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New center to boost high-tech education
August 25, 2012, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtaugh, Daily Journal Staff
Twitter as a learning tool?

The San Mateo County Office of Education says yes. Using hashtags to mark words can allow for people to remotely be part of any conversation — a lesson shared with educators, elected officials and school leaders Friday during the debut of the state-of-the-art STEM Center, a professional development center for educators in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

As the repertoire of technology that can be utilized in the classroom grows, it becomes more important to offer support with training, said County Superintendent Anne Campbell.

STEM education "is a sequence of courses or program of study that prepares students, including underrepresented groups, for successful employment and post-secondary education that require different and more technically sophisticated skills and enables them to become competent, capable citizens in our technology-driven, democratic society,” according to the California Department of Education.

While a number of districts have access to a variety of technologies, teachers may not have training to truly take advantage of and utilize those products in the classroom. That’s why Rod Hsiao, county Board of Education trustee, said the center is so important.

Located at the County Office of Education, 101 Twin Dolphin Drive in Redwood City, the STEM Center will work as a branch of the curriculum and instruction services department. It will be a place to offer professional development in STEM topics but also include training in blended and online learning, the common core standards in mathematics and the next generation science standards. On Friday, an open house allowed people to wander through the support offered in the 2,900-square-foot facility that features a studio and conference room equipped to support state-of-the-art professional development using video conferencing, interactive white boards and a variety of laptops, tablets and smart devices.

Campbell explained that not only will trainings be offered on site, but those trainings will be documented online. That way those who were unable to attend can learn from the training. Also, those who took the training can refresh their memory when putting the lessons learned to use, she said.

Much of what’s being offered is through community partnerships.

For example, the Heising-Simons Foundation is providing support for the STEM Early Learning Mathematics Initiative, an intensive professional development series specifically geared to preschool to third grade teachers around mathematics. In addition, through its Oracle Impact Grant program, Oracle will support a full complement of computer science trainings for educators spanning 2012-13 school year.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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