Are You Curious About STEM?

If you’re curious about STEM education, what it means, and what you should know; you may be interested in our upcoming STEM Network. Read on…

Connect. Explore. Achieve. This two-day, interactive experience will give classroom teachers the opportunity to explore how area businesses use your content areas in industry. Draw connections between what you’ve seen and how you can teach your standards. Develop relevant, real world lessons you can use with your students to help them achieve success. Use group dynamics with like-minded teachers to build engaging content tied to the world of work. Come see what other districts are doing in STEM and imagine what the future can hold for your students. A portion of each event will involve a trip to a local business to observe and glean inspiration from current business practices. Sign up coming soon at the Kent ISD PD Hub.

Two meetings (2 days each) are planned for the 17-18 School Year:

November 1-2; March 21-22 8am-3pm

Outcomes will include:
Educators will discover resources that can be used in their classroom(s)
Educators are part of a support system that encourages use of discovered resources
Educators consistently connect their classroom content to the world of work; answering the question, “When am I ever going to use this?”

Final Call for 2016-17: Circle Your Calendars!

TEACHERS IN INDUSTRY (Thursday, May 18, 8:00-3:00 pm)
Teachers, counselors and administrators this is an equal-opportunity event. Our last regular Teachers IN Industry of the school year will be held next Thursday, the 18th. Haven’t been in a while? Come check us out. Been there, done that? Let a colleague know what a cool experience it is and encourage them to come. Better yet, come and bring your friend! SCECHs are available, lunch is provided, and as usual, teachers, we’ll pay for substitute reimbursement, up to $100! For our swansong event of 2016-17, we’ll get a chance to meet with Swoboda (mechatronics & manufacturing), Erhardt Construction, and start-up company Fathom (underwater drones). Hurry and sign up; there’s still room. To register, go to the event page on the PD Hub, or visit us on our website. If you still need some convincing, check out our promo video!

Shifting the (K-12) Focus from Completion to Preparation

Last month, during a Career Readiness Network meeting, one item of discussion that came up revolved around whether post-secondary institutions are truly helping students to be successful. Or, for many, are they just a waste of time and money? What good is it if a student takes classes – whether at a university or their local community college – if they are taking 3, 4 and 5 remedial courses … before they even earn a single credit? What is the value of a student getting halfway down the road to some sort of credentialing (whether it be a certificate, an associate’s degree or more), only for them to drop out of a program they will never complete …. with a debt level that becomes an albatross around their neck?

And then, there are the exceptions to the rule. This March 2017 Detroit Free Press article highlights one Higher Ed institution, Sinclair Community College out of Dayton, Ohio, that apparently is. Rather than trying to get students IN the door only to see them fail, they’ve shifted their focus to completion rather than simply access. As a result, the percentage of students who have graduated, are still enrolled, or have transferred to another college/university has skyrocketed from around 33% to 79%.

This led me to think, what might this change in focus look like for K-12 Education?

Where did the change occur? Why in career exploration, of course. Students “do career services first thing.” School officials now have conversations with students about what they want to do as a career and help develop a customized plan for EVERY student to help them get there. For those who aren’t sure what they want to do, they join one of six big career communities until they figure it out.

This led me to think, what might this change in focus look like for K-12 Education? Instead of just trying to get students OUT the door (graduation), could a shift in focus from simply completion to preparation (intentional exploration) be the key? What if students were not only given time to investigate their interests, but were provided opportunities to see if there was a potential fit? What if, by the time students graduated, they better understood themselves and what they wanted to do for a living? And, what if they knew all the options available to them – and, as a result – the best pathway to get there?  How many hours of worry and thousands of dollars in debt might be spared for our young people?

Kent ISD’s Career Readiness Dept. firmly believes there are MULTIPLE pathways to a successful career (and we have the lesson to prove it). We don’t believe every student needs to get a four-year degree (or more).  Neither do we think every student is created for the skilled trades. What we DO believe is that every student SHOULD be able to figure out who they are, and where and how they fit into the world of work. And we also believe that it is our collective job – parents, educators, and business and community members alike – to help students in this journey to success.

Life holds a variety of options and pathways; students should explore as many of them as they can while they can to see what works for them. But, how will they know unless we tell them; and how will they see unless we SHOW them? With your help, we have begun the work toward making that the norm, rather than the exception.

Questions or comments? Share them in the section at the beginning of this article.

Nintendo, Tight-rolled Jeans & Career Development

It’s funny how Education (like life) is cyclical.  I remember when I first started teaching, as a wet-behind-the-ears rookie back in the Detroit area more than a decade and-a-half ago.  To help explain the era, No Child Left Behind legislation was JUST becoming the latest fad (for legislators, that is).  Words like “highly qualified” and “curriculum mapping” became the buzz words of the day.  And, as a young PE and Health teacher, I am willing to admit now that I started to panic and worry what it would mean (more for me than for the kids).

