When looking at a painting, observers look at it two ways: 1) up close for brush strokes and details and 2) from a distance so the brush strokes and details create the portrait. We can do the same thing with agricultural education.
Up close we see the brush strokes and daily details:
- the three-circle model and every student, every class, every day
- classroom instruction in all content
- experiential learning and record keeping
- leadership development
- developing partnerships
- marketing the program
- program planning
- professional development
- affiliation fees
- changing degree requirements
- service learning
- standardized testing and No Child Left Behind
- staying connected with students into their careers
- developing productive citizens
Step back about 30 paces and the big picture starts to develop. We begin to see all the detailed brush strokes formulate a picture of successful students, successful teachers and successful programs. The big picture doesn’t happen without those details, and state and national leaders have been working for some time to make managing the details easier.
National FFA has been part of those efforts. In the coming months, you’re going to hear more and more about the Agricultural Career Network. The technology and vision have finally arrived at the same point in time, and it’s exciting to participate as all the different brush strokes form the portrait of agricultural education that will take us into the next decade. This promises to be the best thing to happen to us since…well, since the Internet.
The Agricultural Career Network will create a student-based learning and tracking environment that can be used to illustrate student performance throughout their academic experience into a career, document how your program is integral, as well as allow you to generate data, locate former students, and generate a list of local advocates and partners.
The diagram below shows the flow of information and activities through the system. Imagine that new batch of seventh, eighth or ninth graders who enters your class at the beginning of a school year. You are able to smoothly transition your class roster from the school’s grade book system to the new FFA membership system (yes, PeopleSoft will no longer be the membership platform starting Sept. 1, 2011).
Once their names are loaded into the system, you begin training your students to log into their individual pages, creating portfolios that include their class schedules; checking off lists of the AF&NR and academic standards, and identifying leadership competencies they achieve on a regular basis. You can also access their electronic supervised agricultural experience (SAE) record book; their volunteer efforts; skills and talents they develop outside of school; and any other pertinent information. You train them so well that they ask for time to update their pages.
Then imagine four or five years later, when those same students are applying for degrees and proficiency awards. At the click of a button, the system generates an application using all the records they’ve entered since they entered your class! Imagine generating a report of our student’s economic impact through their SAEs to share at the local chamber of commerce meeting! Imagine walking into a CTE meeting and sharing four years worth of data illustrating the breadth and depth of your students’ learning regarding national academic standards! All of this, and more, will be possible with the full implementation of the Agricultural Career Network.
And it gets better. Students will be able to generate job applications, graduation portfolios, and internship applications; manage the FFA chapter and activities they are responsible for; even take distance-learning courses through the system. Once students graduate, the system will continue to be available to them, providing the same services throughout their post-secondary training into their professional career. The hope is that former students will continue to maintain their connection with FFA at all levels, eventually becoming engaged alumni, partners, and key advocates.
The painting is materializing, but it will take time to build. In the fall of 2011, the new membership system will be in place. That will soon be followed by compatibility with commercially produced electronic SAE record books and the building of student portfolios. The capstone piece of the MBPN will be the generation of applications utilizing all three components. We all look forward to that day arriving.
As you read this issue of Making a Difference, consider the details of affiliation fees, engaging every single student in leadership development and FFA, and the MBPN up close. Then, take a few steps back and consider how everything is designed to work together to create a state-of-the-art experience for every student who walks through the ag department door, where every class that you teach is well documented and every day your students and the program becomes stronger. Think about how you will create that experience for those young people and the impact it will have on their future. Never forget that you, too, are working at the canvas, creating the portrait of agriculture and agricultural education’s future.