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Shaping the Field of Technology Education

Alumni of the NC State College of Education's doctoral programs in technology education go on to prepare others to succeed in a rapidly changing world. 

Technology class

Aaron Clark, head of the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education at NC State’s College of Education, remembers a local company hiring high school students to clear the floors of cockroaches before firing up the tubes of an early computer — debugging at its most literal. 

Since then, the field of technology has advanced by leaps and bounds and the field of technology education has progressed along with it. 

“Unlike some fields, where their foundations have been the same foundations for 50-100 years, our foundations change every five or six years,” Clark said.

In the classes taught in the College of Education, technology is defined as objects that are made synthetically. Practically, however, Clark describes technology as a literacy, a language of its own that needs to be studied, researched and taught to students. 

“We believe that technology, engineering and design education is for everyone,” Clark said. “Everybody needs to be technologically literate and understand how science and engineering affects your world. All this is a literacy that needs to be studied and heavily researched.”

On a doctoral level, the NC State College of Education prepares those researchers, leaders and practitioners through its Ed.D. in Technology Education and Ph.D. in Learning and Teaching in STEM: Engineering and Technology Education concentration.

Technology education has existed at NC State since the university’s early days and, as the technology changes to meet modern challenges, so too does its doctoral programs. 

“We were thinking and doing 100 years ago, we just now have a modern context in our program, in particular in our doctoral program, emphasizing think and do concepts” Clark said. 

Students in the program typically enter with robust technical skills in fields such as graphics, graphic communications, engineering design, modeling, animation, prototyping or 3D modeling. What they learn at NC State is how to adapt their backgrounds to an educational setting and prepare others to adapt to a rapidly changing world. 

“I see our alumni as some of the biggest change leaders in our discipline,” Clark said. “It can be easily seen through the sponsored research we do, the positions we hold, the courses we teach, the committees for which we serve and the states that we’re in.” 

Alumni who graduate from the doctoral program go on to conduct research in the Arctic Circle, create STEM programs for underrepresented students, open art studios and move the manufacturing industry forward — together, they are shaping technology education. 

Petros Katsioloudis ’07EDD: On the Top of the World

Petros Katsioloudis was standing on the frozen ocean. It’s a sensation few ever experience, but there he was, north of the Arctic Circle, conducting research on climate change. 

“We went there in a little plane and we drilled holes [into the ice] and deployed different kinds of buoys,” said Katsioloudis, associate dean for faculty affairs and community engagement at Old Dominion University’s Darden College of Education and Professional Studies.

The buoys were packed with sensors and, once placed below the surface, their purpose was to drift beneath the Arctic ice pack and send back data on water temperature, light penetration and more. 

When Katsioloudis was earning his doctoral degree in the College of Education’s technology education program, he never expected his career would take him to the northernmost tip of Alaska. His initial research focused on spatial visualization, but when he discovered his colleague at Old Dominion University, Assistant Professor Victoria Hill, was traveling to the Arctic to conduct research on climate change, he volunteered his technical expertise by constructing less expensive sensors for the project. 

He traveled to the Arctic for five years in a row — a highlight was meeting the Today show’s Al Roker — but eventually his desire to unlock the educational potential of the buoys, plus the sub-zero temperatures, pulled him away. 

“I was like, ‘OK, this is really cold,’” Katsioloudis said. “Why don’t I use the educational background I have and see how we can bring this type of technology into the classroom?”

Working alongside his colleagues at Old Dominion, Katsioloudis started designing 3D printed, educational versions of the buoys and created a curriculum centered around them. Then, he partnered with local schools, so students would have an opportunity to build and program buoys themselves. 

“Education has always been interesting to me,” Katsioloudis said. “You get to teach and you get to make a difference in people’s lives.”

His desire to make a difference in people’s lives is what initially drew him to the College of Education. 

“NC State has always been on the top; one of the best programs across the nation,”  Katsioloudis said. “That program prepared me, and I found it to be a major factor for the success that I had later.”

As associate dean for faculty affairs and community engagement, Katsioloudis is deeply engaged in mentoring faculty to ensure they achieve success, too. 

“I get to make a difference in faculty members’ lives,”  Katsioloudis said. “I get to work with them when they’re going through promotion and tenure; I get to help them when they have questions about different kinds of processes, and I get to work with the dean on all different kinds of initiatives.”

