Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mike Rowe, Dirty Jobs, and mikeroweWorks

Mike Rowe, host of the Discovery Channel series "Dirty Jobs," has begun a campaign to celebrate the working men and women in this country. His website mikeroweWORKS, is a public awareness campaign designed to reinvigorate the trades, reinforce the importance of skilled labor, and draw attention to our crumbling infrastructure.

The following letter that Mike wrote to President Barack Obama and the YouTube video from mikeroweWorks provides his reasoning for creating a campaign to celebrate skilled labor and hard work.

30 January 2009

President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington DC

“For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.”

Dear Mr. President,

Much of what you said on January 20th struck a chord, but nothing matched the simplicity or truth of that particular observation. I am awed by the task at hand, and compelled to tell you about mikeroweWORKS, a public awareness campaign designed to reinvigorate the trades, reinforce the importance of skilled labor, and draw attention to our crumbling infrastructure.
My name's Mike Rowe, and I host a program on the Discovery Channel called Dirty Jobs. Dirty Jobs is a simple show about hard work. No plot, no script, and no actors. The show relies upon a mission - one that sends me around the country to work as an apprentice in a wide variety of occupations not typically associated with a four-year diploma. From coal mines to cattle ranches, crab boats to construction sites, I've spent the last five years laboring alongside men and women who do the kinds of jobs that make civilized life possible for the rest of us. Now, after 200 dirty jobs, I enjoy a national reputation as an expert in absolutely nothing. However, I have managed to succeed in highlighting an important group of hardworking Americans that I believe deserve our respect, and from whom I think we might learn a thing or two about the meaning of a “good job.”

Forty years ago, people understood that sweat and dirt were the hallmarks of important work. Today, that understanding has faded. Somewhere in our economy’s massive transition from manufacturing to financial services, we have forsaken skilled labor, along with many aspects of our traditional work ethic. Trade school enrollments are down, even as our infrastructure crumbles around us. I don't think that's a coincidence. Community Colleges are routinely described as alternatives to a “proper” education. Madison Avenue bombards us with messages that equate happiness with leisure. Hollywood portrayals of hard work usually embody an element of drudgery or some silly stereotype, and jobs once considered vital to our society are now simply overlooked. The ranks of welders, carpenters, pipe fitters, and plumbers have been declining for years, and now, we face the bizarre reality of rising unemployment, and a shortage of skilled labor. Strange days.

Whether through elitism or indifference, the net result is the same – people have slowly shied away from these jobs. Not because they aren’t important or lucrative – but because they are simply not celebrated. This perception is real Mr. President, and I believe it’s standing squarely in the way of your recovery plan, as well as your initiative for Volunteerism and national service. In my opinion, it needs to be corrected as soon as possible, which brings me back to my idea. is a destination for anyone looking to investigate a career in the Skilled Trades. Its purpose is to encourage, educate, and celebrate the business of Work, by focusing on those opportunities related to rebuilding our national infrastructure. The idea grew from the mission of Dirty Jobs, and evolved with the help of loyal viewers who constantly provide the site with daily links to scholarships, apprenticeships, fellowships, and other worthwhile programs. Large corporations have offered support. Industry leaders, Retired Generals, teachers, laborers, professors, parents, and students have all gotten involved. My hope for mikeroweWORKS is that it function not just as a useful resource, but also as a “call to arms,” and ultimately, a PR Campaign for Skilled Labor. I would like to see mikeroweWORKS help assure that those three or four million jobs you wish to create, are jobs that people feel proud to have.

People often tell me that Dirty Jobs reminds them of a time when Work was not seen as a thing to avoid. When skilled tradesmen were seen as role models, and a paycheck was not the only benefit of a job well done. We need to recapture that sentiment. We need to celebrate, on a bigger scale, the role models right in front of us. Dirty Jobs has given me the opportunity to do that. With a little luck and the right support, mikeroweWORKS, will take it to the next level.
Thank you for your time, Mr. President. Good luck in your term, and please know that mikeroweWORKS and Dirty Jobs are at your disposal.


Mike RoweCEO, mikeroweWORKS,inc.
Executive Producer, Dirty Jobs

Here is the YouTube video of Mike discussing the beginning stages of his campaign:

mikeroweWORKS is an interesting site that features education and training sites and even available jobs. Mike Rowe is always entertaining and you should definitely check out the website! J.T.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What Are "Braindumps" and Why Should They Concern Us?

