Category Archives: STEM

Introducing And Increasing Computer Science Education In Schools

There are innumerable benefits to offering computer science instruction in K-12 schools. This policy statement from the Association for Computing Machinery makes a compelling case in favor of increasing CS opportunities for students. The question now concerns how to go about expanding those opportunities. Below are a few resources to aid in bringing CS education into schools.

General Resources: LeadCS.org offers tools to answer questions facing district and school leaders who are working to expand CS in their schools and districts. Code.org contains a wealth of information regarding CS advocacy, methods of teaching CS, and opportunities for students to employ both in and out of school.

Preparing Teachers: The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) provides community and professional development opportunities. Advanced Placement training for a CS course through an AP Summer Institute (like our Advanced Placement Teacher Training Institute) is another way for teachers to gain skills and confidence in teaching computer science.

Offering Courses: There are a wide variety of options for CS instruction that can be implemented by teachers with varying levels of CS content knowledge. One such option is our Iowa Online AP Academy. We offer a high-school level Introduction to CS course for middle school students, and both AP Computer Science courses for high school students through our partnership with Edhesive. Additionally, Code.org offers courses through their Code Studio, and they compiled a list of 3rd party resources offering courses and/or programs at elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Check out the IOAPA website for more on our courses, and the APTTI website to find out how to join us this summer.

Computer Science Education Week!

Next week (December 5-11, 2016) is Computer Science Education Week (CSEd Week)!

One way to get involved is through Hour of Code. You may have heard of it through our presentation at ITAG, our Twitter, or some other means. Last year, 590,000 Iowans tried an hour of code (or more!), and this year Code Iowa is in its third year of a partnership with Code.org to generate more interest and participation in Iowa. Visit the Hour of Code website to learn more about how to teach an Hour of Code, how to promote your event, and to find activities to fill your Hour of Code and beyond! You can also register your event and find local volunteers who can inspire your students by visiting your classroom in-person or remotely. Share pictures of your event using #CodeIowa or @IowaSTEM (and share them with the Belin-Blank Center using @belinblank)! By participating in Hour of Code, your school and/or organization can become “Certified Code Iowa Partners” and gain access to free CS trainings in 2017. Find out more at www.iowastem.gov/CodeIowa.

So you have a plan for your Hour of Code; how else can you participate in CSEd Week?

What are your plans for CSEd Week? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @kflanaryIOAPA

JSI Alliant Energy Community Grant

students_for_ae_blogThe Belin-Blank Center is proud to announce a new scholarship opportunity for gifted students. The Alliant Energy Community Grant will provide scholarships for 10 STEM Excellence and Leadership students to attend our Junior Scholars Institute.

As an advocate for education and innovation, Alliant Energy offers a number of scholarships. In less than 20 years, the Alliant Energy Foundation has given nearly $50 million to local communities. We want to thank Alliant Energy for helping us pave the way for gifted education for students in rural Iowa.

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One student from each of our STEM Excellence & Leadership schools will be eligible to receive this grant. STEM Excellence & Leadership, funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, is a unique educational program that helps empower under-resourced rural schools in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

Alliant Energy’s generous donation will allow ten 6-8th grade students from these schools to participate in a one-week-long summer program. JSI students take an advanced course and live on the University of Iowa campus in the Honors program residence hall.

Other students interested in attending are also welcome. Registration for this and other summer programs will open December 15, 2016. For more information on the Belin-Blank Center’s summer programs, visit belinblank.org/summer.

To learn more about all of Alliant Energy’s charitable donations and community involvement, visit: http://www.alliantenergy.com/CommunityInvolvement/

Challenge Comes to Cedar Rapids!

We’re excited to partner with Imagination Iowa to offer enrichment courses in Cedar Rapids for gifted middle school students this fall!

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Starting October 21 – November 18, gifted middle school students in Cedar Rapids can explore the world of business development with the iEntrepreneur class or try out the art of 3D Design & Printing. Classes will start at 2:00 pm after the early release from school and last for three hours.

Imagination Iowa is a K‍–‍12 STEAM-based program powered by the non-profit NewBoCo. It prides itself on encouraging creative growth by teaching students coding, engineering and entrepreneurship skills. All Imagination Iowa courses are hands-on, experiential and project based. This ensures that students apply real world concepts to their learning and have opportunities to work with experts in those fields. Located in the heart of the NewBo District, this innovative program is growing quickly and expanding its efforts to reach the needs of all learners.

Are you in the Cedar Rapids area? Check out the courses!

Discovering Talented Students

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As you are thinking about ways to challenge your students next year, consider investigating above-level testing with the Belin-Blank Center’s new online test, I-Excel. I-Excel is an above-level test for high-ability 4th – 6th graders and assesses in the areas of math, science, English, and reading.

What is different and exciting about this?

