This article is reproduced with permission of the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA). Learn more about comprehensive STEM programs and teacher resources at www.ITEEA.org.
Harry T. Roman
In this challenge, students will combine technology education and communications skills, to produce a useful product for other teachers and students to enjoy. Help others discover the excitement, relevancy, and inter-disciplinary nature of tech ed. You and your class are going to design a technology education newsletter. Good communication skills are absolutely essential in the world of work, and here is a superb way to integrate that into the fun of technology education.
As you begin this challenge, you must try and understand what your readers (customers) might like to learn about tech ed, technology, and how technology affects the world. You need to survey different classes, teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, media specialists (librarians), principal and vice principals. This is what inventors and new product development engineers do before they design and launch any new products. They try and understand what customers are looking for in the way of solved problems. In this case, you are trying to determine what information needs your customers identify. Think about these types of questions to ask your customers/readers:
- What interests you about technology education?
- Are there specific topic areas you would like the newsletter to cover?
- How often would you like to read a tech ed newsletter?
- What is the right size for a newsletter (2, 4, 6, or more pages)?
- Do you prefer an electronic or printed newsletter?
- What age groups should the newsletter be designed for?
- Are there special sections/features that should be included?
This survey technique provides the basic market information that will drive your tech ed newsletter design. Be careful to survey a good cross section of the school; and take enough time to analyze what you learn from it. Check out other newsletters too. See the style and format that use, how they appeal to readers, what special features they offer, and the style of writing. Use the Internet too, so you can see a variety of newsletters.
For your newsletter to be produced smoothly, your students must be organized for efficiency. Here is where your class can study how publishing companies organize their staffs for effectiveness; and how it can do the same for the students who will produce the newsletter. If you have a school newspaper, talk with the folks who manage that process and learn from them — maybe even ask them to join this challenge if that is possible. Consider these questions:
- Who will be the editors?
- Which students will do the writing?
- Will students rotate editor and writing assignments?
- Who selects the articles that will be written?
- Will each issue have a theme or some other unifying aspect?
- How will feature articles be selected?
- Will interviews with tech ed folks from industry be included?
- Is it possible for the principal to write an introduction to each issue?
- Will some teachers from around the school act as aboard of directors?
- Are you thinking about some photography to include?
- How will writing deadlines be set?
- Will there be a formal schedule of issues to be published?
- What physical form will the newsletter take?
- How will the issues be delivered to readers?
This is just a sampling of the things to consider. There is much to plan and organize in order to produce a quality publication. This is an excellent opportunity as well to study how technology has improved publishing across all fronts from newspapers, to magazines, to newsletters. Is the technology these modern companies use, also the same that will help you gain efficiency in your operations.
There is a great deal of relevancy to the world of work in this challenge. Many on-the-job engineers, technologists, and technicians find themselves writing technical papers, developing poster board presentations, and contributing to or publishing technology related publications within their companies. It is very common. The author has done this for many years and enjoyed trying to appeal to a wide audience within his company. This type of activity is a confidence builder with making slide show type presentations too.
And maybe, you might be able to contact someone who works in the newspaper or magazine industry to have them talk with your students about bringing information in attractive and appealing ways to readers. Certainly there are techniques the students could learn to embellish their articles, and an industry visitor can greatly help. Perhaps this visitor could act as an informal coach and mentor for the students to consult, and also act as a contributing editor.
Making It Happen
Now it’s time to satisfy your readers. Turn student enthusiasm loose to get those pieces written and ready for editorial review. Remember to critically review and polish student writing, emphasizing all the time how readers form opinions of people by how well they write. Good communications skills get people noticed and build readership.
Let that tech ed passion you and your students have come through. Tell others about the subject you love; and what makes it so important and exciting to the everyday world. Make your stories timely. Punch the stories up with graphics and statistics whenever possible. Get down to details and show how tech ed benefits us all.
Many schools have websites. Is it possible your newsletter could be a link on that website so other schools can see how tech ed is happening at your school? Maybe your newsletter can be distributed to other schools in your district as well. Tech ed students from your school to talk with their counterparts at nearby schools and maybe those other students can do some special articles in your newsletter. I can envision a time when such a newsletter might be a cooperative effort between numbers of schools. Can you?
Have fun and learn while doing. Get ready for the world of work right there in your classroom.