I was looking at test prep sites over the weekend and I thought I should provide you with a reminder of a few things to look for prior to recommending any site to a student and before you might access a site for yourself. A couple of primary reasons to stay away from these sites is that you can lose your certifications and you can be banned from taking any other exams. The following is from CertGUARD's website:

Define: Braindump [breyn-duhmp]

n. (pl.) Questions and Answers taken from exams or other tests that have been copyrighted for purposes of protecting Confidential or Trade Secret Information and distributed for purposes of cheating or profit.
v. To use braindumps in the process of studying for exams or other tests that have been copyrighted for purposes of protecting Confidential or Trade Secret Information.

What is a Braindump?

Identifying a website by its advertisements may help you determine the worth of that site. Here are some modified copies of advertisements from known braindump websites (no links or names have been provided). If you look at them long enough, you'll begin to see a similarly cheap style in the advertisements. If you see those images or other images that may be similar on any certification website you visit, we encourage you to use our Braindump Identification Search on the site to see how we have classified them.

Identify Braindumps by their advertisements

How do I know what a braindump site looks like?

Although some braindumps are easy to spot, many aren't as easy. If you're here looking for advice then you've made the right choice. You must know that not all practice exams are braindumps and that there are many companies out there that do provide legitimate practice exams. Hopefully this will help you spot the illegal braindumps before you waste valuable time and money on them.

There are (currently) THREE major braindump companies in existence today. Those three companies comprise nearly 95% of all braindumps in existence. Two factors that we look at when determining the nature of a site is "Who owns the site?" and "Does this site look like any of the others?".

In reading this, you have to take into consideration that there will ALWAYS be exceptions to the rules. We have researched nearly 2,000 IT Certification websites over the past years and found many of those exceptions for you. So please, take these guidelines for what they are...GUIDELINES. If you have any questions about these guidelines, please visit our forums.

The most obvious, sign is when the site blatantly states "BRAINDUMP", "BRAIN DUMP", "Brain-Dump", or any other form of the word. However, the term 'brain dump' and the word 'braindump' are both becoming more and more popular amongst bloggers and may or may not be related to the illegal braindump.

Another obvious sign is by the ads that braindump sites place within their pages. We're collecting those images so that you can better identify what is normally shown on sites that promote or sell brain dumps. Our collection of images can be FOUND HERE

Some signs are not as obvious as others. So, we have compiled a list of typical traits that will help you determine if the site is worth investing your time.

Here is a list of those less apparent signs of a braindump dealing website:

i. Every website that is owned by one of the three major companies is a braindump. Yes, it's that obvious!
ii. Braindump Sites almost always advertise 'Actual Exam Questions & Answers'.
iii. Braindump Sites usually offer a '100% Pass Guarantee' with no questions asked.
iv. Braindump Sites generally have very large banks of questions and exams. If you see a site that offers every certification under the Sun, stay away.
v. Braindump Sites will offer access to ALL of their practice exams for X number of dollars.
vi. PDFs!! This is a tough one because not every PDF is a braindump and not every braindump is a PDF. But, the odds of getting a PDF that isn't a braindump is pretty rare. DON'T TRUST PDFs!!!
vii. Braindump Sites are often 'templated'; meaning that they will generally look similar to eachother. Once you research your certifications a little more, you'll begin to notice.
viii. SPAM Based advertising. Generally when someone says "Hi, I'm taking my CCNA next week and want to know if is any good.", and they never show up again to check for replies, that's SPAM Based Advertising. IMPORTANT POINT!
ix. Newly released exams. Often, legitimate companies will not have practice test materials available for newly released exams within the first few months of the exam's life cycle.

** Newly released Exam note. It's can be difficult for Legitimate Practice Test Providers to offer study materials or practice tests for each and every exam, doing so would cost the companies much more than the exams are often worth. If you're interested in study materials or practice tests for a particular exam that you know was recently released, your best option is to visit the Certification Vendor.

We are also encouraging everyone to verify the status of the website before you purchase their study materials. Our Basic CertSearch will give you instant results that will help you along your path to certification and keep you from putting your certifications at risk.

What is wrong with brain dumps?

Back when a braindump was a 'Brain Dump', they weren't as harmful. Were they illegal? Maybe they were, maybe they weren't. By today's standards, YES they were illegal, but many Certification Vendors hadn't put those standards into place until AFTER the number of thefts was truly visible, hence the reason for the Non-Disclosure Agreements that we are all forced to read today.

