Posts Tagged ‘NSF’

ATE Central – A Wealth of Information

Friday, October 1st, 2010

This week, ATETV adviser Nouna Bakhiet from Southwestern College in San Diego, described an ATE Program that’s helping to launch students into the Biotechnology field — which is booming in Southern California as well as many other areas of the country. Here’s what she says:

San Diego is a national hub for Biotechnology. Southwestern College started a Biotechnology technician training program in 1999 to serve the minority population of the San Diego South Bay. The program attracted participants seeking jobs as well as transfer students. The students complete a set of rigorous lecture and lab courses to prepare for real-life research internships.

In 2004, the ATE-sponsored BETSI (Biotechnology Education and Training Sequence Investment Project) was launched to bring cutting-edge Biotechnology practices to Sweetwater Union High School District and to train Southwestern College student in the fundamentals of Biotechnology. The BETSI model helps get pre-college students excited about the field and helps position community college students for successful careers as Biotechnology technicians and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors. From high school to community college to the workplace, BETSI is an education and training cascade bringing students from books to the benches of research.

Believe it or not, BETSI is just one of 349 ATE projects and centers at community colleges around the country. Covering a wide swath of subjects and specialties alphabetically ranging from A(AgrowKnowledge: The National Center for Agriscience & Technology Education) to W (Water and Wastewater Technician Training Institute at Bowling Green Community College), the ATE programs are designed to support and inspire educators, students and the general public as they explore the depth and breadth of the Advanced Technological Education Program.

You can find descriptions and links to all of these programs, encompassing nearly 3,000 courses, modules, and activities on ATE Central the ATE’s online portal and one-stop shopping resource. ATE Central’s digital library can help direct users to ATE’s full range of easy-to-use online resources, which include curricula, learning objects and podcasts. The portal also serves as a central communication and support point for all of the many individuals involved in ATE centers and projects and through the site’s collaborative tools and reference materials, enable educators to implement successful projects and mentor new projects.

Take a look, but leave yourself plenty of time — from Nanotechnology to Viticulture and Enology Science (wine making) to Terrorist Agent Control Technology and everything in between, there’s a wealth of information and ideas about Advanced Technological Education programs to keep you engrossed for a very long time!

It All Comes Back to Math

Friday, September 17th, 2010
Do you like math?

Do you like math?

This week, ATETV showcases a popular program from last spring, “It All Comes Back to the Math.” In this segment, employers told us that no matter what the career – Geospatial Technology, Fuel Cell Technology or Architectural Technology, for example – math is an integral piece of the job, and every technological field is rooted in numbers, calculations and equations.

But, for many people, math itself is rooted in fear and frustration. We wondered why this is the case, and wondered what steps are being taken to reduce math anxiety and to help students in the United States catch up to their fellow math students around the world. So we “rooted” around and learned that these same issues are being debated – and new ideas and answers being proposed – among educators around the country.

In fact, a 2009 Special Multimedia Report by the National Science Foundation titled, “Math: What’s the Problem?” opens with the questions, “Why do so many people struggle with math?” and “Why is math important anyhow?”

William Schmidt, Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Michigan tells the NSF he believes that one of the likely reasons why math is perceived as being difficult is simply based on a longstanding accepted culture of “math phobia.”

“Other countries [on the other hand] respect mathematics and expect all kids to learn it to some basic level,” he says. But, in the U.S., “it’s acceptable for an adult to declare, ‘I’m no good at math,’ [and leave it at that].”

Adds Jeremy Roschelle, director of the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International, “I think when people are saying, “I don’t need any more math and arithmetic, they’re looking at [just] one kind of math, which is sort of shopkeeper math…But when you’re looking at people who are innovators and driving the future of the economy, they look at math as a tool kit that allows you to do new science, engineering, and innovation, and that’s not [just] about adding numbers… When you can put the concepts in a digital interactive, often dynamic, or animated form, students are much more able to really understand mathematical concepts and when they understand the concepts they perform much better.”

