At the end of the classic 1971 film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Mr. Wonka gives young Charlie Bucket his chocolate factory, noting that he “can't go on forever” and promises to tell him his “most precious candy making secrets.” (If you haven’t seen this movie, take some time to watch it and enjoy the “Hollywood” technology and engineering being used; it is fantastic for the time).
With more than 40 years in this profession, I have seen a lot of changes, including three name changes and countless curriculum movements (who could forget modules?), and I have worked with hundreds (if not thousands) of preservice and inservice technology and engineering education teachers. Despite the constant change throughout my career, there is one thing I have experienced consistently. There are amazing thinkers, doers, innovators, and even some “tinkerers” who have a passion to provide youth with exciting hands-on, problem-solving learning activities and experiences that promote technological literacy (i.e., the ability to use, understand, manage, and assess technology), career exploration, and opportunities to learn about the concepts and practices used in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). I can honestly say that I have never once dreaded going to work and that I still get excited watching students learn, especially when the “light goes on” (accompanied by a big smile) as they finally get it and understand!
My career has been a fun ride, and I was humbled and honored to be elected President of the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA), as it allows me to follow in the footsteps of so many previous great leaders and visionaries. However, I am getting “older” and I can’t do it alone; I need your help! So, as President of ITEEA, I am doing something a bit unconventional, I am giving you ITEEA just like Willy Wonka gave Charlie the Chocolate Factory! That’s right, ITEEA is yours! When you joined, you automatically got a “golden ticket” as a professional member!
Congratulations, as you are getting a wonderful association (founded in 1939) that includes a network of members (e.g., teacher educators, supervisors, classroom teachers, and collegiate students) and affiliates who have passion for STEM Education, hands-on learning, innovation, and technological literacy for all. You are getting well-written standards-based Engineering byDesign™ (EbD) curricula, the STEM Center for Teaching and Learning™, Technological Literacy Standards, exciting professional development and networking opportunities (especially the international conference), a strong Affiliate Network, an interactive modern website, and a fantastic Board of Directors and ITEEA office staff who can help you with your association.
Again, congratulations on getting ITEEA, and don’t worry, I’ll be here all year as President and will help you with the organization! Just as Willy Wonka promised to give Charlie his most precious candy making secrets, I will share below what I believe are my three most “precious secrets” on how to get the most of your organization so that it continues to grow and prosper.
Secret #1: Encourage Everyone to Get Involved
Throughout my entire career in ITEEA, I have always been involved. From small projects to large responsibilities, (e.g., serving as an ITEEA conference chairperson), I made a personal commitment to be involved. Why? Because for me it feels good, as I enjoy helping people. I believe it is important to give back to the organizations with which we are involved, and I believe providing service is part of being a true professional.
ITEEA is an organization that works continuously for its members, and you must continuously work to encourage other members to get involved. You must demonstrate the value of being involved and that each voice really does matter. I personally get tired of the excuse “I am too busy”—we are all too busy. Teach members to get involved. Even if it is just something small, just do it! There are many ways to get involved with ITEEA, and here are some examples: join an ITEEA Committee or Council, become involved and contribute to an ITEEA listserv, present at the conference or participate in the STEM Showcase, become involved in sponsored professional development opportunities, write a journal article, or get involved in working with student-related organizations. Email me for ideas!
Secret #2: Encourage Members to Network With Their Colleagues
Networking is all about connecting with other “like-minded” colleagues to share ideas, thoughts, and resources, and your ITEEA offers many opportunities to network. In my opinion, the best opportunity is the annual international conference that provides many formal networking opportunities, including conference presentations, professional development workshops, luncheons, and vendor-sponsored activities. However, my favorite networking opportunities almost always occur in non-formal settings (e.g., on a couch in a hotel lobby, or even at a lively restaurant) where you and your colleagues can connect and/or debate on a variety of issues, including opportunities and challenges the profession faces.
ITEEA has many wonderful resources that can be used for sharing information and networking. I wish ITEEA’s IdeaGarden forum had been around when I was a new secondary education teacher because I know I would have used it a lot. I believe this is a fantastic resource for teachers (and others), and it would have helped me get the maximum number of copies from the ditto machine (Google it—it’s the technology we used to make handouts for classes many years ago).
In addition to IdeaGarden, ITEEA has many other publications, including its journals and newsletters (e.g., STEM Connections) and professional communities (e.g., International Centers) that almost always list contact information, and I encourage you to “network” with people with whom you have similar interests or if you need help in answering a question. In my many years of higher education, I always encourage students, especially graduate students, to contact other professionals with similar interests. Although graduate students may feel a little reluctant to do this, they are pleasantly surprised when a contact responds. Remember that education is a “helping profession.” I have found that almost all of those involved in our profession enjoy helping others.
Secret #3: Promote the Organization
To actively grow your association, you must actively promote it with others, including those involved in decision making related to technology and engineering education, other organizations involved with STEM, and to the vendors who supply the profession with curriculum materials and experiences.
ITEEA is the professional organization for technology, innovation, design, and engineering educators. Our mission is to promote technological literacy for all by supporting the teaching of technology and engineering and promoting the professionalism of those engaged in these pursuits. As this is now YOUR association, your challenge is to continually promote it. An undergraduate academic advisor recently commented to me that our field of technology and engineering education is a “hidden gem.” She said that as soon as students find out about our major and get involved in it, they become passionate and want to do more. They often comment that they can’t believe they found this major, because this is what they want to do. We are the original “Maker Movement,” and we do STEM Education. It always amazes me when other educational professionals from around campus stop by our labs and witness the activities and experiences we are doing and immediately say “now I understand STEM.” ITEEA is a wonderful organization, and you must take up the challenge of getting the word out by showing others the benefits and services it provides to its members.
So there you have it—as your newly elected President, I have given you the association, and a few secrets to help you keep it moving forward so that it continues to grow and prosper! Also, remember that I, along with the rest of the ITEEA Board of Directors and headquarters staff, will be here to help you. So please feel free to contact us at any time with questions, concerns, etc.
I want you to know that I feel GOOD about giving you the association. Over the past few years I have had opportunities to interact with many of the association’s members and future leaders, and I am very, very pleased with what I have seen. I know ITEEA (“the Chocolate Factory”) is in good hands. Please take care of it, and make sure to “turn the lights off” when you leave – OK?
Edward M. Reeve, DTE, is 2017-2018 President of ITEEA. He currently serves as a Professor in Technology and Engineering Education and Interim Vice Provost at Utah State University, Logan UT. He can be reached at
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