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History

Image showing the Erma Ora Byrd Center for Educational Technologies building located on the campus of Wheeling Jesuit University.











With a rather humble start in 1990 in an 88-year-old home equipped with two "state-of-the-art" Macintosh Apple 2E computers, the Center for Educational Technologies® grew into the internationally recognized education facility that today serves thousands of teachers and students throughout the world.

The Erma Ora Byrd Center for Educational Technologies, home to the NASA-sponsored Classroom of the Future and the Challenger Learning Center®, opened its doors in its state-of-the-art educational facility in October 1994 on the campus of Wheeling Jesuit University. Since 1996 when statistics were first compiled, nearly 200,000 students and more than 5,000 teachers have experienced the center in person, and the center's website has received 250 million hits from more than 10 million unique users.

The 48,000-square foot facility on its three floors features such amenities as large meeting rooms wired for distance learning, computer lab facilities, a complete studio and video editing suite, and satellite transmission access in addition to the latest in educational software.

Life was a bit different, though, back in 1990 when there was no Center for Educational Technologies, but only a NASA teacher resource center, just the second in the country. Supplied with about 1,200 pounds of paper resources and staffed by one person, the center took shape in an old Victorian home near the entrance to the Wheeling Jesuit University campus. The location was considered temporary, though, because U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia along with U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan of West Virginia had already begun to set aside funds to build the National Technology Transfer Center and what would become the Center for Educational Technologies on campus. By 1992 the funding was approved, and ground was broken the next year for the two high-tech buildings. The Center for Educational Technologies also was designated as a site for a Challenger Learning Center, one of 50 planned across the nation, to honor the memory of teacher Christa McAuliffe, who was a member of the Space Shuttle Challenger crew that ws killed in 1986.

The center was inspired by a situation that still exists in our country today—a deficit in students' abilities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the subject areas deemed especially vital in our high-tech age and of extreme importance for NASA in attracting the explorers of tomorrow. To that end, the teacher resource center sponsored presentations at area schools to demonstrate the marvels of space science and to serve as a way to spread the NASA vision. Summer workshops for teachers also were an annual outreach effort.

In 1992 Dr. C. Daniel Miller was appointed the first director of what had then become the Classroom of the Future™. Within a year NASA had designated the Classroom of the Future as a key part of its education program and the linchpin for its research and development efforts in space science education. Miller shepherded the program until 1997, getting the Classroom of the Future off and running. During his tenure the Classroom of the Future became more than a repository of NASA teacher resources. It began to produce curriculum supplements, such as Astronomy Village: Exploring the Universe®, BioBLAST®, and Exploring the Environment®, all of them award-winning offerings that featured a healthy dose of problem-based learning, a concept behind most of the products created at the Classroom of the Future.

Nitin Naik succeeded Miller and served until 2004. His legacy is leading the Center for Educational Technologies from being purely NASA funded and focused to expanding the center's portfolio, so to speak. Under Naik the Center for Educational Technologies became partners with the U.S. Department of Education and National Science Foundation on various efforts. The center along with the Classroom of the Future also rode the wave of the burgeoning Internet. In fact, the center video streamed a town meeting of President Clinton's, becoming among the first web hosts to provide that service.

When Naik left to take a job at NASA, Greg Meier was selected as the third director of the center. He initiated efforts to reshape the direction of the center to meet the needs of today's learners by focusing on such cutting-edge areas as educational gaming. He was succeeded in 2005 by the current executive director, Dr. Chuck Wood. He has continued the center's long relationship with NASA and also has been part of efforts to expand the audience the center serves. Under Wood the center has partnered with the National Institutes of Health and the International Union of Operating Engineers among other organizations to develop training efforts.