Local business launches online STEM teaching program

Local business launches online STEM teaching program

December 3rd, 2012 by Dave Flessner in Local - Breaking News

Staff Photo by Dan Henry Dr. Dane Boyington, left, and Sheila Boyington, owners of Thinking Media, chat Tuesday in their North Shore office.

A Chattanooga web-based company that previously developed a testing and training curriculum used by more than 4 million job applicants and vocational students today launched what could be an even bigger online training initiative.

Thinking Media, a local firm founded by chemical engineers Dane and Sheila Boyington, is starting an online training program to help middle school students learn and gain interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

Known as "Learning Blade," the new web-based curriculum is being tested in a half dozen school systems, starting in January.

"Because STEM-related careers command higher wages, the focused approach of Learning Blade has the potential to benefit our society and economy," Sheila Boyington, president of Thinking Media, said during a news conference today. "We chose to begin our work at the middle school age when students are most likely to develop preferences about technology and their future career paths."

Learning Blade creates "missions" for students to pursue problem solving using their math, science, reading and social science skills. The online program teaches students as they direct their missions "and truly makes what is sometimes seen as a hard subject fun and exciting," said Dr. Bill Madia, a Stanford University vice president who serves on a newly created advisory board for the Learning Blade.

Former U.S. Zach Wamp, a Chattanooga Republican, is chairing the advisory committee formed to help shape the curriculum for the Learning Blade, said the business venture "has tremendous potential to address one of America's biggest needs" by encouraging more students to study fields where many of the 21st century jobs demand higher skills.

Thinking Media, founded in 1997, developed the nationally recognized "KeyTrain" program which was sold two years ago to the college-testing company ACT Inc.

Learning Blade has a staff of about 16 computer programmers, Dane Boyington said.