But I’ll never forget the response I received from the grizzled old art teacher.  He was beloved by the students, even though he’d been teaching for more than 30 years.  He told me, “Eric, this is nothing new.  It’s the same thing with different packaging.  They did the same basic programs 30 years ago; they just called it something different.”  What he was saying was that the latest and greatest ideas aren’t always all that new or fresh; they just have a fresh coat of paint on them with fancy new names or titles.  They might not be exactly the same thing.  In fact, they probably won’t be.  Oh, they’ll be touted as the next NEW thing, but in reality, they’ll simply be a distant and vague memory of something we’ve heard or seen done before.  Much like how the tight-rolled pants of the 80’s-90’s mimicked the 50’s and the newly released Nintendo Classic Mini mimics the 80’s-90’s.

How does this apply to Career Development?  For the past 20 years, give or take, our Education system has put a premium on students “getting a college degree” (by this, most take this to mean a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree).  We told students (and rightfully so) that if they wanted to have a good career, they needed to get a good education.  However, what was once a holistic approach to a solid, well-rounded, high school education – where students could explore their interests by trying different classes with their electives – has transformed to taking all the “right” courses necessary for a “college” degree, even for those students who have no interest in getting a four-year degree!  And if you don’t get a University degree, you’re somehow short-changing yourself.  Talk about students feeling defeated before they even walk through the doors!

Which brings us to today.  Now, in my current role, I’m definitely seeing the concept of Career Exploration and Career Development becoming the “next big thing.”  And I’m beginning to see other people nodding their head and agreeing with me when I say that “not every student needs a four-year degree, but every student needs some sort of post-high school training.”  And that there are some really great, high-paying jobs in the skilled trades that are just begging to be filled.  And that an Electrician’s license is just as valuable (actually more) as the Philosophy degree that’s sitting on the shelf but not being used.  OK, I haven’t said that last one before, but maybe I will now.

But that’s just it.  This whole idea of exploring careers and finding out what one is passionate about while still in high school  isn’t really all that new.  Neither is the idea that there are multiple pathways to a great career, and not ALL of them require a four-year degree.  Nope, it’s just a repackaging of another idea from long ago.

Tell us what you think.  Leave a comment at the TOP of the article.

Paperclips- why we need all types of people in STEM fields

I am writing this blog post in response to the paperclips article at K@W 

What if machines become smarter than us? In the article linked above the author discusses the difference between

  • AI- artificial intelligence; and its subcategories
    • ANI- artifical narrow intelligence
    • AGI- artifical general intelligence
    • ASI- artificial super intelligence

We live in a world of  ANI. I have Siri reading me The Essential Drucker on my phone as I drive around to schools these days. I love Siri. However, there are many things technology such as Siri cannot do. Just ask my wife, she hates Siri’s limitations, and finds her useless- fun to watch. Siri is an example of ANI, or artifical narrow intelligence. There are many things Siri cannot do. She does not have general intelligence and cannot do things my 4 year old finds simple such as recognizing a face or even drawing one. The flight management system on an airliner can navigate safely through turbulent weather and even slow the craft to prevent breakup by keeping it within its flight envelope. If, however, it were to be asked to teach my son how to dance at his 1st dance last week, it would return an error. It doesn’t know that, and can’t learn it. Many of our foremost experts believe that artificial general intelligence is not far off, with ASI or super intelligent AI not far behind that- something like 40-60 years out.

Now, why does that matter to our work in STEM education? Simple. We absolutely need people who understand things like ethics, psychology, law, policy, and government to work with people who are developing some of these advanced technologies. These fields aren’t often considered in the STEM world, but we NEED them, and we will continue to need them and will need them more and more. The ethics of how to implement these new technologies are discussions that aren’t going away. Designers and engineers are amazing thinkers in determining answers to questions like, “how can we make this technology…” our ethicists, psychologists, and public policy people will help guide us through questions like, “should we make this, and what musn’t it do…”

I had opportunity to visit two places recently. Our men and women who serve and operate unmanned craft at the Air National Guard base in Battle Creek, MI; and the wonderful students and staff members at White Pines Intermediate School District in Grand Haven, MI. I was presenting drone and unmanned technology to the White Pines students, and they asked me, “Could SkyNet be built?”

I told them it’s kind of already here, then asked them- could your job be to help us figure out how to work with it so we don’t all get turned into paperclips?



Circle Your Calendars!

