By Chris Hadfield
Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence
In the last month or so, I have had the great opportunity to listen and learn from many of the tech ed teachers, both in Minnesota and across the nation, on what they have been doing since the beginning of the stay at home orders for schools – related to COVID-19. I have heard from over a thousand teachers and lots of administrators on ways they are adjusting to not being in person with their students.
On April 9th I got the opportunity to lead a national webinar for the Association of Equipment Distributors Education Foundation. The audience was diesel technology instructors and the topic was Tools and Techniques for Online Learning in Technical Programs. What a great group to work with and a great discussion that started.
Between these two great experiences, I have come to a consensus that the age old saying of “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is totally true. But, it needs some context.
When I was a young kid, my mom would bring out lemonade to me and my dad when we were out in the field picking rocks or baling hay. It was always homemade and we really appreciated the break from all that work in the hot sun. The funny thing is, I can’t recall a single time when my mom brought out lemonade in the winter when we were milking cows, moving hay, or fixing a tractor in negative temperatures. It wasn’t like it was any less hard work, but maybe I just didn’t break a sweat as much as I did in July’s heat. Instead, mom brought hot cocoa for me and hot coffee for my dad in thermoses.
My childhood memories of my mom and dad both working hard and working together are a special thing for me. It made me who I am today. But I am most grateful for the wisdom that my parents passed on to me. And like most wisdom, it took a while for me to realize what it really meant. Mom knew what drink to bring out and when. And she knew that a drink and a break meant something more than just that.
Today, I see educators doing lots of great things for our students. They are making lemonade from the lemons life through at them. I even heard a 64 year old technical teacher say that he never thought he would teach anything online nor use any of the online tools, and yet he is fully embracing them and one of the folks I would consider “on the leading edge” of using e-tools to teach technical students. And this fall, he said that he is planning on using all of the new “e-tools and support” he discovered to enhance his class. He is one of those heroes I spoke of earlier and one of those teachers that cares so much for students and their success that he will do whatever it takes to get as much quality as he can to his students. No matter what the situation.
Another teacher that I know is building her own camera setup and adding lots of cameras into the shop. It kind of looks like a crazy security camera system! The purpose of the cameras is to use them to do demonstrations live and online for students, and to make it look professional. But after this is all over with, the cameras are staying installed and they will be used for creating videos, learning scenarios, and live demos for students to do assignments and critical thinking.
In an auto shop, you sometimes get lucky and have a live customer vehicle with a problem come in and it is a really great learning experience. But, it’s only a great experience for that group of students and once the vehicle is fixed, it’s gone, and you have to wait and cross your fingers that someone else’s car will have the same problem and give your students that same real-world experience. We all know that happens too little of the time as it is, so recording it and using it in the future is a way of embracing technology and using for good learning experiences.
When not being used for instruction, the cameras will (in the future) be a part of a virtual campus tour for perspective students to view on the website. What a great use of time, talent, tools, technology, and funds!
And when this is all over, just like how the summer turned to winter for me as a kid, the work won’t stop and the demand for quality technical education won’t end. Our students will expect and demand e-learning and online content be at least a part of a hands-on technical program.
The question is, should we keep on making lemonade?