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Dr Timothy Forde of Oak Ridge: focus on technical education

As associate director of science and engineering education, this technology guru will create new programs and partnerships for ORISE


Dr Timothy Forde's work at ORISE will draw on CS, chemistry, healthcare, communications, education and more.

Dr Timothy Forde's work at ORISE will draw on CS, chemistry, healthcare, communications, education and more.

Dr Timothy Forde is the new associate director of science and engineering education at the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE, Oak Ridge, TN).

ORISE is a U.S. Department of Energy facility managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), a consortium of ninety-one research institutions. The institute studies health risks from occupational hazards, assesses environmental cleanup, responds to radiation medical emergencies and supports national security and emergency preparedness. It is also deeply involved in scientific and technical education.

Support of education
In its support of education, ORISE helps undergraduate and grad students, recent college grads and K-12 teachers and students. Forde's work at ORISE will draw on his education and experience in CS, chemistry, healthcare, communications, education and human development. He will manage and oversee all the fellowship, scholarship, internship and other science education programs involved. He will also continue his work on educational technologies for multi-cultural classrooms.

Forde holds a joint appointment with the University of Tennessee as an adjunct faculty member in its college of education, health and human services. One of his projects there will be the establishment of a new institute of public health.

Programs and partnerships
All this work is aimed at using resources from both institutions to create new programs and partnerships. One new initiative will be a professional development program for middle school math and science teachers.

"We need to ask such questions as, 'What can we do with technology that we haven't done before? How can we think about teaching differently now that we have technology that can help us?'" Forde says.

"I love the opportunity to focus on many different projects here at ORISE," he adds.

Valuing education
Forde grew up in Huntsville, AL in a family that valued higher education but didn't have much opportunity to get it. His mom finished college only after he completed grad school. "My parents believed their children should have what they didn't, so they really pushed us to pursue our academic interests," he says.

Forde earned a bachelors of general science in CS, chemistry and communications at Oakwood College (Huntsville, AL) in 1987. Oakwood was a great choice. Its faculty included strong role models for Forde, in particular a young chemistry genius. "He could have worked anywhere in the world, but he chose to teach in a small black college," says Forde.

Public health
Forde's initial interest was in medicine, but after a summer job in a hospital he switched to public health research. He attended the University of Alabama for his masters of public health with a major in epidemiology, which he received in 1989.

At Meharry Medical College (Nashville, TN), Forde found a research job that centered on underserved school children. He visited classrooms and conducted focus groups to determine the impact their living conditions had on their health.

Out of his work came the "I have a future" program to prevent both drug use and teenage pregnancy. It was so successful in reducing teen pregnancies and the high school dropout rate that it was recognized as one of former president George H. W. Bush's "points of light."

Educational research
What Forde saw in the classrooms attracted him to educational research. He began a PhD in education and human development at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN). In 2003 he completed his dissertation on improving the math achievement of black inner-city students.

As a student teacher at Vanderbilt, Forde was part of the cognition and technology group that developed the Jasper Woodbury video series. It was based on the concept of "anchored instruction," a technology-based learning approach that encourages students to use their problem-solving skills.

Forde also worked on The Little Planet. This series uses animated video stories and computer software to help teachers improve the reading comprehension and writing skills of young, at-risk readers. "Students' attitudes changed and their academic performances improved," he says.

Teaching and more
In 2000, Austin Peay State College (Clarksville, TN) added Forde to its faculty. He taught education students about technology. In 2001 he moved to Buffalo State College (Buffalo, NY).

"The focus in Buffalo was helping teachers integrate computing knowledge into the classroom, and getting them to understand the different styles of cognition and how technology can enhance different kinds of learning," he says.

He returned to Tennessee to join ORAU in August 2005, happy to be close to home and family. He lives in Oak Ridge with his wife and two daughters, ages three and four.

"Two characteristics to being successful in this world are a good work ethic and a positive attitude," says Forde. "I've been blessed, and I'm thankful for the opportunities I've had."


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