ACTE Vision2013

For the past four days, I have been attending the ACTE Vision2013 Conference (online program). Networking, listening to keynote speakers, learning new information is always great, but I have some mixed impressions about this conference for a variety of reasons that I will highlight below:

The Good:

  • Three keynote speakers and all three were excellent. Probably the best keynotes I have seen at an ACTE conference.
  • Technology – Free WiFi and it was fairly fast, ACTE Mobile App, text messages for Vision2014. This was a significant improvement from the last few years where there was no WiFi or it was $20 per day.
  • Information – The information in the sessions I did attend was helpful and I plan to use it in the near future.
  • Leadership Training (pre-conference) – I didn’t know what to expect, but I learned a lot from these two sessions.
  • My first conference as a state leader. This meant some required events where I got to meet some new people from a variety of other states.
  • Nevada receiving a QAS award for it’s association.

The Not as Good:

  • The conference was in a town that I live in. It was hard to stay motivated to attend networking events when my family and warm bed were waiting for me.
  • My first conference as a state leader meant that there were sessions I could not attend because of the required events. Being in the state leader meetings will more than balance out the missed information especially since the presentations will be online.
  • Session length – 90 minutes was a little long for the sessions. I liked last year’s format with 2 hour “Deep Dives” in some topics and 1 hour “Idea Labs” for others. I realize this is logistically difficult, but I thought ACTE did a great job last year with it and disappointed they bailed on it after only one year.

Using Dual Credit to Solve Multiple Problems

One of the first items I read every morning is my Career Tech Update from ACTE. It is great to see what other schools, districts, and states are doing to further advance career and technical education. It is also a little depressing seeing what other districts can do, but, for some reason, my district cannot.

The biggest of these, in my opinion, is the number of high schools that are increasing the amount of dual credit or tech prep with their local colleges. While my district does have a tech prep agreement with the local community college, it is extremely flawed. There are not enough credits available to high school students and in some program areas of study the amount of seat time to earn three credits is up to four times what a college student would need to receive the same credit.

Tech prep programs like ours do not cost the student, high school, or college any money because of Perkins funding. Students are collecting college debt by the truckloads and there is a general push to get more students into post-secondary institutions. By increasing tech prep and dual credit programs, society can address both of these issues.

There are always high school students who are on the border between going to college and joining the workforce immediately after high school. If students could earn more college credits while in high school, they likelihood of the students continuing post-secondary course work would increase – even if it was as a part-time student.

In addition, students who earn tech prep or dual credit do not have to take or re-take these courses in college. This is hard-earned money that these students could be using on upper-level courses. I have actually lost track of how many of my students who have attended the local community college told me that they were bored in their major classes because it was the same content we covered in high school. Why should these students be paying for classes where they already know the content?

Increased tech prep and dual credit programs will encourage more students to take college classes that normally wouldn’t and decrease the amount of student loan debt.

Learning Something New

I am attending the Magnet Schools of America conference this week in Tulsa. While this conference is a little smaller than some of the other conferences I have attended recently, that doesn’t mean it is short on content.

Tony Wagner was the keynote speaker via Skype, but it was interesting. Tony was advocating that today’s learning needs to value teamwork, be interdisciplinary, make student creators and not consumers, allows for risk taking and making mistakes, and allow for iteration. Students need to “fail early and fail often” and reflect back on their work. Tony argued that an F is the new A. Student who have attempted something and failed may have learned more than the straight A student who has not.

Tony believe that we need to hold teachers accountable for what matters most. The key is what does this look like and could it be determined through a sampling strategy. He also points out that teachers spend too much time complaining about the current assessments and not enough time offering solutions. Another of his suggestions is to change the grading system to A, B, or Incomplete. The student has either mastered the learning standard, achieved the standard, or has not reached it yet.

The final point that I want to mention from Tony’s keynote is the suggestion that each state as a research and development division for education. He says companies spend millions in R&D to improve their products and services so why shouldn’t states do the same with education. I particularly liked this idea and think that it can start at a school or district level first.

I will discuss the other sessions that I attended tomorrow. These sessions included a college/high school partnership, using the class as a production company, and tips for using social media as a school.

Screencasts Exercise – Part 2

In my previous post, I talked about an idea to have students screencast themselves typing Java code at the beginning of the unit and then doing the voiceovers using the proper vocabulary later in the unit.

My students finished their screencasts last week and it did not work the way I wanted to. The main flaw in my plan was that I over-estimated the video editing abilities of some of my students despite previous video editing assignments during their three years at my school. The result from this was that I had videos that last about four minutes and videos that lasted about 25 minutes.

