SAVANNAH, Ga.--Sitting in front of me are 150 people who hold our future in their hands.
They're teachers from the Georgia Engineering Teachers Education (GETEA) association, and they have asked me to speak at their annual conference here about the Drive for Innovation.
I want to hear from them as much as they want to hear from me what's going on outside their little piece of the country.
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Once the cradle of cotton and textiles, Georgia is desperately trying to beef up its technology education to attract tech businesses and create jobs.
A few years ago, the state adopted a track-based approach to high school education--whether it's farming or engineering--you pick the track as a freshman, and that's your emphasis for the next four years.
GETEA's been around for decades and the state chapter of the Technology Student Association (the TSA that doesn't pat you down) is one of the country's most active.
But it's a battle.
On a soft warm fall Saturday outside of Woodville Tompkins High School, I tell them about our year-long journey, emphasizing what we saw at colleges and K-12 programs around the nation.
I tell the educators about Baird Soules at the M5 maker center at UMass-Amherst; the Penn EV team; about the four Arizona State Engineering students who spend their "free" time mentoring grade school kids about technology and math as part of SAE program. I tell them of the integrated program at High Tech High in San Diego.
And I joked about Don Morgan, the teacher-inspiration behind our first high school stop on the trip as we drove through quiet little Quitman, Ga. Morgan is a force of nature in these parts, and he asked me to come talk of our adventures.
My message: As technology increasingly feeds on itself, it makes the tools of innovation easier to use and available to a non-traditional audience. This means teachers need to not only to build nimble, problem-solving minds but put technology in students' hands and say, "Here, go break this and tell me what you learned."
@Bert22306: I have to agree that emphasis on sports is overly misplaced in the US. The entertainment value from high school football games on Friday nights is so tiny and short-lived but the schools would rather pursue that than encouraging (&funding) science clubs!
I can see where folks here are coming from since many of you currently have kids in school (I don't). On the other hand (this is STRICTLY my opinion) it's next to criminally irresponsible AT THIS TIME to encourage students to enter a field where the job prospects are so bleak, then just "assume somehow" things will just automatically get better just prior to college graduation! I look at the cable industry sponsoring "robot building competitions" for high schoolers and I just about get sick to my stomach, the premise that we'll just go further down the path of putting out unlimited numbers of students with advanced engineering degrees only to have legions more hopelessly overqualified cable TV installers is a beyond pathetic vision of the future. I just wonder if the emphasis may be misplaced of getting kids educated when right now we have NO IDEA where the jobs will come from, and while corporate America just openly DOESN'T CARE how good the education of ANY American EE is, they INSIST that what they really need is more H1B visa to bring more engineers in from abroad because "US engineers are no good". Maybe this is the wrong blog for this but I believe the folks here need to hear this too.
I think having a focus on either one or the other is equally unfortunate. Kids need a balanced education in school, including science, math, sport, art and language(s). If the quality of teachers across the board could be raised (something you only really achieve on a large scale by paying significantly more for their salaries), that would be a great start.
@gkidwell, wow. An engineering booster club! Are you a parent there? Are you headed to that event by any chance? If you are and have the inclination, I'd love to hear your thoughts after the fact! Let's keep the conversation moving.
Bert, your wife's experience is distressing to say the least, especially if k-12 school boards are emphasizing sports over academics... I get (but don't support) why colleges do it, but in K-12 it's a completely misplaced priority.
It must be that such rural areas don't see much economic transformation and that sports is an outlet. That said, the occasional visionary seems to show up and bring change. You can't change a local economy without building a talent base to draw from. Problem is there aren't enough visionaries or risk takers out there to make this happen at lots of school boards.
Brian, I invite you to check out what this high school in Texas is doing. They have a great STEM academy program and a parent booster club for same (how many high schools have an engineering booster club?) The booster club holds an annual Engineering Expo which has turned into a major event.
It's always great to see your reactions from your seemingly constant travels, I must say, Brian (and the other contributors too!).
One problem my wife, a teacher, encountered often, is the school boards' single-minded insistence on sports, and consequent relative disinterest in what should really matter. She initially taught in rural Pennsylvania, where this phenomenon is particularly acute. Maybe similar in Georgia?
The great teachers really stand out, in such cases.