February 27, 2009

Educators think big about small concepts

Source: New York Teacher
Caption: Kurt Borchardt demonstrates methods he uses to bring high tech concepts to his students at Saratoga Springs High School. Photo by Andrew Watson.

When classroom teachers and industry leaders collaborate on bringing new methods and topics to New York's students, everyone profits.

Education professionals and high-tech representatives recently met at the NYSUT conference center in Latham for a dynamic discussion about raising achievement and preparing students to work in the emerging nanotech industry. The day was part of an ongoing series of NYSUT-sponsored nanotechnology professional development programs.

NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira opened the session with a strong acknowledgement of the role of classroom teachers and their day-to-day contribution to student success. She talked about the union's officers' shared vision of bringing industry and educators together to keep New York's economy strong.

"The people in this room will help revitalize our economy and keep our schools and colleges vibrant centers of learning," Neira said. She applauded corporate leaders like IBM's Sheila Appel.

"We need bold steps and dramatic change," Appel said, "to strengthen the connection between academic achievement and economic strength."

Kurt Borchardt, from the Saratoga Springs TA, led by Walter Jennings, demonstrated a printed circuit board lesson he developed after attending the curriculum development workshop last summer.

"In this lesson, students create a circuit they can see and test at the macro-scale without requiring a 'clean room' or an etching tank," Borchardt said. "I presented it so other teachers don't have to re-invent the wheel."

Bob Decker from the Mohawk Valley Community College Professional Association and Ed Zak from the Sauquoit Valley Teachers Association spoke about their long collaboration in designing nanotech curriculum.

Jeff Beyer and Dan McCarthy, members of the Albany Public School TA, talked about the Career Academy for Engineering beginning next fall at Albany HS with 50 to 100 freshmen. This is an effort to create a technology-centered "school within a school" in the 2,500-student high school.

Other educators presented new lessons they're using for nanotech education: John Svatek and Peter Ross from the Averill Park TA presented a seventh-grade solar energy curriculum, drawing on several disciplines.

Mark Kaercher from the North Colonie TA, Fran Kugler from the Schoharie TA and Katherine Zyskowski from Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake TA also presented.

Two Albany HS students — senior Isaiah Williams and junior Maya Carrasquillo — represented their new chapter of the National Black Student Engineers Association. It works with faculty and industry professionals to bring more students of color into technology professions.

"This conference showed the creativity of NYSUT members and the importance of our ongoing ties with industry innovators," said Neira.

"Having students attend and add their insights brought a very helpful dimension to the discussion," she said.

Contact Bernie Mulligan at bmulliga@nysutmail.org.