Sunday, July 22, 2018

Career and Technical Education (CTE)

This past week I had the privilege of attending the CACTE 2018 conference (#CACTE18) in beautiful Breckenridge, CO.  In addition to some nice hikes one where I cam across a small red fox on the same trail I was taking, I also managed to learn alot. 
Red fox on a hiking trail in Breckenridge

Throughout the week, I attended all of the sessions that I needed in order to become a credentialed CTE teacher in Colorado, as well as completing assignments that had me reflect on the program we would be implementing at Pinnacle Charter School.  I found that the sessions motivated me, helped me think about the classes I would teach, and provided great ideas on ways to help the students in my classes grow in the classroom as well as outside of it.


Our keynote speaker Mark Perna (@MarkPerna) motivated the entire audience with his energy and enthusiasm about "unleashing passion, purpose, and performance in younger generations".  He created a very memorable and motivating moment for me with an analogy of tree climbing.  I loved to climb trees as a child.  He described that moment when you are up high and out on a branch and it begins to creak.  Immediately, you have a sense of urgency, plan quickly your next steps, move into action.  His point was that we are in such a branch creaking moment in life of our nation.  That we need to look at education and training with new eyes, and prepare for a future for our students that doesn't involve staying on a branch that breaks, but instead prepares them to learn.  Learn for new jobs and learn for the sake of learning so that these students can prepare for the next and the next job of their futures.

This was only one of many memorable word images that Perna created for me.  Fortunately, I and everyone in the audience received a copy of his book, Answering Why which I am looking forward to reading.  In general I found that so many of our speakers, exhibitors, and conference organizers were highly motivated and had a contagious energy that rubbed off on the participants.

Class Reflection

The conference and the credentialing assignments gave me time and opportunity to reflect on the courses I am teaching as well as providing me with information and ideas for future classes.  I was reminded that the Exploring Computer Science class does an good job of having students get a taste of computer hardware, internet safety, programming, web design and robotics.  However during the session on lesson design, I focused on adding the component of learning about careers associated with each of these and how that will give students the connection of computer topics to a career.  I am looking forward to teaching the Game Design/Development class which will provide hands-on opportunities to learn by doing in the creation of computer games.  However, during the Work Based Learning session I looked at expanding this to give students feedback on their projects from people working in the field, how much more valuable is the content as well as the connection to a real person working in the field.  This is still a work in progress -- I have joined a group of professional game designers in the area and hope that will lead to classroom connections.  The AP Computer Science class has opportunities to visit with industry professionals and provide valuable Work Based Learning, but extending that opportunity students planning to go into the field, to have the potential for internships or job shadowing adds depth and insight that classwork and discussions don't offer.

Each of these thoughts came from a different session that I attended and I found it interesting that in each session I found myself reflecting on a different class that I will be teaching next year.  Visiting with the exhibitors opened my eyes to some future classes.  One of the challenges I faced this summer was getting up to speed on using the Unity Game Engine and creating a curriculum to teach it.  I was feeling the need to be "the expert" on everything I taught.  In turn this makes it difficult to add any other new classes, as I would need to become an expert on hardware, networking, and security before I could offer classes on these topics.  Now there are powerful tools where students can learn independently in areas that I am exploring but not an expert in.  TestOut looks like a great tool for me to offer some new classes sooner rather than later.

Student Growth Outside of the Classroom

The last area I focused on during the week was setting up and facilitating  a Student Organization.  The Technology Student Association (TSA) is the student led club that I will be working with next year.  I received some good information on setting it up and then backing away and letting the students run the organization.

I focused on five areas that I want to see accomplished by TSA during the upcoming school year:

  1. Establish a student leadership team for the club.
  2. Identify and complete a Financial Leadership Project so that the club will have the finances to accomplish its other goals for the year.
  3. Identify, prepare and compete in at least one state competition.
  4. Identify and complete a community service activity that will reach out into our community, make our club known, and doing something good outside of the school.
  5. Identify and complete an outreach activity to make the club known to other students in the school.
Actually all I want to accomplish is the first item.  At that point, I have thoughts and ideas about the remaining four things, but I really want to step back and let the students take the lead.

Lots of takeaways from this past week and it really has me excited about the upcoming year!

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