Gov. Gary Herbert recently declared 2018 as the “Year of Technical Education.” It’s a war cry that Utah will continue to grow the STEM initiatives it’s been piloting for the last several years, expanding at an increasing rate. The question of the year for us is, will this mean anything for technical music education?

Dozens of Utah contractors and small business owners gathered at the Silicon Slopes headquarters Nov. 29 for the UDEN Christmas Party. Announced at the event was that UDEN is now Silicon Slopes’ official arm for digital entertainment—an exciting fact, since it represents music creators and SIlicon Slopes connects creatives to industry leaders.

The Utah Digital Entertainment Network is one of many efforts in the state hoping to make Utah a major hub for creative projects, especially those funded by out-of-state stakeholders. It hosts meetings with roundtables, facility tours, product demos, and networking opportunities. UDEN’s site contains news, a calendar of related events from partners and members’ companies, a directory to find and hire Utahans and some other useful features. Their main message is that we have a lot of amazing talent in Utah, with even more potential, and we need to work as a single community to become the creative services destination we all want.

As I read through the education edition of the Silicon Slopes Magazine, it was clear to me that the organization is working exceptionally well at growing STEM-related business in Utah. They’re also doing a pretty good job at getting the industry to improve STEM education. There is a lot we can learn from their initiatives.

Chris Rawle on The Apollo Project

last year, The Apollo Project deeply integrated technology into seven schools in Alpine School District. The project was designed to do away with memorization and focus on the engineering design cycle of “imagine, plan, create, improve, ask, repeat.” The theory is that since information is completely accessible now, and needs are changing constantly, students should learn how to adapt to change and be resilient. The Apollo Project is one of the few academic programs that mention a musical component—GarageBand (the project uses STEAM instead of STEAM, to include the arts). Apart from songs, the elementary students are making 3D models in TinkerCAD, printing 2D vinyl designs, programming apps and robots, and making movies in iMovie. 17 schools are implementing the program this year, with the rest planned to use it in the next two to three years.

One of the main takeaways from The Apollo Project is technology-heavy, project-based learning—a theme that’s present in every initiative mentioned in the magazine.

Chris Rawle is the Managing Editor of Silicon Slopes

Carrie Rogers-Whitehead on Tech in Classrooms

The teacher is still the greatest asset in a given classroom. That being said, technology helps to personalize instruction to fit each student in a very efficient manner. While the tech does its job, teachers are fed real-time reports on student progress. With the right curriculum and predictive analytics, teachers are given just the right information to be able to properly educate every individual in a large class.

As with Rawle, Carrie also notes that with an increase in knowledge availability comes a greater need to for critical thinking. Particularly relevant to music is her call for students to “create and share their own [information].” The publication of student creations is a standard that should cover every subject.

Founder/CEO of Digital Respons-Ability

Matt Bingham on Learning in the Workplace

What students learn in college only goes so far. Some students learn enough to be placed in a career, then have to fight the inevitable obsolescence of their skills and knowledge; other students don’t even learn enough in school to get a decent job. Technology moves forward with or without employees. For this reason, learning has to be continuous.

Matt focuses on a few things companies can do to allow for employee development. One of his main ideas is that simply giving employees the chance to talk to each other provides social learning that can be exceptionally effective. Some companies are beginning to hire a dedicated CLO (Chief Learning Officer) to make sure employees’ skills don’t go stale. Applying this to education, teachers must continue to hone their own skills and read up on industry trends and needs if they are to properly prepare students. This is particularly noticeable in tech-heavy disciplines. Where teachers are unable to keep up, industry professionals can step in and help (more on that later).

Matt Bingham is Vice President of Product, Bridge by Instructure

Kristy Sevy on How Businesses Can Get Involved in Education

Kristy believes that how we choose to measure teacher success is counterproductive to student success, especially when we look at how learning applies to real-world situations. She notes, again, that students need project-based learning with problem-solving, collaboration, communication, flexibility, critical thinking, and a sharing of findings. These soft skills are taught in STEM subjects and should always be present in music instruction as well. Rewording Kristy, the goal isn’t to turn students into Perlman or Williams, but to make sure they learn soft skills that allow for positive contribution wherever they end up. Students should leave college (and high school) ready to be good employees with industry-applicable skills; right now, that’s not always happening—and the fault doesn’t always lie with the student.

To combat this, Kristy recommends that industry leaders help inform policymakers; take the initiative in finding out what they can do to help; advocate for STEM (and I’ll add industry-related music skills); educate themselves; and donate time and skills to educators. That last one is particularly helpful, since teachers aren’t always apprised of industry changes and new technology.