Katsioloudis describes his career, from assistant professor to arctic researcher to associate dean, as a pyramid, and the NC State College of Education as its foundation. 

“Without a strong foundation, you can never reach the top,”  Katsioloudis said.

Or is, Katsioloudis’s case, the top of the world. 

Megan Morin ’16MED, ’22PHD: Teaching Engineering Teachers 

Megan Morin spent years teaching middle school math and science in the Wake County Public School system until a desire to provide all K-12 students with robust engineering learning opportunities led her to earn her Ph.D. in the NC State College of Education’s Learning and Teaching in STEM: Engineering and Technology Education concentration

Now, she’s teaching again — it’s just the students who are different. In June, Morin was named the NC State College of Engineering’s new associate director for engineering faculty advancement. In this role, she will support engineering education in a new way, by ensuring faculty succeed as classroom leaders. 

“I went to do my Ph.D. program because I wanted to teach K-12 teachers how to integrate engineering into their courses,” Morin said. “Now it’s flipped, where I’m teaching engineering faculty how to use practices that I used as a middle school teacher.” 

Morin will act as a resource for faculty by providing workshops, coaching and mentoring, while also keeping them up to date on best practices in engineering education. This position will also allow Morin to pursue her goal of supporting underrepresented populations in engineering.

“Pedagogy is a huge way of being more inclusive and getting students excited about engineering,” Morin said. 

When Morin first enrolled as a graduate student in the NC State College of Education, she was unsure as to her future career path. She credits faculty within the college for providing her with the experience she needed to excel in any role she chose. 

“They exposed me to assessment, how to write a grant, teaching pedagogy, history — all these things that have now combined into the skill set that I have,” Morin said. “They prepare you in a smart way for what your goals are.”

That preparation and support, Morin said, did not stop after graduation. 

“I don’t know if the faculty are like that anywhere else, where you can call them or email them six months after you’ve left, and they still are willing to help you,” Morin said. “It is the lifelong relationships that you build there and the foundational skills that you will really use.”

Whether she will be sharing teaching techniques or promoting pedagogies, Morin is excited to share the experience she’s gained as an educator with engineering faculty. 

“It’s the opportunity of making a splash into engineering education that’s exciting to me,” Morin said. 

Jeremy Ernst ’04MR, ’06EDD: Exploring the Unknown

Not a week goes by that Jeremy Ernst ’04MR, ’06EDD does not watch a rocket or satellite soar through the sky above him. It’s one of the perks of serving as the vice president for research and doctoral programs at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and residing on Florida’s Space Coast. 

“There’s always something happening, and it’s extraordinarily exciting to be seeing it firsthand,” Ernst said. 

Embry-Riddle comprises three campuses — one in Prescott, Arizona; and two in Daytona Beach, Florida. Ernst works in Daytona Beach, but he leads the research and doctoral programs at all three campuses, as well as at an additional 136 learning sites around the world. 

To do that, he identifies areas of convergence among disciplines within the field of aeronautics, including flight research, unmanned aircraft systems, aviation data analytics, aviation safety and aerospace resilience.

“You’re taking faculty from this array of fields, discipline and areas of study, and you’re bringing them together for that unique footprint,” Ernst said. 

Whether he’s providing doctoral students with first-class research opportunities or ensuring faculty have the resources and infrastructure they need, Ernst works to facilitate exploration into a field filled with unknowns. 

“There’s so much that is undetermined, undiscovered or not completely defined,” Ernst said. “Think about how exciting that is.”

From his earliest days growing up in South Carolina, Ernst was passionate about exploring new, unexplored technologies. But it was not a given he would make it into a career. His high school lacked resources and did not have the same scale of academic offerings as larger school districts. 

“What made a difference to me was a really strong technology education program,” Ernst said.

Specifically, Ernst credits his technology education teacher, Steve Wash, who not only taught a third level of technology education, created specifically for students with high levels of interest in technology and technology systems, but also took time off from work to introduce Ernst to faculty at Clemson, where Ernst would later complete his undergraduate degree.

“It was just that level of dedication,” Ernst said.

Ernst experienced similar levels of dedication at the NC State College of Education, where he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees and benefitted from opportunities to collaborate with students from a variety of disciplines, a precursor to his later work at Embry Riddle.  

