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8 The Impact of High Technology Engineering technology programs are equipment intensive. And because the discipline requires that laboratories be devoted in much greater proportion to current arts and practices than to the verification of fundamental concepts, the equipment must be state of the art. The existence of high technology has therefore raised questions in two broad areas of engineering technology education: the use of equipment as instructional technology and the acquisition and instruction in the use of the equipment itself. Educational Technology and High-Tech Equipment Seventy years ago, Thomas Edison said: "Books will be obsolete. Scholars will soon be instructed through the eye. It is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture. Our school system will be completely changed in ten years."is In the 1960s, a Stanford University report stated: "Ten years from now, television will carry some part of the teaching of the great majority of school children in this nation, and it is also expected that television will make available at home to students of whatever age, a large part of the college curricu- lum."~6And in 1972, the Carnegie Commission predicted that by 1980 most colleges and universities would have devised adequate adminis- trative and academic authority and procedures for the encouragement and appropriate utilization of instructional technology. i7 Clearly, none of these predictions has come true. Although the latest 35
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36 ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION high-tech instructional devices are no longer audiocassettes, movies, or television Now they may be videodisks or personal computers), the issues are still the same. The question seems to be, as Dr. David Berkman of the U.S. Office of Education phrases it: "Is education so immobile as to effectively resist all influence for significant innovation which is not based upon a labor intensive approach?" i~ This traditional labor intensive approach to education is reflected in the fact that only about 4 percent of total educational budgets are for materials, including textbooks. The use of educational technology seems to depend largely on indi- vidual teacher initiative and motivation rather than on how current or capable the available equipment is. Many traditionalists, both faculty and administrators, view instructional technology as a frill. Lack of Software With the great proliferation over the years of high-tech instructional hardware at ever diminishing costs, the frustrating underutilization of the equipment seems to be caused by the limitations of available soft- ware. Few teachers have the time, expertise, or even interest to develop their own software. If high-tech equipment is to be widely used as educational technology in any curriculum, a wide selection of flexible, high-quality, pedagogically sound software must become available. If the necessary software becomes available, then clearly the exciting range of high-tech delivery systems can provide a real "mechanical advantage" for the busy and often overworked teacher of engineering technology. Indeed, one could argue that the increased use of high-tech instructional equipment is inevitable as long as the cost of labor con- tinues to rise faster than the cost of technology. High-Tech Lab Equipment Problems Several questions arise from the problem of teaching the use of high- tech equipment in the laboratory. How does a college identify those new, emerging technologies that need to be taught? Once identified, how are priorities assigned so that curriculum and lab decisions can be made? What other subjects will be deleted or given less emphasis so that new technologies can receive attention? How will equipment be purchased and kept current, once important areas are identified? One approach to the problem of anticipating trends in equipment might be to maintain a broad, general technical curriculum with a strong emphasis on the fundamentals while dealing with only several
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IMPACT OF HIGH TECHNOLOGY 37 indepth specialty areas that can reasonably be kept current. This approach favors providing "survivor skills" and a background to ensure graduates maximum future flexibility with and adaptability to new equipment. Another approach might be to emphasize the fundamentals but at the same time develop selected laboratory centers of excellence. One example of this method is Georgia's Southern Technical Institute. Realizing that present funding levels would not permit keeping all 55 of its labs at state-of-the-art levels, it established 10 centers of laboratory excellence. The chosen areas had to satisfy several criteria. First, they must be important to Georgia's economy and they must be in fields in which experience with the most advanced equipment was essential for graduate placement. Second, the areas must be those in which the college was already active and had faculty expertise. Finally, they had to be fields for which sources of private and industrial funding were identi- fied. As a result of this program, the institute's 10 high-tech labs allow the college to teach the latest technologies in such fields as satellite communications, automated manufacturing, laser and fiber optics, computer-aided design, and office automation. Multiple funding sources have been identified for the centers as required by the established criteria. The Satellite Communications Lab, for example, was funded through a major equipment grant $100,000) from a local industry, a gift of $180,000 from a local family foundation, and an allocation of $50, 000 for site preparation and a small equipment building from the state of Georgia. Southern Technical Institute anticipates that all of the centers can be funded through simi- lar cooperative arrangements. Another method for acquiring state-of-the-art equipment for engi- neering technology education is through partnerships with industry. The industries that hire hundreds of highly prepared graduates are real- izing that they have a stake in the education of their future employees. They are beginning to provide challenge grants and equipment dona- tions for centers that have the added attraction of being prominently named for the benefactor company. This type of visibility for a com- pany providing modern equipment in a modern lab that carries its name encourages other companies to accept the challenge of setting up a lab. As important as these partnerships are, however, state governments must recognize their obligation to keep instructional labs in state- supported colleges current through annual, predictable equipment allocations in the budget. Indeed, the need is so great at this moment that states should begin with some catch-up allocations.
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38 ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION Apart from developing partnerships with industry and working for better public funding, colleges can also obtain high-tech equipment by charging special fees or higher tuition in high-cost programs. The nar- rowing of course offerings and curricular specialty areas permits instruction with less And presumably more modern) equipment. If local needs require a breadth of offerings, however, field trips to indus- try, a co-op program and industrial internships for students, and visit- ing lecturers can all reduce the need for maintaining the very latest equipment. Recommendations 1. The availability of computers and computer technology should be recognized and applied in all academic programs in engineering technology. 2. Computers and computer-aided instruction should be recognized as one of the most powerful educational delivery systems now available. 3. There should be greater inducements to have faculties use mod- ern educational technologies in teaching. 4. Institutions should plan to develop a limited number of "centers of emphasis" in subspecialties.