  1. I-Excel assesses in science, which is not always addressed in above-level testing.
  2. I-Excel is online and can be delivered in your school at a time convenient for you and your students (weekdays or weekends).
  3. The Belin-Blank Center provides an extensive interpretation of scores allowing educators to make data-driven decisions and differentiate for their students through curricular intervention and enrichment. Educators receive a group report plus an individual report for each student.
  4. I-Excel licenses content developed by ACT that was designed to measure academic progress of junior high students. From that content, the Belin-Blank Center has been identifying the academic talents of bright 4th – 6th graders for over 20 years.
  5. I-Excel helps educators discover exceptionally talented students.

Learn more at:  www.i-excel.org

Or contact ann-shoplik@uiowa.edu with any questions.

Many Online Learning Opportunities for Teachers this Summer!

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It’s time to think about your own personal learning opportunities! You don’t have to travel long distances to take courses in gifted education. Consider taking an online course this summer through the Belin-Blank Center!

Topics include:

  • Gender Issues and Giftedness
  • Perfectionism and High-Ability Learners
  • Cognitive and Affective Needs of Gifted Students
  • Counseling and Psychological Needs of the Gifted
  • Math Programming for High Ability Students
  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level

More information is available at http://www2.education.uiowa.edu/belinblank/Educators/Courses/Schedule.aspx.  Also see the links on the same page at the right: General Information and Register. You should register as a University of Iowa Continuing Education student (no cost to register).

There are also numerous face-to-face educational opportunities for teachers at the Belin-Blank Center, if you’d like to plan a trip to Iowa City. Housing is available on campus.

Whatever your schedule, the Belin-Blank Center has an opportunity for professional development to match!

Message from the Director: What’s Wrong With Being Confident?

An appealing refrain plus a catchy tune find their way into our heads and often stick.  This is exactly what happened to me during a recent Zumba class when the refrain, “What’s wrong with being confident” from Demi Lovato’s song “Confident” started. During Zumba, my thoughts are typically absorbed with upcoming Belin-Blank Center programs or events, the director’s message, or a research project.  These thoughts often flit from one to the next and back and forth like a moth in a room with lights on opposite sides of the space.  It’s no big surprise that these simple words, with the subtle, yet profound message, infiltrated my mind.

First I thought about two special events hosted in March.  The month started with the highly successful, Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), at which 13 high school students confidently presented their research findings to an audience of nearly 200 teachers and students from around Iowa and 5 were selected to attend the National JSHS.  We finished March with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Recognition Ceremony, where Gold Key, Silver Key, and Honorable Mentions from Iowa were recognized for their creativity.

How wonderful to meet these young, talented, creative, and confident students and – for both programs — to have the support from the national offices of these long-running, prestigious recognition programs.

Everything that we do at the Belin-Blank Center is designed to nurture potential and inspire excellence and thereby support the development of self-confidence. We live up to our tagline through well-established programs and service as well as through new, innovative programming:

“Confidence” is a longish song, one reason it’s good for a Zumba warm up!  My thoughts jumped to a current research project, based upon previous Belin-Blank Center research findings that investigated the differences in the attributions boys make for success in math or science compared to girls.

The answer to the research question “What attributions do gifted boys and girls make for success – and failure—in math and science?” was juxtaposed with Lovato’s words and appealing tune: “What’s wrong with being confident?”

The respondents in the study were asked to choose among ability, effort, luck, or task difficulty as attributions for success and failure. Ability and effort were overwhelmingly the two categories selected (these two attributional choices accounted for 75% or more of the responses for success in math or science). However, the two choices with the highest percentages for ability for both math and science varied significantly for boys and girls: 44% of the boys chose ability as their reason for their success in math and 42.5% made the same choice for their success in science. The next highest choice for boys was effort, 32% and 37%, respectively. Girls’ choices, however, varied significantly from boys: 26% of girls chose ability as the attribution for their success in math and 23% chose ability as their attribution for success in science. Nearly twice as many girls (50%) chose effort as their attribution for success in math and more than twice as many (55%) chose effort as their attribution for success in science.

Attributional research is but one facet of the complex topic known broadly as motivation, an area that is extremely important to our understanding of patterns that could impact, positively or negatively, the performance of students. Attribution theory represents a well-researched cognitive model. However, despite its relevance to our understanding of gifted students, attributional research specifically investigating the beliefs that gifted students have for their academic successes and failures has not been thoroughly researched.  Results from the study mentioned above are much more extensive than reported here; however, they are the foundation for a new investigation of attributional choice regarding success and failure from a current generation of students.

For educators and psychologists to be effective in designing curricular or counseling interventions, it is important to know an individual’s motivational mindset. It is also important for society to recognize these mindsets. As we concluded a decade ago, “We see potential negatives for girls [or boys] who do not accurately recognize their academic abilities. They may be more tentative about undertaking challenges or putting themselves in competitive situations” (Assouline et al., 2006, p. 293).

These findings, along with our new research, lead back to the question: What’s wrong with being confident?