Category Archives: CTE

ACTE Vision 2012 Part 1: The Not So Good

After a very poor night of sleep, the first day of ACTE Vision 2012 started. ACTE generally holds great conferences with excellent sessions and this year has not disappointed me. The only problem that I have had with the conference is its lack of free WiFi. Part of the opening session promoted free online tools that participants can use to enhance their conference experience, but with WiFi costing $15 per day, those tools aren’t really free.

This is the first major conference I have attended in the last three years that did not provide free WiFi. If one of the goals is to inform educators about what is happening in CTE and share it with other educators, why is the best tool for sharing with those who could not attend not available without a $15 charge?

There were great resources, suggestions, and ideas presented today, but many attendees won’t share those ideas as they happen because of the cost of using WiFi. Hopefully, these ideas will get shared later via Twitter and blog posts, but there is nothing like tweeting during a session to get the full impact of the session. With so many great sessions, being able to find a thread about a session is essential to keeping all educators informed of what is going on around the conference. ISTE is a perfect example of how social media can be used to keep attendees and other educators informed about the great things that are happening in education. I love attending ACTE conferences, but the next step is not to have great mobile applications to enhance the experience, it is to provide reasonable, if not free, Internet access. It worked great last year in St. Louis, but it is a little disappointing in Atlanta to not have free Internet access. Hopefully, the free WiFi will be back when the conference visits Las Vegas.


During the past month, I have been working on several projects which has caused me to reflect on how I teach, what our school does well, and how have I managed to get here.

The first project was a presentation for the STEM Smart: Lessons Learned from Successful Schools workshop in Las Vegas. This presentation was hard because we had to capture what we do as a school to promote STEM and be successful at it. The problem was that we were confined to 45 minutes and had to address specific topics set by Successful STEM Education. Our topics included how we are setup as a CTE school, project-based learning (PBL), staff development, community involvement, incorporating technology, and a specific example of a STEM project that we incorporate. In the three plus years that our school has been open, we have done so many things that it is hard to capture all of it in 45 minutes. We tried to determine what our best practices are and highlight those. My component of the presentation was the community involvement and incorporating technology where I focused on our use of Google Apps for Education, the 1:1 iPad program, and the various other technologies seen our campus on a daily basis. The majority of my time was spent on Google Apps for Education and the iPad program especially since we started collecting data on our student’s usage of those tools, but it was important not to skip out on the other items like Edmodo and laptop carts because they contribute to our school’s success. Our presentation, as well as all the others from the workshop, are available on the conference website.

The second project was working on an application for our school to earn an award. I am not sure if I can disclose the award that we are applying for so I will not mention it by name. This was an application that our three administrators, myself, and an English teacher have been working on for awhile. Like the STEM presentation, this application was difficult because we needed to capture everything within a specific word limit. For the most part, we were able to stay within the word limit in the first or second draft in most sections. Unfortunately, the sections that we were over in, we were over by hundreds of words. Through some creative writing and some major cuts to sections, we were able to get all of the sections within the proper word count.

The final project that I am working on (not completed yet) is the Google Teacher Academy application. For an application that I have previously completed, this has been a learning experience for me. Obviously, since I did not get into the last Google Teacher Academy, I have been rethinking every answer that I gave on the last application. This may mean that I am answering questions with different examples all together or just rewriting sections to make them better. I am not done with the application yet because I need to cut some words from most of the sections and edit a video.

I mention these three projects because while it is sometimes difficult to be limited by time or word counts, I think it is an important exercise in reflection. I have had to think about what is really important in each section of a presentation or application and be able to convey that message in a limited space. I always want my students and my children to get to the point without rambling and now the shoe is on the other foot and it is my turn to get to the point. These presentations and applications have been great at getting me to think about what is important, what do we do really well, and how can I present it in short period of time. While it may be difficult, I have enjoyed the journey and I look forward to future chances to reflect back on the opportunities that have been given to me at Southwest CTA.

What Politicians are Not Talking About

I have been meaning to write this post since this article appeared in the Las Vegas Review Journal a couple of weeks ago. The focus of the article is about the large cuts that states like Nevada, Arizona, and Florida would see in their share of the Perkins Grant funding. I have sat in numerous conferences and meetings and I almost understand the hold harmless provision in the Perkins funding. The general gist of the funding is that if the Department of Education does not allocate X number of dollars for Perkins Grant funding in their budget, all of the states go back to the funding they received in 1998 (or some year close to that).

Nevada experienced a large growth in students between 1998 and now and that is why there is the potential for a 41% cut in career and technical education funding. One of the few bright spots in education in Nevada and especially in Clark County is the career and technical education programs. A 41% cut statewide with severely impact the programs that can be offered.

I have yet to see anyone running for a political office in Nevada address this issue. Of course, they are also ignoring all the other issues related to education so I am not sure how offended I should be. I am starting to think that the first candidate to deliver a meaningful speech on education in Nevada is going to get my vote.

