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Alternative strategies for preparing middle school technology education teachers.

This teacher education program experimented with innovative methods for identifying potential technology teacher candidates, and with providing training methods that take advantage of candidate's existing technological expertise and experience.


As result of a shortage of technology education teachers in the United States, school districts, teacher education institutions, and state education agencies are questioning how to meet the demand for qualified technology teachers, especially at the middle school level. The demand for middle school technology teachers is increasing for several reasons. Adolescence is a period of advancing cognitive abilities, which contribute to students' learning about technology and its varied applications. Many middle school students find technology an attractive learning experience, particularly exploratory programs that include instruction and experiences focusing on technology. Finally, generally speaking, more educators seek academic preparation that pertains to the secondary school, rather than the middle school, level.

In response to the shortage of middle school technology teachers, some teacher education institutions have developed alternative licensing programs. Such alternative teacher education may train teachers by nontraditional means, building upon teacher candidates' expertise and experience (in this article, for instance, military service) and providing a teaching license with less coursework and field experiences than traditional training programs may require. Still, alternative programs use the same content and process standards as those required in state-approved teacher preparation programs, and they heed the standards for technological literacy (2000) published by the International Technology Education Assocation (ITEA).

In this article, the authors call attention to the shortage of technology education teachers, provide a case study highlighting an alternative technology education program at Old Dominion University, and share several "lessons learned" that will benefit other institutions seeking to implement an alternative program. This teacher education program experimented with innovative methods for identifying potential technology teacher candidates, and with providing training methods that take advantage of candidates' existing technological expertise and experience.

Middle School Technology Education

Technology education evolved from industrial arts education and has been part of teacher education programs in most states since the mid-1980s. These programs emphasize teacher candidates learning to select and use current technologies rather than traditional industrial tools and materials. While previous approaches focused more on occupational preparation, more contemporary efforts place emphasis on technological literacy. Today, the curriculum for technology education is guided by the Standards for Technological Literacy (ITEA, 2000).

Three essential points need to be made about middle school technology programs. These three points deal with aspects essential to the success of alternative technology programs for middle school professionals:

* First, middle school technology programs provide young adolescents (defined here as 10- to 15-year-olds) with developmentally appropriate technological knowledge and experiences, with the goal of making them technologically literate. Middle school technology programs focus specifically on young adolescents' psychosocial and cognitive developmental characteristics. Rather than being a "watered-down version" of secondary school experiences (Manning, 2002, p. 14), effective middle school technology programs focus on middle school students and their developmental needs (e.g., engaging in technical problem solving, learning teamwork, determining individual capabilities, and beginning realistic career exploration). Such a program also emphasizes young adolescents' diversity, ranging from gifted students to those with unique learning needs.

* Second, the focus of technology education has changed from the study and development of industrial skills to technological literacy. Rather than emphasizing only the study of woodworking and metalworking, contemporary middle school technology education is process-oriented and requires students to think, analyze, and act on solutions that are based on systematic, higher level thinking processes. The curricular content and instructional methods of technology education consider young adolescents' diverse learning styles in order to provide opportunities for optimal development. Instructional strategies include problem solving, exploratory activities, cooperative learning, verbal activities, interdisciplinary activities, and a broad range of assessment activities.

* Third, the Standards for Technological Literacy (ITEA, 2000) provide the research base for current technology education programs. These standards introduce prospective teachers to a study of the broad nature of technology, the interrelationship of technology and society, individual and team development of technological abilities, and the operation of technological systems in contemporary societies. Technological systems include communication and information, energy and power, manufacturing, construction, agriculture, medical, and transportation technologies. Technology education is broader than occupational training and provides general education for all learners.

