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Hands-On Professional Development

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Innovative Program Allows Georgia Teachers to Bring Real-World Work Experiences into the Classroom

Everyone knows the imperative for a highly-skilled workforce, particularly in the fields of math, science and technology - the foundation for tomorrow's knowledge workers. Georgia alone has generated 3,000 new jobs a week since 1997, and about 3,500 new corporations were formed in the state every month in 2000. Despite this growth, the state's employers have struggled to find qualified workers to fill these positions. We predict significant shortages over the next 10 years for computer programmers, computer engineers and systems analysts.

The story is the same all over the country. The No. 1 concern for CEOs in America, according to a recent Accenture Study of CEOs around the world, is lack of a skilled workforce. And, according to the National Science Foundation, U.S. colleges awarded 37 percent fewer degrees in computer science, 24 percent fewer in math, 16 percent fewer in engineering and 2 percent fewer in physical sciences in 1998 compared to 1988.

In Georgia, a unique partnership between the private sector, colleges, and middle and high schools is hoping to change these statistics by reaching young people early on, and inspiring them to pursue technology, science and math careers. The ambassadors for this program are none other than schoolteachers, who also benefit by getting hands-on work experience in their fields of study, whether it's biological research, IT management, business analysis or training. Teachers on average reach between 120 and 150 students each year, making them one of the best conduits for reaching students and preparing them for their future work roles.

The program is appropriately called GIFT for Georgia Industrial Fellowships for Teachers. Georgia Institute of Technology's Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC) sponsors GIFT, which is among the largest programs of its kind in the country. There are two distinguishing characteristics of the GIFT program. One is that it is much more than a job shadowing program - teachers are expected to come to the table with skills and to make a contribution. Another difference is the diversity of the private-public sector involvement. Many teacher programs place teachers in a government lab or university; GIFT offers fellowships in a variety of disciplines, including business, industry, public science institutes and research.

Program History

Established in 1991, GIFT is a collaborative effort designed to enhance mathematics and science experiences of Georgia teachers and their students. The program gives teachers real-world work experiences that they, in turn, can share with their students to stimulate interest in careers in math and science. These careers represent the heart of today's and tomorrow's competitive workforce.

During the summer of 2000, 73 teachers took part in the program. A total of 450 teachers throughout Georgia have participated in the program over the past 11 years. Teachers who have completed two internships often return as facilitators, who mentor approximately 15 teachers currently in the program. Companies and organizations serving as GIFT sponsors include: Lucent Technologies, Georgia Power, The Robinson-Humphrey Co., Scientific-Atlanta, SunTrust, Synovus Financial, Home Depot, IBM, UPS and Zoo Atlanta. The university participants include Georgia's colleges, such as Georgia Tech, Emory Universityand Georgia State University.

The Process

Sponsoring organizations agree to pay a fellowship fee of $7,000 that covers the teachers' work stipend and administrative costs of the program. Positions can extend from six to eight weeks during the summer months. An online search quickly matches the type of position to the most qualified teachers. The sponsoring organization can then interview the top candidates before making their final selection. At the end of their fellowship, teachers return to the classroom with action plans that incorporate their summer work experience. This ensures that the learning and insights they gained during their fellowship become part of their classroom curriculum, whether it takes the form of research projects, guest lectures from the sponsoring organization or a field trip to the workplace setting.

Real-World Work Experiences

Teacher assignments have included working at Georgia Power's Environmental Lab, where they gathered water samples and helped develop units of electricity. In recent years, teachers have taken on statistics projects at The Robinson-Humphrey Co., where they con-sulted with clients and ultimately made recommendations to them. Other teachers became part of the research staffs at Georgia Tech, where they worked on vital research in areas such as DNA.

Michelle Battles, a third-grade teacher at Vaughn Elementary School in Cobb County, Ga., worked the summer of 2001 at IBM as an information architect. Battles, who has been teaching for four years, helped gather requirements for an extranet site for one of IBM's largest customers, The Coca-Cola Co., to enhance global communications practices. "This summer's experience through the GIFT program has allowed me to learn more than I could ever learn in a classroom; yet it gave me the skills to sharpen my flair as a teacher and realize what kinds of skills corporate America needs from our students,' says Battles.

