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Moving Toward Technological Literacy

Moving Toward Technological LiteracyIn a recent op-ed in The Boston Globe, Tufts alumnus and trustee Ioannis Miaoulis wrote about the importance of technological literacy.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [01.22.07] With new leadership in Massachusetts, one Tufts graduate hopes to see an increased emphasis on technology and engineering education in the state. In a recent Boston Globe op-ed, Tufts trustee Ioannis Miaoulis, president and director of Boston’s Museum of Science, urged newly elected Governor Deval Patrick to make technological literacy a top priority for his administration.

“During his campaign, Governor Deval Patrick sparked a grassroots effort showing that inspiration can drive change. Now he has the opportunity to mobilize citizens on critical issues,” Miaoulis wrote. “Technological literacy should be one of them.”

Technological literacy for students has been a focus in Massachusetts since 2001, when Miaoulis led an effort to introduce engineering into the state’s public school curriculum. At that time, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to develop statewide curricular frameworks and assessments for engineering at all levels, K-12.

“One key to preparing students for today's competitive global economy is introducing them to the engineering skills and concepts that engage them in applying their math and science knowledge to solve real problems and inspire innovation,” wrote Miaoulis, who holds three degrees from Tufts: a bachelor’s degree and doctorate in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in economics. “This is a critical step in moving toward technological literacy.”

Recently, the state added a science and technology/engineering exam to its group of required standardized tests, which are collectively known as the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). According to Miaoulis, both students and teachers will need support and resources to prepare for this new testing requirement. “The time to act is now,” he added.

By partnering with school systems, colleges and universities can play an important role, Miaoulis stressed in his op-ed. “Every university or college receiving state funding should sponsor at least one area high school and establish mentoring or after-school programs in technology/engineering education,” he wrote in the Globe.

At Tufts, he pointed out, that type of collaboration is already underway. Through the university’s Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, graduate students are working with other local colleges and universities to add engineering to the Boston Public Schools Active Physics curriculum.

Other organizations -- even those outside of higher education -- should get involved, too, according to Miaoulis. He suggested that technology and engineering companies in the state lend their support by providing funding, donating equipment or offering their expertise. Governor Patrick, he added, could help to facilitate these types of relationships.

“We can go beyond practical incentives such as increased tax credits for companies that commit to supporting a school or after-school program,” Miaoulis wrote in the Globe. “Patrick could encourage industry to support partnerships strengthening technology/engineering programs such as the PowerUp! Project.”

PowerUp!, Miaoulis explained, is a project funded by the National Science Foundation that “offers programs for educators on renewable energy and integration of academic and engineering concepts.” It involves 25 industry partners, six Massachusetts high schools, three community colleges, the Tech Prep Network and the Museum of Science.

Programs like PowerUp!, according to Miaoulis, emphasize the importance of technological literacy to students and show them how they can use those skills to make a positive impact in the world.

“We need to signal students that technological literacy is important because it gives citizens tools to participate thoughtfully in a technological world, thus fostering civic engagement,” Miaoulis wrote in the Globe.

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