Here’s the Main Idea, but I Digress

I recently attended the Region VI National Association of Agricultural Educators conference in New Robin McLeanHaven, CT.  As a career and technical education teacher, staying current with trends in my field are critical to me so I can be an effective teacher and help prepare my students for what they might encounter.  During the conference, I was able to be a student while at the same time reflecting on the 21st Century CTE classroom.  It was interesting to note that just as students can get diverted from the main idea because a “cool technology tool” pops up, we as teachers sometimes do the same. 

One of the places I noticed this was in the workshop “Putting STEM in Plant Science.”  A main focus of the workshop was how students would study and design a basic hydroponics system. One of the benefits of CTE is that we have the chance to help students explore how science, technology, math and language arts apply to their life.  This hydroponics concept tied in language arts skills with research, math skills with measuring for the design, science through plant growth concepts and of course the technology of creating a system that is functional.  During the workshop, we were challenged to use the materials provided to create a prototype and describe a hydroponics system. 

Some participants began diligently working on that challenge, while others, of which I was one, began to “play” with a technology gadget the presenter had shared, a NeuLog unit and sensors.  Our group discussed how we could use them to provide a way to help students collect data without being tethered to a computer.  We explored the different sensors that could be used and brainstormed ways they could be integrated into our current content.  We experimented with using the data collection options for our phones and iPads.  We shared potential grants or donor sources that might provide us with the finances to integrate a few of these in our classroom.

The workshop concluded with the hydroponics designers sharing their concepts and the technology geeks reporting back on some of the possibilities they saw.  What I experienced during that workshop is what CTE students have the opportunity to explore in our classrooms on a regular basis – the chance to take information they are learning, apply it to their interests, use the tools that will best help them achieve success, and practice communication skills to share their knowledge.