Kristy Sevy is the founder of FusePlay

Skyler Carr from InfiniD Learning

Skyler brings the urgency of the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center to any grade school’s computer lab. His team has taken project-based learning and upped the stakes. Students are told if they don’t learn the concepts taught, they will fail their mission and everyone is counting on them. The main advantage of teaching with what is essentially an immersive game is student buy-in, especially with subjects that are normally dry. Each student is engaged with the material and interacting with each other in a meaningful way. The emotions of having a mission, working with others, and either failing or succeeding help each outcome stick. Carr said, “We’ve had principals call us in tears, saying they reached kids they never dreamed they would be able to reach.”

InfiniD isn’t a program that completely changes everything a teacher does, it simply gives students a destination they care about at the end of regular instruction—something to look forward to and work towards. Music professors do a similar thing when they produce a concert or collaborate with industry leaders on projects. It isn’t difficult to find an indie game company willing to consider student works; a local singer-songwriter who is willing to be recorded for the sake of academia; or have students create polished products to post for sale online.

Skyler Carr is the co-founder of InfiniD Learning

Meg Morley Walter on Industry-Education Collaboration

The first thing Meg mentions is that some tech companies are turning to places outside Utah to fill positions and needs—not the greatest indicator of a healthy job economy. She writes about the disconnect between what teachers are given and what is needed of them. Essentially, it’s always been the teacher’s job to come up with what students need to learn; but without enough resources and industry knowledge, the graduate employability gap may widen. The call to action is for companies to get into classrooms, mentor teachers and students, and tell schools how the future workforce needs to be trained.

Sandra Hemmer, district CTE coordinator for the Granite Technical Institute, notes, “A lot of what we’re doing is trying to get industry to come to us [and] set the stage for what they need.” Vance Checketts, mentioned in the next section, writes in a similar vein; “As a tech company, I can think of no better way to help ensure a strong workforce for the future than being a mentor in Utah classrooms.” Companies can download the STEM Mentor Exchange app to find opportunities to mentor schools. There are similarly easy methods for any industry to get in touch with students and teachers of every subject.

Meg Morley Walter is the director or programs and marketing at Silicon Slopes

Vance Checketts on the Increasing Needs of Silicon Slope Companies

Teachers shouldn’t be expected to know everything about every new technology, yet “the average job is increasingly dependent on STEM skills” (the music industry is definitely no exception). For this reason, Vance notes that “one of the most important resources you can offer an entrepreneur is a mentor.” Students need mentors to show them the ropes and to be there in the future when questions arise that Google can’t solve. The same can be said of teachers. The demands on a teacher’s time are simply too great at times for a lot of professional development to get done. Having an industry mentor, or several, really helps both teachers and students.

Vance Checketts is a Dell EMC executive

Sean Hosman on Using Technology to Quickly Generate Employability

Sean helps inmates return to be contributing members of society. He does this largely through technology training. He notes, “technology is a great equalizer; it allows everyone a seat at the table [and] opens doors.” His focus is on how someone can learn to code in as little as 13 weeks, then get a good job. The tech-fueled shortening of the professional’s learning curve is felt greatly in the music industry. Pretty much anyone can use tools they already have—a cell phone or tablet with free apps, at the very least—and quick, free, online learning to professionally produce music. For a few hundred dollars, someone can make a basic studio capable of phenomenal work. It makes it that much more important to offer students skills, knowledge, and experiences they’ll have a hard time getting elsewhere. Some schools are particularly good at connecting students with industry leaders and future clients; others are great at teaching musicianship and other skills that can’t be learned quickly, then applying them to industry needs. At the very least, students should leave school knowing where and how to look for the right information to complete whatever project they pursue or are given.

Sean Hosman is the founder of Vant4ge, a program that uses algorithms and data science to reduce criminal recidivism.

Cory Linton on Selling to EdTech Customers (bear with me)

Now this one’s really reading between the lines, but it’s worth it. Cory notes that customers don’t usually care about how you’re working on their problem or the technology itself; they care about whether or not you can solve their issue and how it benefits them. To me, this is a yet another lesson in the importance of project-based learning. Students need to be given problems to solve, then the freedom and tools to do it creatively and effectively. When students move into the industry, success will depend on getting a great result and making clients happy.

Cory Linton is the former CEO of the School Improvement Network

Val Hale on Talent Ready Utah

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) announced Talent Ready Utah in January, 2017. It’s an industry-led program that helps high school students and adults prepare themselves for high-paying careers. Some of the focuses so far have been in aerospace, diesel tech, and life science. In August, the IT Pathways Program joined the other Pathways programs to usher citizens into tech careers. While most of the strides in Talent Ready Utah have been in that sector, the program is open to every industry.

Val Hale is the Executive Director of GOED

Final Words by Tamara Goetz, of the Utah STEM Action Center

“The opportunities that students have become endless when Utah companies and educators join forces.” It’s a little cheesy, and somewhat of a hyperbole, but rings true nonetheless. It’s completely fitting that the educational issue of a magazine that will be read by industry big shots would be about school-company cooperation. These articles were a push from one end to get companies to start this process with schools. Here’s your invitation as an educator or student to invite companies to a mutually-beneficial partnership. You may be surprised at the benefits that result.

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