The videos did not need to be a specific length in time, but the longer videos came from students that did not type well and the video was filled with “dead air” as the student waited for the typing to stop before explaining the next concept. The other part that did not work out well is that some of the students used the default iMac mic instead of plugging a microphone in and there is a lot of background noise. There was a huge quality difference between the students that went to the sound booth or a quiet room to record the audio and those that just used the computers in class.

My goal of having students understand the vocabulary better will be known later in the week when the students take a test on the chapter. Hopefully, despite the technical difficulties and range of quality videos, my students have improved their vocabulary skills.

Trying Student Screencasts to Teach Programming

I am trying something new with the next Java unit that I’m teaching on methods. Through the first part of the year, my students have excelled in actually creating code and getting it to work. Unfortunately, when it comes to seeing snippets of code and explaining the terminology and concepts behind the code, the students are struggling a little bit.

For the methods unit, I have decided to do something new. The textbook that we have in class typically has a full example of code at the beginning of the chapter and then breaks it down into smaller parts as the chapter progresses. Typically my lectures demonstrate the breakdowns and the terminology, but I’m trying to find a way to improve what is going on in my classroom.

This time instead of having students reference the original code at the beginning of the chapter as the unit progresses, I had the students type the code straight from the book and screen capture the entire process without recording any audio. My plan is that as I teach the smaller concepts within the unit, the students will go back to the video and add the appropriate terminology and concepts as audio components to their screen casts. I am hoping that this will reinforce the concepts of the units and the students will be able to explain the code they see better.

I will post updates here, on Twitter, and on Google+ as the unit progresses.

GTAMTV Review – Where to Start?

This is a question that I have been asking myself since I returned from the Google Teacher Academy – Mountain View. I have so much information that I want to share with my colleagues, students, and educators around the country that I have no idea where to start. I’ve tried breaking it down by tool, relevant subject area, and/or importance, but I have found that there is too much overlap and it was becoming more work than when I started.

Partial Notes from GTAMTV

During my prep period today, I went into the principal’s conference room and just started writing on the whiteboard. I put ideas, tools, subject areas, and whatever else I thought on the board. I started drawing arrows, questions marks, and asterisks. The whiteboard looks like a mess and after a half hour or so, my principal walked in to see what I was doing in her conference room.

She smiled and asked me to explain one of the items on the board. I picked the research tools in Google Docs because it is something that can help our teachers right away. From there, I started to randomly work my way around the board trying to do a quick summary of each item. Another teacher walked into the room and says, “Tell me about the YouTube thing.” I give a quick summary of the YouTube Editor and move on to one of the other related topics. I stop to take a breath and my principal asks me to stop talking and asks what are the most important items that you can do professional development on that will get the school the biggest bang for the buck.

I circle about five broad topics that will have the biggest impact on the school. We work out a date in January and I am going to be presenting those topics to a select group of students and teachers that want to come in on a Saturday to learn more about Google. I am going to develop the presentation as a “train the trainer” style professional development because those students and teachers will be able to go to their departments and friends and show them some of the great things that I learned next week.

Professional development with Google tools is not part of my action plan since I do a lot of professional development already with Google Apps and iPads. Today was a good day. I was able to finally organize some thoughts, get feedback, and start to create a plan to share what I have learned. I plan to post more information about my experiences at GTAMTV and share the knowledge that I learned, but I first needed to find a place to start and with some help from my friends, I found that place.

ACTE Vision 2012: Days 2 and 3

I know that I promised a post on My Vision 2012 sessions yesterday, but it was a busy day and I didn’t get back to the hotel until late last night. The second day sessions were just as good as the first day’s.

Session 1: Imagine Tomorrow: Where Information Technology Projects Are Interactive, Student-driven and Engaging From Conception to Completion

I will admit that I am biased about this session because two of my fellow Southwest CTA teachers were the presenters, but this was an excellent sessions. The focus of the presentation was on developing student-driven projects that are not only meet the course goals but also engaging and interactive. The presenters described how the senior class has created a company that builds websites for clients. The students created departments, apply for jobs, and assign tasks for projects while the instructor is there for guidance. Students in their other classes have created a virtual tour of the school through QR codes and hosted a technology conference for middle school students through these student-driven projects. It is a great opportunity for students to take ownership in their education.

Session 2: Implementing a Successful Credentialing Program

This session was not on my original list, but after hearing the things that are going on in Virginia Beach, I decided to attend this session. The number of credentials that this district is using is incredible. While this is not something I can’t directly use in my classroom, it will help me advocate for getting certifications in my classroom and other classroom in my school. Students and employers see the true value of these credentials and it is a great way to make sure students are career ready.

