Goals of Career and Tech Ed Programs

The primary goal of my program is to develop the skills necessary to solve problems. Using the six steps illustrated below in the Design Process, students approach every activity with the problem solving process as their only curriculum. Additionally, students will participate in group and team activities to gain an understanding of the professional and technical skills necessary for success in modern industry, which are listed later as the secondary goals for the program.

Primary Goal – Problem Solving

Understanding The Problem– It is vital for individuals to properly analyze and understand the problems (or to look for opportunities for improvement in existing systems) in school, at home, and in the workplace. Properly assessing the challenges and opportunities encountered in life is the first step in developing a workable solution. This is accomplished by creating a design brief and specifications for each project that is done in class.

Research and Analysis– After properly understanding and analyzing the problems or opportunities presented to us, we must begin to research the problem. This may include gathering information pertaining to materials and processes, solutions to similar problems, safety and legal considerations, ergonomics, etc. There must be a foundation of knowledge upon which solutions can be built. Researching and analyzing data relevant to the problem is both the end of understanding the problem and the beginning of the solution. Students research possible solutions and specifications for the project using the internet, manuals and commercially available books (absolutely no “educational” curriculum!), their peers, and local businesspersons or experts in the field they are studying. Partnerships with local businesses, as well as with college and technical school instructors, are encouraged and facilitated.

Generating Possible Solutions– When solving a problem or seizing an opportunity, it is important to think about the solutions possible before acting upon them. Students at the High School grade levels are often impulsive and impatient in solving their problems (thus the poor decisions so often made!). In their educational experiences in the past, they have rarely been asked to think; they are usually given answers along with questions. They do not realize that in reality, answers are sometimes slow in coming. It is an important part of the process to develop multiple answers to the problem before acting. In the Ridge Comm Tech program, students must develop at least five different solutions to the problems presented in the curriculum before work can begin. Simple brainstorming and rough sketches or outlines of the project are required before students are given the materials to begin developing their final plan. This part of the process has proven the most difficult for the students, even though it is the step that requires the least amount of “work” in their minds. Many have never been asked to come up with their own ideas, and it’s difficult for many of them to think without being told what to think. It’s an important lesson for students to know that there can be more than one solution to a problem.

Choose a Solution and Develop a Plan– After thinking about possible solutions for a problem, it must come down to one solution that will be developed and implemented. It is important to critically analyze the ideas that are developed before one of those ideas is acted upon. Once the pros and cons of all possible solutions are weighed, the best solution must be further researched and planned. In class, this is called the “Pick and Plan” stage. After the solutions are developed, students are asked to pick the best three solutions. From those three, the students pick what they feel has the most promise for a successful outcome. Students must also document their reasons for choosing one idea over the others, as well as their reasons for not choosing the rejected ideas. This critical analysis of their own ideas helps the students pick the best idea they have and then develop a plan for implementing that solution. Planning includes indicating what materials and process will be required as well as developing a timeline for how much time can be spent on each stage of the development.

Model and Prototyping– After a plan is developed, it must be implemented. This step includes gathering the necessary materials, becoming proficient at the tools and processes needed to complete and fabricate the product, and creating a working model or prototype. In the Tech I program at Seminole Ridge, this is done using industry standard software and hardware. Students are given real-world tools and materials. In developing the Tech Studies I program, careful research and study went into choosing hardware and software that was used in local businesses related to the activity. Ridge students use the same equipment (when applicable) as local businesses in the communications, engineering, manufacturing, and control/programming fields.

Testing and Evaluation– Once a prototype is developed, it must be tested and evaluated based on the specifications of the design brief. It must also be evaluated in terms of safety, ergonomics, aesthetics, cost, efficiency, etc. In the Tech I program at Seminole Ridge, evaluation and testing is a cooperative effort between the student and instructor. The students use a generic rubric as a guideline when evaluating their work. Each project’s scenario also has a list of items that should be considered when evaluating the project. People are rarely asked to evaluate their own work, and to reflect on how it could be improved. This kind of self-evaluation and reflection has an incredible effect on the quality of the outcome. When people are a part of the process and are asked about their thoughts on their own work, then the evaluation is much more valuable to them. In such a situation, people tend not to merely blame the assessor for a poor evaluation. When individuals participate in their own evaluation, they take ownership in their work. It becomes difficult to defend poor craftsmanship, haphazard organization, and sloppy development when asked about it directly and discussed in an open, honest, and frank discussion.

Secondary Goals

Craftsmanship– “If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” Craftsmanship and attention to detail are emphasized throughout the curriculum. Too often, even in industry, simply meeting the specifications is “good enough.” Rarely do we experience service that is above and beyond the minimal acceptable level. The Seminole Ridge curriculum emphasizes craftsmanship. Working through a design problem is a perfect way to teach the value of craftsmanship. Since the specifications are essentially the bare minimum, simply meeting all of the specifications does not constitute anything higher than an average grade. Students often say, “Isn’t this an ‘A’? I did everything it said to do.” This is a great opportunity to discuss craftsmanship, attention to detail, excellence, and dedication. Students learn that doing what is expected is average in the real world of competitive market economics. The class discusses quality and craftsmanship, and analyzes “cheap” products as they compare to “quality” products. This is an opportunity to truly experience striving for excellence, and sharing it with students in a way that makes sense to young adults.

Communication– Communication is becoming increasingly more important in the “information age.” With the explosive growth of “Business to Business” economics and “Just in Time” manufacturing, communication skills are of paramount importance. Miscommunication in the current marketplace can be an incredibly costly mistake. Communication is also important in securing a job. Professional communication in a variety of forms is emphasized in the Comm Tech program. The ability to effectively communicate in verbal and non-verbal forms is emphasized. Much of the evaluation process for projects is done verbally. Students are asked to evaluate and critique their work verbally. The work itself is documented in written and graphical formats. Sketches, outlines, diagrams, and charts are employed to document work and research.

Cooperation– Working well with other people is a vital workplace skill as the generalist is becoming obsolete and the specialist is becoming more valued. Compartmentalized and departmentalized manufacturing and development are now the norm. It is important to be able to work well with others in this type of workplace. Some of the projects in the class are designed to be completed by two-person teams. The daily emphasis on peer-to-peer teaching in the lab is also a source of cooperative exercises.

Computer & Technical Skills– Of course, in a Technology Education program, computer and technical skills are a major focus. In the Seminole Ridge program, students use technical and computer related projects to reach the other less tangible goals. The computer and technical projects are conduits through which the other skills can be learned. Students will learn to use the problem-solving process to solve a technical problem. They will evaluate their craftsmanship on the project and communicate their development and evaluation findings. They will often work in pairs or teams to accomplish their work. This method emphasizes the more abstract concepts by using them to create a concrete product.

Career Decisions– At Seminole Ridge High School , students will participate in multiple presentations from both Industry professionals and colleges to help them make informed decisions about their career. Not only that, but the projects that they are doing are real-world projects with input from local industry professionals.

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