Saturday, May 5, 2001
Technology education replaces 'shop class' in Volusia schools
By AUTUMN GIUSTI
NEWS-JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
DELAND — Mr. Posey's classroom at DeLand Middle School was just a sawdusty shop class last year. This year, about a dozen modules with computers, gizmos and gadgets have replaced the toolboxes and sheets of plywood that once dominated the room. Instead of chiseling away at wooden benches, his pupils now design computer-generated blueprints and use lasers and mirrors to set up home security systems.
So long shop. Enter technology education.
"Tech ed" uses technology to teach technology, said Al Posey, who teaches the class at DeLand Middle. Shop classes throughout the school district are being transformed into this high-tech elective. Most of Volusia County's middle schools -- with the exception of Southwestern, Deltona and Taylor middle schools -- and those in Flagler County offer the class.
"We were looking at our current applied technology offerings and really felt that with the emphasis on the math and sciences and the importance of our students being prepared for the FCAT, these technology modules are an excellent way to give students a way to apply those skills in a very real setting," said Mary Bruno, director of applied technology for Volusia County schools.
Seventh-grader Danny Feierman, 12, has two favorite subjects: poetry and computers. His dad works as a computer technician, and Danny has considered following the same career path. That's why he enrolled in Posey's tech ed class.
"My dad thinks (the class) is good," said the honor roll pupil. "He's proud that I'm doing things with computers."
Though tech ed isn't strictly a computer class, Posey believes it gives his students an edge on the technology-based careers of the future.
"I know it's an elective, but it can make the difference between a kid getting a job or not," he said.
The class's middle schoolers visit a different themed module every other week -- ranging from bridge engineering and robots to radio and TV broadcasts. A computer program quizzes and grades them on their understanding of each station.
Since 1995, the local school districts have installed about one new lab a year at middle schools. The labs aren't cheap -- each one costs $300,000 -- so the districts have to pace them.
Once the remaining schools receive labs, which should happen within the next two years, the district will decide whether to install similar labs at elementary schools, Bruno said. High schools already use similar modules in their technology classes, which target more specific areas for training. In the future, Volusia's schools also intend to update their business education programs to include instruction on common office software.
Flagler's schools also are open to change, said Superintendent Robert Williams.
"So much centers around technology, and technology changes so quickly we are in a position to update."
Bruno believes understanding technology is crucial to success in tomorrow's society.
"Eight years ago, we probably didn't even know what a Web master was," she said. "Today that would be a commonplace job."
And Posey believes the class will provide valuable skills for all, not just for future NASA employees or engineers.
"Even if they don't end up working with lasers or getting a job in a production lab, they can at least make intelligent decisions about technology," he said. "If they don't, it will hurt all of us."