Gear up for the future
Michael Ballone and Michael Bowman
February 19, 2019

It’s never too early to begin exposing students to various career options. Discussing careers in elementary school expands students’ vision for what is possible while encouraging them to set personal career goals. It also helps connect what they are learning to the real world, giving this knowledge greater context by answering the enduring question: “Why do we have to learn this?”

Here's what our district, Marlboro Township Public Schools in Monmouth County, New Jersey, is doing to achieve this.

Connecting with experts. Many of our teachers use a service called Nepris, which connects classrooms to professionals in different career fields. If students are studying weather, for example, the teacher might use Nepris to connect the class with a meteorologist and discuss what his or her work entails. The platform lets students ask questions in real time. This makes the learning more tangible for students, while providing insights into different jobs.

Matching reading and writing to careers. We use Achieve3000 to personalize instruction in nonfiction reading and writing. The platform tailors content to students' Lexile reading level. Students can see which Lexile scores are required for specific careers. As students move to middle school, counselors meet with them to discuss career pathways they might want to explore further.

Nurturing soft skills. Nearly two-thirds of the children entering grade school today will work in jobs that do not yet exist, according to the World Economic Forum. We prepare our students for this unknown future by focusing on developing soft skills, such as communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. G-Suite for Education helps support student collaboration while programs from the Center for the Collaborative Classroom help foster communication skills, including careful listening, respectful dialog and constructive criticism.

Encouraging independent, lifelong learning. Helping students become independent learners prepares them more effectively for the rigors of college and, ultimately, a career. It also ensures that students will continue learning long after they graduate, an essential skill in today’s rapidly changing workplace.

Allocating time for "passion projects." Inspired by Google’s “20% Time,” we implemented a program that lets students in some Friday classes work on projects of their choice. Student have worked on myriad projects, including designing video games, conducting historical research and planning a nonprofit organization.

Michael Ballone is the director of curriculum and instruction for the Marlboro Township Public Schools in Marlboro, New Jersey. Michael Bowman is the curriculum supervisor for English Language Arts, the Gifted Reading program in grades K-3 and the Honors programs in grades 6-8.

Tech Tips is a weekly column in SmartBrief on EdTech. Have a tech tip to share? Contact us at knamahoe@smartbrief.com.

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