One of the sessions I attended at HI-TEC this year was aimed at introducing ATE centers and projects to the great number of resources available. The session was broken down into six roundtable discussions on individual topics. I got to pick which three interested me most.
This discussion was facilitated by Dr. Marilyn Barger, of the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FLATE) and focused on how their center has developed a great newsletter and communication strategy. We discussed their transition to an online blog newsletter, and different tools that can be used to track audience engagement with the newsletter. They use Google Analytics for their data tracking and BlogSpot to host their articles. We also discussed tools such as Constant Contact and MailChimp for email based newsletters. Other strategies they use to solicit news/stories from stakeholders and assign articles to staff, so everyone contributes. Marilyn’s team also makes sure that each month they include articles that are relevant to each of their target audiences (business, faculty, students, community, etc.) All of these different strategies were underlined by one main message: however and whatever you want to communicate, DO IT REGULARLY. Regular communication leads to more engagement from your stakeholders, and can serve as double duty for reporting purposes. That is, the information you share with your audience, you will likely want to share with the NSF as well.
ATE Central/Tools for Outreach:
This discussion with Rachel Bower of ATE Central, focused on one of the tools available for all ATE projects and centers: ATE Central. One of the first things we learned about was the Outreach Kit that ATE Central has put together to help centers and projects identify paths for dissemination. The Outreach Kit includes a planning guide for getting started with your grant, a social media guide to introduce you to the different platforms like Facebook and Twitter and how to use them to share info (side note: there is a great directory of the NSF ATE center’s social media accounts on their website, check it out), a communications guide that provides an overview on how to develop a message, and a comprehensive resource appendix that links to documents from the kit and shares best practices around the web. In addition to this awesome Outreach Kit, they also developed a handbook that covers various issues facing ATE centers and projects, such as how to connect with the NSF/ATE community; how to find partners and collaborators; how to manage data management, archiving and planning, evaluation support; and how to locate tools/technologies that are available to help ATE centers and projects.
At the last roundtable, I was able to sit in on a discussion with Mary Ellen Gardiner of Pellet Productions on how to use videos from the ATEtv library to help promote technology programs. ATEtv hosts over 240 videos – profiles of students, programs, industries and overviews of general advanced technological education-related topics. Currently, they are working to produce a series of Spanish language videos. Another development they are going to be test driving in the near future is customized videos for your center/institution. The goal is to allow you to edit your own video from a library of clips, and add your college/grant logo and branding to the video. There are so many applications where these videos can be useful: in the classroom, to showcase to your students what kind of jobs they can expect in their field, or for tips on resume writing/interviewing. As a recruitment tool, play these videos on screens in your department’s area for student tours or at a booth at a college fair. You can stream videos directly from the ATEtv YouTube channel, or you can download them directly.
The other topics I wasn’t able to sit in on, but still provide a great resource, are:
www.teachingtechnicians.org – a website to find and promote professional development workshops, webinars and events.
www.matecnetworks.org – a website and service to find and host webinars
www.learnpbl.com – a website discussing tools and resources for problem-based learning strategies