Life hasn’t stopped, and neither should kids’ future planning. Now that we’re in 2022, here’s a guide to understanding why future readiness is more important than ever, how to make the case for an EdTech solution in your district, how other districts are making it work during challenging times, and how one district made a smooth transition to Xello.

It’s been a tough couple of years for school district leaders and educators. But as we begin to action our 2022 plans, it’s important to prioritize future readiness.

School district leaders, counselors, and educators have done their best to adapt to remote and hybrid learning models. The priority has been to ensure students have equitable access to education, are engaged in learning, and are meeting academic standards and milestones.

Throughout it all, students have no doubt felt uncertain and disconnected. With an unclear end date to our “new normal”, educators need to be proactive when adjusting to the social emotional needs of their students. Part of educating has become helping kids shift their current mindsets from hopelessness to optimism.

As a result of these abrupt and sweeping changes, a focus on future readiness has fallen by the wayside in many districts. This is as understandable as it is regrettable. Social-emotional and future-ready skills such as critical-thinking, creativity, and emotional awareness, as well as resources to help plan for college and career, are integral to the learning journey of every student.

The truth is, a robust future readiness program has the power to not only contribute to students’ academic success now, but provide them with fuel and motivation to help them achieve their future goals.

It isn’t just about sending out college applications (though that’s important too!). It’s establishing skills, like time management, that will bolster student success. It is helping kids develop their sense of self, including their interests and their goals in life. 

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

Why Now is the Time to Focus on Future Readiness 

Now more than ever, students need to feel excited and motivated to continue their education. At a time when society feels powerless and paralyzed, and people are trying to gain a sense of control over their lives, educators can provide a semblance of normalcy by helping students look ahead. 

By focusing on their future and building future readiness skills, students can divert their attention from the chaotic outside world to an organized, personalized plan that empowers them to be prepared for their anticipated college or career. 

A future readiness solution like Xello can engage students, empower them to work independently, provide ready-made 21st century lessons, track their progress, and help them plan for college and career success. Throughout it all, it can provide social-emotional skills that are so critical to navigating these uncertain times—and prepare them for the future world of work.

EdTech tools like Xello can also unify staff around the importance of future readiness and provide the supporting resources all in one platform to make it easier for everyone to participate and collaborate—wherever they are working. 

How to Get Your District on Board with Prioritizing a Future Readiness Program

Change is never easy, especially during challenging times. But sometimes change can be a life raft. 

If future readiness has come to a standstill in your district or if it’s increasingly difficult to support students with their college and career plans, it’s a good time to introduce the possibility of a better solution. 

Bring facts and data to the conversation: are there gaps in performance? Are academic goals not being met? Are you failing to meet compliance standards? 

Once you’ve outlined the problem, share how the solution will address these issues (and more). Some features of programs like Xello include:

  • Provides 21st century skills lessons that correlate to state guidelines
  • Offers consistency and provides measurable data across the district
  • Helps boost student engagement and achievement
  • Combats absenteeism
  • Features interactive personalization
  • Provides real-life college and career examples
  • Empowers students to be independent
  • Tracks student progress
  • Course planner helps students plan for the future
  • Helps students manage specialized courses
  • Helps keep track of admission requirements and scholarship opportunities
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Preview of Xello

One of the best features of Xello during these turbulent times is that it’s accessible to teachers, families, educators, and administrators from anywhere, at any time. 

One platform with all of the most up-to-date information ensures everyone is on the same page and can easily collaborate.

How to Ensure the Smooth Integration of a Future Readiness Solution

Just like change, implementing new technology is also a challenge. It’s important to go into the process with eyes wide open to the possibility that there will be mild disruptions along the way. 

Top-quality Edtech companies like Xello go above and beyond to ensure a smooth transition, which helps minimize any problems.

Here are some tips to ensure a smooth integration and implementation of college and career readiness software:

  • Assemble a steering committee: Empower early adopters of new technology to lead the charge in your district. They can learn the new program and serve as champions to help achieve buy-in on a larger scale.
  • Create an implementation plan: One staff email is not enough to get buy-in from all staff. A formal implementation plan with key milestones will detail each step along the way to help your staff visualize the path, follow the journey, and feel engaged. Xello has a client-customized implementation plan that can easily be shared with key stakeholders.
  • Set realistic measures of success: Create reasonable benchmarks based on your district’s past adjustments to change. Xello Success Managers are key to helping you establish key performance indicators and success measures. Keep the focus on the progress, not the “what ifs” that will inevitably come up.
  • Set expectations: Some districts create guides for each quarter for counselors and teachers to follow. This ensures it’s aligned across all buildings in your district and students are hitting the same progress points at roughly the same time. Counselors can use Reports throughout the year to make sure students stay on track, and also use those results to create small groups and individual planning meetings with students.
  • Build joint objectives in different departments: Counselling, CTE, administrators, and classroom educators will use a future readiness solution differently—but cooperatively. Focus less on department differences and more on similarities and create a list of joint objectives that ultimately lead each student down the right path.

