Archive for the ‘Teachers’ Category

Stay Tuned: It’s Never Too Early to Get Started

Monday, August 8th, 2011

It’s never too early to start thinking about college and in the new fall season, ATETV will focus on some of the programs and preparations that can help high-school students start paving their way to a successful college experience.

The “From High School to College” series will provide viewers with firsthand accounts from students, teachers and guidance counselors. Here’s a preview of what’s to come:

Dual-enrollment programs. Did you know that many community colleges offer students the opportunity to take classes while they’re still in high school? Dual enrollment provides a head start on earning credit hours and getting a taste of college life, and ATETV will talk with students and their teachers at various high schools about the experience. In one video for example, we’ll visit a college-level Web Design class where students are simultaneously earning high-school and college credits. We’ll also share resources and information to help viewers learn about dual enrollment opportunities in their communities.

Making the transition.
ATETV will also visit programs like one community college “bridge” program that is helping students make the transition from high-school to college – and preparing them for success in technology and STEM fields. Through the videos and blogs, we’ll also share tips and ideas with students and their families to help with the college-preparation process: where to go for background materials, suggestions for informational interviews and ways that students can start developing the skills and habits that colleges – and employers – value and expect.

Stay tuned – a new season is just around the corner!

Lesson Plan: Building Trebuchets and Teamwork

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

As we saw in this week’s episode, community colleges and industry have come together to prepare students for in-demand jobs. But as we’ve been hearing from many ATETV viewers, employers are looking for more than just technical know-how. They’re also looking for employees who know how to communicate and who can work well in a group.

To that end, this week we’re presenting a lesson plan used by Jerry Duncan, head of the Process Technology program at College of the Mainland featured in this week’s episode. In this exercise, teams of students work together to build trebuchets — a kind of catapult that uses a counterweight to launch its ordinance.

“Each team is given the same plans and material to build a trebuchet, then the competition begins,” explains Duncan. “The team with the most accurate, longest throwing trebuchet receives the highest grade. The students are also peer graded on their work and contribution to the team.”

But what does a medieval siege weapon have to do with Process Technology? It all comes down to teamwork and the changing workplace. “Modern manufacturing sites have computerized and modernized their work processes so that many layers of supervision are gone,” explains Duncan. “The employees typically work in teams. They have few supervisors, so they have to work together with minimal direction to meet their production and quality goals.”

Duncan reports that the lesson is a big hit with his students. “They spend hours building, testing and refining their trebuchets,” he says. “They have learned teamwork skills, mechanical skills and basic troubleshooting skills, all of which will help them in their new careers in Process Technology.” And although Duncan uses this plan with community college students, it’s easily adaptable to high school classes.

Click here to download the lesson plan. Thanks to Jerry Duncan for his help with this week’s blog entry!

Gary Beasley: Recruiting for the Future

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

As head of the lasers and photonics program at Central Carolina Community College, Gary Beasley spends much of his time recruiting students, speaking at local high schools and putting on laser workshops.

When he meets prospective students, Gary asks them a series of questions to judge whether they would be a good fit for the program: “Are you interested in science? Technology? Learning just how things work? Do you enjoy problem solving – any type of problem solving? Do you enjoy helping people with problems? How do you feel about math? Do you like it? Are you comfortable with it?”

If you answered yes to these questions, you might be exactly the type of student that Gary – and other ATE program heads – are looking for. Students like the ones in these stories Gary shared with us:

“One of my students worked his way through the program at a chicken &
barbeque restaurant that I frequently visited,” he recounts. “During his second year, he landed a job as a technician, making $40,000, working second shift while he finished school. Upon graduation, he was lured to another company at $50,000.”

Another former student has his name on two patents for optical systems, just four years after graduating!

Then there is the mother and daughter who both went through the program. Originally, the mother attended a laser workshop with her youngest daughter and was so impressed that she enrolled for herself. Her oldest daughter, an accounting major, was so taken with her mother’s success that she switched over, too. Now both women work at a major laser manufacturer and love their careers.