“Bringing these diverse thoughts and experiences into a single room, you just feed off of one another in an extraordinarily innovative and positive way,” Ernst said.

At NC State, Ernst said he received the support he needed to explore his ideas to the fullest.

“The faculty helped us press the boundaries in terms of the possibilities of what could be accomplished,” Ernst said.

Now, he feels responsible for doing the same — to empower researchers at Embry-Riddle to explore the unknown.

Kathleen Mapson ’11EDD: The Art of Education

Kathleen Mapson’s earliest memories of drawing stem from the third grade. Since then, her twin passions for art and education have run parallel to each other, like lines on a canvas. 

“Time feels like it stands still when I am painting and I love the freedom of expression that comes along with that,” Mapson said.

She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the field of graphic communications and took a job as a high school drafting teacher before deciding to pursue her love for design further at NC State. 

In the technology education program, Mapson said she found an environment that fostered her creativity and provided her with support. Her classmates cheered each other on and the faculty took the time to get to know her.

“This program really has people that care about you,” Mapsons said. “They want to see you learn, grow and succeed. Your success is their success”

After graduation, Mapson helped students and faculty at Georgia State University find success, too. There, she worked as an instructional designer, where she developed online professional development courses that focused on the theory and practice of online learning, as well as courses on culturally responsive pedagogy. 

“I believe that my creativity is the true foundation for everything I do in the education space because I can see things from a different and fresh perspective,” Mapson said.

Today, Mapson runs an Atlanta-based fine art studio, Kathleen Mapson | Fine Art, where she specializes in textured, abstract art designed to represent her clients’ authentic selves, and she continues to work in education through consulting, as well as instructional design projects.

“A degree in education gives you the option to go into education, industry or entrepreneurship,” Mapson said. “No matter the major, you will have a strong foundation in research, writing, collaborating and presenting. Those skills are transferable across any area of work.”

As she continues her career as an artist and educator, Mapson finds joy in the process of discovery. 

“Any time you learn something new, you are educating yourself and expanding your knowledge,” Mapson said. “Generally speaking, I chose education because I want and appreciate receiving answers to the questions I have. I love learning new things and I love sharing those things with others. So why not education?”

Nathan Hartman ’03EDD: A Vision for Manufacturing Success 

The impact educators can make on others clicked for Nathan Hartman at a Purdue University tailgate. There, surrounded by successful alumni whom he had once taught as professor, he realized the true value of higher education. 

“There’s an impact here that you’re having that’s not measured in grant funding or papers,” Hartman said.

Not that he’s had a shortage of either. At Purdue, Hartman serves as the Dauch Family Professor of Advanced Manufacturing, head of the Department of Computer Graphics Technology, director of the Purdue University Digital Enterprise Center and co-director of Indiana Next-generation Manufacturing Competitiveness Center — his various titles a testament to his success as a researcher and teacher.

His work is divided into a few major areas: Model-based definitions, the practice of using 3D models to provide product specifications; workforce development, specifically preparing students with the skills needed to adapt to changes in the manufacturing sector; and the interfacing of humans and technology, especially as it applies to a manufacturing environment. 

No matter the project, Hartman said he has been able to draw inspiration from his time at NC State’s College of Education. 

“Anytime I’m doing a workforce development project of sorts, my training there at NC State certainly influences that in a number of facets, whether it’s curriculum development, whether it’s assessment, program planning, a lot of those things,” Hartman said.

He said there are two pieces of advice he received from faculty at the College of Education that shaped his career. The first, from former Associate Professor Ted Branoff, was: “You have to find something that you’re passionate about, and you have to invest the effort in it.” The second piece of advice, from current Department of STEM Education Head Aaron Clark, was: “The easiest thing you will do is get your doctorate. The hardest is to live up to its expectations.”

What Hartman does at Purdue, whether through the impact he makes on students and faculty as a department head, or the impact he makes on the manufacturing industry as a researcher, is how he lives up to the doctorate he earned at NC State. Education, Hartman said, is the best way he has found to make an impact on the world. 

“Those are seeds that you are planting and they’re going to go off and bloom,” Hartman said. “They’re going to do good things in the world. I suppose if there ever was a multiplier effect, that’s it.”