Another teacher, Melissa Kinard, spent the summer of 2000 working in Georgia Tech's molecular biology lab on the Human Genome Project. The Duluth High School science teacher collaborated with Georgia Tech researchers who have discovered a new genetic mechanism for cells to control growth in response to environmental cues, which could help stem the spread of cancer. "I teach very bright students, many of whom will enter a science profession. The GIFT opportunity allowed me to provide them with firsthand experience of the latest developments in molecular technology,' says Kinard, who hosted a guest speaker from Georgia Tech's biology lab to talk to students in her advanced biology class in early 2001.

Many sponsors are surprised that teachers can contribute to their organization's bottom line, and that they have gained a productive contributor in addition to achieving their education-outreach goals. GIFT has come a long way on its quest to reach teachers and students in Georgia. In the interests of measuring the program's effectiveness in Georgia, GIFT is participating in a five-year study with Columbia University that is examining the impact of teacher programs on student interest and academic performance. While the study will not be completed for two more years, we do know that teacher expertise is one of the most important factors in raising student achievement, and investing in teachers is the most cost-effective way to accomplish this goal.

Studies of the effects of teacher participation in science research experiences show that they provide teachers with new insights, knowledge and resources. They also encourage teachers to implement more constructivist instructional practices, as well as prepare teachers to provide students with more up-to-date, relevant and stimulating educational experiences in science.

Georgia Tech's GIFT office welcomes input on how we can make this hands-on professional development program more relevant to schools, the teachers and, ultimately, the students we serve. Sponsorship opportunities are available to all organizations and companies in Georgia, and nominations are welcome by any interested organizations in the educational technology field. For more information, call (404) 894-7530 or visit GIFT online at www.ceismc.gatech.edu.


 

Tips for Establishing a Teacher Fellowship

Below are some tips for school districts and corporate leaders who are interested in establishing a teacher fellowship program like GIFT:

Getting Started

  • Recruit strong community leaders from both academia and corporations to champion the program. Current and past chairpersons for GIFT's advisory council have included CEOs or senior VPs from Bell South, Equifax and IBM. It is also critical to have science and math coordinators as well as school superintendents on board. School systems' personnel can weave this program to become part of their teachers' professional development plans.
  • Communicate the program's benefits to a company's bottom line. Educate companies by informing them that they are not only supporting education, but are also gaining a skilled, productive worker.
  • Move the program's administration to the Web. Part of the GIFT program's success is that it is based around a strong technology infrastructure. Key functions such as online registration and online matching have proven to be very successful.
  • Once a Program is Established

  • Hold teachers accountable to an action plan. Follow up with site visits once a teacher has returned to the classroom. School systems' personnel have a greater credibility for accountability.
  • Provide participating teachers with facilitators or mentors. Teachers require continual support, guidance and ideas for the program to be most effective.
  • Document the program's effectiveness. All aspects of education are moving toward accountability. You need to have a process in place to gauge the effectiveness of student achievement and the actual transfer of experience into the classroom.
  •  


    Paul Ohme is director of CEISMC at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. He is a 30-year education veteran with extensive experience as an administrator, computer science professor, researcher and published author. In his current role, Ohme provides strategic direction to all CEISMC programs including the GIFT program.

    E-mail: paul.ohme@ceismc.gatech.edu

    James Rayford currently serves as program manager for the GIFT program. Before this, Rayford was program manager for the Georgia Early Mathematics Placement Test program at Georgia Tech's CEISMC office, helping provide high school juniors with information about their mathematical knowledge prior to enrolling in colleges and universities. Prior to working at CEISMC, Rayford was a middle school and high school mathematics teacher for Dekalb County Schools in Decatur, Ga. During the summers of 1994 and 1995 he participated as a GIFT fellow. In 1997, he served as a GIFT facilitator.

    E-mail: james.rayford@ceismc.gatech.eduX@XOpenTag000

    Innovative Program Allows Georgia Teachers to Bring Real-World Work Experiences into the ClassroomX@XCloseTag000

    Everyone knows the imperative for a highly-skilled workforce, particularly in the fields of math, science and technology - the foundation for tomorrow's knowledge workers. Georgia alone has generated 3,000 new jobs a week since 1997, and about 3,500 new corporations were formed in the state every month in 2000. Despite this growth, the state's employers have struggled to find qualified workers to fill these positions. We predict significant shortages over the next 10 years for computer programmers, computer engineers and systems analysts.

