Monday, February 21, 2011

The End of Bricks and Mortar

Just as the Internet has irrevocably changed the music, movie and travel industries (to name only a few), I feel strongly (and hope) that higher education will be the next time-honored tradition (industry?) to be transformed by the leveling agent that is technology. My wife and I are both teachers and we often wonder how much it will cost to send my 3 year old son to college fifteen years from now. I found a handy little calculator online to help me figure it out:

According to its projections, sending my son to an in-state public university will cost us roughly $186,000! Yikes. His senior year alone will cost in excess of $50,000. Seriously? I can't justify an expense of that kind. Imagine if we sent him out of state to a private institution?! Don't get me wrong - I LOVE my son. I want him to have a great life, but I think there's a more sensible way to obtain it. One where that money is more wisely put to use for his benefit.

I don't think I'm alone in feeling this way. In fact, I know I'm not. I actually found an article that sums it all up pretty well. One of its predictions is that "The totally free online university that is stitched together from MIT-quality professors is going to happen very soon.” When you think about it, it's not much of a stretch. I put this blog together as a requirement for an NJCU grad course I am taking online. It's my fourth online class. I've never met my classmates or professors and my work is largely self-guided (albeit through course assignments assembled by NJCU). In fact, in the one month that I've been in my current course, I've had only one communication with my instructor and it was initiated by me via email. So, how would it be different if it was open source?

Of course, like with any new model, details will have to be hammered out. Who will recognize a degree from this type of institution? What body will provide accreditation? Who will ultimately contribute and validate the content? I'm sure there are a million more questions to be asked, but I'm certain it's coming. Here's the article:


Sunday, February 13, 2011

STEM in America - System Reboot

I just got the results back from the Praxis exam I took a month a go. I passed the Technology Education exam (0050). I'm glad that I took it (and passed) for my own professional development, as I have wanted to be considered a highly qualified teacher (HQT) in this area. According to the NJ State requirements, I am now highly qualified:

However, I find it disconcerting that Tech Ed teachers are not required to demonstrate expertise in becoming highly qualified (while other subjects and education generalists are). In President Obama's recent State of the Union address, he emphasied the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education in keeping America competitive in the 21st century global economy. Here's part of the transcript from

"Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school education. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren't even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations...We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. (Applause.) And over the next 10 years, with so many baby boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and math. (Applause.)"

So why is it that we aren't demanding more from our schools NOW? We can't afford to wait ten years. Why shouldn't technology educators be held to the same standards as other subject area teachers? I guess it's because technological aptitude isn't assessed (unbelievably) on standardized tests in America. In my opinion, technology education is as important as Language Arts in providing students with marketable 21st century skills. In my experience, I have met many "old guard" teachers who are woefully unprepared to meet the demands of today's students in regards to providing stimulating, tech-based activities in their lesson plans. In general, I tend to disagree with Governor Christie's approach to education reform, but he may be right that some teachers abuse their tenure (by not continuing to improve their own skill set in keeping with rapidly evolving times). For instance, to compare teaching to another profession - medicine, you wouldn't want your doctor diagnosing your ailment with a 30 year old (or more) approach (or technology). Being a parent myself, I certainly would not want my child attending a school where its approach to technology was antiquated (or non-existent).

In my opinion also, school districts should make it a priority that a higher percentage of professional development time be devoted to augmenting the tech skills of educators as well as administrators. Too often, PD is wasted on the abstract, instead of supplying teachers with boots-on-the-ground skill augmentation.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hands On

I just attended a staff meeting where they announced that my school would be partnering with local marine science groups to build science based curriculum units for all subjects. This would involve a number of faculty members attending a training session involving field work (on the beach and in other marine ecosystems) this summer and then implementing that training and developing lesson plans to be delivered during the following school year. I am very excited about the collaboration. I love hands on work and I love to impress upon my students how fortunate we are to live near the ocean and beach.

I hope to integrate the things I learn into my PLTW class - specifically the Energy and Environment unit I teach.

I will blog more as this initiative develops...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Welcome to my Blog!

Hi Everyone,

This is my first official blog entry. I've had blogs before (back in the days of myspace - remember myspace?), but this is the first one dedicated to my profession. I am a technology educator and I currently teach at the Red Bank Middle School in Red Bank, NJ. I teach 2 courses - one is called Project Lead The Way (PLTW) and the other is called AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination). Both are challenging and rewarding in their own regard for me as an instructor (and hopefully for my students as well!).

AVID is a course that focuses on preparing students for college and turning "students in the middle" into academic superstars. For the purpose of this blog, most of my posts will usually refer to what I am instructing in PLTW, which is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum that our district just adopted this year and I was fortunate enough to be asked to teach it. At the moment, I teach students in grades 4 through 8 the finer points of mechanical drawing, the basics of robotics and spend a great deal of time exploring alternative energy. I love the course because it is predominantly hands-on, project-based learning.

If your interest is piqued, you can learn more about PLTW here:

Meanwhile, I thought I would share something that I have been somwhat obsessed with lately. It's a 4-part series airing on PBS called, "Making Stuff." It's all about materials science and each episode is fascinating, covering topics like carbon nanotubes, hydrogen powered vehicles and genetic engineering. I especially enjoyed the latest installment, "Making Stuff Cleaner," as it ties in nicely with my alternative energy unit. Full episodes are available online. Here's the link: