Thursday, July 23rd, 2009...6:40 am

Highlights from Summer Conference, Part 1

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North Carolina’s CTE Summer Conference is off to a great start, with attendance far ahead of what was expected just a couple of weeks ago.  Here’s a Wednesday rundown:


Almost 20 Computer Engineering teachers attended our first Wednesday morning session to hear about curriculum updates, changes in CompTIA’s A+ certification, and a great deal for North Carolina high schools.

Alan Rowland and Connie Slagle joined us live from Chicago and Indiana via gotomeeting to explain CompTIA’s E2C program for education.  North Carolina schools can join it for free thanks to a statewide agreement with the Department of Public Instruction, and take advantage of free exam vouchers for teachers, heavily discounted exam vouchers for students, and a lot of other benefits including exam prep resources and promotional materials for the classroom.


The second session of the day focused on how participation in SkillsUSA can engage students and turn them into leaders in the classroom and beyond.

State SkillsUSA Advisor Peyton Holland encouraged teachers to start or support chapters in their school and possibly kick things off by bringing students to Camp Dixie in September.  ”It’s a good time had by all,” he said, adding that it more than that for many - and it’s only been a few years since his life was changed by the experience.

Peyton’s a recent NC State grad who’s never stopped being an active proponent of SkillsUSA in the few years since he graduated from Northwoods High School. If you’ve met him, you know that he possesses self-confidence in just the right way - at ease and comfortable in a group, able to put forth his own ideas while showing respect to others.  Just the qualities you’d want to foster in your students. Though he didn’t mention it, he was a high achiever in SkillsUSA himself, winning the national Job Interview contest twice. He told our session it was SkillsUSA and a session at Camp Dixie that lit the spark for him.

West Montgomery teacher Kathy Wright reiterated how Camp Dixie can change students’ perspective on themselves and their interaction with others.  She’s taken some who weren’t sure they wanted to go to a ‘leadership camp.’

“By the time you get ready to leave they’ve really had a good time,” she says. “They’ve learned leadership in a fun way.  They meet people from all over the state, make new friends, compete with other groups of students. Everybody gets a chance to participate and team-build.”

Todd Thibault, the state Skills Advisor of the Year, talked about bringing West Johnston High students to compete in 21 different state events earlier this year. He was able to overcome budgeting issues and take his state championship quiz bowl team to national competition this summer. They placed fifth, and had a great experience in the process. Upon their return, Todd immediately went to work with a community service team, preparing for what he hopes will be a return trip next year.

“I had one kid tell me, ‘Mr Thibault thanks for making me do this. I had a great time,’” he says.  ”I push a lot of kids to do skills, and in the end they enjoy it.”

Both Kathy and Todd talked about the many different contests available and appropriate for computer engineering students, including non-tech contests like Public Speaking, Community Service, Quiz Bowl, and Job Skills Demonstration.

But many students in these programs will gravite toward the tech contests such as Internetworking, Technical Computer Applications, and especially Computer Maintenance and Repair.

Bill Burgess and Marshall Millican of Carolina Training Associates joined us to talk about how they run the Computer Maintenance contest at the state competition each spring.  Bill explained how he sets up the contest and scores participants, and showed the Heathkit fault boards and trainers he uses to set up troubleshooting labs that test students’ ability to identify and fix problems. (Those tools could make a great addition to your classroom if you have money for additional resources - more to come on that at a later date).


We wrapped up the day with a look at Moodle - what it is, how it helps in the classroom, how (briefly) it can be set up, and how we use it to enable our teachers to implement some of their classwork online.

Moodle is open source classroom management software that offers a slew of benefits.  It provides an interactive online approach that students love.  It saves paper.  It saves productive time when a student (or even the teacher) misses class.

But to me, the greatest benefit of Moodle for computer engineering students is that it enables hands-on activities in the classroom.  What I mean by that is that instead of trying to conduct a lab with 20 (or more) students working on four or five computer kits all at one time, you can have a small group working on a lab that you’re leading and watching closely, while the rest of the class is engaged in appropriate, productive, on-task work. (See an illustration of Moodle’s benefits in this WRAL-TV news report from earlier this spring).

Geof Duncan gave a demonstration of how our system works and how teachers set up their courses and get started with some of the basic and common tasks needed to set up a class online. We’ll be planning some online webinars and training sessions to add to the Moodle support this year.

More to come tomorrow from Greensboro…

- Robin Fred
ExplorNet/The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning

1 Comment

  • Thanks guys for all the support for SkillsUSA. SkillsUSA is one affiliation that can change students for life. Hope more will start chapters and get more students involved.
    Thanks again,
    Glenn Barefoot

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