With success stories like these, it’s no wonder that enrollment in the program is up the past couple of years!

If you are considering lasers and photonics as a career path, Gary recommends a two-year associate degree over a four-year degree. In addition to its lower cost and hands-on approach, Gary sees the two-year program as the best route to further education. “You will be able to get a high-paying, high-tech job in two years and can continue your education while making high pay,” he says. “And more than likely, the company you work for will cover the majority of your continued education toward higher degrees.”

Like many ATE programs, CCCC’s laser and photonics program is a gateway to a lucrative career and to further studies in the field. With advantages like that, it’s a program that practically sells itself.

ATETV Episode 14: Biotech in High School; Drafting and Graphic Engineering

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009



Only two stories in this holiday week episode, but they’re good ones. First, we visit Southwestern College near San Diego to learn about an innovative program that is bringing biotechnology into high school science classrooms. Biotech is a booming field, so much so that Southwestern heard from companies in the industry that the supply of technicians wasn’t keeping up with demand. That’s why the college started reaching out to students at local high schools. We were so impressed with the results that we did a separate post about the program; you can read it here.

Ashley, the subject of this week’s second segment, also got an early start on her career plans. “When I was in high school, we took a drafting program and that started my ambition for architecture,” she tells us. “Then my father, he noticed that I was really good at it, so he kind of steered me in the right direction.” That direction led to the engineering technology program at Florence-Darlington Technical College, where Ashley will earn in two years a degree that will let her work for an architect. “I am so happy that I made this choice,” she says.

On behalf of everyone here at ATETV, we wish you and your family a very happy holidays!

ATETV Episode 13: Technology in the Lab and on the Farm

Monday, December 14th, 2009

This week we’re exploring how ATE programs are preparing students for work not only in traditional high-tech settings like medical laboratories and electronics shops, but also out in the fields of American agriculture.
First, we meet Shain Eighmey, a graduate of the biotechnology program at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Shain has turned his childhood passion for science into a two-year degree, a paid apprenticeship at a pharmaceutical company, and now a four-year degree at the University of New Hampshire. You can read an update about him here. [LINK]
Next we head to Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Kelsey Meyerhoff is working towards her own two-year degree in agricultural technology. Among other things, she’s learning to use GPS technology to track soil samples in the field, a skill she first learned in a workshop while still in high school. Her classes are predominantly male, but Kelsey says that doesn’t bother her. “It’s just a challenge you push through, and you don’t look at it as something that holds you back,” she says.
Finally this week, we meet a dedicated educator who is sharing what he learned during his long career. Richard LeBlanc is the head of the electronics department at Benjamin Franklin Technical Institute in Boston, where he teaches students to repair electronic equipment, including many of the advanced medical devices used in hospitals today. A graduate of the institute himself, LeBlanc knows the value of ATE programs firsthand. He also knows, from his industry contacts, that teaching students how to communicate effectively is just as important as teaching the technicaThis week we’re exploring how ATE programs are preparing students for work not only in traditional high-tech settings like medical laboratories and electronics shops, but also out in the fields of American agriculture.

First, we meet Shain Eighmey, a graduate of the biotechnology program at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Shain has turned his childhood passion for science into a two-year degree, a paid apprenticeship at a pharmaceutical company, and now a four-year degree at the University of New Hampshire.

Next we head to Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Kelsey Meyerhoff is working towards her own two-year degree in agricultural technology. Among other things, she’s learning to use GPS technology to track soil samples in the field, a skill she first learned in a workshop while still in high school. Her classes are predominantly male, but Kelsey says that doesn’t bother her. “It’s just a challenge you push through, and you don’t look at it as something that holds you back,” she says.

Finally this week, we meet a dedicated educator who is sharing what he learned during his long career. Richard LeBlanc is the head of the electronics department at Benjamin Franklin Technical Institute in Boston, where he teaches students to repair electronic equipment, including many of the advanced medical devices used in hospitals today. A graduate of the institute himself, LeBlanc knows the value of ATE programs firsthand. He also knows, from his industry contacts, that teaching students how to communicate effectively is just as important as teaching the technical skills.

