Career and Technology classes adapt to online learning model



Students and teachers have had to adapt to hybrid and remote models by learning how to having cooking classes at home.

Career and Technology Education (CTE) electives offer students life and career skills by providing students with hands-on, skill-based experiences. However, adapting to the new hybrid model has been no easy feat.

CTE electives encompass a variety of courses, ranging from computer science to woodworking and culinary arts. The new changes to modes of learning have students and teachers working together to rethink and remodel curriculum and operations.

CTE Curriculum Coordinator Brittany Stevens helped teachers modify their class structure in order to adapt to the changes. Stevens said this can be harder to do in CTE courses than in other core classes like math or history.

“Our woodworking teacher doesn’t also teach culinary. You don’t learn computer science, engineering and business, or all the things offered in Career and Tech Ed, you specialize in one area,” Stevens said. “So while you can collaborate on things that are universal across classrooms, like ‘how do we assess students?’ or ‘what do you do if a student needs help and they aren’t responding to the typical classroom interventions?’, we can’t always help each other with curriculum decisions.”

Some CTE classes have had a smooth transition to the new environment. In computer science, students are able to practice their coding on an online program from home. But, as Stevens pointed out, for some classes that transition can be more complicated.

“We have woodworking classes here, which of course are difficult to replicate in a virtual environment because big equipment like lathes can’t be delivered to your home door,” Stevens said. “The culinary classes of course are different at home, different particularly when you think about the environment you’re in and the collaborative nature of the class.”

This year the five separate cooking classes, taught by Dave Ford and Judith Saler, have all been streamlined into one course: “Cooking Exploratory.” As a result, instead of cooking the normal 50 times per semester, students are limited to cooking once a week.

Kate Troug is a junior and three-time culinary arts student. She said that learning at home is manageable.

“Last year it was really hands-on, and you could see everything for yourself and that was really cool. When you’re hybrid you can do things like that as well, just less often. Mr. Ford and Ms. Saler have provided video demos so you can see them doing certain skills,” Troug said. “But it is pretty different because we don’t have an instructor at home. We can ask questions but they can’t show us techniques live.”

According to Ford, it is difficult making sure that every student is attended to, with students now scattered throughout their respective cohorts.

“I am basically teaching three different classes during one class. I have my hybrid students that are cooking in class. I have asynchronous kids that are still hybrid but working on separate asynchronous work, and then I have the remote kids who are doing their asynchronous work but they are also cooking at home remotely. It is a lot going on,” Ford said.

Glen Gurner, who has been teaching woodworking and engineering classes for a decade, agreed that paying attention to three groups at the same time can be challenging and difficult but said that having fewer students in the shop provides some new benefits

“I really have a small group of kids in front of me in the shop and that’s a dream come true really,” Gurner said. “I have 16 in a regular woodworking class and while that’s a small class at BHS, it is a pretty large group to handle around tools and around projects.”

Quick thinking and hard work by both teachers and students have solved the problems that have arisen this year with the more hands-on electives. Gurner was able to create a woodworking tool kit that students can use at home.

“We actually sent home a pretty sophisticated hand tool kit and clamps to secure work to a work table where they could use the tools without the piece of wood slipping around. I spent a large part of my time at the end of the summer and early in the fall trying to put together a tool kit that was appropriate for a project that I came up with and that was going to be relatively safe to use,” Gurner said.

In culinary arts classes, only cooking once a week has created unique benefits that were previously unavailable. This year, students can design their own recipes and meals, rather than being required to cook a dish predetermined by the teachers. Troug said she appreciates this freedom.

“I think it’s cool that you can choose your own recipe and it is not limited by what the teachers choose for you. It is a lot more creative in that way. You can do either savory or sweet and switch it up so there’s more variety in what you cook,” Troug said.

According to Stevens, one of the main focuses for educators this year is making sure different learning models don’t affect students’ involvement in any course and cause disparities between those in the hybrid model and those in the remote model. Stevens makes sure each class is keeping opportunities equal no matter which model a student is in.

“One of our design principles is establishing decisions that feel equitable across whatever model kids choose. For that reason, every remote or hybrid student this semester is not getting as much as they would get in a typical year and we are being intentional about that,” Stevens said.

This can mean new technology to better connect students at home and students in school. In cooking classrooms, each workstation has claws that act as phone holders and allow remote students to watch their hybrid partners cook in the classroom. There are multiple monitors so that teachers can see remote students working.

Ford and Gurner both say that kids in their class are engaged and excited despite the new challenges that have arisen with the hybrid model. Troug finds that her new cooking experience, while different, is fun. According to Ford, this result would be hard without the vital role the students play in the success of remodeled classes.

“I really want to emphasize the kids and the work they are putting in,” Ford said. “In a year where nothing is normal and there is not a lot of positive, they are showing so much enthusiasm and navigating with the teachers, and they are making everyone’s job a lot easier.”