Sep 08 2017

Princeton Students Use YouTube to Motivate High Schoolers

Video interviews leverage advice from STEM students, who offer guidance on transitioning to college majors.

Education experts have often talked about the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills gap that students face from college to career. But what about a STEM skills gap between high school and college?

In 2016, the nonprofit behind the ACT college-readiness exam found that while nearly half of the 2.1 million high school graduates that took the ACT test were interested in STEM majors, only 26 percent met a college-readiness benchmark for STEM.

Some universities have already made strides to address this disconnect between what students are learning at the K–12 level and how it will prepare them for college. For example, a partnership between Atlantis Charter School in Fall River, Mass., and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology teaches high schoolers the tenets of the engineering design process so they will be able to perform complex problem-solving in their future endeavors.

The University of Texas at San Antonio assisted the San Antonio Independent School District in developing a tech career–themed high school to help students master computer-based learning quickly so they will be able to dive more deeply into projects at the college level.

YouTube Shines the Spotlight on STEM Role Models

But what about students who don’t live near a thriving university? The National Leadership Academies has turned to YouTube for help. Earlier this year, the organization launched a video series on its YouTube channel devoted to giving future college students advice on what lies ahead from some of the brightest students, reports Campus Technology.

The six-video series features interviews with STEM majors from Princeton University, each with a different background and a variety of interests, and asks them to provide insight on their transitions from high school to college. Aspiring medical scientist and Princeton senior, Janelle Tam, conducts the interviews.

In his interview, Kevin Zhang, recent Princeton graduate and a medical and doctorate student at the University of Pennsylvania, says that his molecular biology career began in high school when he reached out to a lab to look for experience that his school couldn’t offer. While it may be intimidating, Zhang recommends that students interested in a STEM field reach out to professors and researchers in that field to see if they can offer some experience.

Though he got this firsthand scientific experience, Zhang says students should take their time to find their footing academically as they transition to college.

“It took the first semester to find my place,” says Zhang. “It really took [that long] to find where I stood academically.”

Marisa Salazar, a pre-med student, says in her interview that students interested in medicine need to learn to pace themselves when adding complicated classes to their schedules.

With recent research finding that female STEM students need mentors and role models, these videos allow students to hear experiences from people they can relate to.

Video Powers Up Student Experiences

At both the K–12 and university level, educators have embraced video as a way to give students new opportunities and experiences.

Whether it’s teachers using Skype to introduce students to their favorite authors or professors using telepresence to help distance learners get a more interactive education, video has the power to knock down the walls of the classroom.

At the K–12 level, some educators have found that prerecorded lessons facilitate blended learning initiatives and make the most of class time.

Universities also have found that creating videos is a great way to boost student engagement at any time.

“The cost of making and distributing video content has decreased and there’s no longer a need for advanced technical skills,” says Malcom Brown, director of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, in EdTech article. “It’s become much easier for faculty to give their students ‘anytime’ access to content.”

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