The Shortage of Technology Teachers

Studies by Weston (1997) and Ritz (1999) predicted a shortfall by 4,000 of qualified technology teachers during the 2001-2002 school year and also projected the number of prospective technology teachers that teacher education programs will graduate. These numbers reflect shortages for all grade levels, not only at the middle school level. The 1999 Executive Summary, Teacher Supply and Demand in the United States (American Association for Employment in Education, Inc., 2000) lists technology education as one of the subject areas for which teachers will be in the most demand. Considerable shortages of technology education teachers exist in the Northwest and Great Plains/Midwest regions of the United States, and there are less pressing, but still critical, shortages elsewhere (American Association for Employment in Education, Inc., 2000). Simply put, many teacher education programs have difficulty recruiting sufficient numbers of students into technology education programs. Thus, the traditional pathways of undergraduate study offer too few candidates for technology teaching positions.

The Alternative Technology Education Program at Old Dominion University

For the last eight years, technology teacher education faculty at Old Dominion University have recruited active duty and retiring military personnel to become middle school technology teachers. Most senior military personnel have had experience as instructors while fulfilling their military service. Similarly, many already have advanced degrees in a variety of related specialties; nearly all have extensive experience working collaboratively as team members. Furthermore, they have a genuine desire to become middle school teachers. While in the program, they gain an understanding of middle school children's particular developmental needs, thus learning to use their technological experiences to enhance the middle school educational experience.

The Virginia Department of Education granted permission to offer middle school technology education teachers a special teaching license. While this license has since been changed to a secondary license, the program continues to train middle school technology teachers.

Using the American Council on Education (ACE) guidelines, advisers review prospective teachers' previous courses (e.g., military schools, engineering and technology courses), and they make recommendations concerning credits toward a teaching degree and license. The review might accept up to 18 credit hours of technical courses in communication, manufacturing, construction, and transportation. Prospective teachers then enroll in graduate-level technical and professional teaching courses. For example, they may complete courses in computer-aided drawing/design (CAD), materials processing, manufacturing/construction, graphic communication processes, and communication technology. In addition, students complete a course on the social and cultural impacts of technology and a course on laboratory management. Prospective teachers also complete other pedagogy courses to meet state licensing requirements. Throughout the process, the Standards for Technological Literacy (ITEA, 2000) document serves as the basis for curriculum and program development decisions.

Courses also prepare teachers to plan, deliver, and evaluate instruction. The curricula employed to prepare technology teachers include practicum, volunteer experiences in schools, and other firsthand school experiences with 10- to 15-year-olds. Specifically, the teacher education program includes:

* Practicum/Field Experiences: Firsthand experiences that allow prospective teachers to observe students, teachers, the teaching of technology education, and the overall school operation

* Instructional Strategies: The planning and preparation of lessons; approaches to teaching; individual and group learning; lectures, demonstrations, projects, and modules; instructional materials and media; and assessment of learners

* Curriculum for Technology Education: What to teach by grade level; approved state curriculum frameworks; international and national curriculum trends; state and national standards; and course, unit, and lesson planning

* Planning and Designing Effective Instruction: Laboratory organization, classroom management, assessment, and human development

* Student Teaching or Mentored Internship: A long-term teaching experience (e.g., two 7-week sessions or one 14-week term) for the development and application of teaching skills.

Lessons Learned

Planning and implementing an alternative teacher preparation program and working daily with prospective technology teachers taught Old Dominion University faculty members several valuable lessons that will help other teacher educators develop teacher education programs. While the program in this case study focused only on training retired military personnel for the classroom, the lessons learned and shared apply to all alternative teacher training programs.

Lesson 1. Successful alternative technology education programs maintain the same content and process standards required in state-approved teacher preparation programs as well as ITEA's Standards for Technological Literacy (ITEA, 2000). Even though content and process standards remain the same, some programmatic variations might occur. For example, alternative programs could vary the class meeting schedules for courses (offering classes on weekends or evenings); grant credit for work experience and military schooling; integrate professional course content into singular courses (e.g., age-appropriate instructional strategies and laboratory management); provide alternative course delivery methods (e.g., one- or two-way television); and vary field experiences (two 7-week sessions as compared to one 14-week term, for example). These alternatives seek the same outcome--mainly, to provide qualified teaching candidates with the technological content and pedagogical skills needed to teach middle school children.

