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New Tech: a new way

October 12, 2010

GIVING DETAILS ... Adams Central Superintendent Mike Pettibone and longtime ACHS business teacher Sharilyn Boots at Monday’s Chamber luncheon. (Photo by Eric Mann)

    One of the hallmarks of the New Tech method of education is tandem teaching, with two instructors assisting and advising a larger-than-usual class as two subjects are taught simultaneously, such as literature and biology.
    Accordingly, when a luncheon meeting of the Decatur Chamber of Commerce featured a program on Monday about the "Jet Tech" system that began this year for freshmen at Adams Central High School, two people made the presentation: AC Superintendent Mike Pettibone and longtime ACHS business teacher Sharilyn Boots.
    Opening the program attended by some 40 people, Pettibone pointed out that AC "didn't make the change to New Tech because we're in trouble," as some schools have done, since the district is close to achieving its initial goal of having at least 90 percent of its students pass the annual ISTEP-Plus test that measures educational achievement. He presented the latest ISTEP-Plus results at AC:
    Elementary school: 90.6 percent passed English and 92.4 percent passed mathematics.
    Middle school: 90.2 percent passed English and 95.5 percent passed mathematics.
    High school: 79.3 percent passed English and 89.5 percent passed mathematics.
    New Tech makes use, Pettibone said, of what is called "problem-based learning" or "project-based learning." He noted that "the best learning takes place when kids are involved in projects"  to solve problems. The New Tech system uses teams of students to succeed at problem-based learning.
    By 2013-14, all high school students will be involved in the program..
    Pettibone said Indiana has the highest concentration of New Tech schools in the United States, with 10 schools using it and an 11th scheduled to join next year. At Columbus, the entire kindergarten-through-12th-grade district now employs problem-based learning.
    Outside of improving school success, Pettibone said a central goal of New Tech here is to have businesses and industries locate here to take advantage of a trained local workforce. In northeastern Indiana, he reported, the three fields in which expansion of economic development is most likely are aerospace defense, medical devices, and food processing.
    New Tech helps teach many 21st century skills, the AC leader said:
    Adams Central also wants to focus on the arts, so AC favors the STEAM concept of education: science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.
    Part of his video showed comments from some AC freshmen about New Tech after the first few weeks of their involvement. The ninth graders said it allows them to save time, organize materials better, perform better research, retain information more readily, stay busy all day, ask more questions in class, gain more individual freedom, accomplish tasks more quickly and easily, use laptop computers daily, enjoy a more lively and interesting classroom experience, work better with others, and expect to use NT skills throughout their adult lives.
    In this region, reported Pettibone, several colleges and universities have shown interest in working with NT, STEM teaching (science, engineering, technology, and math), and Project Lead the Way: IPFW, the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, and Ball State University.
    There has also been interest shown from Fort Wayne businesses to "pilot an entrepreneurial program," said Pettibone, and for "connecting to the efforts of Jay County with the China Exchange Program."
    AC is in Monroe and, said the superintendent, the school is seeking to extend its fiber-optic connection to the whole community, especially its businesses. The school has obtained a grant to have fiber-optics expanded in town, he said, and the school has gone from having just two T1 communication lines to having 30 of them.
    Boots, who has been at AC for 17 years, not only teaches business, but also helps AC students gain internships in area businesses and is seeking partnerships between the school and businesses.
    She called New Tech "an exciting adventure for all of us" and asked the businesspeople present to help judge student project reports, answer questions from the students, and let classes visit business sites to observe what and how things are done. Among the local firms already involved with AC are egenuity at Monroe and Camryn Industries at Berne (soon to be renamed Visionary Technologies).
    Speaking about the AC students, Boots told the business group, "They really, really value what you say."

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