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ARRL Teachers Institute Offers Instructors Wireless Technology Skills for the Classroom

08/15/2012

This summer, the ARRL offered teachers the opportunity to learn about ways to incorporate wireless technology into their classroom curriculum through its Teachers Institute on Wireless Technology (TI). Since 2004, the ARRL has sponsored TI sessions as part of its educational outreach to schools. This professional development training is offered at no cost to the teachers, but is funded through grants and donations to the ARRL’s Education & Technology Program (ETP).

The Teachers Institute has provided teachers from elementary school to the university level with tools and strategies to introduce basic electronics, the science of radio, space technology and satellite communications, as well as weather science, introduction to micro-controllers and basic robotics in their classrooms. The curriculum is designed for motivated teachers and other school staff who want to learn more about wireless technology and bring that knowledge to their students.

In 2012, the ARRL offered two sessions of the basic TI course (TI-1) -- held at Parallax in Rocklin, California (led by Tommy Gober, N5DUX, of Longview, Texas) and at ARRL Headquarters in Newington (led by ARRL Education and Technology Program Coordinator Mark Spencer, WA8SME, of Gales Ferry, Connecticut) -- and one session of the advanced course (TI-2), held in Dayton, Ohio (led by Matt Severin, N8MS, of Eau Claire, Michigan) and sponsored by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA). This year, 26 teachers from 17 states and a Department of Defense school in Korea participated in the TI-1 courses. At the TI-2 course, there were eight teachers from seven states. To date, almost 450 teachers have participated in the ARRL’s Teachers Institute.

While the TI-1 sessions introduce basic concepts of wireless technology, including robotics, the TI-2 course focuses on the nuts and bolts of setting up and operating a satellite ground station for classroom participation; each TI-2 participant received equipment to configure a satellite communications station. TI-2 participants must have already completed the TI-1 course.

Since the California TI-1 session and the Dayton TI-2 session were held at the same time, Gober and Severin scheduled a QSO for the groups via satellites. “As was expected, the teachers loved the satellite contacts,” Severin said. “I was a bit surprised to not hear a pileup for W1AW/6. We did work Matt from the other TI session -- it literally received cheers from the attendees here.” Gober concurred: “While Matt was replying to me, I could hear the cheering and clapping in the background!”

The Teachers Institute is only the beginning of a participant’s exploration with wireless technology. The goal of the TI program is to equip each teacher with necessary foundational knowledge, and through hands-on learning, generate the inspiration for teachers to continue to explore wireless technology and adapt relevant content into their classroom instruction. This training serves as excellent foundational preparation for teachers interested in including classroom learning about radio communications and wireless technology.

Teachers who participated in the 2012 summer TI sessions had some enthusiastic comments about their experience:

  • “The Institute provided me with knowledge and materials to implement these topics into my middle school curriculum, but also gave me confidence in areas that I had felt deficient in before.”
  • “The workshop was right on the mark with the curriculum that I wanted to bring into the classroom. It provided me a cost effective path to bring it into the classroom. It provided both the knowledge and a cost effective way to do so.”
  • “Having an instructor who did and does the activities is priceless. “
  • “I have been to numerous workshops, most sponsored by Fortune 100 companies as employee training - this one is right there with the best. Thanks for a terrific learning experience!”

Some highlights of the post-TI evaluation survey:

  • 89 percent of participants at the TI-1 sessions said they eagerly anticipate including some of the knowledge obtained in their instruction next year.
  • 94 percent of respondents responded that the content covered in the TI motivated them to encourage their students to learn more about wireless technology and to consider obtaining an amateur radio license, and/or encourage their students to do so.
  • Confidence levels in teaching the content addressed in the TI improved dramatically for all topics.

One participant took some time to thank the donors who made the TI-2 possible: “I am very appreciative of the generous support by ARRL, DARA and Yaesu in providing travel expenses, tuition, equipment, cables and software to the students of the institute. I feel this was time and money well spent to support teachers and further the goals of STEM education in our country and in our hobby.”

“We echo that sentiment,” said Education Services Manager Debra Johnson, K1DMJ. “I also want to thank Ham Radio Outlet and the generous ARRL members who have supported these outreach efforts through donations to ARRL’s Education & Technology Fund.”

Though participants need not hold an Amateur Radio license to enroll in a TI-1 session, TI-2 participants must possess at least a Technician class license at the time off application and be an ARRL member. Priority for attending the TI-2 session will be given to those teachers who have developed an educational proposal accepted for participation in the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) Program.

Enrollment for the 2013 Teachers Institute sessions is expected to begin in February 2013.



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