There are wonderful lessons to be gained fron our "less than perfect vision" in 2020.
I am honored to have served during 2020 as ITEEA President-elect. I am in awe of the honor of being the 76th President of this association during 2021. Even though it may be a virtual term, and many may not see or know the background work of our association, ITEEA is still pressing onward with implementing the new standards and ensuring our membership has all the tools it needs for success during these uncertain times.
Like many of you, I started my post high school education thinking about what I considered those lofty, big money professions but soon found out that were quite boring to me and not what I expected. I disengaged and drifted into the work force. After a few years in a hospital setting, I joined the Air Force and became an Avionics Inertial Radar Navigation Systems Specialist for F-4 fighter aircraft. That is a fancy title meaning we worked on the black boxes, or early computers, that “told the pilots where to go.” I found my niche because I had always rebelled against doing a “girl’s job” and found out that working on electronics and aircraft was exciting. I left the Air Force after five years and settled back into civilian life, eventually working in the automotive and textile industries before transitioning to a teaching position. I worked as an algebra teacher (thanks to my background in the air Force), a middle school principal, then a central office administrator. Throughout the journey, I learned that making learning relevant and hands-on was key to engagement—especially with algebra! After completing a Ph.D. in STEM and Professional Studies, I transitioned to higher education and currently work as Dean of Student Success and Enrollment management at a state community college. You may wonder how that applies to Technology Education. I feel empowered to advocate for STEM and T&E education through my position as the leading administrator for student learning, engagement, and campus opportunities. I have a bird’s eye view of opportunities available for all students.
We all had high hopes for 2020 as the “year of perfect vision,” the year our standards for technological and engineering literacy were released. The year itself, obviously, had different ideas for us. The Baltimore conference started on a high note only to be summarily ended halfway through, leaving us all in a state of uncertainty. You may say we’ve dwelt on the pandemic and its resultant changes for far too long, we need to move forward, and I agree. But there are wonderful lessons to be gained from our ‘less than perfect vision” in 2020.
We are agile! As is the norm for our profession, when the pandemic hit, we were prepared to alter our learning opportunities for all students. From primary STEM to higher education courses, our learning pivoted from face-to-face to virtual. The contributions shared broadly and freely by so many in our profession showed our collaborative, optimistic spirit by putting our learners first for their success. We re-envisioned how to engage STEM learners virtually and developed some of the most engaging, relevant learning available during this year!
We are collaborative! Our profession encompasses many fields and is very interdisciplinary. Even during virtual times, we as an organization and our members have worked to present, understand, and instill Standards for Technological and Engineering Literacy (STEL). We know a key defining feature of STEL is our “emphasis on process and action, including designing and making” (ITEEA, 2020. p. 2). We place an emphasis on all letters in the STEM acronym and broadly encourage the use of engineering as a verb—“connecting key ideas and selected engineering practices and habits of mind” (ITEEA, 2020, p.5). STEL helps us to broadly collaborate with other disciplines as we realize we must all work together to achieve new processes and actions beneficial to all.
We are diverse! Our organization works diligently to ensure we have a broad cross-section of all technology and engineering educators. We have widened our focus on elementary STEM outreach and made great strides in increasing the numbers of elementary STEM educators who contribute and belong to our organization. ITEEA understands we need to start STEM learning at an early age and the STEL standards are uniquely designed and positioned to help elementary educators provide relevant, hands-on activities for their students. We also include library media specialists as front-line participants in active STEM learning in our organization. Our Elementary STEM Journal has evolved into not only an excellent journal for classroom practitioners but is also branching into research-based articles and series on how to teach virtually, coding, animatronics, and Books to Briefs series. I recommend everyone take time to review the excellent materials provided by this journal.
Another strong area of diversity is our continued partnership with PATT (Pupils Attitudes toward Technology) and ICTE (International Conference on Technology Education in the Asia-Pacific Region). These global partnerships offer unique opportunities to develop and share technology and engineering education practices. We work with college students to acquaint them with the organization and how association with like-minded professionals is key to success.
Is our diversity complete? No, we are still working to include more educators who have a strong interest in technology and engineering literacy and constantly seek ways to connect with new members. Diversity is critical to our future growth and for increasing STEM learners. STEL supports this in Standard 5, “influence of society on Technological Development,” with the key idea that “value and beliefs of societies shape attitudes toward technology” (p. 48). ITEEA needs members from all facets of society, diverse cultures, and ethnicities, to ensure we understand how technology and engineering shapes our future.
2020 was a year of rapid change and uncertainty. We, as the International Technology Engineering and Educators Association, need to continue embracing these changes and ambiguities as these are things we are equipped to handle. Our STEL re-visioning prepares us to answer the challenges and cataclysmic changes that are occurring in education. Even through all the turmoil of the past year, we are still “doing” what we do best—engaging all learners with our broad, interdisciplinary STEL standards and ensuring all have the opportunity to learn. I look forward to 2021 as a year of new beginning, reinvigorating our profession, and placing us at the forefront of what is right in education. We have the toolkit (STEL), we have the means, and we have the learners to prove that educational opportunities are universal and can engage all ages, all races, and all ethnicities…essentially everyone in this wonderful world of integrative STEM and technology and engineering education.
Let’s continue 2021 with this quote from Bruce Lee (n.d., teachthought.com), “Knowing is not enough; We must apply. Willing is not enough; We must do.” Let us “do” our part to promote technology and engineering education and our organization. I hope to see you at the virtual conference! This is going to be an awesome collaborative event!
International Technology and Engineering Educators Association. (2020). Standards for technological and engineering literacy: The role of technology and engineering in STEM education. www.iteea.org/STEL.aspx
Lee, Bruce (n.d.). 52 of the best quotes about learning. www.teachthought.com/learning/52-best-quotes-about-learning/
Virginia R. Jones, PhD, DTE, is the 2021-2022 President of ITEEA. She is Dean of Student Success and Enrollment Services at Patrick Henry Community College.She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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