This was my 26th year attending the national conference that used to be known as the AVA (American Vocational Association) as a representative of Aidex. Now known as the ACTE (Association of Career and Technical Education), I have seen many changes through the years, from what is being taught in today’s educational space to how it’s being taught. It’s mind blowing!
In today’s world, information is instantaneous. The ability to gain knowledge has never been easier in the classroom setting and, with the proliferation of cell phones, personally. Information is always immediately available on the internet.
Another major change, and not necessarily a good one in my opinion, is that this generation of learners has not grown up learning by DOING! This is the greatest challenge ahead of those of us in the educational technology business: how do we transform passive learners into active learners? How do we re-engage students who have “checked out” mentally because the old ways of teaching don’t relate to their new way of life?
As a group that provides resources for teachers to teach this generation, we need to really pay attention to how we can grab the interest of and intrigue students who will fill the aging workforce skill gap. Believe me when I tell you that the health of our industrialized nation will only remain strong on the backs of the skilled workers who can design, operate, and maintain our ever increasing complex arsenal of automated machinery.
This is just one small sector of a huge demand for hands-on skilled labor that can think critically, solve problems, and work in a team-based environment. Let me give you an example that touches every one of us personally.
The advances in medicine have been incredible over the last 25 years…but who are the ones that actually apply these advances to you and me? A skilled workforce that has been meticulously trained in not only understanding, but DOING! Health care’s approach needs to be applied across the spectrum of careers.
To me, this year’s ACTE conference in Nashville is the beginning of the next wave in the evolution of training tomorrow’s workforce. On-line learning is becoming more and more common. Textbooks as those of us of other generations used, will no longer be the primary method of gaining knowledge. Hands-on simulation, 3D imaging, augmented reality, IoT (Internet of Things), are all becoming critical tools that we must use and teach in addition to gaining intellectual knowledge and hands-on skills.
The ACTE conference in early December showed me that we are in the beginnings of being able to provide an ever expanding toolbox of tools that will allow the children of today to create the world of tomorrow we cannot imagine. Seeing the range of technologies at the event was inspiring for me; imagine if we were 10 years old again and had this growing wealth of hands-on resources in front of us. Learning would be fun and not a chore!
I say this with a great deal of excitement and a fair amount of concern…thus some advice driven by the insight of a three-decades long career that’s included a tremendous amount of hands-on labor.
The first thing we MUST teach all student regardless of career path are the foundational skills of critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork. Then let’s use all of the tools we have available to engage and motivate this generation to gain knowledge and acquire the hands-on skills needed today…and tomorrow…for success in the world, in the workforce and in life.