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Rob Hill and Mance Hurley, seniors in the technical education program through the University of Wyoming/Casper College (UW/CC) Center, were awarded first place in a recent instructional unit design contest in Anchorage, Alaska.
Sponsored by the Anchorage School District and Career and Technical Education (CTE), the national contest required participants to design an instructional unit that could be taught to secondary technology students. The content of the unit was defined by the Anchorage School District, and included a list of requirements to be covered.
While the unit was not actually taught, the written submission needed to be a thorough plan to assure the education of high school technology students. Using the engineering design process, students would learn to build a portable bridge that could be flown into a remote location and assembled using hand tools. The problem-solving unit was based on a current dilemma in Alaska, where bridges are often washed away by water run-off.
Throughout the nine-week unit plan, Hill and Hurley's lessons utilized various teaching strategies including direct instruction, cooperative education, problem solving, and manufacturing. They prepared to create a model bridge of the completed project, introduce the process, emphasize creativity and design, and incorporate technology through a Wiki page for parent involvement.
The duo's unit would also integrate a bridge design software program for students to download, with which they could build and test virtual bridges. Hill and Hurley would also arrange visit days for students outside of the class to become acquainted with the project, as well as guest speakers from various careers that could be associated with the bridge assignment. The unit plan culminated in a class project, where students would build a full-size portable bridge.
"This was like a capstone project of our education," said Hurley. "We reviewed everything we had learned in our methods classes and in our ‘Teacher as Practitioner' course with John Kambutu."
Hill and Hurley's lessons encouraged students' creativity, while also addressing standards and promoting cognitive and psychomotor development.
"We were able to hit higher levels of learning through questions, analysis, and synthesis," added Hill.
As finalists of the design contest, Hill and Hurley attended a weeklong conference in Anchorage where they presented their unit. At the conference, they received the first place award from Carol Comeau, superintendent of the Anchorage School District.