The major advantage of today's technology education programs is the experience-based instruction that occurs in formal classrooms and laboratories. Technology students have the unique opportunity to "learn through doing," an instructional style different from many academic disciplines. In a technology education program, topics like design or technological impacts come alive through interesting, relevant activities.
Increasingly, technology teachers are sharing their most effective activity suggestions with colleagues. Educators often exchange the same instructional materials that have helped make their programs successful. Information is shared during professional meetings, at regional conferences, or through Web sites. The Internet is a very effective means of delivery (for example through ICON, the new Innovation Curriculum Online Network found at: http://icontechlit.enc.org). Useful lesson plans and resources are exchanged in print or electronic form, often crossing regional and international borders.
The sharing of instructional materials and concepts can only enhance a dynamic field like technology education. Successful activities in one school can quite often work in multiple situations. Students, educators, schools, and the entire profession can benefit from the exchange of worthwhile ideas, lesson plans, and instructional media. Educators need to think about beneficial lessons and activities in their programs, and then communicate specific procedures and resources that might help other educators achieve similar success.
Means Of Sharing Ideas and Resources
There are numerous avenues for exchanging professional ideas and materials (see Figure 1). For instance, a technology fair is often held at state, regional, and international conferences. Each year, the Tech Fest at the annual ITEA Conference is filled to capacity, as it has become a popular way for teachers to display creative lessons and apparatus. Another means of sharing activities is through association publications. Some association newsletters have a separate section just for activity suggestions, and interesting classroom and laboratory activities have been included in The Technology Teacher for many years. ITEA even includes a lesson format template on the TfAAP (Standards Project) Web site at www.iteawww.org/TAA/Resources/ TeacherToolsPage.htm.
Figure 1--Media and locations where technology educators can share their ideas.
Places To Share Activity Ideas
Local "Tech Fest"
ICON (ITEA's online network)
In addition, workshops held at local, regional, and national sites usually dedicate some of the program slots to educators willing to share successful activities. Presentation handouts and conference proceedings further help the presenters "exchange" the activity suggestions. Conference program coordinators seek experienced educators who might provide a session on a unique, worthwhile activity.
It's safe to say that most technology educators do not create instructional materials for the sole purpose of introducing them in someone else's classroom. As a result, there are many items to consider when developing an activity for dissemination in the profession. This article includes an outline for documenting activity suggestions, and offers a few recommendations for preparing print resources for colleagues (Figure 2). However, while this article details a format for disseminating ideas via graphic documentation (i.e., typical of multiple sheets of 8-1/2" x 11" paper), many of the recommendations apply to all types of media.
Figure 2--Typical information shared when exchanging activity suggestions.
Essential Elements Of A Published Technology-Based Activity
Establish A Descriptive Title
In preparing to exchange activity ideas in graphic form, a topic heading or title is first included on the cover sheet or on the first page. …