TI Program Energizes Science and Math Teachers
Two-Week Class at UT Dallas Offers Content and Training to Area Educators
Jul. 25, 2011
Theresa Oriabure, a biology teacher at Hillcrest High School in Dallas, scoffs at the notion that teachers take summers off.
“We use the summers as a chance to learn,” Oriabure said. “I try to take advantage of opportunities where we can learn new ways to engage our students.”
Oriabure and 17 other teachers from school districts across North Texas took advantage of such an opportunity at the University of Texas at Dallas for a new two-week summer enhancement program called STEP in STEM, sponsored by Texas Instruments (TI).
The goal of STEP in STEM was to provide content and training for secondary school teachers, while developing project-based curriculum in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Teachers receive state-required development credits and a stipend for their participation. Three students in the UTeach program at UT Dallas also participated.
“STEM education is critical, and to prepare our students for the future, we need to globally employ the best teaching practices so that all students can learn,” Oriabure said. She added that the summer program encourages teachers to implement new technologies and incorporate them into existing teaching methods.
We are working to meet the demand for practical, authentic, project-based STEM curriculum in the classroom, which has been an ongoing challenge for schools throughout Texas,” said Dr. Cynthia Ledbetter, UT Dallas professor of science and mathematics education. “Teachers struggle with statewide testing, school curriculum and student performance; many do not have the time nor support to collaborate and create meaningful STEM lessons.”
The Center for STEM Education and Research (C-SER) at UT Dallas provides educational expertise in project-based STEM curriculum development. A $25,000 grant from TI funded the STEP in STEM program, which included support from TI technical experts and informational visits to TI’s Kilby Labs, Education Technology headquarters, Richardson wafer fabrication facility (RFAB) and DLP demonstration center.
“TI and UT Dallas recognized the need for a strategic program that leverages the university’s expertise in project-based learning and helps teachers engage students,” said Arturo Sanchez, TI director of education and workforce development. “These experiences bring real-life, real-work experiences to the curriculum and give teachers exposure to new ways to use the latest classroom technology. We’re building the future technical workforce by providing the resources that help teachers teach and students learn.”
“We went to TI this week, and it was amazing,” Oriabure said. “We had a chance to look at some of the newest technologies being developed for the classroom.”
She was particularly impressed with a newly-designed projector that doesn’t require filters – a feature she conceded might seem mundane to the average person.
“But for us, that’s instruction time we can save by not having to have a technician come to the class and change out the filter,” she said. “We also saw some 3D technology that can be used as a tool to enhance our lessons.”
C-SER provided materials for the participants, supplies, and an educational consultant to facilitate the program.
Carol Wingard, a teacher of eighth-grade math at Dealey International Academy, said the project-based curriculum gives students a framework and motivation for learning.
“In order to meet the challenge of teaching them what they need to learn, we have to keep them motivated,” Wingard said. “Combining technology and adjusting classroom strategies helps us achieve that goal.”
Texas STEM academies’ teachers who are taking part in the curriculum development program come from area secondary schools within the Texas STEM network supported by Texas Education Agency and Texas High School Project. The participating academies are Berkner STEM Academy in Richardson, Emmett J. Conrad STEM Academy in Dallas and Jack E. Singley IT & Engineering Academy in Irving.
UT-Dallas’ Jonsson School and the Science and Engineering Education Center are co-developers and supporters of the project. Each has played a role in the conceptualization, design and execution of the program.
Cary Jim, assistant director for C-SER, said this program fills a need for STEM teachers to interact and network with professionals from STEM fields in order to make their teaching relevant to their students.
“This project based approach provides the connection to necessary real-world applications and 21st century skills for students to be successful,” Jim said.
The program’s ultimate goals include:
- Developing integrated STEM curriculum specifically geared toward high school content in engineering, science, and mathematics.
- Aligning state standards with curriculum to meet student learning goals.
- Embedding project-based approaches within the curriculum to provide real-world connections and encourage the use of 21st century skills.
- Allowing teachers to interact with business professionals to build an on-going support and network opportunities.
- Providing evaluation of STEP in STEM and follow up with teachers in their classroom implementation.
The teachers who participated for this first year will be able to test the curriculum within their classroom during the upcoming school year and provide feedback for next summer’s program. They also worked on daily blogs enabling them to share their insights with fellow teachers.
“We believe that this program provides very meaningful experiences for outstanding STEM educators who continually seek to improve their teaching,” Sanchez said, “We hope this collaboration can be expanded next summer with additional corporate partners to make it even more valuable and reach more teachers.”