The SMTE Project produced materials to serve as replacement or supplementary curriculum for middle school technology programs, with content driven by the concepts and skills identified in the International Technology Education Association (ITEEA) K 12 Standards for Technological Literacy (STL) and relying on pedagogically sound “informed design” activities as the predominant instructional strategy. To give impetus to technology education’s transition, mathematics and science concepts and skills were correlated to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Project 2061 Benchmarks, and to national mathematics (NCTM) and science (NSES) standards, which were explicitly embedded and contextualized within the technological design content.

SMTE partnered with the ITEEA and with Authentic Education (Dr. Grant Wiggins) to apply Understanding by Design methodology and with the NSF center for Technology Enhanced Learning in Science (TELS) to benefit from its research program on designing online learning environments.

The Project’s theoretical framework is based on constructionism, a theory developed by Seymour Papert that holds that children learn best when they are in the active role of designer and constructor. The idea parallels the idea of constructivism, where pedagogical strategies reflect perceptions of the learner as a unique constructor of knowledge.

There is growing recognition of the educational value of projects in which students design artifacts that they share and discuss with others. Many studies have shown that design activities are a fruitful context for students to develop important skills and understandings. Researchers and psychologists who have studied student interaction with learning tools have demonstrated that designing, building, and interacting with models is an effective vehicle for teaching and learning subject matter content. Proponents of “situated cognition” have shown that learning is far more meaningful when students draw on real-world situations, especially those in which they are personally invested.

Practices of authentic inquiry are best fostered through engagement in activities that are both model-based and situated in the real world. The term hybrid modeling characterizes the linking of real-world and computer-based models and SMTE incorporated this type of hybrid modeling approach.

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