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Friday, October 20, 2006

Out and About: NSF ATE 2006 Conference

I haven’t blogged for a couple of days because I was at a conference sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advanced Technology Education (ATE)Division and the American Association of Community Colleges. ATE promotes technology education in community colleges. It is NSF’s only program focused on community colleges. Any way, at the conference I forgot my power cord for my laptop so…I was out of luck but here is a semi-recap.

Since I serve as an external evaluator on two ATE funded grants, I attended a full day session on evaluating ATE grants. While this division of NSF wants quantitative data on the outcomes of the grants, they are also looking for qualitative data. Stories of students who are successful because of the ATE programs. There are literally hundreds of these success stories. The one story I was particularly moved by was one student who was the first in his family to go beyond high school and because of this interest and success in post-secondary education, his sister, now in middle school, is---for the first time---interested in grades and pursuing post-secondary education. She now intends to focus on school work and go on after high school to even more education. No quantitative number is going to underscore the value of the ATE program like that anecdote. Although one teacher who teaches on an Indian reservation took some classes in an ATE program, went onto the reservation and used the technology she learned to teach math to the student and quadrupled their previous standardized math score.

I think stories like these and others should remind us--teachers, trainers, professors and learning professionals--that the real focus of all we do is the learners and students. We must always keep them in mind. Education can be a life changing event and we can facilitate that process.

Here is a picture of the student panel that presented at the conference. Best panel discussion of the event (of many events I have recently attended.)

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