring broadband to 99 percent of U.S. classrooms by 2018. The Future Ready program of the Department of Education supplements that effort by gathering district leaders and providing them resources on a regional basis. At stake, Andrew said, is the quality and range of education for young people who live in remote areas; the ability to bring top-quality instruction to children with illnesses; and the ability of every school and library to serve as a 21st-century resource hub.

To play its role in this process, Andrew said, the government has had to reimagine its own relationship to technology, using setbacks like the difficult rollout of the as major learning experiences. That is where technological intelligence comes in.

The new methodology, Andrew said, is to “understand and explore the problem; scout for people and organizations who are already solving it; interconnect them to achieve scale; and change the internal and external culture,” to learn from past mistakes.

Now, many innovators with a track record in technology come to do a “tour of duty” in Washington. “The U.S. government wants you!” Andrew said, is the message to the tech community.

Now, the government is trying to promote a similar change in mindset in classrooms around the country. “Technology is a great tool, but we might end up just digitizing the same bad practices [of the past],” Andrew said. “We have to make sure that these tools give kids the ability to create, not just consume, the technological culture we have.”

The Future Ready program serves this end. So does a plan to support the hiring of 100,000 new STEM teachers and 10,000 computer science teachers. Undoing bias, particularly by race and gender, is crucial as well. The President sent that message, said Andrew, when he became the first White House incumbent to write a line of code, at a White House “Hour of Code” event that brought together a demographically diverse group of students.

Asked about the role that higher education can play in bolstering STEM at the K-12 level, Andrew pointed to the shortage of qualified teachers and the substantial dropout rates in STEM fields. “If we reduce dropouts from STEM majors in higher education by 10 percent, we would see 1 million more STEM graduates in a decade. Higher education is essential to train the workforce and get a diverse group of STEM professionals.” – Siddhartha Mitter

Published Monday, Dec 28, 2015

Seth Andrew
White House adviser Seth Andrew