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Prism: Teaching Digital Proficiencies For 21 St Century Engineering Education

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Computer Education Innovations II

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.981.1 - 15.981.20



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Paper Authors


Patricia Carlson Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Patricia A. Carlson (PhD) is a professor at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (Terre Haute, Indiana). She is the author of over sixty referred publications and presentation. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Interactive Learning Environments and Journal of Universal Computer Science. Carlson has used her experience in implementing technology into the classroom on two large-scale Lilly Endowment grants and on two National Science Foundation funded research projects. She is now the Director of the PRISM Project, a large-scale outreach program that helps Indiana teachers of middle school science, mathematics, and technology to integrate new information technology literacies into their classrooms.

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Ryan Smith Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Ryan N. Smith has served as Webmaster and System Administrator of the PRISM Project for the past six years. He is a 2002 computer engineering graduate of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. As part of his duties, Ryan manages the PRISM server infrastructure, performs database administration, and manages systems security. In addition, Ryan researches new web technologies to implement for the PRISM Project. In 2008, Ryan received the Hoosier Educational Computer Coordinators HERO award for his contributions to integrating technology in Indiana education.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Teaching Digital Proficiencies for 21st Century Engineering Education

Abstract: We report on PRISM, a large-scale treatment for integrating cyber learning opportunities into middle school curricula. Established with strong support from the Lilly Endowment, PRISM ( ) is a web portal/learning hub for teachers of middle school science, technology, (pre)-engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The program is a part of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s K-12 outreach. PRISM provides both digital resources and pedagogical support for teaching young people to learn with computers rather than simply learning about computers. This paper contains four major segments. First, we establish the centrality of advanced digital technology for engineering practice in the 21st Century. Next, we provide an overview of PRISM and mention some other, similar K-12 outreach programs. Results from recent formative assessment appear in segment three. We then conclude with areas for future development based on the lessons learned over PRISM’s nearly six year history.


What will the coming years expect from practicing engineers? Perhaps no other profession has undergone such self-scrutiny over the recent years as engineering. Government commissions, accreditation agencies, and professional organizations – to name just a few stakeholders – have worked hard to identify needed competencies and to translate these needs into curricula, pedagogies, and learning activities. The explosion of journal articles on reform-driven engineering education over the past decade attests to the heightened awareness. In the United States alone, several influential policy studies offer cogent views of how engineers will work in the not-too-distant future. A common theme is the call for increasing collaboration among industry and academia in the reinvention of engineering education.1-4.

Digital Literacy and Engineering Competencies for the 21st Century

For the U.S., broad-based discussions in the 1990s about engineering graduates’ capabilities and changing realities in the workplace lead to major restructurings of accreditation criteria.5-7. Recently published engineering career profiles call for enhancements in technical proficiencies, contextual awareness (teamwork and globalism), and personal attributes. For example, the profile for quality performance from a practicing engineer developed by Davis, Beyerlein, and Davis illustrates the broadening of engineering education to include a range of interpersonal and professional skills or behaviors.8

We frame our discussion of PRISM by focusing on a less well-publicized change in demands for practitioners – the impact of advanced, computer-based knowledge tools for engineering proficiencies. Engineering has always been tool-centric, and digital technologies have long been a part of the various curricula in engineering education. However, the profession is now undergoing a fundamental shift from using computers as instrumentation to integrating computer applications as cognitive tools that can revolutionize the nature of work.

Carlson, P., & Smith, R. (2010, June), Prism: Teaching Digital Proficiencies For 21 St Century Engineering Education Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16956

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