Posts in Category "Career & Technical Education"
I recently heard a colleague liken the experience of being a student in school today to that of someone riding in an airplane: you have to turn off your phone, unplug everything you care about, and stare straight ahead for hours. In an age when the economy–and many student interactions–are increasingly digital, our schools are becoming disconnected from the world our students know and falling behind in preparing students for the workforce. For many students, the result is that they are simply unbuckling their seat belts and walking off the aircraft.
Today’s dropout rates are staggering. A recent study published by America’s Promise Alliance cited that only 53% of youth in the 50 largest U.S. cities graduate from high school on time. It is a devastating statistic that–as administrators of schools large and small know all too well–seriously impacts youth and society in general. It also has major effects on districts, as they experience continued funding cuts because fewer students are attending their schools.
A study done by researchers at Texas A&M University found that Texas school districts could lose up to $1.1 billion in state funding because of declining enrollments. At a district level, these impacts can be severe. For example, after 104 students dropped out of the graduating class of 2007, the Longview Independent School District in Texas lost approximately $558,000 in state funding. Like the Texas schools, districts across the U.S. are actively taking on this problem.
“One of the biggest challenges today is keeping students in school,” says Jana Hambruch, project director at the School District of Lee County in Florida. “Discussions about improving education or funding opportunities are essential, but they mean nothing to a student who drops out. We need to keep students engaged and devise strategies that make learning more meaningful and relevant to them.”
Building on student interests
In the report, “The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts,” researchers found that 47 percent of students who dropped out said they did so primarily because they felt their classes were not interesting. Other reasons students gave for leaving school were that they thought their classes had no connection to skills or activities they would need after graduation.
Some of the most shocking statistics in this report were that 88% of the students had passing grades upon leaving school, and 58% dropped out with just two years or less to complete high school. The reality is that students are not flunking out. They are getting up and leaving due to disinterest, low expectations, doubts about the value of what they are learning – or a combination of all those things.
In a report released by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) titled, Focus on Technology Integration in America’s Schools, it was noted that by effectively integrating technology, districts saw significant improvements in student retention, achievement and teacher quality. In high-need districts, the high school graduation rate increased as much as 14%. More than simply making school ‘exciting,’ the report notes that the use of technology has a measurable impact on student test scores in math and reading.
From this perspective, the value of effectively integrating technology into curricula is apparent. In the U.S., the availability of Race to the Top funds is currently driving even greater innovation and reforms at schools. To better engage students, district administrators are exploring new programs that enhance student outcomes and give them essential design, development, and communication skills that will serve them long after graduation. The aim is to appeal to students’ penchant for technology and desire for real-world skills by teaching them how to use the software that business and creative professionals rely on daily.
State and district leaders have been looking at technology rich programs, and in particular career focused programs to bridge the chasm between student interests, the real world and our schools.
Real returns from CTE
Success at the School District of Lee County in Florida highlights the opportunities. Several years ago, educators in Fort Myers, Florida became concerned that Lee County was not effectively reaching all of its students. They set out to create a program that would prepare high school students to excel in a society built on information and technology. “We believed that an exciting program focused on technology would entice students to stay in school,” says Hambruch. “It would also produce well-qualified graduates with skills to pursue high-paying technical careers.”
To help achieve its goals, Lee County School District opened in 2005 the Academy for Technology Excellence (ATE) at Dunbar High School, a public magnet school in Fort Myers. ATE complements Dunbar’s Center for Math and Science and offers hands-on courses taught by IT-certified instructors. Teachers and students can complete Microsoft software certifications, as well as entry-level and advanced certifications on Adobe’s industry-standard creative solutions.
“The impact of the program far exceeded our expectations,” says Hambruch. “ATE students have an enthusiasm for learning that carries over to subjects beyond technology. We’ve seen our standardized test scores increase above state and district averages, as well as an increase in our graduation rates since inception of our ATE program.” Currently, Lee County is looking to expand industry certification programs to other district high schools, and perhaps even to middle schools.
In Florida, school districts can receive $1,200 (through the Perkins Fund) for every student passing the ACA assessment. For schools, this can be a windfall, considering per student funding in some districts averages $5,000 annually. Of course, students benefit as well, coming away with skills that can translate after graduation into jobs they feel passionate about.
Taking a global view
The focus on enhancing the quality of technical education available to students can be seen around the world. Earlier this year in Australia, the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education and Training invested approximately $20 million dollars (Australian) in Adobe solutions. The software will be provided to more than 741,000 NSW government K-12 students and 50,000 K-12 teachers, as well as to more than 500,000 students and 10,000 of their teachers in high-quality job training programs.
