September 14, 2010

Catch a glimpse of real 21st century skills

Last week, I caught a glimpse of the future and realized that, like my own parents, I’ll probably have no idea what my kids actually do at work when they grow up.

This glimpse came courtesy of a Minnesota Public Radio story, which covered McREL’s NSF-supported “nanoteach” initiative to bring instruction in nanotechnology to high school classrooms nationwide.

In case you’re not familiar with nanotechnology (I’ve only recently learned about it myself), it’s the science of creating structures and manipulating matter at the molecular level. It promises breakthrough innovations for “everything from improved cancer treatments to more effective sunscreen,” reports MPR’s Dan Gunderson.

If that sounds farfetched or like something out of Star Trek, consider this other tidbit from Gunderson's story: “the government predicts nanotech will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the next five years.”

The challenge, then, is getting today’s student students prepared for these jobs of the not-so-distant future. Moreover, nanotechnology will likely change our world. That means that students, even those who have no interest in pursuing nanotech careers, should understand both the promise and peril of this rapidly emerging technology.

Read the MPR story.

Visit the Nanoteach Website.

Bryan Goodwin is McREL’s Vice President of Communications and Marketing.


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I'm an Irish teacher currently working as a maths and science teacher in Australia. Trinity College in dublin Ireland have designed a whole module for secondary school students on nano technology. For teachers that are interested there's no harm getting in touch with trinity college to order the module pack.


Looking at what students are using/interested in is the real measure of where things could head in the 21St. century.

The difficulty is encouraging teaching staff to adopt this technology (and finding the funds to pay for it).

I wonder if the universities are prepared for these students when they leave high school?

How can we train teachers to teach nanotechnology if they know nothing about it?

I have heard of nanotechnology, and looked at some articles. It seems interesting, but is there a way to have hands on experience with this topic, without spending a lot of money?

@ Michael: That's a good question. Obviously, hands-on access to a nanotechnology laboratory would be ideal, but access to such facilities is, of course, limited. The intent of this project, funded by the U.S. government, is to develop web-based materials and videos that students can use. You can learn more here:
Or feel free to contact McREL's lead on this project, John Ristvey, here:

How does one teach such a topic with limited resources?

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