Academic journal article The Technology Teacher

Out of the Classroom and into the Community: Service Learning Reinforces Classroom Instruction: This Process Was Put in Place to Replicate Real-World Practices and to Give Students a Sense of Accomplishment That Is Achieved When They Maintain Their Commitment to Community-Based Responsibilities

Academic journal article The Technology Teacher

Out of the Classroom and into the Community: Service Learning Reinforces Classroom Instruction: This Process Was Put in Place to Replicate Real-World Practices and to Give Students a Sense of Accomplishment That Is Achieved When They Maintain Their Commitment to Community-Based Responsibilities

Article excerpt

In a continuous effort to teach real-world concepts and skills, community outreach projects can be one of the main avenues of student success in the field of technology. Employers are interested in students who have real-world exposure as well as a depth and breadth of academic experiences. This article will provide the technology education teacher with a framework for developing an academic service learning project. The article will also illustrate a project that was performed in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity and address the relationship between service learning and Standards for Technology Literacy (STL) (ITEA, 2000/2002).

Service learning projects provide an opportunity to engage students, teachers, and community members in community service and civic participation. Godfrey and Grasso (2000) contend that service learning addresses process learning, continuous learning, and is an interactive phenomenon. Process learning reinforces a student's ability to problem-solve, addressing Standards 2 and 10 of STL (ITEA, 2000/2002). Continuous learning helps shape the student's attitude about lifelong learning. Finally, the interactive nature of service learning helps the student consider the effects of technology on society, addressing Standard 6 of STL (ITEA). The Habitat project herein is an example of Southeastern Louisiana University's Problem-Based Service Learning (PBSL). The goal of this university program is to help create stronger community-school relationships that are beneficial to each group while enhancing academic instruction.

Organizational Model for Service Learning Projects

Utilizing an organizational model for service learning projects requires the integration of real-world problems with the technology curriculum and the needs of the community. The educational value of service learning mandates that project objectives are aligned with appropriate learning objectives. Considerations must be given to how project goals dovetail with specific academic units of instruction. Suggestions given by Anderson and Sungur (1999, p. 133) and Stevens (1999, p. 30) are combined into an organizational model for academic service learning appropriate for technology education (see Figure 1).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

After the appropriate organization has been located, and objectives identified, Stephens (p. 20) posits project selection criteria should based on the following:

* Providing opportunities for students to apply their skills.

* Strengthening students' problem-solving skills by allowing them to help select and define the project.

* Providing opportunities for students to develop habits of dependability and cooperation.

* Satisfying a real need as perceived by the faculty, students, and community.

* Having measurable outcomes.

* Benefiting students' self-worth.

* Fostering a broader understanding of community.

Finally, Stephens (1999)suggests "For some programs a more extensive orientation [training] is needed. This will include an introduction to the world of work ... details of the students' assignments ..." (p. 28). Reflection is also a key component of service learning projects. Again, Stephens noted "Reflection is the yeast that transforms service experiences into learning. It is the path to the development of critical thinking skills"(p. 31). Student reflection generally takes place in the form of journaling or group discussions. The primary purpose of reflection is to critically examine and determine the benefits of the educational experience. Students begin to make the connection between their work in the community and their future role in the working world.

The Habitat for Humanity Project

Habitat for Humanity is an international nonprofit organization founded in 1976 by Millard Fuller and his wife Linda. Since that time, Habitat has constructed more than 150,000 homes worldwide (Habitat, 2003). …

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