The work of technology students from Jefferson Township High School was highlighted at February 17’s Board of Education meeting. Technology Education teacher Jason J. Nicholas was on hand to produce a modified plaque made in honor of the renovation of the Robert F. Drummond School building. The Lake Hopatcong establishment closed in 2017 but has been repurposed to house the BOE’s central offices.
As presented, the tablet bears the names of the BOE’s 2012 class. A 3D printer and laser cutter were used to etch a covering formed to display the Falcons logo used by JTHS.
“For me, this plaque represents not only an amazing alteration to the Drummond building, but it also represents an amazing transformation of the classroom of technology,” Nicholas said prior to presenting the plaque. “We need to embrace it, explore it. The kids love this stuff, they engaged in ways I never thought were possible. It makes my job really exciting.”
In a presentation to the board, Nicholas declared the plaque effort was part of a technique known as “project-based learning.” Inspiration came to him through a visit with his peers to the Technology Education Conference at Oswego State University.
“Students are more engaged, they become explorers, they become problem solvers, they become engaged in collaborative thinking,” Nicholas said of the benefits of this learning style.
Nicholas began his talk by encouraging classrooms to showcase a “studio” atmosphere. He compared such a setting to the offices of internet giant Google and renowned animation studio Pixar.
Expounding on the studio surrounding, Nicholas noted that the design “inspired creativity,” and also promoted community, collaboration, and problem solving. Using photos of the aforementioned offices, Nicholas noted that collaboration is achieved through the union of different “zones.” One part of the room could be for “thinking and relaxing,” while another one could be a place to “stand up and talk.”
“I think a studio environment allows for a lot of collaboration,” he said. “I view my classroom as not a traditional classroom, where I’m standing in front of the room lecturing to students. It’s more of a collaborative ‘studio’ environment.”
The studio environment is set to become a hallmark of a Technology Club proposed by Nicholas. That idea came to him during the visit to OSU and boasts a benefit of being “self-sustaining.”
“We can use these tools, that technology, to actually make things such as keychains, plaques, signs, puzzles, and ornaments and maybe sell them for fundraising,” Nichols explained. “That way we can self-sustain the club and not only teach children about innovation and using the technology but how to self-sustain things and how to make money doing this.”
Nicholas, who also serves as a local architect, presented the plaque to superintendent Jeanne Howe and BOE president Matthew Millar at the end of his discussion.
“Mr. Nicholas and his students are truly exceptional,” Howe said in a statement to The Jefferson Chronicle. “I am very proud of their accomplishments.”