Exploring Games for Learning

How can games transform education? That question was at the core of the Games for Learning summit that was held in New York City in conjunction with the 12th Annual Games for Change Festival. The Office of Education Technology led the day-long event that convened educators, game developers, and technology companies to discuss the latest trends, products, and barriers to developing games that effectively deliver education content.

Photo a crowd viewing a series of video displays with demonstrations of games

Game developers try the latest educational games at the Games for Change Festival in New York City.

OCTAE had the opportunity to announce the EdSim Challenge that will be launching soon. The EdSim, or Educational Simulations, Challenge seeks to demonstrate the value of establishing a predictable framework for developers, schools, and businesses to develop and use high-quality immersive 3D simulations to deliver high-quality CTE. The framework will be developed through a crowdsourced comment phase through which the public can recommend technology and educational approaches to integrate into the challenge.

To stay updated on the EdSim Challenge and receive notification when the public comment period opens, register for email notifications on EdPrizes.com.

Also on Twitter at #EdSimChallenge and #EdPrizes.

CTE Student celebrated at White House Science Fair

Photo of Eric Koehlmoos standing with his research exhibit

Eric Koehlmoos appears with his Grass to Gas research at the 2015 White House Science Fair

Eric Koehlmoos, a Career and Technical Education student and member of the National FFA Organization was recognized at the 2015 White House Science Fair that was held on March 26 for his “Grass to Gas” project. Eric, 18, is a member of the South O’Brien FFA Chapter in Paulina, Iowa. He was invited to participate in the Fair that celebrates the accomplishments of student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions throughout the United States.

More than 100 of the nation’s brightest young minds were welcomed to the fifth White House Science fair. In the past, innovative inventions, discoveries and science projects have been showcased.

Koehlmoos won first place in the Power, Structural and Technical Systems category at the 2014 National FFA Agriscience Fair, a special project of the National FFA Foundation that was sponsored by Cargill, Bayer CropScience, John Deere, PotashCorp and Syngenta. The fair was held during the National FFA Convention & Expo and featured the research and results of FFA members who plan on pursuing careers in the science and technology of agriculture. This accomplishment earned him the special White House invitation.

Koehlmoos’ project, “Grass to Gas,” consisted of three years of research with prairie cordgrass and switch grass and their potential impact in the cellulosic ethanol industry.
“Because I come from a farm background I was very interested in the biofuel industry and the new cellulosic ethanol plants being built near my house,” Koehlmoos said.

Photo of Eric Koehlmoos standing with the White House in the background

Eric Koehlmoos stands in front of the White House during his visit to Washington, D.C.

During his three years of research, Koehlmoos found that both grasses produce nearly 200 more gallons of ethanol per acre than corn and wheat straw, two mainstream methods for ethanol production. He also discovered that when both grasses are pretreated with calcium hydroxide, ethanol yields are increased by as much as 80 percent and produces a byproduct that has higher protein values than corn distiller grains.

Koehlmoos plans to continue his research in college and would ultimately like to use these grasses to commercially produce ethanol in the Southern Plains, which would provide a sustainable solution to importing foreign oil while also not competing with the food supply.

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Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

Impact Data on Adult Ed Program Participation

This article first appeared in the OCTAE Connection newsletter March 26, 2015. You can access that issue here

OCTAE commissioned Dr. Stephen Reder, professor in the Department of Applied Linguistics at Portland State University, to create five research briefs using that university’s Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning (LSAL) data to examine the long-term impacts of adult basic skills (ABS) program participation on a range of outcome measures. The study was part of the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy, with funding provided by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute for Literacy. All entities interested in or serving adult learners are encouraged to review each of the briefs in their entirety for a comprehensive discussion of the findings, as well as data graphics, and references. Links to each of them can be found in the summaries below.  PDFs for the series may be accessed on LINCS.

Background: National as well as international studies, including the Survey of Adult Skills, demonstrate the need and economic value of ABS. Yet, there is little rigorous research demonstrating that participation in basic skills programs directly impacts the skill levels, educational attainment, or social and economic well-being of adults with low levels of education.

Figure 1: Percentage of study participants who ever participated in programs .

