To succeed in tomorrow’s workplace, employees will need fluency in technical tasks such as 3-D fabrication, programming and electronics, said Francis Quek, Texas A&M professor of visualization and director of the new Texas A&M Institute of Technology-Infused Learning, an interdisciplinary group of scholars who will investigate how these and other new technologies can best be employed in all levels of teaching and learning.
“New digital fabrication technologies point to an economy with a wider variety of goods and a more demographically diverse group of innovators and entrepreneurs than exist today,” said Quek. “Preparing new generations of thinkers, innovators, and individuals with the skill, will, and know-how to succeed in new economies has the potential to significantly impact issues of economic equity.”
The new institute’s researchers will hail from an interdisciplinary group of colleges including Architecture, Education and Human Development, Engineering and Liberal Arts.
TITIL scholars, joined by additional partner institutions and organizations, will address the many research, educational and practical questions that technology-infused science, technology, engineering and math teaching and learning entails.
“While pockets of faculty already address different aspects of this research in isolation, TITIL will provide an integrative framework for university researchers to proceed from a project’s theoretical conceptualization to its design, development, and implementation through deployment, testing, study, and evaluation within authentic educational contexts,” said Quek.
One of those research “pockets” is already underway at the College of Architecture, where Quek leads interdisciplinary teams of Texas A&M psychiatry, education, and engineering researchers. The scholars are investigating means to increase the involvement of children from underrepresented populations such as Latinos and African-Americans in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields.
In the three-year, $1 million project funded by the National Science Foundation, students at Bryan’s Neal Elementary School are creating miniature, erupting volcanoes and earthquakes that destroy “villages” in a container. In the projects, students serve as their own engineers, solving problems as they build their models, simulations or experiments.
Patterned around the “maker movement,” the study engages children in hands-on exploration and invention to spark interest in scientific discovery.
“We’re researching approaches through which students may think of themselves as being interested in and capable of doing science,” he said. “Such identity development may have a greater impact over time than learning any one piece of science in elementary school. If the children think of themselves as capable of and interested in science and technology, they may persist in learning STEM subjects as they continue in school,” said Quek.
This type of project will be a key TITIL focus, said Quek, who envisions institute projects in the Bryan/College Station area as well as broader regions in the state.
Students from two Bryan ISD schools will demonstrate their projects in a TITIL kickoff open house from 2:45 – 4 p.m. Jan. 31, 2019 in Rudder 501.
Additional TITIL leaders include Louis Tassinary, professor of visualization; Lynn Burlbaw, Professor of Teaching, Learning and Culture; Malini Natarajarathinam, Associate Professor of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution, and Rebecca Schlegel, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences.