Learning about information technology took a unique route for nearly 450 regional middle and high school students with West Kentucky Community and Technical College's first Tech Connect Teleconference September 6.

Tech Connect was made available through part of the federally-funded GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) grant that was provided through the West Kentucky Educational Cooperative (WKEC). The partnership between WKEC and WKCTC included the services of the college's television department and four faculty members who reached the students through Facebook Live.

The students, who are interested in information technology fields, watched the teleconference produced by the TV department and seen on media stations that were provided by WKEC's first year of its seven-year GEAR UP grant. The media stations were located in middle schools, high schools and three area technology centers in the ten counties WKEC serves: Ballard County, Caldwell County, Carlisle County, Crittenden County, Hickman County, Fulton County, McLean County and Fulton Independent, Paducah Independent, and Mayfield Independent school districts. The media stations are also planned to be used for business and industry outreach to students.

Business, computer and information technologies (CIT), visual communication and industrial robotics were the topics WKCTC faculty members presented via PowerPoint and video to the students. The faculty members, who included Kate Senn, WKCTC's CIT program coordinator/director of online learning and teleconference coordinator/host, fielded questions from the students through their teachers with the live Facebook feed. Other faculty members were Allison Smith, business and logistics program coordinator; Emily Esau, visual communications instructor; and Robin Walker, CIT instructor.

Due to having so many questions throughout the two-hour teleconference, Senn and WKEC Project Director Terry Sullivan will make sure to respond to questions in the next several days that could not be answered due to time restraints. Students can also watch the teleconference on Facebook at a later time.

While the teleconference was opened to high school students, the initial target was middle school students, who Sullivan said need to be reached earlier for postsecondary education.

"The whole point is to get more kids thinking about coming to school here (WKCTC) while they're in middle school. Let's not wait until they are junior or seniors, or their freshman year in high school; let's get them earlier."

With over 350 unique views on Facebook, which meant that other schools, WKCTC faculty and staff and community members may have tuned into the feed, and nearly 40 questions from students during the event, Senn was thrilled with the response.

"I was sexcited about the number of questions from students. They really seemed to be engaged and interested in this. It was a great opportunity. We will take what we've learned and hope to make this event more successful next year."

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