Monday, January 1, 2018

Building a CTE Plan for Computer Programming

I am in my third year of teaching Java Programming at Pinnacle High School in Thornton, CO.  Java Programming is a year long course which covers most of the material in the AP CSA curriculum.  From an elective perspective this gave students an advanced class without having an introductory class.  This year I started teaching Exploring Computer Science  (@exploringcs on twitter) which is an introductory course that covers six areas:  computer hardware, problem solving, programming, web page design, data analysis, and robotics.  ECS is a great survey course that provides students with a taste of different areas in IT.  To further explore some of those areas, next year I am proposing to teach a one semester course in Web Design which will dig deeper into HTML, CSS, and JavaScript; as well as an introduction to programming using Python.

Enter CTE
With the makings of a pathway of programming courses:  ECS >>> Web Design and Intro to Programming >>> Java Programming, administration encouraged me look at getting an endorsement for CTE in Information Technology with the idea of someday down the road having a CTE plan of study for computer programming.  I thought this would be a simple matter of filling out some paperwork since I had 26 years of IT experience before becoming a teacher.  Wrong!  I needed to take two classes.  Sigh...bureaucracy, I thought.

Wrong again!  I just completed taking EDU250.  The class was not unnecessary and not just a bureaucratic box to be checked.   At the end of the course, I feel like I have a good handle on the steps I need to go through as an educator to get a CTE program in place.  As part of the class I sat down with my administrator and the district CTE coordinator and we hammered out a high level plan for next steps -- to get a program in place for the 2018-19 school year.

Looking forward to the second class in the series and hoping I have the same instructor!

Steps for a CTE Program (an educator's perspective)
Two disclaimers up front:

  • I am doing this for the first time and do not claim to be an expert.  Anyone reading this blog that finds things I am missing or sees unnecessary steps, please let me know!
  • This is only the educator's steps.  I realize that our administration also has a set of steps to go through.
The steps for getting the program going.
  1. The first thing I learned was that computer programming is part of STEM, Arts, Design, and Information Technology.  Most of the information I need can be found on the CTE website for this career cluster. 
  2. And the first thing on the website was to get credentialed which means going out to the CDE website and getting the initial CTE IT endorsement.
  3. Complete the Program of Study template.  Again the Program of Study Website is kind enough to give you a completed example so you have an idea of what things belong in the fields.  This gives students an idea of what classes to take and what kinds of post secondary courses they will be taking, and finally what kinds of careers they can look at in the future.
  4. Other things that I am starting to get lined up.  Develop an Advisory Committee so that the program has input from people currently working in the field.  Makes sense since the idea is that I want my students to have relevant skills.
  5. Start working on putting together a student organization.  Again makes sense since I want my students to meet, work with and learn from other like minded students.  The Technology Student Association is the student organization that I will be working to set up a chapter for at Pinnacle.
This is my to-do list for the next semester to see if we can't get this CTE thing off the ground!

A Step Back
I look back to when I was in high school and the CTE-like options were fairly limited:  Industrial Arts for welding, drafting, wood working; Future Farmers of America; and Home Economics.  CTE has come a long way since then to include things such as Information Technology and I find that refreshing.  But I do ask myself if CTE -- even today -- is another way of pushing students into career training that locks them into career.

I want to make sure that my students have the skills so that they can move to many different careers, and have the broad base of skills needed to succeed in any field.  That's where all of the high school academic courses come into play.  At end end of the day, we are educating students to become good, productive citizens that can think for themselves and have skills that can lead to many possible careers.