EAST Initiative

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The EAST (Environmental And Spatial Technologies) Initiative is an educational non-profit that oversees and trains for a school program, EAST, that operates primarily in the United States. It is unique for offering students and teachers professional technology and software for use in a loosely structured, self-driven environment. The EAST philosophy, taken from the EAST project website ([1]), is as follows:

To further this, EAST program instructors (known idiomatically as facilitators) maintain a curriculum designed to allow students to familiarize themselves with technology (granted through partnerships with leading technology firms, such as ESRI, Intergraph, Microsoft, Dell, SoftImage, Adobe Systems, Macromedia and Avid among many others) while at the same time helping their community and/or school. Major technology groups used in EAST programs include software for Geographic Information Systems, computer animation, computer modeling, and video editing, as well as GPS utilities and CAD.

Reproduced from the EAST website:

"As a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, the EAST Initiative is supported by a dynamic collaboration of government, education, and business partnerships that share a common goal of striving to make a difference in the lives of children and their communities."

Brief history of EAST[edit]

EAST began with one classroom in Greenbrier, Arkansas in 1996. Former law-enforcement officer Tim Stephenson was in his first year of teaching, and having had experience with “disconnected” youth, had been assigned a classroom of “at risk” students. In seeking a point of interest for them, Stephenson proposed an outing to a spot near the school where students often went to skip classes. The wooded area included a creek and a pond. It was pointed out that it would be muddy crossing the creek. The first EAST project turned out to be a bridge across that creek.

The students became enthusiastic with the success of their bridge and proposed additional structures. One student offered his father’s CAD expertise and Stephenson suggested the students get appropriate software and learn to use it themselves. Thus, the technology component was born.

Realizing that the K-12 education system lacked the needed technology as well instruction in using it, Stephenson sought help from an Arkansas technology firm that introduced him to national and international resources. The academic-business partnerships that were formed became the foundation for a new and relevant model of learning, and the results have been astounding.

EAST Training (student)[edit]

EAST students routinely receive training from accomplished professionals in the fields that they represent. Student training is primarily intended to educate students on technology groups while offering a team environment in which to learn. While slots are limited, an effort is made to accommodate all students who wish to attend. As of April, 2005, students have the following course options (taken from the EAST website):

Technology Training:

Online course offerings:

  • EAST Geospatial Virtual Camp
  • School Mapping Project
  • ESRI Virtual Campus

Project-based learning[edit]

EAST students are expected (and in many cases required) to generate an idea for a project which helps the community or school that acts as host to the lab; after the brainstorming process, individual and group plans of action are constructed and refined. This is the process in which the facilitator plays the largest direct role, as supervisor and mentor — when the actual projects begin, the facilitator's primary role changes to that of observer and supporter. Projects vary in goal and method of execution, but share the same central philosophy: with motivation, encouragement, and access to professional technology, students are capable of great things.

The EAST conference[edit]

The culmination of any given EAST project can be seen at the annual EAST Partnership conference; traditionally held in the spring of each school year. The EAST conference brings together teams and projects from all participating schools with the purpose of allowing students to demonstrate what they've accomplished and learn from each other. In the formative years of the EAST program, projects were displayed individually, with each team bringing one project to display; however, in more recent years, this has shifted towards an "overall" presentation, allowing each project the individual lab has worked on time in the spotlight. This conference is located in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

At the end of each EAST conference, various awards, including the biggest award, The Timothy R. Stephenson Founders Award, are given to recognize the projects that are determined by a panel of judges to be superior, and the winners receive monetary and technological rewards for their efforts. Hunter Parker of Greenbrier, Arkansas says "E.A.S.T. really keeps you on your toes with new technology and new software" he also says that "It's awesome that E.A.S.T. started right here in his home town of Greenbrier, Arkansas."