    The story is the same all over the country. The No. 1 concern for CEOs in America, according to a recent Accenture Study of CEOs around the world, is lack of a skilled workforce. And, according to the National Science Foundation, U.S. colleges awarded 37 percent fewer degrees in computer science, 24 percent fewer in math, 16 percent fewer in engineering and 2 percent fewer in physical sciences in 1998 compared to 1988.

    In Georgia, a unique partnership between the private sector, colleges, and middle and high schools is hoping to change these statistics by reaching young people early on, and inspiring them to pursue technology, science and math careers. The ambassadors for this program are none other than schoolteachers, who also benefit by getting hands-on work experience in their fields of study, whether it's biological research, IT management, business analysis or training. Teachers on average reach between 120 and 150 students each year, making them one of the best conduits for reaching students and preparing them for their future work roles.

    The program is appropriately called GIFT for Georgia Industrial Fellowships for Teachers. Georgia Institute of Technology's Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC) sponsors GIFT, which is among the largest programs of its kind in the country. There are two distinguishing characteristics of the GIFT program. One is that it is much more than a job shadowing program - teachers are expected to come to the table with skills and to make a contribution. Another difference is the diversity of the private-public sector involvement. Many teacher programs place teachers in a government lab or university; GIFT offers fellowships in a variety of disciplines, including business, industry, public science institutes and research.

    X@XOpenTag002X@XOpenTag001Program History

    X@XCloseTag001X@XCloseTag002Established in 1991, GIFT is a collaborative effort designed to enhance mathematics and science experiences of Georgia teachers and their students. The program gives teachers real-world work experiences that they, in turn, can share with their students to stimulate interest in careers in math and science. These careers represent the heart of today's and tomorrow's competitive workforce.

    During the summer of 2000, 73 teachers took part in the program. A total of 450 teachers throughout Georgia have participated in the program over the past 11 years. Teachers who have completed two internships often return as facilitators, who mentor approximately 15 teachers currently in the program. Companies and organizations serving as GIFT sponsors include: Lucent Technologies, Georgia Power, The Robinson-Humphrey Co., Scientific-Atlanta, SunTrust, Synovus Financial, Home Depot, IBM, UPS and Zoo Atlanta. The university participants include Georgia's colleges, such as Georgia Tech, Emory Universityand Georgia State University.

    X@XOpenTag004X@XOpenTag003The Process

    X@XCloseTag003X@XCloseTag004Sponsoring organizations agree to pay a fellowship fee of $7,000 that covers the teachers' work stipend and administrative costs of the program. Positions can extend from six to eight weeks during the summer months. An online search quickly matches the type of position to the most qualified teachers. The sponsoring organization can then interview the top candidates before making their final selection. At the end of their fellowship, teachers return to the classroom with action plans that incorporate their summer work experience. This ensures that the learning and insights they gained during their fellowship become part of their classroom curriculum, whether it takes the form of research projects, guest lectures from the sponsoring organization or a field trip to the workplace setting.

    X@XOpenTag006X@XOpenTag005Real-World Work ExperiencesX@XCloseTag005

    X@XCloseTag006Teacher assignments have included working at Georgia Power's Environmental Lab, where they gathered water samples and helped develop units of electricity. In recent years, teachers have taken on statistics projects at The Robinson-Humphrey Co., where they con-sulted with clients and ultimately made recommendations to them. Other teachers became part of the research staffs at Georgia Tech, where they worked on vital research in areas such as DNA.

    Michelle Battles, a third-grade teacher at Vaughn Elementary School in Cobb County, Ga., worked the summer of 2001 at IBM as an information architect. Battles, who has been teaching for four years, helped gather requirements for an extranet site for one of IBM's largest customers, The Coca-Cola Co., to enhance global communications practices. "This summer's experience through the GIFT program has allowed me to learn more than I could ever learn in a classroom; yet it gave me the skills to sharpen my flair as a teacher and realize what kinds of skills corporate America needs from our students,' says Battles.