Nevada ACTE 2012 Presentations

One of the conferences that I attend every year is the Nevada ACTE conference in Lake Tahoe. I like this conference because it is small enough that you can have face-to-face conversations with peers from around the state, but large enough to provide excellent choices for presentations to attend.

This year, I presented three different topics. During the Administration Division meeting, I presented “Get Your Head and School into the Cloud.” The primary focus of this presentation was on how Google Apps for Education can improve communication, organization, and productivity for school administrators. This was one the more difficult presentations that I have had to put together because I am not an administrator. I help my school’s administrators get the most out of Google Apps, but I cannot speak on the day-to-day use as an administrator. The session went well as most of the questions focused on what the school as a whole does and not specific administrative duties.

My second presentation was for the Information and Media Technology division, titled “Every Thing in Evernote.” I was asked by the IMT division vice-president to talk about Evernote because every time I do a presentation, I mention it multiple times. This presentation was shorter in terms of time, but not much easier. It was difficult to set up and get ready to do back-to-back presentations in two different rooms on two different topics. This presentation went well because I was able to show examples of how I organize my classroom, curriculum, and other tasks using Evernote. It is hard to touch on everything that Evernote can do for a teacher in 30 minutes, but hopefully some of the teachers will be able to start using Evernote for their classrooms.

My final presentation was for the general sessions on the second day of the conference, titled “iPad Apps for Classroom Management.” This was my easiest presentation because I had done it before for an individual school in the spring. These are all apps on my iPad that I use to help manage my classroom. I do use additional apps, but these are the main iPad apps that are most helpful to me.

As far as sessions that I attended, Adobe did a hands-on session using some of the new tools is CS6. While I don’t have CS6 in my classroom, it was great to see what is new and I can’t wait to get the software in my classroom. Jayme Rawson from East Career and Technical Academy did a great presentation title “Common Core State Standards – Putting it ALL Together” (PowerPoint file). She did a great job explaining that we did not need to know every aspect of the Common Core State Standards as CTE teachers, but how we can help English and Math teachers accomplish their goals.

I was the moderator/assistant for the other two sessions that I attended. Steve New, also from East Career and Technical Academy, did an excellent presentation on screen-casting titled “Maximizing your time while minimizing your effort through Screen-casting“. He did a good job explaining the options for screen-casting (PC and Mac), the benefits of screen-casts, and tips for beginners. The final general session that I observed was “Math, the Brain, and CTE” by Laura Reed. This presentation focused on providing hands-on math activities for CTE students since they tend to be kinesthetic learners.

Overall, it was a great conference that was informative and gave me some things to think about as the start of the school year approaches.

Dumbing Down of CTE in Wisconsin?

This week I read two articles from an ACTE email newsletter that discussed the state of Wisconsin creating a vocational diploma. At first glance, I am thinking that this is a good idea, but then I read the articles. Both of these articles were lacking specifics, but the impression that I am left with is that Wisconsin is going to bypass some math, English, and science classes in order to create the vocational diploma.

While math, English, and science may not be subjects that are directly related certain vocational degrees, they are not less important because they are not directly related. Students will need these subjects as most jobs do need these skills in some manner. Hopefully, the details will point out that the students will still be responsible for the classes, but in a slightly different setting. For example, classes title “Math for Culinary” or the “Science of Welding” will be used to replace the standard classes. If not, I don’t think Wisconsin is doing their populace any favors and are not preparing students for the high-skill, high education jobs that this country will be depending on in the future.

The two articles I am referencing can be found at:

Busy Start to the Year

A very busy start of the school year has had me ignoring this blog which was something that I was trying to prevent this year. I do have several topics that I am preparing to write about in the next few days. Below is a list of items that I would like to discuss in the next week or two:

  • My partial abandonment of Google Forms for Student Assessment
  • Flip method
  • After-school game development program
  • My experiences in each of my game design classes so far this year
  • High school capstone projects
  • Digital portfolios
  • A couple of articles that I have read from the ACTE daily emails.

A New Year as an FBLA Adviser

Tomorrow is our first FBLA meeting of the school year. It is the one drawback of having meetings on Mondays because tomorrow is the first chance we get to meet due to Labor Day Weekend. I am really excited and nervous about this year’s FBLA activities.

I am excited because it looks like I have a motivated executive board that is more active than my previous boards. This is mainly due to the experiences the board members have had in the previous two years. They have seen what has worked and not worked for previous boards and are willing to try new things.

I am nervous due to the new things the board wants to do. They want to attend leadership conferences, compete in the state conference, and are willing to do work outside the every other Monday meetings. I am proud that they want to do these things, but I’m nervous because I want to make sure that they can participate in these activities. This means that I now have to learn and complete the proper paperwork for trips which I have never done before and make sure that the students are properly fundraising for the events.

