Which of these do you remember best from your school days:  what you were taught, or what you did in class?  Content is fine, but real learning is about doing:  making decisions, creating things, solving problems.  And some of the best “doing” these days is happening in the classrooms of Career Technical Education teachers.

Career Technical Education today, or what Arne Duncan calls “CTE 2.0,” is nothing like the Vocational Ed of twenty years ago.  CTE students prepare for a multi-choice future by earning industry certifications, participating in internships, and pursuing fields of interest that will transition into college degree pathways.  CTE programs emphasize wide-ranging skill sets that students can apply to multiple college and career choices.  CTE 2.0 is about educating students for lifelong learning, not a specific job.

In Cullen White’s classroom at Fairmont Heights, Prince George’s County, students work in competing IT companies, earning profit or loss through their behavior and achievement.

In June 2012, the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium/National Career Technical Education Foundation published The Common Career Technical Core, the result of many months of collaborative work between educators and industry professionals.  The CCTC describes rigorous Career Ready Practices valuable to any lifelong learner, as well as more specific standards for career pathways.  Want an indication of the new direction CTE is taking?  The words, “technical” and “career” are used only once in the list of twelve Career Ready Practices!  Students in CTE 2.0 classrooms continue to learn the content, but learn to apply it in engaging, productive, and relevant new ways.

Today’s CTE emphasizes vocabulary-building as a primary communication skill.

What does CTE 2.0 look like in action, in the classroom?

Expect to see much more collaborative learning:  students in groups, creating designs, working out procedures, producing and problem solving.  Expect to see an emphasis on the language of college and career:  “Word Walls,” vocabulary activities, both short and long-range writing assignments, reflection journals, engineering logs, and case studies.  CTE 2.0 students work and learn out in the community, running school-based businesses and applying their skills to community projects.  They are learning to become responsible citizens as well as workers.

Education is the key to remaining competitive in a rapidly changing global economy, but it must be the right kind of education.  Tomorrow’s workers must be thinkers and planners.  They must possess skills applicable to jobs that have not yet been invented.  CTE 2.0 and the Common Career Technical Core are giving today’s students opportunities to learn and practice those skills

Think this sign belongs in an English classroom? Think again! CTE students learn and practice writing skills.