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Technology Educators: A Call to Action by David A. Janosz, Jr. - September 2004

I feel that the Technology Education community in New Jersey has already undergone a new beginning.  I feel that we are poised to make more great strides in the very near future.  So many things are in place now that were not even a few years ago.  We have built an alliance of people and organizations outside of the Technology Education profession.  We have a much longer list of people that will listen and are in a position to help our profession to assist the students of New Jersey.  But in many ways we’ve only just begun.

I sometimes think of Technology Education the 1990’s and early 2000’s as being in a deep freeze.  Too many of our programs closed over the years due to retirements, a lack of qualified teachers available to fill positions, and various other politically motivated reasons.  Think about how much time it took to freeze what was in essence moving water into ice.  How much time will it take to melt the ice?  That depends on how big a fire we can make.  Already a few matches have been lit in the way of legislation and code changes.  The ice is starting to melt, but we need to melt it faster. 

The issues we are at odds with are broader than just teaching students about technology.  It challenges many other notions so entrenched in educational thinking.  We are challenging the notion that standardized tests are a good way to determine a student’s ability.  We are challenging the notion that lectures and rote learning are effective in achieving a love for lifelong learning in our students.  You simply have to walk around a school to know that the most effective, efficient, exciting learning is going on in our classrooms.  How ironic is that when you think about the fact that people, principals, parents, and our president seem to care only about math and reading test scores? 

Why is it that students seem so bored by the classes that their parents and guidance counselors tell them they “need” to be successful, yet seem so excited and stimulated by our electives?  I once thought it was due to a child’s natural interest in subject.  I now think it’s simply because they are learning.  True learning is exciting and students everywhere continue to be excited to learn about the things we are teaching them in technology classes.  I think they’re excited because things start to make sense to them in our classes and their excitement is contagious.

Students rarely find the drive toward a career in their math, science, English, and social studies classes.  Certainly they will need some of the skills they gain in these courses later in life, but how much of that could not be accomplished through areas such as technology education?  Students in my classes write, do math, explore historical and scientific concepts for specific purposes.  Research has shown that when students learn in this manner, that they will remember “the material” better than they would in many other ways it’s presented in school. 

Then why does our system of education continue to stress the knowledge that students may least likely need or use in their lives?  Why does the system foster ways and means of teaching and learning that are proven least effective?  It’s because the education community has always stressed that type of knowledge.  Teachers and administrators everyday continue to blatantly ignore current research on teaching and learning in favor of practices that reach back over a hundred years or more.  It’s these deeply entrenched values, values that are held by people who all too often can’t explain WHY they hold them, that we in the Technology Education profession are challenging every day.

How much money is invested in your school district in programs to help students perform better on tests?  Challenge that notion with the confidence that we are giving the youth of today the tools that they will use for a lifetime, not just on some Saturday morning.  Reach out to the “academic” teachers in your school building.  Show them how they can get their students to USE the knowledge that they are teaching for useful and practical things.  That’s not only the beauty of technology education now, it always has been.

It’s for all these reasons that I want you to act in some way to make MORE change, just in some way, large or small.  Substitute courage for caution.  The chance to act is today.  The time is now.  You need no one’s permission but your own to make a stride forward knowing that it will benefit the students in your classes, the students of New Jersey, the students of the United States.

MAKE time to do something about it.  STOP thinking that once the fall sports season is over, or once a side job or other project is done it will be a better time FOR YOU to act.  Once you make yourself ready, if you have no idea what to do, call or email me.

Realize that if you begin to act, that potentially makes more work for myself and others.  Let me provide you with an example.  If you approach your state legislators to introduce legislation that will affect Technology Education in New Jersey we will need to prepare testimony, letters, make phone calls, and do all that is necessary things to ensure that it will move forward.  Realize also that not only am I willing to do that sort of work and put that sort of time in, I would welcome it.  The association will support your efforts to improve technology education at all levels.  That’s our job.

I’m asking you to take just a few more moments of your time to take a look at some of the ideas I’m laying out here.  I intend to act on these things and I expect nothing less than that you will also.  If not one of these ideas, move forward with an idea that you’ve had, but never been able to carry out for whatever reason. 

In particular, I think we’re ready for and I’d like to see:

Dialogue among colleges and universities to discuss the opening or re-opening of technology education teacher preparation programs.

Legislation that will create a continual source of funding for college programs to prepare teachers of technology education.

The business community and others support the development of a technology education curriculum project that provides direction to teachers of all grade levels about exemplary approaches and activities in our field.

More dialogue on the local level between technology education programs and local businesses.

More professional opportunities for technology educators in the way of conferences, workshops, and other professional development activities.

Legislation to support a program that will provide ways and means to address the problem of gender equity in the field of technology education.

More dialogue among supervisors and administrators that are experts in our own area as well as those whom are laypeople in terms of technology education.

More people taking the time to get to know some of their local politicians, whether it is school board members, mayor and council or state level lawmakers.

More parents involved in technology education programs on the local level.