Yesterday, I attended an adviser training provided for FBLA advisers in the district. After the training, I am more confident that I can accomplish these tasks, provide the proper leadership for my members, and contribute some new ideas for the club. I may be excited and nervous about this year in FBLA, but I think the excitement is overtaking my nerves.

iPad and Google Apps to Manage a Classroom (Pt. 3)

This is part three of three about my presentation at NACTE 2011 on managing a classroom using the iPad and Google Apps. In part one, I focused on the reasons why a teacher would want to use these tools, the Google calendar, and Google Docs. In part two, I focused on using Google forms and the iPad to grade students and give the students quick feedback. In this final part, I will discuss the other apps that I use on my iPad.

The first application that I use in my classroom is While I like to use Google Docs for assignments like spreadsheets, word processing, and presentations, I love using for larger projects and atypical files like Photoshop, Flash, and Maya. I have created an account where I share the password with all of my students. My students will submit their work to the appropriate folder from their computers. At the end of class, I move the Dropbox folder on my computer to the desktop and grade their work from there. I am also able to send students files via Dropbox when I decide not to use Remote Desktop. In addition, I have the app on my iPad and can let the students know from anywhere in the classroom whether or not I received their submissions.

The second app I frequently use on my iPad is CalenGoo. I like CalenGoo because I can create my lesson plans for each class without having to be online. I will have to sync it wirelessly later, but I am able to get some work done when I am at locations without free WiFi.

Another app that I like to use is Office2 HD. Like CalenGoo, I am able to create documents without being online at Google and sync them later on. I also like the way Google Docs, especially spreadsheets, work in Office2 HD rather than online on an iPad.

While this app does not have any sync capabilities with the software we use at our school, I still like Attendance. I do use it for an unofficial attendance record, but I am also able to create custom attendance fields. This is important for me because I can track when a student does not dress appropriately for my Industry Attire Days. Since these days are worth points in my class, it is easy to remember who receives full credit. This app would be excellent for any PE teachers that use iTouch devices to keep track of their attendance. The Attendance app also comes in helpful during fire drills because I can quickly take roll outside and not have to try and remember who was absent at the beginning of class.

The final app that I use frequently in class is Evernote. I will probably write a future post discussing all of the different ways that I use Evernote, but for now, I will say that I don’t use an app on my iPad, iPhone, or computer as much as I use Evernote. Evernote is a reference guide for all lesson plans, lesson ideas, interesting articles, and planning projects. I also take pictures of my lecture notes on the board and post them to a shared notebook that all of my students can access. I do pay for the premium version, even though, I don’t think I come close to using my full data allotment because of the high quality of Evernote.

This concludes the explanation of my presentation on how to use the iPad and Google Apps to Manage a Classroom.

Schools Partnering with Businesses

I was recently reading an article from the Wall Street Journal that discussed the opening of P-Tech. The goal of P-Tech is to provide high school students with a six-year education that includes an associate’s degree in a computer science field and an opportunity to work for IBM.

This is the route that many CTE high schools need to pursue, especially in IT. The seamless integration between high school, college credit, and a career is something that most high school CTE teachers would love to see. I can’t count how many times that I have sat in a discussion with other high school teachers and discussed ideas similar to this. In Las Vegas, we are slowly getting discussions going about dual-credit with college, but the colleges are always concerned about their accreditation and budget cuts.

I realize that developing a program similar to P-Tech or an effective dual-credit program takes time, but we are living and teaching in an era that is quickly evolving and time is not on our side.

NACTE 2011

The Nevada Association of Career and Technical Education (NACTE) held it’s annual conference last week in Lake Tahoe. After missing last year’s conference to attend SIGGRAPH, I was looking forward to attending this year. I always like to meet with teachers that teach in a similar field from across the state. In addition, I was presenting during one of the breakout sessions on the use of iPads and Google Apps to manage a classroom (details to come in the near future).

The focus of the keynote speakers were on budget cuts that Career and Technical Education (CTE), and specifically Nevada, are facing. The opening keynote speaker was Kimberly Green who is the Executive Director for the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium. Ms. Green did an excellent job of focusing on the challenges that CTE faces nationally and how it applies to Nevada. Once Ms. Green completed her speech, I think that many teachers in the room were feeling a little depressed about the outlook. I will admit that I was a little depressed, but I can either go through the rest of my educational career depressed over federal and state finances or I can get motivated to do something.

The desire to do something instead of nothing is why I have rebranded this blog. I plan on discussing issues that are relevant to CTE, but a blog is not going to be enough to change the outlook for CTE funding. I am currently assessing what else I can do to help champion the importance of CTE besides writing letters to my legislators. I will document my progress on this blog and I encourage all CTE teachers to get involved to insure that CTE is funded and supported at appropriate levels.