The month of December 2016 was an exhilarating time for the IEEE History Center and REACH, the History Center’s new program first reported in IEEE-USA Insight in November 2016. REACH (Raising Engineering Awareness through the Conduit of History) provides free, online educational resources to high-school history teachers to enable them to incorporate history of technology and engineering into their classrooms. The program was approved in 2015 as a Priority Initiative of the IEEE Foundation, and work began in earnest at the beginning of 2016. By November, as noted in the previous Insight article, two lesson plans were created and one was piloted in a New Jersey classroom (another has since been piloted).
In December, REACH was presented to a room filled with social studies educators at the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) annual conference, in a session called “Enhancing the History Classroom with History of Technology.” Kelly McKenna, the IEEE REACH program manager, and Michael Geselowitz, the senior director of the IEEE History Center, along with three New Jersey educators-Adam Angelozzi (Principal, Manalapan High School), James Somma (World History Teacher, Manalapan High School) and Laurie Bisconti (Social Studies Teacher, Heritage Middle School)-shared the new program and revealed publicly for the first time its website, to an enthusiastic audience. The website had gone live only the day before with two units (a third has since been added, and they will continue to be added with increasing frequency now that the program is off the ground).
As the majority of social studies teachers around the United States are as yet unaware of IEEE, the presentation began with information about IEEE and the IEEE History Center-its history, its resources, and its commitment to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. The presentation continued by reminding the teachers of some concepts with which they were familiar, that technology and history are not mutually exclusive subjects, and that understanding the role of technology in history is important for all students. It then took the teachers through the REACH website, highlighting the available educational resources that situate science, technology and engineering in their social and humanistic contexts. Some of the resources on the website include:
- inquiry-based lesson plans
- background material for teachers and students, including short videos to engage learners
- primary sources, (raw materials of history – original documents and objects that were created at the time under study), and
The presentation concluded with the New Jersey educators, who shared their experiences of implementing the REACH program in their respective classrooms, and an explanation of the value of REACH from a school administrator’s perspective. The response from the audience was overwhelmingly positive, full of inquiry and enthusiasm. The IEEE History Center also had a REACH exhibit booth at the event, which was continually busy as hundreds of teachers came by to check out the website and to learn more about the program. Dozens of individuals were added to REACH’s virtual panel of educational advisors.
In addition, McKenna and Geselowitz were invited to present at the Council for State Social Studies Specialists (CS4) annual meeting, a satellite conference to NCSS. Its members include specialists, consultants, and supervisors who have responsibilities for social studies education in the various state departments of education/public instruction. Once again, the REACH Program was favorably received, and the presentation led to several invitations to present at state meetings or write articles for state newsletters.
The REACH “beta” website may be found at: https://reach.ieee.org/. Sign-on is required for access to all of the resources offered on the site. IEEE will not share the information with any third parties, but it is a way for the History Center to track usage to better serve the teachers and also to show potential donors the value and impact of the program. However, for those interested, videos of the two classroom pilots are available on the main page for all viewers.
All of the History Center’s programs are partly funded by philanthropic dollars channeled through the IEEE Foundation, but REACH, as a Priority Initiative of the IEEE Foundation, is completely reliant on external dollars. The REACH website includes information on how to join in supporting the program, and also on how to contact the History Center for more information about the program (for example, if you were interested in getting your local school district involved).
Michael N. Geselowitz, Ph.D., is senior director at the IEEE History Center at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. Visit the IEEE History Center’s Web page at: https://www.ieee.org/about/history_center/index.html.