The rollout of Adobe software is part of a much larger Australian government initiative called the Digital Education Revolution, which also includes providing students and teachers with laptops, expanded wireless capabilities, and additional software. The aim is to transform teaching and learning in Australia by giving students the skills to live and work in a digital world.
“NSW public schools lead the nation in providing computer resources, giving our teachers and our young people the vital skills they need to help them succeed in our IT savvy world, said NSW Premier Nathan Rees. “The combination of the laptops and the software contracts we have signed will open our classrooms up to the world. Using this software, students will be able to create videos, edit photos and make presentations for class assignments and projects.”
The efforts in NSW further enhance CTE in schools across the state, while aiding overall technology integration into everyday coursework. Students can use creative software to visually communicate and interpret complex ideas across a range of subjects. For example, students in history classes can develop interactive timelines and recreate significant historical events through dynamic, digital scenes. Or, science students can capture images of experiments, analyze details, and add visual elements to bring greater clarity to their findings.
Pathways to success
The importance of balancing student interests with proven educational approaches is more important than ever today. With so much competition for students’ attention, it makes sense to incorporate ways of learning and working that reflect their lives inside and outside of school. For educators, discussions about enhancing student creativity, strengthening problem-solving skills, or teaching students to work alone or as part of a team are nothing new. What is changing is the effectiveness of the tools available to achieve these goals.
“It’s about making education more relevant and even useful to students,” says Hambruch. “We want students to have pathways to careers they aspire to – so they are excited about what they are learning today and can see how these creative and problem-solving skills will serve them tomorrow.”
* Statistic from Cities in Crisis 2009: Closing the Graduation Gap; Prepared for America’s Promise Alliance by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center.
* From “The ABCD’s of Texas Education: Assessing the Benefits and Costs of Reducing the Dropout Rate.” The Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University – report commissioned by the United Ways of Texas.
* From “The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts”. A report by Civic Enterprises in association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. By John M. Bridgeland, John J DiIulio, Jr., and Karen Burke Morison.
My students, their parents and our business advisory board are all very excited about earning the Adobe Certified Associate credentials. Of course I want all my students to be successful so I have been searching for resources that will provide my students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. Here is a list of what I have found.
Did you know that Adobe has posted detailed study guides for each exam at: http://www.adobe.com/education/instruction/ace/ These are .pdf files with both written tutorials and the sample files for the lessons all wrapped up in one Adobe Acrobat file!
Adobe has worked closely with classroom teachers like myself to develop curriculum that is aligned with the ISTE standards and teacher tested.
Visual Design is a yearlong, project-based curriculum that develops career and communication skills in print production and graphic design, using Adobe tools.
Digital Design is a yearlong, project-based curriculum that develops IT career skills in web design and production, using Adobe tools.
It is time that instructors learned about this incredible resource. Adobe has developed hours of fantastic instructional video resources and offers it free through the Adobe Media Player. Check out all that they have to offer at:
Learn by Video
This is the first resource that I have found that is specifically design to prepare students for the ACA exam. It has a easy to use interface, tutorials that you download to your iPod and well delivered content that will help your students prepare for the exam. I have really appreciated the book that accompanies this because it helps to explain the non-software specific topics covered on the exam. I also appreciate the test at the end of each unit both monitoring my students progress and helping them prepare for the type of exam questions they will face in the real ACA exam.
Classroom in a Book
Of course these books have been around for year providing a great resource for students and teachers. They provide great instruction on the application but you will need to supplement the lessons to fully prepare your students for the exam.
Online Software Training
If you or your students are looking for high quality online training on Adobe software then I strongly recommend the following resources:
Total Training: http://www.totaltraining.com/
Atomic Learning: http://www.atomiclearning.com/
Of course my own software workshops (free): http://www.mountsihighschool.com/directory/_dockeryj/conferences/index.html
Faculty workshops through Knowledge Network Solutions
Master education consultants from Knowledge Network Solutions come to your school to run workshops for faculty on how to use Adobe tools and effectively integrate them into their courses. Workshops are available to higher ed and K-12 institutions.
For more information about the Adobe Certified Associate Exam go to:
My students are excited about the prospect of earning their Adobe Certified Associate credential this year. I work in a small school district in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. Being a small school district, we don’t have a bunch of money to pay for all my students to take industry exams. So we partnered with the eight other school districts within our regional consortium (NEVAC). This has allowed us to purchase a Certiport site license ($2,500) for the ACA exam at my high school. We are currently working on hiring one of our building computer techs to proctor the exam for a few Saturdays ($1,000) at the end of each semester.
By setting up a regional testing center and sharing the cost, we will be able to offer the exam to ALL of our students at a fraction of the cost. What is even more exciting is an idea that grew out of the sharing of resources. We are currently working on setting up Saturday teacher workshops and student study sessions that will culminate in the certification exam. This way, all our instructors can collaborate with each other to prepare both themselves and their students for this exam.