Session 3: Effective State Leadership for CTE
I had not planned on attending a session during this time slot, but my principal encouraged me to go. I have seen Dr. Daggett’s presentation before on our campus and it was great to hear some of it again. I was impressed with what the state of Georgia is doing with their performance framework. While the main components of the framework are similar to ours, it was interesting to see the areas where schools could earn bonus points. These included capstone projects for seniors and portfolios in the 5th grade. These ideas are not earth shattering or particularly difficult and make great sense, it makes me worry about where Nevada is headed because it seems like we are slow to include reforms like these.

Session 4: The Globalization of Technical Education Partnerships

Another sessions where there were not a lot of things that could go directly into my classroom, but provided me with some advocacy information that I can take to others. The partnerships that the panel members have formed in countries like Germany, Morocco, Greece, and China are incredible. They have formed great relationships that is a win for all parties.

I didn’t attend any in the final time slot because I was attending a Nevada ACTE board meeting to start planning our summer conference. It is a rarity when most of the board is together in one place so it was great to be in a room together to start hashing out the structure for our conference.

Day 3:
On the final day, I did not attend any individual sessions, but I did attend the closing session. Roland Fryer was the perfect final day speaker. He was funny, engaging, informative, and in the end gave us something to think about. It is with positive speakers like him and conferences like ACTE that give me hope that education is moving in the right direction.

I can’t wait for ACTE Vision 2013 in Las Vegas. I have great expectations for the sessions there since each year I attend ACTE, I learn more and more through the sessions.

ACTE Vision 2012 Part 2: The Excellent

Based on my previous post, many of you may think that my ACTE experience so far has been negative. It hasn’t been because the sessions are awesome. Here is a summary of the individual sessions that I attended today. Please email or post a comment if you want my full notes.

Session 1: The Economic Vitality Formula of Success

This was a great session that as a teacher/community partnership coordinator was well above my pay grade, but at least I was in the room so I can share these ideas with those who have the right pay grade. I also game up with a great project for me to work on at school as well. The focus of this session is that the combination CTE and workforce development with local industry will equal economic vitality for the city. Students in Virginia Beach are working towards receiving industry credentialing as well as a workplace readiness skills test. The school district and the economic development board can showcase the skills that students are learning in the city when they go to recruit new businesses to the area. By focusing on the skills and talent that the city is producing locally, they are able to help persuade companies to move their business to the area because the workforce is educated and prepared with the skills those companies need. This gave some great ideas to bring back to Nevada to highlight what is happening in the career and technical academies as well as the schools that incorporating CTE programs of study.

Session 2: The New Middle Skilled US Employment Marketplace: The How and  Why Higher Education Will be Changed Forever

This session focused on how employers are changing the way that they look for candidates and how candidates are changing to be prepared for careers. Frank Britt discussed how the paradigm in education needs to change to be focused on real learning and not necessarily seat time. The explosion of MOOCs are giving candidates a chance to focus on skills that they need for a career and are more competency-based. Mr. Britt explained that companies are now starting to push for more competency-based degrees and that higher education schools are becoming retailers of education. Students will not be able to afford the average annual increases in tuition forever and alternative methods to learn skills will are required to work in industry. Education needs to change their thought process in how they deliver content because there are so many options for students that prefer to learn digitally.

Session 3: Changing Student and Community Perceptions of Manufacturing

This session focused on methods to get students interested in the manufacturing industry. There is a large skills gap in manufacturing and that gap is going to get larger as baby boomers start retiring. The problem is that many students, parents, and educators perceive manufacturing as a low-wage, low-skill job or that all the manufacturing jobs are in China. The truth is that these manufacturing jobs require a high-skilled workforce and pay well. This presentation focused on what the Connecticut Community College System is doing to recruit students through camps, expos, tours, and internships to name a few. The system has shown success and hopefully other states can replicated it to meet the 600,000 manufacturing jobs that currently need to be filled.

I will post summaries of my sessions from day two tomorrow evening.

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.

Using Google Docs to Share Modified Assignments

I was preparing a tutorial tonight for our school’s department chairs. We are trying to come up with ways to easily share to additional resources or modified assignments to those students that are struggling through Google Calendars and Docs. The idea is simple enough. The teacher that is modifying the assignment or providing additional resources assigns the student a number or letter. The student knows to go to the class calendar and if he/she sees “Student C” click on this document, he or she clicks on the link to get the assignment/resource.

The catch for us is that the default settings on Docs is if someone has a school Google login, they can see the document. I created the tutorial below to show our teachers how to turn off the “Public” feature, turn it into “Private,” and share it with the student.

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