Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Blending Learning with Experience

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Blending Learning with Experience

Article excerpt

Adam Ross has decided to frontload his adult life with experience rather than education. He expects to enroll in a four-year college eventually, probably earning an engineering degree. But first he's going to work a few years for the company that has offered to pay his community college tuition in exchange for his agreement to work for them for two years after earning an associate's degree.

"Nobody will hire you after college unless you have experience so I'm going to get my experience first and then go to college," said the savvy 17-year-old high school senior.

Ross can manage this because he elected to enroll in the Engineering & Emerging Technologies (EET) program, one of nine career clusters offered by the Oakland Schools Technical Campus (OSTC) in suburban Detroit, Mich. He spends half of every school day at OSTC's campus in Pontiac where he's earning high school credits, college credits, and professional certifications that he can immediately take into the workplace. He sees his time at OSTC as a natural way to apply what he learned from honors and AP math and science classes at his home school, Lake Orion High School.

Last year, Ross worked with other students to design and build a small car for an auto competition in Detroit; this year, he's programming a robot for another competition.

Although OSTC instructors come from industry--4,000 hours of industry experience are required, as is a plan to earn a teaching certificate--they know that developing technical skills requires more than listening to lectures and reading books. "We don't blast them with theory and tell them to wait to learn how to apply it until years later. We give them some theory, and then we have them jump right into a practical application. They get excited about that," said Demetrius Wilson, an EET instructor who had a career in electrical technology before entering teaching and has since earned a master's degree in education. …

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