Then, in 1995, a company came along that screwed up our entire Certification world. They took braindumping to a new level by mass producing thousands upon thousands of certification questions from multiple certification vendors and selling them to unsuspecting candidates at an unbelievably LOW price.

Braindump users have compromised the IT Industry by reducing the value of certifications. Exam takers without solid IT experience are artificially passing exams to better their chances of employment in the industry. Unfortunately, as they become employed they do not provide companies with competant skill sets. This in turn makes them less valuable and reduces the salary IT workers are paid. Ultimately this makes the hard won certificatons by legitimate test takers with solid skills and experience suffer.

Sadly, many IT jobs have been outsourced to substandard workers at lower wages. To get their foot in the door they use braindumps to achieve certifications. No one wins in this situation. The company suffers and when the company suffers so do the outsourced workers.

Braindumps hurt everyone. We are dedicated to changing this through education and action.

Why should I stay away from Braindumps?

*You can lose your Certifications
*You can be banned from taking any other exams
*You will not benefit from their use
*You will be caught if you use braindumps, it's only a matter of time
*Braindumps are a clear violation of the certification Non-Disclosure Agreement
*Braindumps hinder your ability to learn the material
*If you have the exam questions ahead of time, you'll be less motivated to learn the material
*The information is shoddy, at best, and cannot be trusted
*The information is often old and out of date
*The claim "actual exam questions" is rarely true
*The information provided in braindumps is only the information that could be remembered
*If you've ever searched out or asked for braindumps, there are records of it
*If you've ever passed dumps on to others, there are records of it
*The sources that the dumps are derived from are inconsistent
*Braindumps do not teach you how to solve the problems that are normally seen in the IT Field
*Braindumps hurt everyone around you
*Braindumps devalue the Certifications that knowledgeable IT Professionals have studied so hard to attain

Friday, May 22, 2009

5 Keys to Creating a Successful Testing Program

Let me begin by saying that an effective testing program is dynamic and never static. Skills standards, curriculum, assessments, and instructional methods should always be in a state of change. We should always be asking questions, conducting research, constructing hypotheses, experimenting with our methods, analyzing our data, forming our conclusions and communicating our results. I know, I know...the scientific method can and should be used just about anywhere. So here are what I believe are the five keys to implementing a successful testing program:

1. Everything begins with the skills standards.
This is the foundation for everything you do in the classroom. What duties and tasks are you teaching to? Do you have national standards that your program can tie too? Fortunately, the CareerTech Testing Center has 100+ sets of skills standards that are offered for free on our website. Many of them are national standards for their respective programs and others are endorsed or aligned with national groups or industries. Our goal, on any skills standards development, is a 3:1 industry to instructor ratio. We want the standards to be driven by industry!

2. Curriculum choices must align with the skills standards.
Both CIMC and MAVCC are excellent resources that that will help you in that effort. CIMC and MAVCC have customers from all across the United States and around the world. High school programs, area technology centers, junior and community colleges, proprietary schools, and government agencies are current users of each of their products. Business and industry customers are also learning of the training and cost advantages of using CIMC and MAVCC instructional systems. Several industry groups and trade associations have participated in the development of their products and services.

3. Assessments should be built upon the skills standards.
The CareerTech Testing Center offers 100+ online competency assessments that are constructed from the industry-driven skills standards that we create. The frequency and criticality ratings are used to guide the creation of test items. All test items are in multiple choice format and constructed by subject matter experts.

4. Analyze feedback from all test administrations.
Each examinee is provided with a coaching report that provides not only the overall result, but scores are broken down by duty area. Results should be analyzed for each individual student (relative strengths and weaknesses), for an individual instructors and for the overall program. In other words, did an instructor adequately cover the standards? Did your curriculum align to the standards? Did the program meet your needs at the local or state level?

5. Implement improvements.
Now you have your data and formed your conclusions. Make your changes and improve your program. It may seem like a lot of work but a dynamic environment is always changing and to me, that is a STATE OF EXCITEMENT!

So if you are taking it easy on the beach in Aruba (see above) or Hawaii or if you decide to head for the mountains, I'll be staying here at the CareerTech Testing Center and I'll keep posting ideas that you will hopefully find interesting AND helpful. In other words, DON"T delete those emails and please find some time to check out all of the labels on the blog. This is where all of the posts have been archived according to topic.

One last thing, SHARE the blog with anyone that could benefit from the information that is presented. Thanks!!! J.T.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wolfram|Alpha - A Computational Knowledge Engine

This is a MUST SEE!

