Incorporating College and Career Readiness Into Your Teaching
Today’s schools are constantly flooded with the latest technology trends and how to incorporate these into the classroom. Education keeps track of these trends and the potential they have to impact students. From virtual reality to the latest apps, schools are trying to keep up with the fast paced tech world, but is exposure to these hot trends enough to prepare our future workforce?
Let’s look at apps like Waitr and Grubhub. They are selling something that is not offered by most restaurants; food delivery. Something as simple as a delivery service can have the potential to impact the food industry and it’s amazing that these companies mainly employ “freelancers” to carry out their service and ultimately their companies’ vision. Although technology is a driving force behind companies like Waitr and Grubhub, it takes an innovative approach to bring something like that to life.
In exploring college and career readiness, we must ensure that our learners are equipped with the appropriate experiences, technology, and options during their K–12 years. This is crucial if we are to prepare them for not only today’s workforce, but for future possibilities in the workplace as well.
Education and Career Development: A New Approach to College and Career Readiness
One of the many problems affecting the K–12 educational system is its narrow approach to college and career readiness. Most schooling today focuses strictly on academics, and specifically how students can master and show mastery of academic skills via standardized tests. This traditional and limited view does not prepare students to apply skills in a real-world context, nor does it allow students to learn about the most important asset they have: themselves. The missing link in today’s college and career planning is the lack of focus on personal strengths, interests, and learning styles, but most importantly how to navigate these in online spaces.
One way to address the disconnect between academic programming and college and career development is to create a framework that blends both. First, academics must be presented in the context of how skills are transferred into the real world. For example, soft skills such as problem solving, teamwork, and communication should be emphasized and developed throughout academic programs. This brings the workplace setting into the classroom so students can develop and apply career related skills. Moreover, in order for this approach to be effective, we need to redefine what college and career readiness looks like.
Technology can be the defining factor in making academic content relevant for both today’s learner and workplace. With technology, learners are able to interact and even create with content on a whole different level that is not possible with traditional pencil and paper. If schools offer learning experiences that incorporate technology and career exploration, the possibilities are endless. For instance, students can use movie creation tools like iMovie and Adobe Spark to create campaign videos for a cause they are passionate about such as global warming or addressing a specific need in their community. Likewise, podcasts can be used to interview and feature leaders in their community and document any changes that have taken place. These types of projects utilize technology in a way that pushes students to go beyond traditional academics to closely mirror soft skills and techniques used in a typical work setting.
Regardless of the content area or academic track students are on, they should be encouraged to be active participants in the learning process. This means that students should not be fed content areas or information, but rather be challenged to manipulate, examine, and interact with the content through various forms. Being “active” implicates that they must also have opportunities to fail and use trial and error within the learning process. As students are presented with different knowledge, they must also explore how to make learning more personal and relevant for themselves. All this should be taken into account with the goal of preparing students for today’s workforce and beyond the classroom. And when it comes to technology, educators must always examine how different tools can assist in that process.
Within my own school district, you can find educators who are utilizing technology in innovative ways that push their students’ thinking and prepare them for life experiences that go beyond academics. For example, Elvira Deyamport, our gifted education teacher at an elementary setting, incorporates podcasts into her program. Students are very familiar with podcasts because they use them as a resource for research in the lower grades and then advance to creating their own podcasts in the upper grades. When students first use podcasts as a research tool, they are developing their listening skills and practicing note-taking through sketch noting. Once students are familiar with the many formats that podcasts have to offer, they then dig deeper into an issue that affects themselves or their community. After exploring that topic, students are given free range on how they want to present their podcast that they will later submit to The NPR Student Podcast Challenge. This online challenge gives students the opportunity to showcase their best work for a chance to be featured on NPR station.
Projects such as this one push students to develop and apply skills in real world settings. While students are still developing essential listening, writing, and communication skills, they are using creative modes to demonstrate what they know or have learned. This goes beyond a typical paper and pencil research assignment that is normally expected of this age group of learners. With technology, Mrs. Deyamport’s students are able to push their thinking and creativity while also sharing their work with a global audience.
Our culinary arts program at Hattiesburg High School is also an integral part of the school. In an effort to raise funds to attend an annual conference, their teacher, Ms. Gonzalez, has students sell “hot plates” to faculty and staff members. Students are responsible for taking orders, preparing the meals, and delivering orders. The school is very supportive of the culinary art students and program every year.
Activities like this allow students to take ownership of their learning. Not only are these students applying their culinary skills but they are sharing them with their school community. Organizing a fundraiser like this also teaches them organizational skills and helps them develop their communication skills.
These examples show that learning can take place beyond the classroom walls. Students gain more if what they are learning is relevant to real-world contexts. Technology allows for students to showcase their learning on a global scale.
While schools are occupied with accountability, it is challenging to prepare today’s learners with the necessary skills to navigate the ever-changing workforce. Generally, the students who lack experiences with more innovative approaches to college and career readiness are students from low-income backgrounds. Therefore it is essential that we prepare these students early on in their schooling to career-centered skills throughout their academic programs, which will later prepare them for different fields. If we are to truly impact our students’ futures, we must provide learning spaces that push them to explore, fail, and direct their own learning.
Do you have any more examples to share? Tell us on Twitter @Schoology