GeoTech Center GIS Lesson Plans

Monday, December 7th, 2009


As this week’s episode indicates, GIS — geographic information sciences — is a hot topic right now. But what is all the fuss about — and, more importantly for educators, how do you teach GIS to students?

To answer those questions, we turned to the The National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence; an NSF-funded consortium of academics, government and industry dedicated to growing GIS education. GIS is booming because it has applications across many industries, from green energy and forestry to urban planning and even homeland security. “Any field that needs to know something about what is where, why is it there and how it has changed over time can benefit from using geospatial technology,” explains Ann Johnson, Higher Education Manager for ESRI, a GIS software company and a GeoTech Center partner.

Ann’s company hosts a GIS Education Community online that lets educators share their GIS lesson plans. On the site you’ll find everything you need to prepare a lesson on the real-world applications of GIS technology. Here are three examples of what’s available:

Landslides in Washington – 3D Investigations: Students use GIS software to explore the cause of a massive October 2009 landslide in Washington State.
Scariest Road in the World? Death Road, Bolivia: GIS shows why the notorious “El Camino del Muerte” between La Paz and Coroico, Bolivia is worthy of its name.
Water Use Analysis with GIS: Students learn valuable skills by analyzing actual data from the U.S. Census and other sources.

    You can also visit ESRI’s YouTube channel to see these lesson plans in action. Hopefully these materials will inspire educators reading this to consider adding GIS to their curricula. Thanks again to ESRI’s Ann Johnson and to GeoTech Center Director Phillip Johnson for their help with this post!

    Gordon Snyder: Bringing Social Media to ATE and Education

    Monday, November 16th, 2009

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    One of the most innovative sessions at last month’s ATE Conference in Washington, D.C., was the discussion titled “Online Impact – Tapping Twitter, Facebook and Other Tools.” The moderator of that panel, Gordon F. Snyder, Jr. shared with us more information about how educators can bring social media into the classroom.

    Gordon is the Director of the National Center for Information and Communications Technologies at Springfield Technical Community College in Massachusetts. (He’s also an ATETV advisor.) He also practices what he preaches on his blog and in his Twitter feed.  Gordon told us that, when it comes to social media, students are far ahead of their teachers. “The role of social networking in education will be huge in five years,” he says. “A lot of us older faculty don’t understand it, so we don’t use it.”

    Another problem is that many schools block access to social media and disallow mobile devices in the classroom. “I think it’s being done to conserve bandwidth,” he says. “As younger digital natives move into faculty positions, this will change and the use will become mainstream.”

    Gordon pointed us to marketing pro Rohit Bhargava’s Five Stages of Twitter Acceptance as a possible way forward for educational uses of social media. “I think you experience these five stages with any social media application,” Gordon says. “The first step is always trying something out, with subsequent steps being about learning how to use it.”

    For Gordon, Twitter has changed the way that he interacts online. “A year ago I would read something and then write a blog about it – maybe 500 or 600 words. Today I read something and tweet it with a short description and a link to the original piece.”

    He’s also seen some innovative uses of Twitter in classes and presentations, including the Twitter “backchannel”: a live stream of tweets from the audience, projected on a screen behind the presenter. “Backchannels can be very interesting, allowing attendees to maintain conversations while listening to the speaker,” he says. “It also gives attendees the opportunity to question the presenter in real time without interrupting the presentation.”

    Gordon is also a big fan of YouTube, calling it “a wonderful classroom resource.” “You’ll find excellent content in most science, math, engineering and technology subjects there. You’ll also find the ATETV videos there!”

    Gordon’s advice for educators looking to incorporate social media into the classroom is to separate the personal and the professional – but not to worry too much if their students blend the two a bit. “Students tend to be more personal and also a little more informal. This can be good but can also quickly lead to all kinds of problems if things get out of control. Most students are pretty good about knowing where the line is and not crossing over it.”

