Oct 29th, 2007 @ 2:02 pm | Author: By Ellen-Earle Chaffee
Valley City State University is en route to more online students through a unique and prestigious partnership between the Boston Museum of Science and the university's undergraduate and graduate programs in technology education.

Vice President Joe Bessie, professors Don Mugan and James Boe and I spent a day with top officials in Boston last week to develop partnering plans with the museum's National Center for Technology Literacy (NCTL). Yannis Miaoulis, the Museum's CEO, secured a major federal grant to establish the center, whose mission is "to enhance people's knowledge of technology nationwide by introducing engineering as a new discipline in schools and by presenting technology as a partner equal to science in museums and science centers."

Major sponsors of the NCTL include Cisco Systems, Intel Foundation, Lockheed Martin Foundation, and GE Foundation. The private sector and federal government provide strong support because there is a critical shortage of expertise and general public awareness of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The four fields are so closely linked that the acronym STEM is becoming commonplace in both education and industry.

Many believe that the future of the US economy is most promising in areas that require strong STEM skills to drive significant innovations in every sector. That is, the US needs an innovative, knowledge-based economy. Common estimates are that such an economy requires 20-40 percent more four-year college graduates than predicted, many of whom need to be proficient in STEM-related fields.

In addition, the widespread use and high potential of various technologies to change lives and society require that all of us become much more 'technology literate.' Issues such as cloning, stem cell research, artificial intelligence, and global warming are subject to public debate and personal decision-making, both of which will be wiser if people understand more about the principles behind them.

The Museum's NCTL produces curriculum materials for elementary, middle school, and high school classes to increase knowledge of engineering and technology for all Americans. Both the NCTL and the VCSU program are based on national technology literacy standards published in 2001. The VCSU program already uses some of the NCTL's curriculum materials and will use more as they are published.

The partnership with VCSU will be the NCTL's first opportunity to reach pre-service or in-service teachers with academic program credit for their curriculum. Schools need those teachers, especially in several Eastern states. For example, starting with the class of 2010, all Massachusetts high school students must pass a test in Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) to graduate. The schools need technology teachers to supplement science classes. VCSU prepares those teachers.

NCTL is offering dozens of workshops for current teachers to learn their materials. VCSU can be a hub for offering workshops in the upper Midwest. VCSU is the only university that can offer academic program credit for those workshops, wherever they are delivered. We will develop an academic STEM certificate program for new and current teachers in other fields, as well as our existing technology education degree programs. The potential for NCTL, VCSU, and especially teachers and students is tremendous, and we are eager to launch a formal partnership. You will be among the first to know!

The individuals in the photo (left to right) are: Johanna Behm, NCTL; Don Mugan, VCSU; Peter Wong, NCTL; Joseph Bessie, VCSU; Yvonne Spicer, NCTL; James Boe and Ellen Chaffee, VCSU.