    Another teacher, Melissa Kinard, spent the summer of 2000 working in Georgia Tech's molecular biology lab on the Human Genome Project. The Duluth High School science teacher collaborated with Georgia Tech researchers who have discovered a new genetic mechanism for cells to control growth in response to environmental cues, which could help stem the spread of cancer. "I teach very bright students, many of whom will enter a science profession. The GIFT opportunity allowed me to provide them with firsthand experience of the latest developments in molecular technology,' says Kinard, who hosted a guest speaker from Georgia Tech's biology lab to talk to students in her advanced biology class in early 2001.

    Many sponsors are surprised that teachers can contribute to their organization's bottom line, and that they have gained a productive contributor in addition to achieving their education-outreach goals. GIFT has come a long way on its quest to reach teachers and students in Georgia. In the interests of measuring the program's effectiveness in Georgia, GIFT is participating in a five-year study with Columbia University that is examining the impact of teacher programs on student interest and academic performance. While the study will not be completed for two more years, we do know that teacher expertise is one of the most important factors in raising student achievement, and investing in teachers is the most cost-effective way to accomplish this goal.

    Studies of the effects of teacher participation in science research experiences show that they provide teachers with new insights, knowledge and resources. They also encourage teachers to implement more constructivist instructional practices, as well as prepare teachers to provide students with more up-to-date, relevant and stimulating educational experiences in science.

    Georgia Tech's GIFT office welcomes input on how we can make this hands-on professional development program more relevant to schools, the teachers and, ultimately, the students we serve. Sponsorship opportunities are available to all organizations and companies in Georgia, and nominations are welcome by any interested organizations in the educational technology field. For more information, call (404) 894-7530 or visit GIFT online at www.ceismc.gatech.edu.


     

    X@XOpenTag008X@XOpenTag007Tips for Establishing a Teacher FellowshipX@XCloseTag007X@XCloseTag008

    Below are some tips for school districts and corporate leaders who are interested in establishing a teacher fellowship program like GIFT:

    X@XOpenTag009Getting Started

    X@XCloseTag009
  • Recruit strong community leaders from both academia and corporations to champion the program. Current and past chairpersons for GIFT's advisory council have included CEOs or senior VPs from Bell South, Equifax and IBM. It is also critical to have science and math coordinators as well as school superintendents on board. School systems' personnel can weave this program to become part of their teachers' professional development plans.
  • Communicate the program's benefits to a company's bottom line. Educate companies by informing them that they are not only supporting education, but are also gaining a skilled, productive worker.
  • Move the program's administration to the Web. Part of the GIFT program's success is that it is based around a strong technology infrastructure. Key functions such as online registration and online matching have proven to be very successful.
  • X@XOpenTag010Once a Program is Established

    X@XCloseTag010
  • Hold teachers accountable to an action plan. Follow up with site visits once a teacher has returned to the classroom. School systems' personnel have a greater credibility for accountability.
  • Provide participating teachers with facilitators or mentors. Teachers require continual support, guidance and ideas for the program to be most effective.
  • Document the program's effectiveness. All aspects of education are moving toward accountability. You need to have a process in place to gauge the effectiveness of student achievement and the actual transfer of experience into the classroom.
  •  


    Paul Ohme is director of CEISMC at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. He is a 30-year education veteran with extensive experience as an administrator, computer science professor, researcher and published author. In his current role, Ohme provides strategic direction to all CEISMC programs including the GIFT program.

    E-mail: paul.ohme@ceismc.gatech.edu

    James Rayford currently serves as program manager for the GIFT program. Before this, Rayford was program manager for the Georgia Early Mathematics Placement Test program at Georgia Tech's CEISMC office, helping provide high school juniors with information about their mathematical knowledge prior to enrolling in colleges and universities. Prior to working at CEISMC, Rayford was a middle school and high school mathematics teacher for Dekalb County Schools in Decatur, Ga. During the summers of 1994 and 1995 he participated as a GIFT fellow. In 1997, he served as a GIFT facilitator.

    E-mail: james.rayford@ceismc.gatech.edu

    This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2001 issue of THE Journal.

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