Is WolframAlpha a search engine? No. It's a computational knowledge engine: it generates output by doing computations from its own internal knowledge base, instead of searching the web and returning links. YOU HAVE TO WATCH THE VIDEO THAT DEMO'S IT'S CAPABILITIES.

WolframAlpha's long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. Their goal is to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. They want to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries. They want to bring expert-level knowledge and capabilities to the broadest possible range of people—spanning all professions and education levels.

As of now, WolframAlpha contains 10+ trillion of pieces of data, 50,000+ types of algorithms and models, and linguistic capabilities for 1000+ domains. Built with Mathematica—which is itself the result of more than 20 years of development at Wolfram Research—WolframAlpha's core code base now exceeds 5 million lines of symbolic Mathematica code. Running on supercomputer-class compute clusters, WolframAlpha makes extensive use of the latest generation of web and parallel computing technologies, including webMathematica and gridMathematica. WolframAlpha's knowledge base and capabilities already span a great many domains.

Basically, Wolfram/Alpha's goal is to bring expert-level knowledge to everyone and I also like the fact that it's FREE and you know how much I like that word! (Free for personal noncommercial use as described in its Terms of Use. Subscriptions will be available in the near future with enhanced features for large-scale and commercial use.)

As I have additional time to explore Wolfram/Alpha's capabilities, it may become one of my favorite research tools!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Response to Intervention (RTI) and Mathematics

In January, I posted an interview with Nancy Goosen, Director of Special Services at Edmond Public Schools that focused on how they have implemented Response to Intervention (RTI) within their school system. (The above graphic is from NASDSE: National Association of State Directors of Special Education).

Today, I found an article in Education Week, "Response to Intervention and Mathematics" that I thought would be a great follow-up to our previous interview.

The article states, "The federal Institute of Education Sciences recently released a practice guide for educators who would like to know some of the best practices for using a response to intervention framework for math education.

(You can learn more about response to intervention as a whole here and here.)

The guide (pdf) does not offer an endorsement of any particular program. Instead, it talks about the features that a good response to intervention program should have.

For example, one recommendation is that at least 10 minutes of an intervention session should be built on reinforcing retrieval of basic arithmetic facts. Weak arithmetic skills makes it harder to teach students more advanced concepts, the guide said. The guide also includes a number of examples and sample questions, which should make it a good resource for teachers and trainers. "

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Are Tests a "Powerful Memory Enhancer"?

Washington, DC—

Remember those kids who wanted to study only what was on the test? They may have cheated themselves. New research reveals that the simple act of taking a test helps you remember everything you learned, even if it isn’t tested. In three experiments, psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis determined that testing enhanced long-term recall for material that was not tested initially. Untested students recalled significantly less of what they’d studied – even after having extra time to go over the material.

This confirmation of how mid-term or final-exam type tests foster learning is reported in the November issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Tests are more than efficient scoring tools. The authors call them a “powerful memory enhancer.” Although psychologists knew that testing strengthened the subsequent recall of the tested learned material, it hadn’t been clear whether typical classroom tests (as distinguished from high-stakes standardized tests) also strengthened recall of the material not put on the test.

In the first experiment, 84 undergraduates were given 25 minutes to study a long factual article about the biological characteristics and living habits of the toucan bird. Afterward, participants were divided among three groups. Students in the testing group answered 22 questions about the material. Students in an “extra study” group read 22 additional statements about toucans, essentially giving them a head start – though they did not take a test. Students in a control group were immediately dismissed.

One day later, all 84 students took a final test with 44 questions (22 old, 22 new). The lead author, doctoral student Jason Chan, MA, points out that the 24-hour interval simulated the way most students cram the day before a test. Students tested on related questions on Day 1 significantly outperformed, on the new questions, both students who had received extra study on Day 1 and students in the control group. Thus the testing, not the extra study, accounted for improved performance.

The results “imply that as long as students have retrieved a concept, other related concepts should also receive a boost.” The authors may soon hear from their own students for suggesting that, “educators might consider increasing the frequency of testing to enhance long-term retention for both the tested and the related, non-tested material.”

In Experiment 2, each of 72 undergraduates studied two of four articles – the one about the toucans, and/or “The Big Bang Theory, “ “The History of Hong Kong,” or “The Shaolin Temple” – topics expected to be relatively unknown to most undergraduate psychology majors. For each student, one article was tested and one was not, creating an experimental and control condition for each student – a “within subjects” design. Again, 24 hours later, all students were tested – and having been tested on Day 1 accounted for a significantly better performance on Day 2.

