TED Conversations

Erik Richardson

Teacher, Richardson Ideaworks, Inc.


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A program to train teachers as scientists and engineers

There are different initiatives out there to help attract scientists and engineers into a second career as teachers, thereby bringing their real world experience and their knowledge of the disciplines into the classrooms. I would like to propose a program that works in the other direction.

Allowing that the model of combining practical engagement with high-level teaching skill is a great framework, let's build our hybrid teacher by starting with people who are already passionate about teaching and great at working with kids.

Sure, math and science teachers take coursework in the field, but that's clearly not the same. We need opportunities to keep studying and to participate in actual on-going research projects so we are keeping our knowledge sharp and keeping our engagement with the discipline active.

I would argue further that by sustaining the teachers' status as students, their ability to sympathize and empathize with their own students would stay at a higher level.

What we need, then, are ways to achieve that. Certainly the school teachers I know can't afford to take science or engineering coursework every semester.


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  • Luis F

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    Jul 11 2012: I believe the resources for learning science and engineering at low cost are already available. As long as you have an Internet connection and a device to connect to it (desktop, smart phone, tablet, etc.), the only cost associated with it is time. Take a look at MIT's OpenCourseWare (http://ocw.mit.edu) and Annenberg's Learner (http://www.learner.org/resources/series42.html).

    Since I believe access to the Internet is low cost, what we can do is allow for math and science teachers to take online courses from these great resources during their normal work hours. That should solve the time-cost.
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      Jul 11 2012: Thanks for your idea. That would be an interesting starting point, Luis. However, to my knowledge, that still wouldn't put the teachers onto current research projects nor plug them into the university departments where these are being run. Any of us can watch an online course or read through a text book (though I really DO like your point of letting teachers do it on paid time!), but we can't afford to equip real engineering labs or generate a network of industry practitioners. Engineering and science as they are happening in the field is a key element to the model.

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