Figure 1 shows the estimated percentage of the LSAL population that ever participated in an ABS program through each given wave of the study (line graph), as well as the median total hours of program attendance accumulated by participants (bar graph).

Most research on adult literacy development has only examined the short-term changes occurring as students pass through single ABS programs. Most studies use short follow-up intervals and include only program participants—making it difficult to see the long-term patterns of both program participation and persistence, and the ability to assess the long-term impact of ABS program participation. ABS program evaluation and accountability studies have shown small gains for program participants in test scores and other outcomes, but they rarely include comparison groups of nonparticipants and, studies that do include such controls have not found statistically significant ABS program impact. In short, more research is needed that compares adult literacy development among program participants and nonparticipants across multiple contexts and over significant periods of time.  This will provide life-wide and lifelong perspectives on adult literacy development and a better assessment of program impacts on a range of outcome measures.

The LSAL is one study that does address these long-term impacts. Between 1998 and 2007, LSAL randomly sampled and tracked nearly 1,000 high school dropouts’ participation in ABS programs. The study assessed their literacy skills and skill uses over time, along with changes in their social, educational, and economic status, to provide a more comprehensive representation of adult literacy development.

Brief Summaries: 

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Take the FCCLA@TheTable Pledge

one male and one female student are standing and talking with Deputy Assistant Secretary Mark Mitsui

Student leaders of FCCLA talk with Deputy Assistant Secretary of OCTAE, Mark Mitsui

Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) has launched a national campaign – FCCLA@TheTable – by asking youth to take a pledge to plan, prepare, and share healthy meals for their families. The ultimate goal is to engage youth in planning and preparing healthy meals for their family and to increase planned and prepared family meals. Because FCCLA recognizes the frantic pace of 21st century life has taken a huge bite out of a longtime American ritual — the family dinner.

The case for gathering around the dinner table is compelling: Family meals promote healthy lifestyles, strengthen family ties, and lessen the likelihood of youth engaging in negative behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, and drug use. And, according to research, family dinners also can improve students’ academic performance.

“FCCLA@TheTable is an exciting initiative, and I already have seen the positive impact participating has had on my own family,” said Connor Jones, Vice-President of Public Relations for FCCLA’s National Executive Council of student leaders. “When we eat together, we grow closer. Cooking as a family also helps us make informed decisions about what we eat. I know FCCLA@TheTable can help other families just as it has helped mine.”

Taking the pledge is quick and easy. Just click on this link: http://bit.ly/1CFje3N. To make @TheTable even more special, FCCLA is challenging youth to pledge 70,000 meals — in honor of FCCLA’s 70th anniversary — before the July 2015 National Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. FCCLA also is encouraging those who take the pledge to help spread the word by taking a picture of their family meal, posting it on Facebook or Instagram and tagging #FCCLAatTheTable!

Photo of a group of students and OCTAE staff standing in front of US and Department of Education Flags

Student Leaders from FCCLA stand for a photo following their visit with OCTAE staff in Washington, D.C.

FCCLA is a national Career and Technical Student Organization that provides personal growth, leadership development, and career preparation opportunities for students in Family and Consumer Sciences education. The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education recently met with the FCCLA National Executive Council of student leaders during FCCLA week which was February 8 -14.

The Council shared how being enrolled in Family and Consumer Sciences courses and being members of FCCLA has prepared them with practical skills and advanced knowledge to further their career preparation, including how STEM is an integral part of their Family and Consumer Sciences programs; actually helping them to put this knowledge in to practice.

For more information, visit the FCCLA@TheTable website. The resource list provides lots of inspiration, including meal time conversation starters – the secret ingredient to a memorable family dinner.

College and Career Transitions Branch Chief, OCTAE
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College and Careers Transitions Branch Chief, OCTAE

Students Showcase Career and Technical Education and STEM to Congress

Photo of two students in lab coats describe their biomedical program to Mark Mitsui from OCTAE while standing in front of their exhibit table.

Students from Washington County Technical High School, Maryland, explain their biomedical program to OCTAE Deputy Assistant Secretary, Mark Mitsui.