    When it comes to social media in the classroom, there’s a lot that educators can learn from their students. The trick is learning how to listen.

    Online Distance Learning: A Q&A with Dr. Matthew Olson

    Monday, November 9th, 2009

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    We’ve discussed a lot of the advantages of community college education on this blog, from the practical, hands-on approach for learning to the smaller class sizes and affordability compared to four-year programs. But one factor we haven’t touched on yet is the convenience that community colleges afford students who are working full-time but still want to further their educations. In fact, The New York Times reported recently that much of the current community college boom is going on in classes held at odd hours — in some cases, in the middle of the night.

    Another way that community colleges are catering to students schedules is by offering more classes online. In this week’s episode we discuss that trend with Matthew Olson, Director of the Middlesex Interactive Online Learning Network at Middlesex Community College.

    We asked Dr. Olson some follow-up questions about online distance learning, and he was kind enough to elaborate for us.

    The American Association of Community Colleges says that community colleges’ enrollment rates are booming in almost every state. To what do you attribute that, and how is online distance learning contributing to that?

    It is clear that the increased enrollment rate in community colleges can be attributed to the current state of the economy. People are coming to community colleges — and all of higher education, really — in order to increase their employability in this highly competitive job market. At a community college, people can quickly gain up-to-date technical skills, and they can also get the certifications and academic degrees they might need to keep their existing jobs or move into better ones.

    Online distance learning is giving people increased access to education and allowing them to take courses from times and places of their choosing and to complete programs more quickly. According to the Sloan-C report, Staying the Course: Online Education in the United States, the enrollment rate for online courses far outpaces the rest of higher education.

    How is Middlesex bringing ATE learning to students? What tools are valuable to learning: Blackboard, social media, blended learning? Is there an ideal setting for distance learning?

    I don’t believe there is one ideal setting for online distance learning. Effective teaching and learning can be done many ways, depending on the subject being taught, the style of the instructor and the needs of the students.

    Of course, all courses rely on a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Blackboard, but new tools including social media sites like Ning and Groupsite are adding another dimension to the online learning environment. Among other things, social media can provide a forum for informal connections and peer support.

    Also, many schools, including my own, are getting involved with virtual worlds such as Second Life. These 3D, interactive, virtual environments allow students a way to experience each others’ physical presence and participate in new forms of collaboration. Virtual worlds also allow students to interact with online simulations, and with people from all over the world. One of our faculty members, psychology professor Don Margulis, has posted a short YouTube video about why it is so important to use virtual worlds to engage the new kinds of learners we are now seeing.

    You also mentioned blended learning. From my perspective, the future involves bringing together all the best that the specific technologies have to offer and combining them with what we know works well face-to-face. Today, online distance learning is certainly meeting an access need for our students, but future learning environments are going to need to blend virtual interaction with face-to-face contact, much the same way that many businesses do.

    How do you primarily interact with the students with distance learning courses?

    As I said, there are a variety of tools that can be used in online learning, but the central feature of these courses is the Learning Management System (LMS). The LMS — in our case Blackboard — provides a place on the Web for students to see course materials, including lecture notes, with embedded videos and links to other Web content.

    The LMS also features a discussion board for students to post responses to questions or to critique each others’ work. People can post messages at different times of the day from different places but still communicate and collaborate with each other.

    Some people think it will be an isolating experience to take an online course, when in fact, just the opposite is true. Online students must interact with each other and with the instructor on a regular basis. The learning is highly collaborative. In addition to the discussion board, students often have online access to shared whiteboards, real-time chat, and sometimes voice and videoconferencing. Students can all submit assignments and get grades and feedback through the LMS, so it is in fact a very rich experience for students and professors.

    Are you encountering new types of students who can learn online and take classes on their own schedule?

