Creating a Digital Learning Community for Undergraduate Minority Science Majors

Creating a Digital Learning Community for Undergraduate Minority Science Majors

Gladys Palma de Schrynemakers (Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2205-0.ch004
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Over the last three-decades, educators and policymakers have been alarmed about the state of American education and whether the Unites States can continue to lead the world in innovation. At risk is the performance of our students and their ability to be competitive in today’s increasingly complex and challenging global environment. Clearly, while the importance of education in a global society vis-à-vis the welfare of a nation needs no defense, we must understand through real life experiences how complexity and competitiveness inform the global world.
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Thomas Friedman, writing in his illuminating book, The World is Flat, (p.8) takes a far-reaching and well-documented look at the global arena in terms of being leveled or flattened:

The world [is] being flattened. Clearly, it is now possible for more people than ever to collaborate and compete in real time with more other people on more different kinds of work from more different corners of the planet and on a more equal footing than at any previous time in the history of the world—using computers, e-mail, networks, teleconferencing, and dynamic new software.

The implications of this leveling threaten to intensify what many stakeholders already perceive as an unprecedented decline in education in the United States. For example, in a world where information is universally available, third world societies that have historically relied on the technology produced in the industrialized world now have almost immediate access to these technological capabilities. In a flat world, the rate of modernization increases significantly and homogeneously; as a result there is an acceleration in global competition that threatens the preeminence of our innovative capability.

The crisis in the academic environment is nowhere more evident or acute than in the areas of science, mathematics, and technology, which, for the most part, secured economic success and growth in the United States since the industrial revolution. Experts have reported an unbroken decline in the effectiveness U.S. science education, so much so that President Obama responded by outlining a program—Educate to Innovate—that would develop an environment that was receptive to science education and reverse the decline. In a speech delivered in 2009 (cited in the Boston Globe), the President put forth the following solution to strengthen education opportunities in the sciences and return credibility to higher education:

The key to meeting [ the country’s] challenges—to improving our health and well-being, to harnessing clean energy, to protecting our security, and succeeding in the global economy—will be reaffirming and strengthening America's role as the world's engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation. And that leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today, especially in those fields that hold the promise of producing future innovations and innovators. And that's why education in math and science is so important.”

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