Are you a CTE educator looking to implement Xello but have no idea where to start? Drawing on insights from CTE educators who have successfully implemented Xello, Counselor Kate McKenzie has put together this step by step guide on how to use Xello both in and outside the classroom and continue to empower students to become future ready.

There’s been a lot of articles floating around since March with suggestions for best remote learning practices.

In all of the shared remote learning posts via blogs, social media, and work email, I did not see any on Career and Technical Education. And that’s a shame. By not discussing how CTE looks this fall, we are doing our students a disservice.

A common misconception about CTE is that a relatively small number of students enroll in these programs. Maybe that’s why most articles focused on the traditional classroom setting instead of the technical one. However, this notion is simply not the case. An astounding 8.9 million high school students were enrolled in CTE classes in the 2018-2019 school year.

To put that into perspective, that is 58% of American high school students. And according to data for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which ensures federal funding for these programs, this type of education is steadily on the rise, especially for females. As of now, there is only a 0.7 million difference between male and female enrollment, and that gap continues to close each year as gender and career norms shift. 

A lot of that is due to vocational education amping up its classes and academic rigor to provide a well-rounded education for students.

According to Brian A. Jacob, a professor of educational policy: “CTE encompasses a wide range of activities intended to simultaneously provide students with skills demanded in the labor market while preparing them for post-secondary degrees in technical fields. Activities include not only specific career-oriented classes, but also internships, apprenticeships and in-school programs designed to foster work readiness.”

There are currently sixteen career clusters that help students prepare for their future college and career experience:

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Image Source: ACTE

An important component of CTE is the practical, hands-on learning students receive. So what are these CTE students doing now that many schools are utilizing a hybrid or remote plan?

We spoke with three educators to gain insight on what shifts they’ve made to instruction and what barriers to learning they’ve worked through. All in all, four main themes emerged for keeping CTE students engaged and actively planning for their future.

1) Connect Students With Resources

This year, it’s important to connect students with additional resources and be on the lookout for newly developed academic, social, and emotional needs.

One of the ways we can help our students is to equip them with devices so that they have access to all online materials and can communicate readily with teachers. 

According to Perkins Data, 46% of CTE students come from economically disadvantaged homes. Additionally, 14% of students come from families that speak limited English. District leads, counselors, and teachers will need to reach out to ensure students are connected and participating in online instruction. 

Scarlet Oaks Career Campus in Cincinnati, Ohio has lessened the digital divide among families by giving all students a school laptop.

Intervention specialist Abigail Flaherty reports: “If a student does not have internet, they are given a specific laptop that has a hotspot within the computer for internet access.”

Download Free Guide: An Educator’s Step by Step Guide to Implementing Xello in a Virtual or Hybrid Setting

The Greater Oaks Campuses are currently employing a hybrid model in which students are in school two days a week and take classes online the remaining three. This allows for instructors to work one-on-one with students in person to create a plan that works best for students struggling to remotely complete assignments. 

The Yakima School District in the state of Washington responded to these same equity concerns by also implementing a 1-to-1 device program.

Gabriel Stotz, a Career and College Readiness Specialist at Eisenhower High School, notes that his district registered hotspots throughout the community to ensure that students could access classes during remote learning.

While Scarlet Oaks is utilizing a hybrid model, the Yakima School District is fully remote and will begin considering the reopening of buildings in late January 2021. In both cases, students need access to devices in order to connect with online content and instruction.

2) Become Familiar with Xello’s Features

Xello’s ever-growing platform offers a wide variety of lessons and activities for students to begin planning their future. At first, the breadth of the program can be overwhelming. Luckily, Xello provides every educator access to support and resources to make a smooth transition into helping students digitally and remotely plan for their futures.  

Teachers also have access to demo student accounts on their educator dashboard, allowing them to view the program from a kid’s perspective.

Natalie Powell, the Career Guidance Counselor & Partnership Coordinator at iTech Preparatory, recommends for all educators to explore the website from the perspective of a student and complete some of the lessons to get a feel for the programming. “Once a teacher sees how engaging the content is,” she states, “then it becomes easier to direct students and let them explore [the content].”

Xello also allows educators to gain valuable insights with ready-made engagement and profile reports at the student, school, and district level. These reports, as well as access to comprehensive student profiles, allows CTE teachers to better understand their students, their learning styles, and their goals, making future-ready instruction and conversations more meaningful.

Read more: Integrating Xello Successfully in Your District and Bringing It to Life in Your Schools

In addition, these student profiles are shareable with parents for student support and aligned communication for post-secondary decisions. According to Powell, students within the Vancouver Public School System also share their profiles with teachers to assist in the writing of college recommendation letters or with employers when interviewing for jobs.  