Since work experience and military schooling provided teacher candidates with upgraded work skills, the program faculty focused on addressing philosophical assumptions about technology education. The intent of technology education is the broad-based development of technological literacy rather than teaching the technical skills needed for employment. Therefore, the teacher education faculty worked to refocus the teaching candidates away from laboratory outcomes that were directed toward technical skill development and toward laboratory outcomes that focus on the use of technical means to solve problems. Technology becomes a tool to provide solutions. As an example, this change of focus would mean changing a prospective teacher's view of wood as a material to use only for woodworking to a view of wood as a material that can be used to construct a rudder that can guide the course of a model boat.

Lesson 2. Successful alternative technology education programs emphasize the need for developmentally appropriate middle school teaching/learning experiences that reflect the cognitive development of young adolescents rather than that of younger children or older adolescents. Prospective technology teachers learn technological activities that are developmentally appropriate for middle school students. It is essential for prospective teachers to learn the particulars about cognitive development during early adolescence, such as young adolescents' increasing ability to reason, engage in higher levels of thought, and think abstractly; this development allows them to engage in technological explorations (Manning, 2002; Manning & Bucher, 2001). Thus, rather than modeling industrial skills at workbenches, technology education teachers can use design skills to find solutions to technical problems.

One example of developmentally appropriate practice for middle school students is the design brief, which is the written format for stating a technological problem. Using briefs, students engage in developmentally appropriate technological problem-solving processes and use appropriate tools, machines, and materials to design solutions to a problem. For example, a design brief may ask students to design emergency vehicles that can be deployed across the United States within three hours during a crisis. To provide a solution to this problem, students may need to research the types of aircraft that could deliver vehicles to scenes of devastation. What aircraft size limitations must be considered? What special features should be included within the design of the vehicle (e.g., command communications, emergency medical equipment, and construction equipment)? After students determine the constraints within which they must operate, they design and construct models to provide realistic solutions. Using technology to construct solutions to problems, young adolescents use their cognitive abilities to collect and analyze data on their design solution and formulate new solutions based upon an analysis of data.

Lesson 3. Successful alternative technology education programs involve the state's department of education, professional accrediting agencies, and local school districts. Effective collaboration is an essential aspect of any alternative teacher preparation program. Teacher educators need to work closely with the state's department of education to ensure that graduates will be licensed. Also, districts that will employ the graduates need to be involved from the beginning, so they can collaborate with teacher educators to assist in designing appropriate middle school field placements.

In addition, technology education faculty take advantage of standards developed by professional content specialty groups. Most states, school systems, and teacher education institutions are redesigning their curriculum based upon state and national technology standards. Teacher education programs have a responsibility to prepare new teachers who can deliver instruction that reflects these standards. Otherwise, technology graduates will not be qualified to teach in today's changing and more demanding middle schools.

Successful teacher education programs also should learn to work with military agencies, so that they can identify candidates with technological abilities and an interest in a teaching career. Successful programs also provide employment opportunities for graduating technology graduates. Ultimately, teacher educators must learn to be flexible with scheduling, work assignments, location of classes, off-campus classes, and compressed schedules, especially when working with prospective teachers whose military status is still active duty.

Lesson 4. Successful alternative technology education programs emphasize the integrated curricula, an essential middle school effort. Middle school educators emphasize the importance of an integrated curriculum, whereby young adolescents study topics across as many curricular areas as possible rather than through the traditional single-subject approach. Technology education can be incorporated into language arts, social studies, science, and mathematics. Language arts research and writing skills can be used to determine how rockets are launched into space. Social studies becomes more relevant as students learn that the U.S. population moved west to raise the crops needed to support its expanding population. They learn that Cyrus McCormick's reaper provided a technological answer to the labor needs for harvesting wheat. Teachers demonstrate science theories as students construct race cars or gliders. They learn about thrust, drag, and lift, and about how design can overcome these scientific constraints. Mathematics can be used to calculate the altitude that a rocker reaches or the speed that a model race car can achieve.

