Theodore Kopcha, an associate professor in the department of career and information sciences in UGA’s College of Education, has dedicated the majority of his career to finding better ways to integrate technology in K-12 and higher education.

For the past year, as a Public Service and Outreach Faculty Fellow, Kopcha has worked directly with the Archway Partnership, a public service and outreach unit, on designing and implementing various technology programs for K-12 students throughout Georgia specifically focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines.

The fellows program, created by the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach in 2011, is designed for tenure-track and tenured professors to enhance their academic courses, conduct community-based research and apply their academic expertise to outreach initiatives. The fellow’s home department receives $15,000, which allows the fellow to work collaboratively with public service faculty in a public service and outreach unit during a given semester.

“Through my fellowship, I’ve been able to conduct a large-scale study of the impact of in-classroom professional development on the use of technology integration, which is a major focus of my research,” said Kopcha.

Kopcha initially spent his fellowship time traveling to five of the eight Archway communities to attend executive meetings around the state to learn more about each community’s unique needs.

“At those meetings, I was able to identify specific ways to help educational efforts within specific communities,” he said. “Afterward, I was able to travel to those communities and help them implement reform focused on STEM integration through technology, specifically in Hart and Candler counties.”

In Hart County, Kopcha provided professional development for teachers who were interested in using technology to support deeper student thinking. He met with small groups of teachers throughout the semester offering ideas for ways to integrate new technologies into the classroom. In Candler County, he primarily assisted teachers with planning and implementing place-based STEM projects for middle-school students. Each grade level selected a topic of interest within their community then used math, science and engineering to solve the issue.

“Throughout my fellowship I also wanted to simply grow a stronger relationship with each community,” Kopcha said. “Change in any community takes time—especially changes like the ones I was trying to achieve, which require a persistence when challenges emerge and a shift in the way students interact with teachers and each other.”

As a result of his work, Kopcha has seen great progress throughout the year and hopes to see even more in the future.

Kopcha was also recently named a 2015-16 Service-Learning Fellow. Through this fellowship, Kopcha plans to continue working with Hart County to implement Project: SPARK (STEM Projects for Applying Real-world Knowledge), a program he developed with his colleague Gretchen Thomas that aims to bring popup STEM “makerspace” activities to pre-service and in-service teachers to implement with students.

“A ‘makerspace’ is a somewhat new and popular form of integrating STEM into the K-12 curriculum,” Kopcha explained. “In a makerspace, students have access to a variety of tools to ‘make’ things with, including robots, Legos, iPads and more. We anticipate the result will be beneficial to both teachers and students.”

Kopcha also plans to continue collecting data to both inform the projects as well as serve in a research capacity.

“There is a tremendous amount of change occurring in K-12 settings, much of it around a sharp influx of mobile technology,” said Kopcha. “Research on the impact of that technology in somewhat scarce. I hope to contribute to our scholarly understanding of technology integration while also participating in the practical aspects of making and supporting change around technology in our current schools.”

To learn more about the fellows program, visit http://outreach.uga.edu/programs/pso-fellowship-program/.