For more information about the Adobe Certified Associate Exam go to:
Adobe just released free exam study guides to prepare students and educators for the new Adobe Associate Certifications. In addition, Adobe Press has released three new offerings in the Learn by Video series.
The free exam study guides include:
- Web Communication using Adobe Dreamweaver CS4
- Rich Media Communication using Adobe Flash CS4
- Visual Communication using Adobe Photoshop CS4
Versions for the older CS3 are also available.
The Learn by Video series includes:
- Learn Adobe Photoshop CS4 by Video: Core Training in Visual Communication
- Learn Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 by Video: Core Training in Web Communication
- Learn Adobe Flash CS4 Professional by Video: Core Training in Rich Media Communication
I supervised a state SkillsUSA web design contest on April 24, 2009 (both secondary and post-secondary divisions) and thought it appropriate to summarize some of my observations. These comments are divided into two separate areas (business professionalism and knowledge of web design and development). Although I see the cup as “half full,” there is definitely room for improvement in both areas. I believe it is up to us as educators to encourage our students to improve in these areas.
On the business side, I must stress the importance of arriving on time for the contest and staying until the end of the contest. As a practicing professional, I am always hoping for a little extra time to polish a site for a client. Those that left early should have used the extra time to improve upon their work. Less than 25% stayed for the optional briefing after the conclusion of the contest where we shared a significant amount of information. One of the main differentiators many employers look for is passion and dedication in their employees. Staying for the debriefing confirms a desire to learn and improve.
It is also important to verify that your work has been properly copied. In many instances, although given the opportunity to check their work on the USB drive used to collect the final entries, very few opened more than the initial folder. Attention to detail is an issue of major importance as several sites had inadvertently pointed to a folder on their desktop (which will not work when the challenges are judged). This leads to broken links to images and CSS (and lost points).
Part of the competition also included an interview. As an aspiring professional, it is permissible to state that you do not know the answer to a given question but would like to find out more about it. Less than 10% of those presented with such a question took that approach (the remainder tried to guess their way through without success).
The quality of code is important (for example, there is no p2 element; there should not be HTML body elements placed above the DOCTYPE declaration). With the majority of contestants using Dreamweaver, one can easily test for valid code (and the tool actually helps one write such code). Unfortunately, it would appear that this feature was not employed on most challenges.
In my work with numerous business and industry professionals, it is clear they are looking for individuals who have a solid understanding of web standards and can use tools to effectively accomplish tasks. This is why the individual challenges were selected for this contest.
I implore those educating the next generation of web professionals to focus on the following areas to better prepare students for the workforce.
- Develop a good understanding of web standards (and why they are important – for maintainability of the code, for improved search engine ranking, for increased accessibility and all the other reasons). Tools are important, but students need to know the fundamentals before they can effectively employ those tools.
- Increase the emphasis on web accessibility and usability in the curriculum.
Increase the emphasis on professional behaviors (arrive on time, test your work before turning it in, admit when you don’t know something and so forth).
- Help students develop a solid understanding of the use of the appropriate tool and when one must go beyond a given tool.
It is up to us as educators to raise the bar to help our students succeed in the workplace.
Teaching eighth grade technology is a special experience. I typically get a range of skill levels in any one of my classes. Some students are computer experts, some are skillful at drawing and some are just curious. Designing and creating a unit on graphic design is no longer out of the reach of these young teens. Using a template driven approach we are able to successfully explore technology as it applies to careers such as graphic designer, project manager, advertising, account executive, clothing and sports wear design.
Starting with the Nike Sneaker templates from PigMag
students immediately experience success with Photoshop. Students are taught to use and understand the selection tool, layers, layer effects, brushes, shape tools, text, transformations and filters.
Pigmag has made it easy by selecting the elements of these six templates, isolating them to unique layers and then locking the negative space.
See some of our samples:
Classes discuss whether all sneaker designs would end up on someone’s feet. In the American culture the sneaker is an icon representing several ideas. In fact we discussed that the sneaker can be found on t-shirts, clothing, in magazine ads and even as artwork.
Once students have accomplished the various Photoshop skills as evidenced in completing multiple sneaker designs we introduce the skateboard template from Vectorss http://vectorss.com/
This template so easily defines the layers and their functions. There is a layer for coloring the board, a layer for the wheels and hardware and a layer for the skateboard art. The template uses masks to enable accurate deck art transfers.
The template can be found here.
See our samples here:
Finally the unit is further enhanced by the fantastic templates created by the folks at GoMedia and their arsenal of professional design weaponry.
These templates of t-shirts and hoodies do cost a fee but they are well worth it considering the opportunity and analysis that spawn from their use.
See the templates here:
View some of our samples here.