Today's technology educators can address middle school students' developmental needs as they seek answers to personal, academic, and social questions. Through minds-on and hands-on activities, technology education uses projects to interest and motivate the adolescent mind.

Lesson 5. Successful alternative technology education programs provide experiences that prepare prospective teachers for career transition. Prospective teachers often need special training in such areas as understanding the middle school concept, realizing that teaching young adolescents differs from teaching other age and developmental levels, learning appropriate teaching methods and strategies for technology education, and understanding and making a commitment to the Standards for Technological Literacy. These needs should be addressed through carefully planned experiences, seminars, and specially designed professional development opportunities that focus on understanding technology education as well as the challenges of teaching in middle schools.


Alternative technology teacher preparation programs will continue to be needed due to the ongoing shortage of qualified technology teachers, especially at the middle school level. Effective alternative technology teacher preparation programs meet the Standards for Technological Literacy (ITEA, 2000), emphasize developmentally appropriate educational experiences for middle school students, involve all constituencies who have a stake in technology teacher preparation, and provide prospective teachers with "career transition" experiences. A prerequisite for all successful alternative teacher education programs is maintaining integrity in program design and effectively preparing prospective teachers to work specifically with middle school students. Carefully implemented alternative preparation programs that reflect the Standards for Technological Literacy (ITEA, 2000) have the potential for providing school districts with trained and qualified middle school technology education teachers.

Age-Appropriate Technology Education Activities


Medical and Bio-related Technology Agriculture Technology Energy and Power Technology Construction Technology Manufacturing Information and Communication Technology Transportation Technology


Pneumatic and electrical control Hydroponic gardening Solar-powered car Bridge building Mass production project Desktop publishing

Water-powered rockets

2005 International Issue Call for Papers

Education of Aboriginal Children: Global Perspectives and Practices

The 2005 International Focus Issue of Childhood Education will focus on educational programs and practices that are designed specifically to protect and promote aboriginal languages and cultures, enhance educational achievements of aboriginal children, and involve aboriginal parents and communities; it will also focus on the evaluation of such programs (including programs instituted and controlled by aboriginal communities). It will also include discussions of local/state and national polices that affect education of aboriginal children, issues that challenge the education and well-being of aboriginal children, and possible ways to address these issues; successful training and preparation of teachers of aboriginal children; personal narratives of individuals/organizations involved in education of aboriginal children; and comparisons of educational program's within and/or outside national borders. The articles must focus on children between infancy through middle school (ages birth through 14).

Preference will be given to articles that are authored or co-authored by non-U.S, natives, with the exception of articles that focus exclusively on education of aboriginal children in the United States. Submit articles by July 31, 2004. Send three copies of the manuscript to 2004 International Focus Issue, ACEI, 17904 Georgia Avenue, Ste. 215, Olney, MD 20832. Electronic versions of the manuscripts will also be accepted (Microsoft Word 5.0 or ASCII/text only file). Send the electronic version to Preferred length is 2-5 journal pages (1,500-3,500 words).

Contact Jyotsna Pattnaik, California State University, Long Beach, USA (562-985 9370;


American Association for Employment in Education, Inc. (2000). Teacher supply and demand in the United States, 1999 executive summary. Columbus, OH: Author.

International Technology Education Association. (2000). Standards for technological literacy: Content for the study of technology. Reston, VA: Author.

Manning, M. L. (2002). Developmentally appropriate middle level schools (2nd ed.). Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International.

Manning, M. L., & Bucher, K. T. (2001). Teaching in the middle school. Columbus, OH: Merrill/Prentice-Hall.

Ritz, J. M. (1999). Addressing the shortage of technology education teaching professionals. The Technology Teacher, 59(1), 8-12.

Weston, S. (1997). Teacher shortage--supply and demand. The Technology Teacher, 57(1), 6-9.
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Author:Manning, M. Lee
Publication:Childhood Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2004
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