Monday, November 18, 2013

ATE@20: MPICT Runs Three Tests of International Technician Education Course


MPICT Runs Three Tests of International Technician Education Course

Posted by Madeline Patton at 4:00am. ATE Central

The Mid-Pacific Information and Communication Technologies (MPICT) Center's three international pilot projects have yielded positive results for students and faculty. While study-abroad programs are common for liberal arts students, MPICT's multiple international experiences are rare for technology students.

Each of MPICT's pilot projects utilized Cisco's Network Academy curriculum because it is an industry standard taught uniformly around the world. For the two most recent experiments, with a school in France in 2011 and a school in China in 2012, MPICT's faculty partners developed a problem-based scenario that gave students roles in a fictitious company that was merging international units with incompatible network systems. The mixed teams of American and international students had to integrate the systems.

"We wanted them to get the experience of doing the project, doing an international project using the tools they were learning, modern tools to collaborate across the ocean. A lot of work in our field is performed this way," said Pierre Thiry, MPICT principal investigator.

Thirteen California community college students between the ages of 19 and 49 spent two weeks in China at the end of the capstone course that was taught simultaneously to them and to Chinese students from SIP Institute of Services Outsourcing in Suzhou, China, using remote and translation technologies.

MPICT is based at the City College of San Francisco in California. Its mission is to coordinate, promote and improve information and communications technology (ICT) education, with an emphasis on two-year colleges, in California, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific Territories.
History of International Projects

MPICT's experiments with international ICT courses began with an inquiry in 2008 from a Cisco Academy leader who knew that Thiry, a native of Belgium, speaks French. He asked if MPICT would be willing to partner with a school in France that wanted its students to interact remotely with students in an English-speaking country.

Thiry describes the two lessons he delivered using the tele-presentation system in Cisco's Downtown San Francisco facility as "a little spontaneous and not well-supported financially."

But the experience came in handy in 2010 when the NSF requested proposals from ATE centers to develop international technician education experiences in Europe. MPICT's proposal for an ICT capstone course with Centre des Formations Industrielles in Paris received one of five $100,000 grants. Michael McKeever, a computer and information sciences instructor at Santa Rosa Junior College and MPICT faculty partner, developed the ICT capstone course. As with other ATE-supported curriculum development, the lessons, labs, and lectures he developed for the capstone course are available for other faculty to use at no cost.

In 2012, Thiry obtained NSF permission to use $50,000 of MPICT's funds to adapt the ICT capstone course for a collaboration with the SIP Institute of Services Outsourcing in Suzhou, China. Richard Grotegut, an Ohlone College faculty member and MPICT faculty partner, suggested the project based on his experience teaching Cisco courses to faculty in China. Another MPICT faculty partner, Richard Graziani of Cabrillo College, taught the course simultaneously to Chinese and American students using translation software. The Chinese students were all between 19 and 21 years old. The 13 American students who traveled to China ranged in age from 19 to 49.
Student Uses International Lessons Immediately

Working remotely and then in-person on a class project with students in Suzhou, China, taught Justin Niu that when "working with people from different countries and cultures: be friendly, opened minded, willing to teach and learn." Niu reports that he applied those lessons immediately to his work at a tech company that manufactures and sells networking solutions.

"As a global analyst, I use my experience from the China trip every day at work. I communicate and work with employees from all over the world including England, Switzerland, India, Singapore, China, and Japan," he said. The computer networking courses Niu took leading up to the ICT capstone course helped him get the analyst position at the company where he was already working.

Niu was one of 13 Northern California community college students who traveled to China in the summer of 2012 for the collaboration project with SIP Institute of Services Outsourcing in Suzhou.

As an American-born Chinese who learned Mandarin growing up, Niu was able to facilitate conversations between the two groups of students because he could translate cultural concepts and phrases, both American and Chinese, that would normally not make sense if translated literally.

"The most valuable experience was the opportunity to learn and communicate with our Chinese student peers about their culture, debate technical concepts, discuss the economy and tech job market in China," he said.
Instructor's perspective

McKeever, the Santa Rosa Junior College instructor who developed the ICT capstone course for use with the school in France, said the French and American students were "ecstatic" to work together in person. The student teams had worked on Cisco's Packet Tracer simulation equipment via Blackboard Collaborate throughout the semester. However, the timing of the joint class sessions at the end of the French students' eight-hour class days created some challenges. Language was not a barrier because the French students spoke English. (Contact McKeever at for the entire course content.)

During their first week together in France, the students worked intensely to finalize their projects. The students' presentations to college professors and Cisco executives at Cisco's video conference suite in Paris were transmitted to Northern California in order to include the MPICT faculty and students who could not make the trip. During the second week in France, the students visited four IT work sites including the Societe Generale, a large financial services company.

The American students who traveled to China followed a similar schedule of academic work their first week in the country and tours of businesses the second week.

"I think there was some every positive results there," Thiry said, referring to both projects. Although the cost of international travel makes the projects difficult to scale, Thiry thinks the in-person contact between students is important.

McKeever agrees, and said, "What they learned about other cultures, respect for other people, and a greater awareness of the world was something that can't be replicated by technology. It's something that you have to go there and do."

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