Blog Post: Virtual VISION Experience

Written by Josh Labrie, 2020-2021 PLSP Fellow

I attended the 2020 ACTE VISION Conference virtually and was lucky enough to have a live presentation during the event. This was my first time attending VISION specifically, but I enjoy attending professional conferences in general. I do find that I get more out of in person conferences than the virtual format because I’m forced into attending more sessions and interacting with other professionals organically. However, I was happy to have three takeaways for myself  that I can apply to my institution and my approach to work.

One of my responsibilities at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is the administration of the Perkins V grant that supports the implementation and modernization of Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. In Kevin Fleming’s keynote address he referenced a report for LA and Orange Counties around hard to convert CTE program areas. The focus of this line of thought was on how augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) could be implemented to supplement many of these CTE programs remotely. While I took note of the information, it really just planted a seed for me at the time. Since the VISION conference we were directed to ensure a 100% spend down on our Perkins award and I also had a few local webinars for AR and VR programs. I was able to share these webinars with deans and program heads for the applicable CTE

 programs, and expect that we will explore this area with some of our Perkins funding this academic year. Had I not been a part of VISION, it is possible I would have let the opportunity to attend the AR and VR webinars pass through my email without actively sharing them with my colleagues. 

At NOVA, I am the Director of NOVA SySTEMic, the college’s STEM outreach program. Through this state and grant funded program we do summer camps, expos, competitions, STEMinars, workshops, career readiness, and teacher professional development. I supervise eleven full time employees and work with the program manager to supervise a half dozen or so part time employees. At VISION I enjoyed Sarita Maybin’s approach to people and management especially her advice on confronting issues and scheduling time with employees that used to happen organically. Her message and experience resonated with me, and confirmed some of what I was feeling lately. Her top 10 positive communication phrases will help me in my role and I like that she grouped them into categories like the unaware, seeking input, taking responsibility and working together. I agreed with her on listening to negative feedback and trying to understand it fully, but her additional notes on how to decide if an issue needs to be confronted was good for me as I tend to confront most issues. Finally, I liked the technique for giving negative feedback and will consult it prior to those situations. I plan on reviewing some of these lessons learned with my program manager and applying them to my managerial approach.

While I met a few people virtually and enjoyed a few sessions, one of the impacts of the conference was personal motivation. In Kevin’s keynote he also mentioned the pace of innovation showing the 50 million user acquisition rate changed from 60 or more years for adoption of airlines, automobiles and the telephone to less than four years for facebook, twitter and youtube. This speaks directly to CTE and the need for relevant in-demand educational programming. At NOVA I help provide support to our cybersecurity, IT, Cloud, engineering technology and data center operations programs. The motivator from the conference is that the adoption of new technologies that ultimately generate data is rapidly accelerating, and these needs are already critical. Remembering that our work enables the jobs of tomorrow and supports critical infrastructures will help me strive for success and action in my work. Technically, I’m about halfway through the “30 years” to retirement, and the conference helped motivate me toward accomplishing the goals I’ve set for myself in this career.

VISION was a good conference to learn from colleagues and peers while gaining a few skills to help me serve my community more effectively. I’m glad I was able to attend the conference and am looking forward to next year’s conference.