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The keynote speaker at the opening session of the 2011 NCPN conference in Orlando was Jim Brazell, a technology forecaster, public speaker, and strategist. Since 2003, Brazell has authored several emerging technology forecasts and briefs in addition to consulting on international technology innovation strategies in Portugal and the U.S. In October of 2009, Brazell's advocacy for career pathways was the only voice representing CTE to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Brazell is a boundary spanner who connects career pathways to audiences including industry, education, arts, economic development, and workforce associations. Since 2003, he has led the way to what is next in career pathways by pioneering professional development topics such as emerging technologies and jobs, the role of "serious games" and robotics in formal education, and CTE-academic integration strategies.
Brazell spoke of the aftermath of the launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik in 1957. The anxiety caused by that event galvanized American military leaders, scientists, and policymakers and led to heightened U.S. investment in science and technology through agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the National Science Foundation.
The 1950s also witnessed the introduction of what has come to be known as the "new physics"—an approach to the teaching of physics that includes a strong hands-on component in which reasoning is connected by knowing and doing. The way we build the pipeline from schools to the technological workplace was forever changed.
Brazell spoke of his mentor, Colonel Francis X. "Duke" Kane, "the father of GPS." Kane was responsible for space systems planning in Project Forecast (1963–1964), the longest range technology forecast undertaken by the U.S. military prior to 1963. At his induction into the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame in 2010, Kane was recognized for his contribution to progress in "space-based missile warning (Defense Support Program), space-based missile defense, manned maneuvering reentry vehicles (Space Shuttle), detection and attack of mobile missiles, laser anti-satellite weapons [ASAT], the advanced ballistic missile (MX or Peacekeeper), and a navigation satellite (NAVSAT or GPS) system." Kane is not widely known by the general public because many of his most important projects were highly classified.
Today we live in a "new Sputnik era," as Brazell put it. Virtually all aspects of life are interlinked through technology, and the international competitiveness of the Cold War is being carried on through economics. Today's "Sputnik moment" is a new realization of the urgency of dealing with real 21st-century issues like the new potential for cyber terrorism and environmental degradation. More than ever before, if the United States is to protect its citizens and compete successfully in the global marketplace, we must be able to innovate and produce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—STEM. Like many people, Brazell recognized the need to increase the number of students who get at least associate degrees, the minimum credential for many of today's jobs.
The question faced by today's educators is how we will produce the necessary capacity for innovation. The solution, in Brazell's view, lies in the integration of the arts into STEM (thus producing a new acronym, STEAM or TEAMS). In Brazell's view, the almost universal recognition of the importance of STEM is an argument for curriculum integration. Science and math are from the domain of the academic world; technology and engineering are from career and technical education. The integration of the arts into STEM is natural and is called for by the "horizontal" nature of today's disciplines. The old "silo" approach to academic disciplines is ineffective because it does not reflect the reality of how academic disciplines are applied in the workplace. STEM and IT are pervasive in all clusters.
As he closed, Brazell described exciting high school CTE programs around the country, including several that combine the arts with STEM and several from the state of Florida. Yesterday's target was the moon, he said. Today it's Mars. The first person to walk on Mars will be "your student."
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Mark Whitney is CORD's Manager of Publication Services and Editor of Connections. For more information, contact him at email@example.com.