Students from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia demonstrated the role of Career and Technical Education (CTE) and STEM in preparing students for college and careers. The event was co-hosted by the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), Project Lead the Way (PLTW) and the Senate CTE Caucus. OCTAE attended the event which was held in a science fair-style format and provided an opportunity for students to explain their work and how it has prepared them for their future as professionals. Exhibits featured advanced technical skills in biosciences and robotics to engineering and computer programming, as well as employability skills, such as teamwork, critical thinking and creative problem solving that students are obtaining through their programs.

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Robin Utz serves as the chief for the College and Career Transitions branch in the Division of Academic and Technical Education (DATE) for Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) at the US Department of Education.

Chinese CTE Delegation Visits OCTAE

Grace Solares, Dr. Jack Xiaogang Zhang, & Ms. Yan Shi

Grace Solares, exchanges greetings and information with Dr. Jack Xiaogang Zhang, & Ms. Yan Shi from the Chinese Delegation

I recently had an opportunity to meet with a delegation of CTE providers, and university and employer representatives from China. Upon returning to China from the Association for Career and Technical Education’s (ACTE) CareerTech VISION 2014 Conference in Nashville, Tenn., the delegation stopped by our Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) to learn more about the career and technical education system in the United States. OCTAE’s Deputy Assistant Secretary Mark Mitsui, and OCTAE staff, Grace Solares and Margaret Romer, provided the delegates with an overview of our CTE system, as well as, the Department of Education’s priorities for CTE reform.

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Robin Utz serves as the chief for the College and Career Transitions branch in the Division of Academic and Technical Education (DATE) for Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) at the US Department of Education.
College and Career Transitions Branch Chief, OCTAE
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Webinar: Performance Partnership Pilots

A second webinar will be held Wednesday, December 17, 2014 to answer questions about evaluation for the Performance Partnership Pilots (P3) for Disconnected Youth. The P3 program offers a unique opportunity to test innovative, cost-effective, and outcome-focused strategies for improving results for disconnected youth.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 provides authority to the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services, along with the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and related agencies to enter into up to ten Performance Partnership agreements with states, regions, localities, or tribal communities that give them additional flexibility in using discretionary funds across multiple Federal programs.

This webinar will address questions such as:

  • What are the requirements for all pilots related to evaluation?
  • What evaluation activities are optional but will make my proposal more competitive?
  • How do the competitive preferences relate to evaluation work?
  • If I want to propose an evaluation, what standards should my evaluation design meet?
  • What’s the difference between the national P3 evaluation and a site-specific P3 evaluation ?
  • What issues should I consider when planning evaluation activities?
  • What resources are available to help with the evaluation components of the application?

You can find more information and register for the webinar here.

Deadline Approaches to Nominate Excellent CTE Programs

If you know of a stellar Career and Technical Education Program of Study that deserves national recognition, the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) is seeking applications for its annual “Excellence in Action” award. The nomination period ends Thursday, December 18, 2014. Award winners will be honored in Washington, DC on April 8, 2015. The awards are intended to highlight high quality Career Cluster-based programs of study that have a meaningful impact on student achievement and success. Winners will receive national exposure and travel to Washington, DC to receive the award. Visit the NASDCTEc website for more information about the award program.

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Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

Performance Partnership Pilot Opportunity Announced

Five Federal agencies are coming together to offer a new opportunity to help communities overcome the obstacles they face in achieving better outcomes for disconnected youth. For the next 100 days, State, tribes, and municipalities can apply to become a Performance Partnership Pilot (P3) and test innovative, outcome-focused strategies to achieve significant improvements for disconnected youth in educational, employment, and other key outcomes.

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Photo of Johan Uvin
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Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education

DECA Hosts Idea Challenge

Can you think of an innovative use for a household item? That is the objective in the DECA Idea Challenge that launches at midnight tonight, November 12. The competition challenges students from elementary school to college to submit their idea for a new use for a common household item. DECA will announce the item at midnight and competitors have eight days to submit their entry via YouTube. Students do not have to be in Career and Technical Education (CTE) or be a DECA member to participate, and you can find a challenge toolkit and contest rules on the DECA.org website.

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Education Program Specialist, OCTAE