In school, many of us have uttered the words, “When will I use [insert subject] in the real world?” The New Tech Network is on a mission to change the way teachers teach our children by showing them how they’ll use above mentioned subject after graduation using projects instead of textbooks and lectures. For example, designing a pond in a local city park would integrate multiple disciplines like math, science and environmental studies to name a few. At the 2015 New Tech Annual Conference (NTAC), 2,000 participants from around the world gathered to share stories and learn how other facilitators have implemented project based learning in their districts.
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Starting this fall, West Des Moines Schools will be the first school to adopt the New Tech Network program in Iowa. The NTAC conference is geared toward facilitators and I was privileged to be the only attendee from a local business. While many facilitators struggled with ideation on how to get local businesses involved in their projects, my insight in this area turned out to be a valuable piece missing from the conference.
I come from a long line of educators and have experience in implementing project based learning in education and business partnerships. As an architect for Shive-Hattery, I can see how local businesses and the architectural field can benefit when education doesn’t exist in a silo. When children are learning design thinking and problem solving skills, no matter what the problem as an adult they have the tools to break the problem down and apply the skills of research and collaboration to come up with a solution.
Local businesses can see value in project based learning by starting early recruitment and teaching students about what their business or industry does. Barriers can be broken with students are educated in a way that is applicable to what business need.
Not only do I see the benefits as a local business, but as an architect I also have an inside look on how teachers will use classroom space. To do project based learning well, teachers are going to need flexible spaces with multiple postures for students to focus, learn and collaborate. Students will also need access to ever changing technology for individual research or group discussion.
I am enthusiastic about New Tech Network’s program and see many possibilities in changing the way our children are taught. My hope is to empower other businesses to get involved with local school districts to close the gap between education and the business world.