By Mobile Future Advisor, Monica Martinez
As I reflect on the many ways my community celebrated the culture, traditions and contributions of Hispanic and Latinos this past month, I was reminded again about the importance of preparing my young son and daughter today for the leadership and career opportunities of tomorrow. I want them to value the role Hispanics have played in shaping our identity as a nation, and I want them to be inspired by trailblazers like aerospace engineer Diana Trujillo, who is leading operations for Curiosity, the largest robotic rover to land on Mars. But, if Hispanics are going to continue playing an integral part in our national identity and our national economy, we must be priming our children to succeed in the competitive global marketplace.
While college enrollment rates among Hispanic students are up— a reflection of declining high school drop-out rates, as well as our community’s population growth— Hispanics remain largely underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, otherwise known as STEM. There is little question that STEM-related fields represent enormous opportunity for the workforce of the future. The White House creation of the Educate to Innovate initiative, in fact, reflects the promise of STEM and is designed to move American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement. The fact remains, however, Hispanic Americans are markedly absent in STEM industries. We must be doing more to increase STEM achievement among young Latinos to ensure they have the skills they need to compete for jobs and participate in the digital revolution that is sweeping our nation, and our economy.
How can we help our young ones uncover the possibilities that exist in transformative industries such as medicine, energy, and technology? It turns out the answer to breaking down these barriers may lie in one of the fastest growing STEM fields: mobile technology. Parents and teachers are leveraging mobile devices and tools to both inspire an interest in STEM and build important math and science skills early on. Latinos are particularly ready adopters of mobile technology— 72% of Hispanics over the age of 18 now own a smartphone, 8 percentage points higher than the national average. Students are embracing mobile as well. Studies show that minority communities, which are disproportionately lower income, are particularly ready adopters of mobile technology, with Hispanic and African American students in 4th – 12th grade more likely to consider themselves “early adopters” of mobile technologies. In fact, Hispanic students are actually more likely to own a tablet than non-Hispanics, and nine in ten of students report the mobile will change the way students learn in the future (92 percent) and make learning more fun (90%).
Helping our children discover critical new skills to prepare them for the future with their fingertips and countless apps can help kids learn in fun and engaging ways. From apps like Lightbot and Hopscotch that introduce children to basic coding concepts, to multimedia platforms like NASA’s Visualization Explorer that allows children to discover the solar system, space exploration, and global climate shifts from their smartphones, mobile technology is changing the realm of what is possible.
We must work to help our children discover that they too can be gifted in these fields and find professional success in STEM-related careers. But, we must inspire them early on. As we all ride the wave of the mobile revolution, por sus ninos, piense STEM.