Vocational education is a constantly evolving subject area and recent changes in the New Jersey licensing code for teachers have brought it into the spotlight. Far removed from the discussion in Trenton, Voced teachers are looking for ways to strengthen classroom instruction. This month’s column will look at the vocational education resources that are available on the Internet, check out what courses of study are being explored in other states, and examine the range of topics that fall under the broad heading of “vocational education.”

Career clusters

The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium focuses on “Career Clusters.” Each of the links on this page takes you to resources that are available for a particular cluster.

The first, the Arts, Audio-Video Technology, and Communications Cluster website provides draft standards for audio/video technology, journalism/broadcasting/film, performing arts, printing technology, telecommunications technology and visual arts.

In the classroom

The National Consortium on Health Science and Technology Education, a policy-making organization, links to various state programs. The Florida Department of Education’s “Workforce Education - Career, Technical, and Adult Education Workforce Education Frameworks” siteincludes a wealth of course descriptions. For example, the Career and Technical Curriculum Frameworks 2003-04--Health Science Education lists program descriptions from dental assistant to pharmacy technician to ophthalmic laboratory technician.

In addition, there are descriptions of programs for several academies: the Academy of Entrepreneurship, Academy of Finance, Academy of International Marketing, and the Academy of Travel and Tourism. The listings are quite extensive for all programs and the scope is broad.

North Carolina Public Schools allow you to download the contents of entire curriculum CDs as zip files onto your hard drive. The topics covered are: business and financial management I and II, business law, computer applications I and II, e-commerce, exploring career decisions, fashion merchandising, marketing, and marketing management.

Career shadowing, field trips, rotation/preceptorships/internships, and work-based learning programs are all described at the Texas Health Science Technology Education website. Fundamentals of these programs along with sample consent forms, student responsibilities, student evaluation, applications, confidentiality forms, etc. are all available, as is a matrix of activities for anatomy and physiology, communication, dental, mental health, scientific research and design skills, systems technology, pathophysiology, and veterinary health. Sample rubrics are included for portfolios, interviews, multimedia presentations, team membership, oral presentations, resumes, website creation, writing, summary (critical analysis), job applications, problem solving, folders, role play, project, laboratory investigation, and career shoebox.

Utah’s Applied Technology Program’s website contains scope and sequence and curriculum for agricultural education, business education, comprehensive guidance, economic education and entrepreneurship, family and consumer sciences education, financial literacy education, health science and technology education, information technology education, keyboarding, marketing, technology and engineering, technology life and careers, trade and technical education, and work-based learning.

Curriculum

If you teach plumbing (and even if you don’t!), you’ve got to check out Kay Keating’s Toiletology 101: The Care and Repair of Toilets. This is a tongue-in-cheek yet serious online course that just may motivate some of your students.

Dr. Steven Song and Dr. Robert Paugh have merged their popular vocational lists to create Resources for VocEd for the program in vocational education and industry training at the University of Central Florida. They include general information, curriculum resources, school-to-work information, legislative information, and career and job information.

The topics covered are adult education, apprenticeship, business education, career and job information, curriculum resources, federal government information, health education resources, and school to work. Clicking on the business education link will bring you Tonya Skinner’s Business Education Lesson Plans and Resources. This page is full of activities for accounting, business law, business math/economics, business/office technology, career prep, computer concepts, computer applications, desktop publishing, general business, keyboarding, multimedia, html/web publishing, international business and internet literacy.

The Gateway to Educational Materials is a unique search engine that helps educators find lesson plans and activities in all content areas. Just put your search term in the search box. You can select a grade level and also specify vocational education, as well as whether or not you only want free resources. You’ll be amazed at the list of resources that appears. The more specific you are the better – typing in “vocational education” brings up 1709 results, but putting in “engines” narrowed the list to 187.

Special education

“Life Skills for Vocational Success” was developed through a grant from the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services as a resource for units and lesson plans. It is designed for educators, counselors, job coaches, and other professionals working to increase the employability of people with disabilities. Basic social skills, decision-making, employability, money management, transportation, health, family responsibilities, basic understanding of the law, and telephone skills are covered in detail.

Florida’s Department of Education (covered above) provides course descriptions under their “Career and Technical Curriculum Frameworks 2003-04--Exceptional Student Education” for practical arts, job preparation, agriculture, business technology, diversified education, health science, family and consumer sciences, industrial education, career preparation, experiences and placement, supported competitive employment, and technology education.

Under the heading of Instructional “Support and Community Services,” Florida provides assistance for accommodations and modifications, accountability for students with disabilities in state and district programs, assessment and instruction in phonological awareness, a “Planning Your Future Guide,” “Designing Lessons for the Diverse Classroom - A Handbook for Teachers,” and “Selecting Media for the Diverse Classroom - A Handbook for Teachers.”

In her article “What are the Common Instructional Strategies Incorporated by Teachers in Their Use of Vocational Education,” Jessica Soltesz, a deaf education major at Kent State University, lists instructional strategies (along with downloadable worksheets) for choosing classes, post-school planning, searching for a job, resumes, interviewing, and getting work .

Resources

“Vocational Information Center,” by Kathryn Hake, a retired Pennsylvania educator, was designed to make “existing career and technical online resources easier to find” including career exploration and planning, tutorials and learning resources for vocational students, skills for today's workforce, technical school locators, job market resources, career and technical education resources, curriculum, and integrated academic resources, This is a “must see” website. The links are current and focused, and the career and technical education websites are vast.

The ever resourceful Kathy Schrock from Discovery School once again proves if you bookmark no other resources, you’ll want to keep this site at your fingertips. She provides links for technical/career education resources, family consumer science, the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the Journal of Vocational and Technical and Technical Education, NETgain (an interesting series of articles from the Vocational Education Journal that deal with resources on the Net), the National Center for Research in Vocational Education, vocational education skill standards, and life skills for vocational success.

And for local resources, we have New Jersey’s own “Career Explorer” (wage and employment trends, occupational requirements, labor market conditions, and online career resources), a service of the Workforce New Jersey Public Information Network.

Finally, the NJEA-affiliated Technology Educators Association of New Jersey (TEANJ) has a very comprehensive website.Technical Educators of New Jersey is an organization whose purpose is “to bring together individuals engaged in or closely related to technical information processing, training development, and education,” and the New Jersey Technology Council “provides business support, networking opportunities, information, advocacy, and recognition of technology companies and their leaders.”