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Written by Mike Dixon, BSD Education
If you were to visit any high school selected at random during the 2019-20 school year, you’d almost certainly stumble upon a conversation about career-ready technology skills for students. After speaking with hundreds of teachers, administrators and employers, we’re convinced that combining technology projects with real world outcomes and career ready skills is one of the most important emerging trends in education.
As educators, we understand that real world application is a key factor for engaging students with any course material. We can also observe that students who are able to demonstrate critical thinking and technical skills through real world outcomes are more likely to succeed when applying to higher education or to an upper entry-level role within the workforce.
So how can schools deliver real world experiences to students in a classroom setting? Let’s take a look at some of the ways BSD’s partner schools are achieving this today.
This academic year, several of our school partners have shared that a portion of their IT needs are currently being serviced by student-led teams. Take Barringer STEAM Academy for example where a cohort of high school seniors (the self-proclaimed “Geek Squad”) spend designated class periods updating printer drivers, troubleshooting Smart Boards and administering tablets. These students are gaining real world experience while freeing up the school’s IT staff to focus on critical services.
Another school we spoke with went as far as to create a student-monitored online ticketing system for school staff to request assistance and reduce the load on their IT department. The BSD team is working closely with two additional schools now to help their students design online ticketing systems using the BSD Online platform. These projects empower students to use the technology skills that they learn in class to solve real problems for others.
Another approach to this trend that has been gaining momentum is developing partnerships between schools and local businesses. These relationships can vary from school to school but we’ve seen success in a couple of specific forms:
One method is for the company to provide resources to the students with the ultimate goal of identifying and acquiring new talent for internship and full time positions. We recommend speaking with nearby medium to large technology companies to see if they offer a community service program for their staff. Mentoring can be a great way for employees to give back to their community while providing invaluable insight for high school students who may be unaware of local career opportunities.
Another example of authentic collaboration between students and local businesses comes from a BSD partner school that is connecting students with local small businesses to offer basic digital services. For example, teams of students are helping to build and maintain basic websites for small businesses that would otherwise not have the resources to reach customers online. Not only are they solving a real problem for small businesses but students are also building a portfolio of work that will benefit them beyond high school.
When a partnership with real local businesses feels out of reach, there are ways to provide leadership opportunities within the school environment. Two of BSD’s partner schools, String Theory Schools and the Pathway School, operate student-run cafes where students participate in every part of the business, from customer service, to handling payment, to sourcing the raw material, and managing the online presence.
At Downey High School in California, teachers have found a different way of providing leadership experience to their high school seniors. This year, they’ve launched a new enrichment program where a team of seniors are empowered to teach coding skills to younger students through a Video Game Development course. This format put students in the teacher’s role and was a great way to build confidence and communication skills that will prepare them for life.
Finally, there is one guaranteed way to prepare students for career opportunities: teach technology skills that are directly transferable to the workplace. At BSD, our curriculum is based on the same text-based coding languages used by professionals from website developers and software engineers to data scientists and app designers. The projects that our students build are rooted in real world context and their outcomes are directly transferable to solving real world problems.
If you are a teacher or school administrator and would like to insure that your students have the technology skills they need to be college and career ready, feel free to reach out to BSD Education. We can help you prepare your students for the ever-changing challenges of tomorrow and help them build digital portfolios that will follow them into their future ambitions.