    I’m not sure that they are so much new types of students as students who have preferences to learn in new ways. Many of our students have jobs and family responsibilities, but that has always been true at community colleges. Online distance learning has just met a need for these folks that was already present. That is probably why community colleges are providing the majority of online instruction in higher education today.

    And while undoubtedly one of the factors that brings students to online courses is that they can work on their own schedule, this does not mean that they don’t have due dates. The highly collaborative nature of the online learning environment requires students to have their work done on a set schedule. These are not independent, self-paced courses.

    So students often come to online courses for the access, but I think in many cases they stay for the learning. Lots of people who take online courses find they learn well when they can take their time and focus on writing the answers to discussion questions or when they can make personal connections and apply course material to real world contexts.

    Do you have a success story or a situation where you saw a student take a course through online learning which he or she wouldn’t have been able to attend on a regular schedule?

    I can think of many such stories. In one case, a student had to move to England before completing her degree and was able to finish by taking courses online from London! Similarly, another student moved to California and was able to complete her degree online.

    Each semester we have many cases of students who are deployed from the local Air Force base and continue their courses in Afghanistan or Iraq. We offer a number of complete degree programs online, but I think that most students would still prefer to combine online distance learning with face-to-face instruction.

    The ATE Difference: Dedicated Teachers with First-Hand Experience

    Monday, October 5th, 2009

    A main goal of Advanced Technological Education is to give students technical skills that will greatly improve their quality of life. In Episode 3, we meet a dedicated teacher who is doing just that.

    Jerry Duncan worked as a chemical engineer for 27 years before turning to teaching. He’s now the head of the Process Technology department at the College of Mainland. He’s also a former head of the Center for the Advancement of Process Technology (CAPT) and an ATETV advisor.

    We followed up with Jerry this week to ask him a couple more questions about the impact of Advanced Technological Education on his students’ lives.

    ATETV: What is a memorable success story from a student of yours?

    Jerry Duncan: There are many success stories. One of the more interesting ones is a guy named Austin. He took dual-credit courses toward Process Technology in high school and finished up his degree at the College of the Mainland. He received a paid internship at a local refinery, and one month after he completed his internship and graduated he was offered a full-time job.

    Austin just turned 20. He is making $80,000 a year. He comes back to the college every semester and speaks to the public about his experiences, to help us recruit new students.

    ATETV: Wow, that is inspiring. Why is the demand so high for students with ATE degrees, and more specifically degrees in Process Technology?

    JD: Demand is high because the average age of process technicians in the industry is about 50. Many people are starting to retire, and unfortunately many of today’s students will not consider working in a refinery or chemical plant. These workplaces are perceived to be dirty and labor-intensive.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. These plants have retooled themselves into high-tech industries. The employees have to be able to understand how these complex factories work.

    A survey that we did at CAPT estimated that over 50,000 process technology jobs will become available in the next 5 years. There are 55 colleges that offer Process Technology degrees. They graduate about 1,200 students per year, so you can see there is a large gap to overcome.

    ATETV: What does your average student look like? How does a degree in process technology change their lifestyle and starting salary?

    JD: Our average student is 27 years old (they range from 18 to 50). Generally speaking most of our students are working at jobs which pay $10-12 an hour. Once they graduate, the major refineries and chemical companies start them out at $30 an hour. Tripling your salary certainly makes a difference in their lifestyle. Additionally, all major companies offer life and dental insurance, a 401K, etc.

    The Process Technology program gives the students a baseline which allows the companies to quickly integrate them into their organization. They are taught math, physics, chemistry and technical courses which deal with the types of equipment that they will encounter in industry. They are also taught critical thinking skills and basic troubleshooting techniques.

    Also this week, we look at two stories of women entering the field of biotechnology. First, we meet a young woman training to be a biomedical technician at Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in Boston. Then we head to Southwestern College in San Diego, where the students in the biotechnology program are primarily female.

    These two programs show that Advanced Technological Education isn’t just about enriching individual students’ careers; it’s also about expanding opportunity and increasing diversity in science and technology.