Those who know me know that I have a passion for promoting STEM education. Through a 20-plus year career with the State Regents and my service as OneNet’s executive director, I have a front-seat view to where science, technology, engineering and math education and emerging technologies intersect. At OneNet, we are always in need of experienced technology and engineering professionals to design and support our network and services. Education in these fields is more important than ever.
According to the Economic Modeling Specialists International, STEM jobs are growing at a faster pace than other job categories. EMSI identifies emerging STEM job titles as licensed practical nurse, chemist, cloud engineer architect and service engineer. Not only is demand for STEM professionals growing, but these occupations pay more as well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average wage for STEM occupations is $87,570—by far outpacing the national average of $45,700 for non-STEM occupations.
These statistics demonstrate a growing opportunity for today’s students and tomorrow’s professionals. These opportunities directly intersect with OneNet’s mission to advance technology across Oklahoma.
How can OneNet assist with STEM education? One of my goals as executive director is to ensure that internet access and bandwidth is available to support STEM education at all levels from K-12 to higher education. Each year, we assess our state’s needs and seek solutions to meet those ever-expanding requirements.
Another passion of mine is the next-generation classroom. Educational technology is evolving at a rapid pace and opening doors for students to learn and grow in new and exciting ways.
Technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality are changing how students interact with learning materials. Virtual reality creates an immersive, simulated environment that advances learning in languages and sciences. Students can simulate a broad range of skilled tasks from flight to surgery. Augmented reality utilizes audio, graphics, text and other virtual elements in a real-word environment, displayed in real time. AR teleports students to far-off places and encourages more creative freedom in their learning environments.
Oral Roberts University has emerged as a leader in implementing next-generation technology to engage students around the globe. ORU’s Global Learning Center is harnessing VR and AR technologies to offer students an unmatched learning experience, available to students around the world through a connection as simple as a smartphone. One example is the use of teleportation paired with GEO robots to allow long-distance or home-bound students to attend class remotely and interact with both professors and other students.
Another local resource for next-generation classroom technologies is the University of Oklahoma’s K20 Center. The K20 Center focuses on education research and development to promote innovative learning. The center hosts a tech lab, where teachers can experiment with new classroom technologies and learn ways to incorporate technology into teaching strategies. They also connect teachers with grant resources to fund classroom technology projects.
OneNet has had the opportunity to partner with the K20 Center to distribute their digital game-based learning tools. The center’s learning games teach students important STEM concepts from inferential logics and hypothesis testing to calculus concepts. The learning games are available to all Oklahoma schools at no-cost through the partnership with OneNet.
The K20 Center partnership is one way OneNet is leveraging its network resources to advance next-generation technologies into classrooms across our state. Through partnerships such as this one, OneNet extends our support beyond internet and network services to equipping teachers with resources that enable them to incorporate new technologies in their classrooms and engage students in STEM learning.
This intersection of STEM learning and emerging technologies fuels my personal passions and drives OneNet’s mission to advance technology across Oklahoma. I hope you will join us in this mission by promoting STEM careers to students in your community and supporting the use of new technologies in your local schools.