New challenges create opportunities
There is a lot of talk these days about the shortage of engineers in this country and the lack of interest in general in the STEM disciplines. The lack of interest in the STEM disciplines is especially acute with women with the notable exception in the field of biology. There are multiple reasons cited for this problem, and the College of Technology is not immune to these challenges.
There was a very interesting article in the New York Times titled: Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard): http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/education/edlife/why-science-majors-change-their-mind-its-just-so-darn-hard.html?_r=1&ref=edlife
The article cites studies showing that 40% of students planning to major in engineering and science end up switching to other subjects or failing to get any degree. Near the end of the article it refers to what engineering programs are beginning to do to encourage students to remain in their programs. Freshman design courses and lab-based projects are beginning to make a difference in the retention rate of students in engineering programs.
These are attributes that technology has successfully employed for years. The problem is, if engineering begins to teach their students in a similar fashion to technology then what will differentiate us from engineering and how do we communicate that difference to students, parents, and employers? So as engineering begins to address their retention problem, it has caused a new challenge and opportunities for technology.
We need to emphasize other positive attributes of our technology programs as well as how we differentiate and complement engineering programs. Just as engineering is changing the way they teach, technology must also find ways to improve. I believe that an emphasis on innovation, technology integration, and socially relevant application of technology, computational thinking, and systems thinking are great differentiators. We need to emphasize these topics more in our curricula as we rise to the challenge and prepare more students for careers in the STEM disciplines.