Here are some other changes that are afoot in the field of math education:

*In 2008, the U.S. National Math Panel highlighted several key areas for change, calling for elementary and secondary schools to streamline math courses in order to focus on a “well defined set of the most critical topics.” In essence, this would mean that rather than taking a soup-to-nuts approach year after year, students would master a few core math skills in each grade. In addition to recommending this “focused, coherent progression of skills,” the panel recommended that going forward, greater emphasis should be placed on algebra instruction and on an understanding of fractions.

*A report from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, stresses the need for “reasoning and sense-making” when it comes to high school math instruction. As described in a Q&A document on the Council’s website, “reasoning” involves “drawing logical conclusions based on evidence or stated assumptions,” while “sense making” involves “developing an understanding of a situation, context or concept by connecting it with existing knowledge or previous experience.” In other words, they recommend that math skills not be learned in a vacuum, but rather, be integrated into real-life experiences. As the Q&A further notes, “In high school literature courses, students are often asked to analyze, interpret or think critically about books they are reading. Reasoning is important in fields such as literature and it is [also] particularly important in mathematics.”

*And, The Chronicle of Higher Education recommends that math become a “gateway” rather than a “gate keeper” to a student’s successful college education. Among other things, the magazine noted that as part of math instruction, an emphasis should be placed on learning “statistical reasoning,” which supports decision making under conditions of uncertainty — an inescapable condition of modern life. As the article states, “A grasp of statistical reasoning will help students to understand the world around them. It’s math they can use right now.”

David Bressoud, President-elect of the Mathematical Association of America puts it this way, “Mathematics, at its heart, is really [just] looking at the patterns in the world around us, numerical patterns, spatial patterns, especially, and understanding those patterns….That’s part of human nature…that’s built into our DNA, that we look at the world around us and we try to understand what’s likely to happen.”

Jane Ostrander: Scenario-based Learning and Social Media

Monday, November 30th, 2009

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First off, we hope you and your family had a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

A couple weeks back, we talked to Gordon Snyder about using social media in the classroom. This week we’re hearing another perspective from Jane Ostrander, Director of the Experimental Learning Center at De Anza College in Cupertino, Calif.

Jane is writing her dissertation about the reasons why people choose to participate in online knowledge sharing. It boils down to a cost/benefit analysis: “The potential participant must see some value in participating that outweighs whatever costs s/he anticipates will occur as a result of that participation.”

Once an online community is established, it’s vital to make sure participants have a stake in the conversation. Jane cites research showing that “a sense of either personal ownership or stewardship of the information enhanced sharing.”

Jane and her team are putting these insights to work in an online community on the educational site Tapped In. They’re using the site to explore new ways to disseminate instructional materials and lesson plans, and to develop online “wizards” to provide advice to community college instructors. Jane has also used YouTube as a way to get materials out to a wide audience without spending a lot of money – “always a concern with budget-impaired community college faculty,” she notes.

As for other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, Ostrander thinks it’s important not to confuse tools with learning. She hopes that her fellow teachers remember the lesson from the advent of the personal computer. “Buying and networking a bunch of computers and parking them in the back of the classroom did not automatically enhance teaching and learning in that classroom,” she notes.

“Social network tools provide educators with a means to connect with and inform students, but that’s not the same thing as facilitating learning,” she says. “The interaction between teacher, student, content and environment – including the available tools – is what makes learning happen in the classroom.”

In other words, it’s not the technology but what teachers are able to do with it that makes a difference for students. That’s why she’s staying actively involved in her Tapped In community. “Essentially, our project team is driving the bus at this point, though hopefully not forever, whereas social media tools just deliver the bus and a set of keys and say, ‘Go for it; make of it what you will.’”

ATETV Episode 6: Three More Success Stories

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

ATETV Episode 6 went live yesterday with three more ATE success stories from across the country.

Our first segment, on preparing students for careers in renewable energy, couldn’t be more timely, what with President Obama’s speech on the topic at MIT this past Friday.  As we did in our story about process technology last week, we focus on a single mom who is enrolled in an ATE program — in this case, studying wind energy technology — to make a better life for her and her family.

