I recently had the opportunity to tour some of the educational facilities here in Miami County, including my alma mater, Troy High School. As I prepared for the day, I realized that I might feel nostalgic going through the halls that I once roamed. Rather, I entered a world that was truly one I didn’t recognize.
The tour of the school included working with Mr. Wayne Nirode’s geometry students on a series of problems. Reaching way back in my mind, I had fond memories of my own geometry teacher, Mr. Ron Phillis, and the never-ending proofs on whiteboards. I quickly learned the new way of teaching geometry scrapped the whiteboard for the smartboard.
Being paired up with a student, we sat behind a computer, and explored functions on a website and then went to another website to put down our answers. As my student partner, Hailee, and I finished early, we were able to chat about how school life has changed. I was truly shocked to learn that in lieu of the morning announcements over the public address system, announcements are now video streamed. “It’s like a newscast,” Hailee explained.
As the class came back together, we were able to see on the smartboard how we all answered the questions and whether as a group, there were concepts we mastered or still needed some help. Having that information in real time was key to seeing what part of the lesson needed explanation.
Technology has changed so much of how education is done anymore. When I was in high school, the internet was in its very infancy. The World Wide Web was delivered over a phone line and there was one room in the high school that had computers linked to the outside world.
Perhaps new technology is best on display at the Upper Valley Career Center. When I was in high school, the Career Center was known as the Joint Vocational School and it had a reputation for being the refuge of those who would rather work with their hands than their minds.
I can unequivocally say that those reputations no longer apply. Of course, hands-on, experiential learning is still a foundation of the Career Center, but it is much more than just the stuff you thought was taught in Industrial Arts.
I was most impressed with the Engineering program. In this program, students are getting real experience in learning about mechanical engineering and even architecture. They gain this experience by building robots and using these robots to destroy other robots in competitions. The students also have the opportunity to work with 3-D printers to create nearly anything. I was able to see a piggy bank and a cup holder being created right before my eyes.
And while some of these young minds are going to be prepared to enter the workforce with their hands-on experience after graduating, a fair number are going on to college. In fact, in the Engineering program, over 80 percent of students are going to further their education. I can only imagine that these students are going to have a huge leg up with the competition; they are going to have unique experiences other students may not have.
The great thing is that the Career Center understands the unique advantage their students have and they are telling two- and four-year colleges of these advantages. Career Center administrators have worked to develop relationships with these institutions to ensure that when students graduate from the Career Center, they should have no problem getting into the schools and the programs they want.
The implication technology is having on our educational systems are truly profound. The internet has made access to information practically universal and the ability to learn skills at any age can easily be done through a YouTube video or a website.
Furthermore, as technology has become more accessible, the ability for these young students to work with and experiment with amazing tools (like those really cool 3-D printers) is going to be more common.
Education has changed a lot in the 20 years I have been out of high school and I am sure the next 20 years are going to be even more exciting!
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.