The EAST model is grounded in solid pedagogical theory related to the use of technology as a catalyst for learning, collaborative learning, and performance-based learning. In the EAST model:

The use of technology promotes collaboration, higher order thinking, and problem solving. Professional development is an important component of the education technology program. Technology is effectively integrated into the curriculum. Students independently select appropriate technology tools to obtain, analyze, synthesize and assimilate information. Home/school connections are enhanced through the use of technology. All students have adequate access to technology. Teachers encourage students to utilize technology to find and make sense of information. Resources supporting the EAST model:

Andrews, C. Wilkins, L. Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) Project – an Industry/Education Collaboration that Works for Females and Minorities. Paper presented at the National Association of Minority Engineering Program Administers/Women in Engineering Program & Advocates Network, April 21-24, 2001, Alexandria, VA. Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) Project – an Industry/Education Collaboration that Works for Females and Minorities (PDF)

University of Central Arkansas Center for Community & Economic Development, 2011 study estimating the economic impact of the EAST Initiative in Arkansas. Estimating the Economic Impact of EAST Projects in Arkansas (PDF)

Metis Associates, EAST Initiative in Arkansas, follow-up study to the 2003-2006 evaluation of Arkansas Environmental and Spatial Technology Initiative (EAST). Metis 2003-2006 follow up study of EAST (PDF)

Metis Associates, Final Report. 2003-2006 evaluation of Arkansas Environmental and Spatial Technology Initiative (EAST). Metis Executive Summary of EAST (PDF) Metis Final Report on EAST (PDF) Metis Appendices Final Report on EAST (PDF)

Maui Economic Development Board, Women in Technology Project, 2006. Sustained Gender Equity High School Programs Enrich Pipeline of Female Future Engineers. Maui Economic Development Board Article (PDF)

Thornburg, David D. (2005), Why EAST Matters: EAST – Preparing Students for the Future. The Thornburg Center. Why EAST Matters (PDF)

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. Toward A New Golden Age in American Education: How the Internet, the Law and Today’s Students Are Revolutionizing Expectations, Washington, D.C., 2004. Department of Education Article (PDF)

Bynum, Judith. Student Perceptions of Concomitant Learnings of EAST Lab in a Small, Rural Arkansas School District – An executive summary of dissertation submitted to University of Arkansas at Little Rock Department of Educational Leadership of the College of Education. Student Learnings Executive Summary (PDF)

Andrews, C. Wilkins, L. Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) Project – an Industry/Education Collaboration that Works for Females and Minorities. Paper presented at the National Association of Minority Engineering Program Administers/Women in Engineering Program & Advocates Network, April 21-24, 2001, Alexandria, VA.

Cohen, David (1993). Teaching for Understanding: Challenges for Policy and Practice. San Francisco, CA. Jossey-Bass, Inc.

Enhancing Education Through Technology. No Child Left Behind (Title II Part D). http://www.ed.gov/legislation/ESEA02/pg34.html (19 Aug. 2002).

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), (2002). Technology in Schools: suggestions, tools, and guidelines for assessing technology in elementary and secondary education. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement (NCES 2003-313).

NCREL-Published Research (NCREL), (2000). Computer-Based Technology and Learning: Evolving Uses and Expectations, Valdez, Gilbert, McNabb, Mary, Foertsch, Mary, Anderson, Mary, Hawkes, Mark, and Raack, Lenaya, 2000.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills, (2003). AOL-Time Warner; Apple; Cable in the Classroom; Cisco; Dell; the National Education Association (NEA); Microsoft; SAP and the U.S. Department of Education. http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/

Riel, M. (1990). Computer-mediated Communication: A Tool for Reconnecting Kids with Society. Interactive Learning Environments, 1(40).

Riel, M. (1989). The Impact of Computers in Classrooms. Journal of Research on Computing in Education.

Sandholtz, J.H., Ringstaff, C., Dwyer, D.C. Teaching with Technology: Creating Student-Centered Classrooms (1997). NY: Teachers College Press.

Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (1991). What Work Requires of Schools. A SCANS Report for America 2000. Washington, DC.: U.S. Department of Labor.

Ringstaff, C., & Kelley, L. (2002). The Learning Return on Our Educational Technology Investment. A review of findings from research. San Francisco, CA: WestED.

Technology briefs for No Child Left Behind Planners (2002). Northeast and the Islands Regional Technology in Education Consortium (NEIR*TEC). http://www.neirtec.org/products/techbriefs/default.asp

Topping, K. J., Bircham, A., & Shaw, M. (1997). Family Electronic Literacy: Home-school Links Through Audiotaped Book. Reading, 31(2).

External links[edit]