For our second segment, we get a bit of a history lesson. Benjamin Franklin, who got his start as a printer’s apprentice, believed that apprentices made good citizens. We pay a visit to his namesake school in his hometown of Boston, which is bringing his philosophy into the 21st century through its wide variety of ATE programs.

Finally, we take a look at rapid prototype modeling, the wave of the future in design and manufacturing. Rapid prototyping allows students to “print” 3D copies of their designs; in some applications, they can even use it to produce final products. It sounds like something out of science fiction, but it’s not, and it’s being taught in ATE programs right now.

ATE Conference Wrap-up

Monday, October 26th, 2009

What a week! Our ATETV team is back from the ATE Conference in Washington, D.C., and we’re energized by the great feedback we got from attendees. Many ATE professionals came up to us at our booth at the conference to tell us how our videos have helped them communicate their work to a wider audience.

We also got to show our videos on the big screen right before every key note speaker; the last one, Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter even gave us a special mention in her speech.  She talked about how our efforts to connect students with many options for their future dovetails with the administration’s American Graduation Initiative to increase graduation rates and get students not only “in the door but through the door.”

You can check out some photos from the conference on our our Facebook page.  Thanks to the National Science Foundation and the American Association of Community Colleges for organizing such a great event, and to all the attendees for coming and sharing their work.  Seeing all of the amazing ATE projects on display made us that much more excited to continue to document the great work being done at community colleges and ATE centers across the country.

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ATETV on the big screen!

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Student Correspondent Cristina Curatolo

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Student correspondent Josh Cleburn

Cloud Computing and ATETV Updates

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Episode 4 of ATETV is up today, and things are heating up on ATETV.org. We’re busy planning our coverage of the upcoming National Science Foundation ATE Conference, which starts October 21.  The event is only open to principal investigators on NSF grants, but we’re recruiting attendees to send live twitter updates from the proceedings for us. We’ll also have some follow-up stories coming out of the gathering in the weeks to come.

For our last segment this week, we hit Times Square to ask passers-by about a tech term that’s been in the news lately: cloud computing.  We got some pretty creative responses, which you can see in the video above.

Basically, cloud computing refers to moving data and applications off the hard drives in individual computers and into the “cloud”:  farms of servers that can be accessed by any computer or mobile device, anywhere, anytime.

“All the software lives in the cloud. You no longer have to worry about installing software,” says Mike Qaissaunee, associate professor at Brookdale Community College.  “You no longer have to worry about downloading updates.”

Web-based email programs like Hotmail and Gmail are early examples of cloud computing.  With those services, your inbox doesn’t exist on your computer but on a server at Microsoft or Google.

If you’ve used an online service like Apple’s MobileMe to synchronize your contacts or calendar between your computer and your PDA, you’ve used cloud computing. If you’ve run any program in your Web browser instead of off your hard drive, you’ve been up in the cloud as well.

Google Docs, which lets users edit and share text and spreadsheets with coworkers online, is a more sophisticated example.  That sort of online collaboration is the big advantage of cloud computing, says Qaissaunee.  “It changes the whole way that you work.”

Apart from changing the way coworkers and students collaborate, cloud computing also means big opportunities for ATE students.  Storing more data in the cloud means more servers that need to be maintained, and since users expect access to their data 24/7, those servers need to be up and running constantly.

That means new careers for technicians who can maintain those servers.  More servers also means more electricity usage, which puts even greater strain on our energy resources. As cloud computing ramps us, so will the demand for alternative energy sources and conservation.  That means more jobs in green tech.

Cloud computing also presents new challenges in privacy and security. How should companies stores users’ personal information in the cloud?  How do they protect users’ data from identity theft?  As computer scientists and companies grapple with these issues, ATE programs and community colleges will be a vital link between the latest tech and the students who will be putting it into practice.

For more thoughts on cloud computing and other science and tech topics, check out cloud computing expert, Mike Qaissaunee’s blog.