Last year’s tornado in Joplin, Mo., caused unparalleled damage to many of the Joplin School District’s buildings.

But it also brought new opportunities for the district to look at best practices and envision a future that might never have been possible before.

Professors with the Department of Technology and Workforce Learning at PSU have been helping with that vision by offering their expertise on how to create ideal learning environments.

Last fall, PSU technology education professors Mike Neden and Andy Klenke hosted a group of Joplin administrators at the Kansas Technology Center for a day focused on how technology can improve curriculum in all areas. The Joplin group toured PSU’s Technology and Engineering Education Center to see what kinds of tools and hands-on projects PSU technology and engineering education students are using as they prepare to be teachers.

Neden, who has worked for years with the Pittsburg School District to develop ways of integrating technology into all disciplines, said schools following this trend are heading the right direction.

“The whole philosophy behind technology in education is that students today need a certain level of technology literacy,” he said. “Most kids learn best by doing. And when you have a chance to have a clean slate and restructure your school, you have to think about how you can best facilitate those kinds of experiences for kids.”

While helping to plan on the broader scale, the professors haven’t neglected the need in individual classrooms. As the school year began last August, they notably assisted recent PSU alumni Brandon Teel, now a technology education teacher at East Middle School in Joplin, as he got his classroom ready.

With virtually no supplies or books, Teel, who was hired just after the tornado, was challenged to put together a very hands-on classroom. Neden and Klenke quickly networked and found donations and supplies for Teel’s class to supply his students with an impressive amount of hands-on activities.

“What they did is a testament to PSU’s commitment not only to students, but alumni,” Teel said. “They have a genuine love for the work, and care for their students.”