Career Exploration Project

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Kids are repeatedly asked this question by adults. In kindergarten, my son’s class was asked to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grew up. They created the self-portraits pictured below.

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As my son worked on his self-portrait, I reflected on how little exposure most students have to the work world. Very few schools have career-school partnerships that provide students with the opportunity to explore different professions. I designed a Career Exploration Project to help students learn more about a career they are interested in pursuing after high school. Below is an explanation of the project with student examples:

Part I–Inquiry Questions & Research

First, students were asked to generate at least 10 questions they had about their chosen career. They had to submit those questions via a Google Form for review. Then those questions were used to drive their online research. All of their research was organized on a shared Google Document complete with a works cited page that included at least three credible online sources. 

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Part II–Interview Questions & Evidence 

The second part of the project required students interview someone in their chosen career field. In preparation for their interview, students were asked to:

  • Write a professional business letter and resume. The formal business letter served to introduce them, outline the purpose of the project and request an interview. Students also learned how to format a formal resume and included that with their request. 
  • Decide on the audio recording device to capture evidence of the interview. Instead of taking notes during the interview, students recorded the conversations so they could refer back to them later. I encouraged them to explore the following recording apps:

Once students had found a person in their field to interview, they had to submit a short bio of the person they were interviewing and interview questions. I reminded them that their interview questions had to be strong enough to spark a 15-30 minute conversation. Once again, they submitted their proposed questions via a Google Form so I could review them prior to their interviews. 

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Part III–Observation

Students had to find a second person in their chosen profession and spend a minimum of one hour observing them at work. During their observations, they were asked to record notes on the environment they are observing, tasks performed and interactions with other employees and/or customers.

They were also asked to reflect on the following questions:

  • What is appealing and/or unappealing about the work environment?
  • Does this job require a person to move about, sit for long periods, work with their hands, or on the computer?
  • What skills and/or technology are needed to accomplish the daily tasks?

After completing their observations, students transferred their notes to a shared Google Document and included evidence (photos and/or videos) from their observation. If cameras were not welcome in the environment they were observing, I encouraged them to take a picture of the building/sign where they observed.

 

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Part IV–Create, Publish & Share               

After students completed their research, interviews, and observations, they pulled all of that information together to create a short video about their chosen profession to share on YouTube. Their films needed to provide a comprehensive overview of their career, including:

  • Title page: your name, class, and name of your researched career
  • Prior impressions
  • Education – degrees, field of study, certifications, specialized training
  • Needed skills
  • Typical daily tasks
  • Job realities – What is the job really like?
  • Challenges and rewards (monetary and nonmonetary)

Their videos needed to incorporate the various elements of their career exploration–audio clips or direct quotes from their interview, pictures from their observations, statistics and information from their research.

I encouraged students to explore one of the video creators below to produce their videos. I wanted students to select the video creator that worked with their individual devices. I’m an advocate for allowing students to select the tools they want to use instead of requiring them to use a specific tool.

Here are some of the finished products!

*This video was produced with GoAnimate.

*This video was produced with VideoScribe.

*This video was produced with iMovie. 

As a class, we watched all of the student-produced videos. That way students could publish their work for an authentic audience AND students learned about a whole range of professions!

For those educators wondering, why would an English teacher do this project? Like most projects there were so many important skills incorporated into it. Students had to complete extensive research, cite properly, write a business letter and resume, practice speaking and listening skills during both the interview and observation, and produce a multimedia video to communicate information. Even though many of my students were stressed at different points in the project as they struggled to coordinate schedules with busy professionals or learned how to navigate a new video creator tool, most really enjoyed the process and learned a lot about their chosen careers!

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Station Rotation Model in Action (Video)

In a previous blog post titled “Create Small Learning Communities with the Station Rotation Model,” I described many of the reasons I use the Station Rotation Model in my secondary classroom. I highlighted the benefits of working directly with small groups of students, using technology and station design to differentiate instruction, and maximizing the limited technology available in our low-tech classroom.

I’ve had several teachers request concrete examples of the types of stations I design for my high school English class. The two videos below provide a window into my classroom and give teachers some insight into my thought process and how I design of the various stations.

In the videos above, I talk about how I am using StudySync, which is a cross-curricular, core literacy program with hundreds of digital texts, dynamic videos and multimedia lessons. I use StudySync to extend learning online, differentiate my instruction for various skill levels, encourage active reading in the digital space, teach the Common Core Standards, and engage students in a range of activities to develop their reading and writing skills. StudySync has a huge digital library of media and texts ranging from historic speeches to poetry to excerpts from novels.

Before using StudySync, I was limited to the texts available on my campus in our school library. Now, I can choose from hundreds of texts and assign different texts to students at different reading levels. The lessons built around the texts are dynamic and develop vocabulary, reading, and writing skills. I often use tools like StudySync, Vocabulary.com, and flipped videos to create my online stations for my Station Rotation lessons.

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Design Your Own Digital Choice Board

This week I had the pleasure of training a group of elementary teachers on blended learning strategies. As a group, they wanted to focus on:

  1. Differentiation
  2. Student choice
  3. Assessment

One of the strategies we discussed with the potential to weave these three areas of focus together is a choice board. There are several different approaches to designing a choice board, but the goal is to allow students an opportunity to select the activities they will complete to practice a skill or demonstrate understanding.

Example Choice Board

The example above is a digital choice board I created using a Google Document. I encourage teachers to create their choice boards online, so they can embed images and hyperlink to additional resources or online tools.

Organizing a Choice Board

The classic 9 square model is ideal for a tic-tac-toe approach to a choice board that requires students complete any three activities in a row across the board. Teachers can organize a choice board so that each column focuses on a particular skill or standard. Elementary teachers, who are teaching all subjects, may combine reading, math and vocabulary activities on a single board. On the other hand, a secondary teacher might design a board focused on one aspect of their curriculum, like reading or writing.

As teachers consider what types of activities to design, it’s important to keep differentiation in mind. Teachers can choose to differentiate by allowing students to decide:

  • what they will produce.
  • how they will engage with the information (learning modality).
  • which level of complexity they are ready for.
  • which activity appeals to their interests.

Some teachers choose to color code the squares and encourage stronger students to tackle more challenging activities. While others prefer to assign points to each box based on how challenging that activity is in relation to the other options.

Below is a template for a digital choice board using Google Documents. If you want to use this to design your own choice board, simply log into your Google account then go to “File” on this document and select “Make a copy.” It will automatically save to your Google Drive!

bit.ly/digitalchoiceboard

bit.ly/digitalchoiceboard

As you design your digital choice board, it’s helpful to think about how you will assess the different activities on the board. In the training I facilitated this week, we talked about unconventional ways to assess student work. I shared the following strategies for assessing student work using technology:

  • Ask students to record audio responses directly onto a Padlet Wall.
  • Require students fill out a Google Form Exit Ticket.
  • Set up a Socrative or Kahoot! quiz for them to take before leaving an activity.
  • Allow students to record a short video/screencast explaining their process and/or product.

The choice board is not a new concept in education, but it is a great way to differentiate, prioritize student choice, and build in alternative forms of assessment.

If you’ve created a choice board you’ve had success with, please consider sharing it!

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