How can you motivate students to take an interest in planning for their future? We offer some smart tips to prepare your students to become future ready.

School districts across the globe are increasingly becoming aware of the need to equip students with the necessary 21st century skills they need to become future ready. 

This is partly because many students are becoming increasingly discouraged with what they perceive is a disconnect between what they learn in school and “real life.”

According to a 2016 YouthTruth survey of 55,000 high school students, only half reported feeling that their high schools have prepared them with the knowledge and skills they need for college. Many students struggle to transition from blindly following lessons in high school to being asked to think critically in college because they haven’t built this skill.

To motivate students to take an interest in learning, many school districts are purchasing EdTech software to get students excited about their future planning and career goals. 

This ensures that students feel that their education connects them to real world challenges. After all, many kids are engaged in learning when they can see how and where they’ll apply it. 

But is purchasing an EdTech tool always the right answer? According to a recent study, about 67 percent of all educational software never gets deployed in the classroom. 

If districts are investing in future planning software, they need to ensure the software is truly engaging to both educators and students.  

Here are a few tips to help you ensure your EdTech software investment does not go to waste! 

1. Introduce Career Planning Early

Students are usually in one of two camps as they enter middle school. They either have a general idea of what career path they would like to pursue or they may be aware they have certain skills they enjoy using but have no idea how these skills could be utilized in a future profession. 

In order to make students self aware of what their skills and interests are, it’s imperative to introduce career planning concepts as early as possible. 

A study by Brown University found that habits can take root as early as age 9. With that in mind, the earlier educators introduce 21st-century concepts, the better.

By introducing future planning software to students early on in school, when they are just beginning to think about their career options, teachers can keep students engaged and motivated. 

EdTech software programs, such as Xello, can pinpoint students in the direction of certain careers they may be interested in based on their likes and dislikes. 

Students can also complete interactive career, personality, and learning style assessments to help them better understand their unique interests, skills, and strengths. 

Each engaging assessment encourages reflection, helping students connect who they are with relevant career options. 

Students can also explore hundreds of career and college options that align with their assessment results. 

Programs like Xello give students access to real-world interviews with people in their fields of interest, providing an authentic glimpse into their future and the critical knowledge to make informed decisions and plans.

With Xello, you can start students on their future-readiness journey as early as kindergarten.

2. Get Educators on Board

Before the students can even begin to use a future planning program, teachers must utilize it in the classroom on a consistent basis. 

Change is never easy for educators to accept so it’s pertinent to get them on board as early as possible. Show them examples of other districts that have deployed similar software successfully. 

Put their minds at ease by letting them know that they will be provided with training on the new software before it’s implemented. 

Talk to educators about the importance of using the latest technology to appeal to students. 

Explain to them that the smart way to combat 21st-century challenges of engaging students is to use a 21st-century solution. Since technology is practically woven into the DNA of Generation Z, an online future readiness program is almost a no-brainer.

Once educators are on board and excited about using the future planning software, they are more likely to help students engage with the program as well. 

It all begins with the teachers and getting them to commit to the program as well. 

3. Bring in Special Guest Speakers

There is something special that happens in a classroom when a respected guest speaker is brought in. 

The students pay much more attention than they usually do. They sit on the edge of their seats in anticipation of what the speaker has to say. 

The excitement in the eyes of students, particularly when the speaker is a celebrity such as a News Anchor or a TV show host, is a blessed sight for teachers to witness. 

To get students engaged and excited about future planning, try to create a monthly or weekly guest speaker series.

You could ask parents to partake in the program or reach out to members in the community, asking them to dedicate an hour each week or each month to come into the classroom and educate students about their respective profession. 

Students should be encouraged to ask the speaker questions so that they’re engaged throughout the discussion. 

You can even ask students for feedback each week on who they’d like to invite or which professions they’re most interested in learning more about so that you seek out speakers according to student interest. 

This guest speaker series can significantly increase student participation and motivation to learn more in school. 

After all, it is one thing for a student to say that they’re interested in becoming a doctor or a computer programmer, but it is quite another for them to get to know someone who’s actually in their dream profession and can give them a first hand account of what their day-to-day looks like. 

4. Provide Internships or Job Shadowing Opportunities 

In addition to the guest speakers routinely making appearances in the classroom, it would be a great idea to also have these professionals mentor the students in their respective fields. 

Educators should work with the guest speakers to ask if their companies would be interested in partnering with the school to create an internship or job shadowing program. 

Job shadowing allows students to gain a solid understanding of what an employee, such as a nurse, does in a particular job every day. 

Students will be able to see what skills are required every day in their dream professions. It can help allay a student’s fear of the unknown. 

Alternatively, it can also be an eye opening experience in terms of enlightening students to aspects of the job they may find unappealing so that they’re able to reassess whether it’s the right career choice for them or not. 

By providing internship or job shadowing opportunities with actual organizations, students will feel their schools are connecting them to their future and helping them become future ready. 

5. Cater to All Student Types: Those Who Are College-Bound and Those Who Are Not

Parents and the community often expect schools to prepare students for college, rather than for future careers. 

According to a recent article by Education Week, parents mistakenly “see career preparation in K-12, as well as career and technical education, as a second-tier option for students who are not college ready. In fact, 42 percent of educators surveyed cited the perception that schools are supposed to get students ready for college—not work—as one of the biggest barriers to offering curricula to address the skills students will need for the jobs of the future.”

The fact of the matter is, not every student wants to go to college. There are numerous reasons why. 

Some students may not have the requisite grades or they may not be able to afford tens of thousands of dollars of student fees. Many students may already be willing and able to join the workforce. 

Many high school students, earning certificates and credentials in certain career fields can make just as much, if not more, than those graduating with a bachelor’s degree from college. 

Nowadays, there are a variety of occupations available for students to pursue straight out of high school.

By implementing future planning software in your schools, you can keep those students who aren’t college bound, engaged and excited about future planning as well.

6. Find the Right Future Planning Software Program

Not all career planning tools are created equal. Make sure you do your research to assess the right program for your district before you decide to introduce it to educators and students. 

There are many EdTech implementations within school districts that fail because the user interface is too difficult to manage for either the teacher, students, or both. 

If it is too challenging for a middle school student to navigate or if the user experience fails to engage students, then it’s not the right software for your school.

And as most schools within a district will want to continue using the same future planning software program, it should be engaging for students of all ages. 

According to a recent article by Education Week, high school students believe that while their schools are preparing them for college, their classes are not preparing them for the world of work. 

It is thus, imperative, that when you decide to implement a future readiness tool within your district, you ensure the solution is helping students prepare for the world of work. 

The right future planning software program will not only help determine what skills and abilities a student has as well as their likes and dislikes, but will also open their eyes to the many possible career paths they didn’t even know they could pursue. 

With the right EdTech software, you are sure to keep students engaged and excited about future planning. So choose wisely.

Ryan Crawley
ABOUT RYAN

Ryan Crawley is a journalist, educator, and health and fitness fanatic that currently makes his home in Illinois. Having spent more than a decade in the wonderful world of education as a Reading Specialist, Technology Instructor, and classroom teacher, he has experienced it all. In his free moments, he likes to write books for children that will hopefully be on shelves in the near future. Connect with Ryan at ryancrawley54@gmail.com.