JITE v36n2 - A Challenge

Volume 36, Number 2
Winter 1999

The following was prepared by Dr. Rupert N. Evans, Professor and Dean Emeritus, University of Illinois. Dr. M. Ray Karnes presented it, along with many other submissions, to the Mississippi Valley Technology Teacher Education Conference in November, 1998.

A Challenge

This is a tribute to Dr. Harvey Dean of Pittsburg, Kansas, who has done more than any other person to change the face of Technology Education in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, he is not a member of the Mississippi Valley Conference, and he may even be unknown to some of its members.

What has Harvey Dean done? He has designed a system of equipment, furniture, and instructional materials for technology education in the middle school. He did not do this in a university, but through his own company, Pitsco. He has plowed back the profits from the sales of these teaching modules into further development of his system and into its dissemination. The result is that more than 1500 middle schools are using his curricula, far more than have ever adopted the recommendations of government-funded curriculum studies conducted by universities. As do all innovators, Dr. Dean owes great debts to some of his predecessors. In the second quarter of the 20th century, William Warner developed the concept of a "Laboratory of Industries" at The Ohio State University. His organization for instruction rotated students from one instructional position to another. It used space and equipment efficiently, but few instructors seemed able to cope with teaching such a wide variety of simultaneous tasks.

In the third quarter of the century, Don Maley of the University of Maryland developed a revised curriculum based on testing and experimentation rather than the construction of take-home projects. During the same period, Henry Ziel, at the University of Alberta, used a similar curriculum, but improved the effectiveness of instruction by providing self-teaching media at each teaching station, thus conserving instructor energy and supplementing the instructor's personal knowledge. He worked to disseminate his concepts, but few professors were willing to learn.

As the last quarter of the century began, Harvey Dean used his company as a vehicle for curriculum development. I do not know why Professor Dean left a university setting to develop his innovations, but I do know that few universities have been involved in studying, let alone promoting, his ideas. Other commercial firms certainly are aware of his successes. One company after another has begun to sell modules which have more than a faint resemblance to the Dean (and Ziel) instructional materials and processes. Are universities not involved because they are afraid of using technology in technology education? Or, because of the "Not Invented Here" syndrome? Or, because university faculty are less in touch with what is really going on in schools than are Dean and his competitors?

A key question facing the Mississippi Valley Conference is "How should universities be involved in technology education?" At one time, many members of the Conference worked hard to reshape Industrial Arts and all of them prepared teachers for secondary schools. Today, the members are much more likely to be training technologists or instructional administrators to work in business or industry. However, in response to the recent increase in demand for technology education staff in secondary schools, some universities have revived their teacher education programs. Intermittent attention to teacher education is understandable, but it is not desirable.

There is an even more basic problem than periodic teacher education. Major changes are occurring in technology education, but they have little relationship to what universities have been doing in the last quarter-century. If universities are to be involved in technology education, they also must be involved in curriculum development which consists of more than preparing endless lists of goals. Harvey Dean has set an example for us. Are we willing to accept the challenge?

P.S. I have no relationship with Pitsco or any other company producing instructional materials for technology education.

Tracy Gilmore