PS I have to add a post script.
As part of this unit it is valuable for the students to explore the larger graphic design community that exists on the web and the exchange of ideas and resources that make up that community. In that vein I share with students websites where they can download Photoshop brushes and shapes as well as fonts. This opens many possibilities for their designs.
We do discuss rules on copyright and the difference between education and commercial production. We also expose the artists of the grade to the possibility for them to become advisers and sources of their own custom brush and shape sets created with Photoshop from their original sketches.
Links for custom brushes and shapes
Link for custom fonts
A blog article and collection of resources on t-shirt design and production and manufacturing opportunities.
The American School Counselor Association’s National Model includes a Delivery
System. The Delivery System includes four components of a Guidance Curriculum,
Individual Student Planning, Responsive Services, and System Support. I would like all
School Counselors to become aware of a company called Envictus. Envictus is dedicated
toward the goal of helping all students become College and Career Ready. They are
innovative and leaders in the development of online guidance programs. The latest web-based
guidance curriculum in development is called Navigation101, which can help
counselors and schools build a successful school guidance program. Navigation101
works in concert with key “offline” components such as advisory, portfolios, student-led
conferences, student-driven scheduling, and using data.
For Counselors & Schools
Adobe Education Leader
Simmons Career Center is a little different than most traditional high schools. Simmons is for students who want to learn a trade and get out of school as quickly as possible. Eligible students are at least a year behind and in jeopardy of dropping out of school. Unfortunately, for a majority of our students, poor success in school has also led to other destructive behavior outside of school. Like many other schools, we have gang members, students with criminal records, and students who struggle with poverty. Students who are able to manage their personal challenges and reach the Web Design IV class are required to do a project based exit activity to complete the program. The students act as a web design firm and work with a real client from start to finish. The guidance counselor referred a woman from a non‐profit agency called Advocates for a Safer Community to be our real life example. Before long, we found ourselves learning a lot about choices in life.
A tall slender woman came into the conference room where the students were all seated. We all stood and introduced ourselves and began by discussing how the web site should look and feel. Mrs. Saunders began to pull out news articles and pictures from her bag and spread them across the table. Each article and photo represented a young person who was murdered within the city limits of Tampa, Florida. Case by case, the students, by their own accord, began reading the articles and looking at the pictures. The students very quickly realized their project would have a significant impact on others’ lives. From that very first meeting, our students began to feel really needed.
Mrs. Saunders pulled out a picture and began to tell us how “he didn’t like getting his picture taken, so that was the best she could find”. One student asked, “Who is he?” She replied, “My son”. Mrs. Saunders started the organization after her son was murdered while waiting outside for a friend to come out and play. Mrs. Saunders pulled out another photo of her son. She said,” I like this one because he was not wearing a hat.” I could actually see and feel a change as my students empathized with this complete stranger and accepted her burden as their own.
The meeting was over and the students brought the notes back to the classroom. We began to discuss and build low level storyboards on roll paper. A couple of the students began to get nervous about doing such an important project, but we kept them on it anyway. Everyone agreed the pictures of the victims needed to be improved in Photoshop to make the faces larger and easier to see. We decided to create a Flash file that would have the mission and information in a center box with thumbnail images of all the victims presented. The students wanted every victim to be equally as important on the home page. As the user moved the mouse over the thumbnails, the center would change to a larger picture of the victim. We also included the name, the date of their death, and whenever possible, a word that family and friends used to describe the victim. There were links included to get more information about each case.
Now the hard part, there were nearly three hundred cases. Students began the tedious task of scanning pictures and recreating articles to build the Flash file and sub‐pages. One might think, or at least I did, that the students would eventually return to being unmotivated and lazy, with poor attendance and off task behavior. The opposite was true; the students were giving up their lunch, coming in early, and
finishing work in their other classes so they could work on the website. The seniors’ last day was fast approaching and the students were feeling the crunch. I offered to finish the project so they could enjoy some of the senior events and the last couple of days with their friends and none of my students would accept my offer. The last day for seniors came and there were still some finishing touches we needed to do. The seniors showed up to school as volunteers and worked on the project. When we sat with Mrs. Saunders to review and get her feedback, she was very surprised. One of our students even used Photoshop to edit the picture of Mrs. Saunders’ son. The student removed the hat and re‐created her son’s hair and features from the other photo where he was not wearing a hat.
In nine years of teaching, I have never seen dedication like my students gave to this project. What made the outcome even better were the conversations the students had with each other while working. These students discussed choices, their future and options for themselves. Nine weeks earlier, these same students were talking about who fought whom and their crazy weekends. No one could have predicted that a project used to teach Dreamweaver, Flash and Photoshop could actually change my students’ lives.
Technology Resource Teacher
Simmons Career Center