Higher education, new tech link

January 2nd, 2014

News Coverage:

Published: January 2, 2014 3:00 a.m.

Higher education, new tech link

Training partnership debuts at Saint Francis

Vivian Sade | The Journal Gazette

Indiana leads the nation in the number of new tech schools.

With that in mind, the University of Saint Francis has become the first campus in a five-state area to embark on a faculty training program aimed directly at better serving students arriving from new tech high schools, said Alan Veach, director of Regional Development at the New Tech Network in Cincinnati.

Indiana has 29 of the country’s 134 new tech schools, edging out larger states such as California with 22 and Texas with 13, according to the New Tech Network, an organization that works nationwide to provide services and support to develop new tech programs in public schools.

In schools considered new tech, instructors use an approach called project-based learning coupled with technology. Students and teachers work in small teams on problems or projects, using real-life critical-thinking skills and experience to find solutions.

New tech students are less likely to ask the age-old lesson query, “How will I ever use this in real life?” because they discover the answers themselves through self-directed learning, Veach said.

The northeast corner of Indiana is bustling with new tech schools, including New Tech Wayne High School and Towles New Tech Middle School in Fort Wayne. Others include Eagle Tech Academy in Columbia City, Lakeland’s Leading EDGE in LaGrange, Viking New Tech in Huntington, DeKalb County New Tech High School and Adams Central Jet Tech in Monroe.

Saint Francis is ahead of the game in its initiative to move higher education in a new direction, Veach said.

“We are very excited. We helped, but USF cultivated this initiative on its own,” he said. “This training will allow those really empowering new tech teachers to develop and own this professional development program.”

Saint Francis is the most progressive in this area and the only higher education institution partnering with New Tech Network, formed in 1996, to provide this option for students, he said.

The network’s central region includes Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Arkansas and Tennessee.

Although primarily in high schools, new tech programs in middle schools began five years ago, and elementary schools have jumped on the new tech bandwagon in the past year, Veach said.

The Saint Francis faculty training began in September with a series of webinars, including one with Kim Brewster, a new tech instructor at Adams Central High School, explaining how to engage students through project-based learning.