One of the features Stotz is most excited about is the scholarship portal. By utilizing the scholarship dashboard this fall, he and his colleagues can begin working towards their goal of six million dollars in scholarships for their graduating seniors.

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An example of the list of local scholarships and option to add new in Xello

Stotz recognizes that communicating scholarship opportunities was a barrier in previous years, so he hopes that directing students to the dashboard during advisory lessons will be a game changer.

He sympathizes with families experiencing potential post-secondary stressors: “One of the major challenges for low-income and underrepresented students wanting to attend college comes back to the question, ‘How am I going to pay for it?’ We want to encourage all students to apply for as many scholarships as they can so they can make it to college, and more importantly, make it through college as well.”

3) Intentionally Plan for Student Engagement

An uphill battle for some districts is that the responsibility of college and career readiness falls on the shoulders of CTE teachers. While this placement makes sense, of course, utilizing the program in vocational classes shouldn’t be the only answer.

The topics, which range from self-esteem to goal setting to time management, affect all content areas and can be woven into a multitude of contexts during the school day.

It is recommended that before a single teacher or building jumps into implementing Xello this school year, district collaboration and alignment need to occur so that all educators, students, and families have an equal, well-rounded experience in becoming future-ready. 

Stotz firmly believes in a district-wide effort as well: “Students can spend years learning the academic and technical skills to succeed, but without professional skills, they are going to struggle in the workforce. We need more than just CTE teachers to teach these skills, and that starts with buy-in from counselors and core academic teachers.”

So what does that look like for districts? First, no matter what teaching model is being used, time needs to be carved out to not only teach content, but also have students work on their own and receive additional support. 

Flaherty reports that Scarlet Oaks’ hybrid model includes required Zoom meetings with academic teachers three days a week for thirty minutes a class. On Wednesdays, all students work virtually and have academic and lab Zoom classes. The other two days students report in person for additional help and guidance through course materials.

This model allows students to seek additional support in-person while also reimagining the hands-on lab experience to adhere to safety protocols. 

Unlike last year’s model at iTech of pushing into classrooms, Powell is demonstrating Xello components to students during Zoom calls. Since Zoom allows users to share their screen with others, Powell is able to show students how to navigate the website and pre-correct any confusion in real time.

After walking students through the expectations, she uploads assignments onto their learning platform and allows students to complete the lessons by a given date.

Preview of Xello Lessons

Preview of a Xello Lesson

Eisenhower High School decided to make use of their scheduled advisory time and assign Xello lessons twice a month. These are administered by teachers, and if all goes according to plan, students will have completed their core lessons by the end of the second quarter, when students are projected to return to in-person classes. 

Even though these three buildings have extremely different schedules, it is clear that they are intentional about creating a student-focused learning environment. By providing direct instruction, additional support time, and flexible assignments, these districts are helping empower students to be their best academic selves this school year. 

4) Utilize Communication Within Xello 

Students are not only learning in new ways and in new settings, but are also managing and organizing online assignments from a multitude of platforms. Kids forget to complete or turn in lessons during normal school years, and this one is no different.

One way to make sure students stay on top of their Xello work is to message them right in the portal. As previously stated, educators have the option of viewing engagement and completion reports to monitor student progress. They can also message students individually or as a group if assignments are not completed or students need to rework some of their answers. 

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Two-Way Messaging in Xello

This messaging feature actually works both ways; students can easily communicate with teachers if questions arise during lessons, scholarship searches, or filling out the linked Common App. By utilizing the two-way messaging system, districts can feel confident knowing that students– in-person or remote– are on track. 

And for those students who notoriously struggle with assignment completion? We suggest partnering with administration and the counselor to problem solve before unfavorable situations even arise.

Just because school looks different this year doesn’t mean CTE and future-readiness has been put on pause. If anything, students have been given the time and opportunity to learn more about their interests and explore different future pathways.

By utilizing the “About Me” features and completing personalized lessons, students are not only developing self-awareness but are also providing helpful information for teacher-student connections. Although labs and lectures are being reimagined, the connections and engagement are hopefully here to stay. 

Remember that the Xello Support portal is loaded with detailed information, how-to videos, and supplemental activities to help support you every step of the way. We also encourage you to reach out to your district’s Xello success manager for further ideas and assistance.

By implementing Xello, you are helping students develop critical skills for the present and future, and are supporting their pursuit of postsecondary success.

Download Free Guide: An Educator’s Step by Step Guide to Implementing Xello in a Virtual or Hybrid Setting

Kate McKenzie
ABOUT KATE

Kate McKenzie is a School Counselor in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is committed to exploring the many facets of lifelong learning & believes that building skills at a young age helps prepare students for future academic & social-emotional success.