CAREER READINESS NETWORK (Wednesday, Feb. 22, 12:00-2:30 pm)
Are you a teacher, counselor, or administrator who sees career exploration and preparation as more than just a “nice to have” when it comes to curriculum and instruction? Would you like a forum to brainstorm ideas and share best practices regarding content? Stay current on all the career readiness opportunities the county has to offer. Lunch will be provided, and sub reimbursement is available for those who need it.  Be a career readiness champion for your school or district and walk away with resources, connections and strategies!  Sign up on the PD Hub or contact for more information.

TEACHERS IN INDUSTRY (Tuesday, March 14, 8:00-3:00 pm)
Ever hear students ask, “When are we going to use this in the real world?” Have you ever wondered, in turn, “How do I best answer that, because I’m not really sure?” If you answered yes to either question, then Teachers in Industry (TII) this is the “field trip” for you! Teachers, counselors, and administrators alike are all welcome! And teachers, we’ll pay for substitute reimbursement, up to $100! For this event we’ll be visiting Excel Electric, Trivalent Group and Autocam Medical. To sign up for TII, or for more information about the event, look them up on the PD Hub under Career Readiness, or visit us on our website. If you still need some convincing, check out our brand new promo video!

We are excited to announce that Kent ISD – in partnership with GRCC – is debuting an early college program called Launch U. This program is focused on skilled trades in the following areas: Mechanical Design, Industrial Maintenance, and Tooling and Manufacturing. Registration is now open to current 9th graders throughout Kent County for the start of the 2017-18 school year. Check out our Launch U website for details. Employers looking for more information should contact Amy Pierce ( while Counselors should contact Eric Kelliher (

Transferable Skills: Your Career Path is Not Linear

A few months ago, my wife went back to work. With our youngest starting kindergarten, we decided it’d be great to have some extra income. Armed with a degree in graphic design and plenty of experience under her belt, she went about looking for some part-time employment. Whatever the reason, however, whether it be a shortage of need, not having been in the game in a while, only wanting part-time, etc., she was struggling to find opportunities.

Then she found a posting for a Lab Coordinator at an Orthodontist’s office. It mentioned graphic design in the job description. She applied and got the job. When she asked why graphic design experience was listed in the description, they mentioned some design and marketing, but primarily it was because there was a good deal of computer software savvy and visual acuity and hand-eye coordination needed for the role.

Her office is unique in that they have their own version of Invisalign trays (think mouthguards that rotate your teeth; they’re like braces, but you can take the trays out and they’re clear, so they’re extremely inconspicuous). Most of the work they do in-house. They take the molds/impressions and scan it.  They then create a detailed plan in 3D software, and build it out with plastic via a 3D printer. Then, the mold is hand-sculpted to eliminate the “excess.” From this mold, clear plastic trays are created. For each stage (and there can be several) a new 3D model is needed to create a new tray based on different positioning of the teeth.

The job is a very technical one and can be quite tedious. The role requires a comfort with design software, precision in accurately cutting the molds, and a whole lot of organization to make the process run smoothly with so many moving parts and when deadlines are always an issue. Finally, it requires a great deal of patience, as the machines do not always work as they should and molds sometimes break.

I know I’m biased, but she’s doing an amazing job (though, I also thought she was an amazing designer too). She picked the role up very quickly, actually, even though everything she was learning was entirely new to her.

Only 27% of college grads have a job related to their major

I share this story for two reasons (three if you include me simply wanting to brag on my wife!). First, a while back, my wife was wrestling with the new role; not because the position was bad, but because she was struggling to accept that this was what she’s doing for a living when “this is not what I went to school for.” She was a designer who wasn’t designing. My guess is many people initially feel this way if at some point they begin doing something that was not what they were originally trained to do. The fact is, according to a 2013 Washington Post article, “only 27% of college grads have a job related to their major.” Yet we spend so much time preparing and training for a certain career field that it can be a bit of a shock to us to consider that we may not do that for our entire career. The reality is, many people get trained for a field they may never enter!

Which leads me to my second point. While you may not stay (or even start) in the field in which you were trained, many of the skills that you learned during that training – the ones beyond the technical – are transferable! Computer skills are transferable. Organizational skills are transferable. Soft skills like critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and flexibility are transferable. When you begin to understand that most of the skills you learn in any job can be transferred and applied to something else, it is freeing. You are no longer stuck in one lane or one career trajectory when you realize your career path is not linear. Whether you are a middle school Social Studies teacher that becomes an instructional designer for a Fortune 500 company, a graphic designer who moves into a Orthodontics Lab Coordinator role or a student who is transitioning from high school to college or directly to a career, the experience and skills gained are what matter most. Help your students to see and understand this, and when they do, the possibilities are endless.

Questions or comments? Share them in the section at the beginning of this article.