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By guest blogger Danielle Wilson
A nonprofit organization is trying to spark minority and female students’ interest in science- and technology-related studies through videos that take viewers inside programs where enthusiasm for those subjects is already on display.
AdvancED, an organization focused on accrediting schools and other education issues, has released the first of its video series available on YouTube, titled “Generation Beta,” which features tech-focused programs in Miami.
Other videos, highlighting activities at schools in Atlanta, Chicago, and the District of Columbia will be released over the coming year.
The videos are meant to support, and coincide with, an effort by the Obama administration to close the achievement gap between black and Hispanic boys and their white peers. Called “My Brother’s Keeper,” that effort has drawn pledges of support from foundations, worth an estimated $200 million.
The video series was produced by a Miami-based digital-marketing company, The brpr Group. The first in the series takes the viewers inside The Lab Miami, co-founded by tech entrepreneur Wifredo Fernandez, and Venture Hive, founded by tech entrepreneur Susan Amat, a pair of incubator and accelerator programs that offer classes that teach students coding while fostering entrepreneurship skills.
The video profiles several students who were not offered or had limited access to computer-science instruction at their home schools, who have since benefited from receiving instruction in that subject through the South Florida programs.
The students learn coding—or the computer language necessary to write programs—for websites and mobile apps through hands-on instruction from programmers and other teachers in the computer-science field.
While the first video focuses on coding, future presentations will attempt to show the positive impact that science, technology, engineering and math, or “STEM,” initiatives have had for public school students in underprivileged neighborhoods and underperforming schools.
A later installment, for instance, will focus on women working as coders for high-profile companies who are mentoring young girls who have had little exposure to the field.
“Generation Beta” is a phrase coined by AdvancEd and The brpr Group as a homage to the ongoing trial-and-error students experience as they attempt to acquire skills to meet the demands of emerging technology. The phrase is also meant to refer to what the organizations see as the generation of students in underserved populations who are new to learning computer-science concepts.
AdvancEd, based in Alpharetta, Ga., provides accreditation to schools, districts, and educational agencies while advocating for changes in education policy, including the strengthening of teaching and learning in STEM in all U.S. schools.
Mark Elgart, CEO and president of AdvancEd, told Education Week in an interview that the Obama administration’s recent call for nonprofits to provide opportunities for young black men and other men of color resonated with their organization.
According to the National Math and Science Initiative, a Dallas-based program that supports STEM education, black and Hispanic workers make up 25 percent of the overall workforce but only 12 percent of those working in STEM-related fields. Women faced a similar disparity with 23 percent of STEM workers making up 48 percent of the workforce. Advocates like AdvancEd believe equal access to STEM education in K-12 schools will help bridge the gap.
“It’s one of those [subjects] not being accessed by all,” Elgart said. “We want schools to question if they are offering these types of things to their students. The information they acquire today is an important tool for tomorrow.”