A third experiment with 54 undergraduates manipulated the strategies that students used when they completed the first test. In response, accurate recall of the new questions on Day 2 increased with time spent on answering questions on Day 1. This relation was especially pronounced for students with lower performance on the test, highlighting the value of giving students -- particularly struggling students -- ample time during exams. In other words, given more time, they can more fully demonstrate their knowledge.

Also, students who were encouraged to guess during Day 1’s test (an all-inclusive strategy) did significantly better on Day 2 than did students who were discouraged from guessing. Thus, the researchers think the use of memory strategies during learning could be especially helpful for answering short-answer and essay exams, which tend to be more conceptual and rely on the recall of a range of information.

The authors say their findings might be especially encouraging to teachers who regularly give essay or short-answer exams, for which students tend to recall related or extraneous information. They note, “This sort of all-inclusive retrieval strategy might be beneficial to retention in the long run.”

Article: “Retrieval-Induced Facilitation: Initially Nontested Material Can Benefit From Prior Testing of Related Material;” Jason C. K. Chan, MA, Kathleen B. McDermott, PhD, and Henry L. Roediger III, PhD, Washington University in St. Louis; Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol. 135, No. 4.

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at

Jason Chan can be reached by e-mail or by phone at (314) 935-8892. His cell phone is (314) 495-7779. (This article was released by the APA on November 12, 2006.)

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 145,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.

I thought this was an interesting take on testing, especially how mid-term or final exams foster learning. It would be interesting to follow-up with an additional study that analyzes whether tests have a positive effect on long-term learning.

In conclusion, you now have RESEARCH to show your students when they begin to voice their displeasure over taking final exams! J.T.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

SREB and the CareerTech Testing Center

I just wanted to announce that you can now find the CareerTech Testing Center Blog on SREB!

I made a previous post in January about The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). They had launched a first-of-its-kind Web site, SREB Online Teachers, that will help online teachers in SREB states connect with each other, find and share best practices, pursue professional development, and more.

The website offers resources and support in: Instruction, Digital Content, What's Happening, What Works, and Professional Development. They also offer "Cool Tools for Teaching Online: Social Media/Web 2.0 Applications for Online Teachers."

You will find the CareerTech Testing Center Blog under SREB's What's Happening section of their website. SREB has also added several of our posts to their listservs over the last couple of months as well. Thank you SREB for helping us get the word out! J.T.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Have You Made a Mistake With Your Curriculum and Assessments?

Have you made a mistake and left the CareerTech Testing Center (CTTC) and MAVCC out of your HVAC programs?

Did you know that the CareerTech Testing Center offers standards and assessments aligned to various HVAC industry standards?

These standards and assessments can help the student determine his/her readiness to take an industry certification exam by identifying areas of strength and weakness. For instance, the 33401 HVACR Technician assessment can be used to determine a student’s preparedness for taking the ICE certification exam.

These assessments can provide instructors with group analyses of student performance that can be used for program improvement.

The assessments can also help enable schools to comply with Carl Perkins regulations requiring Technical Skills Assessments for CareerTech students.

The HVAC series of standards includes the following:
33401 HVACR Technician--aligns to PAHRA Technical Program Requirements
33402 Natural Gas Piping Technician-- aligns to the Oklahoma Construction Industries Board Licensure
33403 Refrigeration Technician-- aligns to the Oklahoma Construction Industries Board Licensure
33404 Sheet Metal Technician---- aligns to the Oklahoma Construction Industries Board Licensure

Did you also know that MAVCC has completely revised two books in their HVACR series: Fundamentals of Air Conditioning and Refrigeration and HVACR Electrical Systems? Two new HVAC publications currently under development are Residential and Light Commercial HVAC: System Design and Residential and Light Commercial HVAC: Equipment Operation and Application. System Design should be available in the spring of 2010.

Both the Fundamentals book and the Electrical Systems books are currently approved both by NATE/PAHRA and HVAC Excellence, and crosswalks to both certifying organizations are included in each publication. In fact, it’s the only curriculum approved for use by programs certified through HVAC Excellence.

If you are wondering whether this resource will work for you, you can download a copy of the instructional/task analysis and sample teacher and student pages for both publications below. They’re free and you will have a chance to review the content, format, and even try out a unit of instruction with the students.

Don't make mistakes with your programs and leave out the assessment and curriculum components that can make a difference in your students. Contact the CareerTech Testing Center and MAVCC today! J.T.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...