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#VISION14: 4 lessons on the power of CTE

Four dynamic speakers recently took the stage for the Power Talks keynote at ACTE’s Career Tech Vision 2014 in Nashville, Tenn. Real-world, inspired learning as a change agent in education was a common thread throughout the talks.

Here are four takeaway lessons on the power of CTE from the keynote speakers:

Find your “zone of awesomeness.”

Career and technical educator and national faculty member for the Buck Institute for Education Brian Schoch encouraged attendees to find their “zone of awesomeness.” Finding the zone has helped Schoch design project-based learning that inspires students, and ultimately, helped keep him in the classroom when he considered leaving after his first semester of teaching. Student-led work equals student excitement and engagement, he said. That’s a message some educators may have heard before, but Schoch took his advice one step further, challenging educators to choose projects that also inspire and excite them. When four elements — authentic work, content-rich assignments, teacher excitement and student excitement — come together, “something magical happens,” he said.

What does “college readiness” look like? Think beyond GPA.

“College readiness” is not always evident on students’ college applications or in their grade-point averages. Sometimes “college readiness” comes through as an unidentifiable “spark,” said Michael DePrisco, vice president of Academic and Educational Programs for the Project Management Institute. College and career readiness is about more than GPAs; it’s about students having the skills they need upon graduation for employment and to maintain employability throughout their lives, he said. It’s no longer good enough in education to tell people what you’re going to do. You need to show them what you’ve done. This is a time of the new 3Rs — relevance, rigor and results, he said, noting that these are the factors that matter to politicians, taxpayers, school officials, parents and consumers of education.

Global challenges provide opportunities for innovation.

Frank Martinez, director of Digital Inclusion at Intel, highlighted Intel’s efforts to bridge the digital gap — to ensure equitable access to technology worldwide. Their framework for closing the digital divide — access, connectivity, training and content — may provide a roadmap for others. And while the challenges may seem daunting, Martinez encouraged educators to see global challenges as opportunities for innovation. To support this idea, he highlighted Project Daniel in which technology and 3D printing are being used to help amputees in South Sudan villages.

Inspired students can be change agents. Let them tell the story.

The final speaker, Enzo Paterno, an electrical computer engineering technology teacher at Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Technologies, took a secondary role on stage by inviting three of his students to discuss how project-based, real-world learning has inspired innovation and excitement. They highlighted their team’s creation of the HASMAAD drone. The students’ presentation embodied the skills CTE educators have been talking about during this conference — the kinds of employability skills that reach beyond GPA. “Despite all that we learned in class, it’s nothing like the knowledge we gained working on this project,” one student said. And another added, “we know that in a world where impact is crucial, innovation is key and STEM is the future, we were lucky to have this opportunity.”