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

Introducing a new technology solution is daunting. It’s important to partner with an EdTech company that will be by your side every step of the way. 

They should have dedicated Success Managers assigned to your district, a library of resources that allow users to also learn independently, and an interface that students and adults alike can navigate intuitively. Before you commit, be sure to ask the tough questions and go through a comprehensive demo experience.

How Two Districts are Prioritizing Future Readiness During Challenging Times

On Monday, March 9, 2020, Texas reported one of the first cases of coronavirus in the U.S. The Frisco Independent School District was on Spring Break, but Dr. Stephanie Cook, Managing Director of Guidance and Counseling, and her team instantly started planning. 

Within two days, they knew they would be closing the 73 campuses that serve 63,000 students.

“By Monday, March 16, all parents had a link to reach counselors and they started getting appointment requests that night. Virtual visits with kids began Tuesday,” she said. 

In addition to astonishing ingenuity and adaptability, Frisco ISD used all kinds of technology to keep students learning. One of the priorities was continuing with future readiness for all middle and high school students. Xello continued to be an important resource.

We know that having college and career lessons will help students think beyond right now. We’ll be looking at how we can use Xello to reorient to what life will be like after coronavirus. It will help contextualize what students are experiencing.

“For high school students in particular, it’s developmentally appropriate to stay focused on long-term goals,” said Cook.

Over at Chesaning High School in Michigan, one of the first things Career Navigator and College Advisor Erika Birkmeier did during the shutdown in the spring was ensure the 500 students had steady access to Xello so they could continue to prepare for the future even when they weren’t in the classroom. 

“Xello’s a great platform because it has everything you need. It’s just how you steer the group of students depending on their grade level and what’s appropriate for them to be thinking about at this point in their education,” said Birkmeier. 

She’s grateful that students have a program like this to maintain a sense of normalcy and control during this uncertain time, including optimism about the future.

How Grand Prairie ISD Made a Successful Transition to Xello Pre-pandemic

In the Grand Prairie Independent School District, 30,000 students were happily logged into Xello before the pandemic hit. 

Executive Director of Counselling Services Dana Jackson and her students have long been a champion of Xello and its predecessor, Career Cruising.

“What attracted me to this platform was its K-12 component. Most other tools only focused on Grade 9-12 or 6-12. We use the K-5 program with our students so they can explore careers at an early age,” said Jackson.

The Matchmaker tool, which helps students find careers that fit their strengths and interests, was helpful for middle schoolers who were considering their high school endorsement, a specialized area of study all students must choose for high school.

 “By using Matchmaker to research careers and career clusters, students were better able to select the right high school endorsement choices for them,” said Jackson.

The switch from Career Cruising to Xello was uneventful and students and adults alike responded very positively. “The clean lines, customization, Instagram-like dashboard, storyboard where you can upload, more areas for journaling and an interactive map for colleges were all very impressive,” said Jackson. 

Grand Prairie ISD’s Xello customer success manager arrived on-site to train high school counselors to make sure they understood the soon-to-be-implemented college features. Xello also assisted Grand Prairie with ideas to customize features in Xello, with external links, to make sure the system completely met the unique needs of the district.

Meanwhile, Jackson and the Counseling Services Team worked with the district’s communications team to create a Xello Website, posters and videos introducing Xello as their dedicated college and career planning tool. Flyers with login information were prepared to be paired with every student’s schedule during schedule pick up dates in August.

They even made a video to promote Xello:

 

“It’s really important that Xello is promoted throughout all campuses to make sure students are getting the benefit of it. Teachers have also been trained by counselors on how to use the program with the students.” 

Whether your district is learning in-school, remotely, or using a hybrid model, a future readiness solution can be an exceptional resource that helps students make sense of the current world while planning for a pandemic-free future.

Even during challenging times, the right solution can be implemented to help administrators, counselors, and educators streamline future readiness education while tracking student progress and ensuring they are developing 21st century skills that will serve them well now and in the future.

If districts want their students to feel empowered and in control of their future, now is the time to lean into teaching future readiness skills.

Do you have questions about setting up a future readiness platform, such as Xello? Just click on the link below to book a call with our education consultants and they’ll be happy to assist. 👇

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ABOUT HEATHER

Heather Hudson is a Toronto-based freelance writer and journalist. She specializes in content marketing, corporate storytelling and good old-fashioned journalism. You can read some of her work in The Toronto Star and learn more about her at heatherhudson.ca.