Cool Tool | 2VR

2vr-stimuli-usWhen 2VR was originally invented, the primary focus was mobility, yet as time passes, its significance begins to morph into something more. It becomes about access to information at any moment, anywhere you are. Today, our students have a wealth of knowledge in their pockets; smartphones give access to photos, video, and text like never before. One medium missing in this level of instant access is virtual reality. VR in didactic settings is not only informative, but also exploratory; no longer does the picture frame tell you what to see. Instead, you have 360 degrees of viewing to fully immerse yourself in a whole new world. The content available is incredible: one moment you’re on a safari in Africa, the next you are flying through space. Once students enter VR, each student ‘teleports’ to a new world of information. This amazing moment is priceless. That’s why 2VR is providing wholesale prices to schools and other teaching and learning environments. If you’re interested in bringing 2VR to your school, email them and they will set up a special deal for your class. Learn more.

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World of Work

A leading technology company helps students align their strengths, interests, and values.

GUEST COLUMN | by Christi Cline

credit-qualcomm-thinkabit-labAccording to the U.S. Department of Labor, 65 percent of today’s students will be employed in jobs that haven’t been created yet. How can students prepare for and aspire to work in a career they don’t know exists?

As a company that employs thousands of engineers and computer scientists who invent mobile technologies, the future of Qualcomm is dependent on continuous innovation, which requires creative minds and top talent. Given the competitiveness of the mobile industry, we feel it is imperative to increase awareness about STEM career paths, as well as inspire students to pursue STEM-related education. This is why we created the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab – part makerspace, part lab and classroom – and have served more than 8,000 students and educators since opening in 2014.

No one is able to predict what the jobs of the future will be, so it is essential that individuals build a strong educational base and identify their unique talents so they can be best prepared for the future of work.

A core part of the Thinkabit Lab experience is the Qualcomm World of Work (QWOW). During each QWOW session, students gain exposure to different types of engineering careers, such as software, hardware, systems, as well as non-engineering careers needed to support technology companies, such as finance, marketing and human resources.

QWOW also assists students with identifying their unique talents and how they can be applied to a real-world career. Top tech companies need a variety of skills to be successful. Through our activities, we show students that there is a place for them in the world, and that their talents are needed. Our QWOW exercise allows students to uncover their strengths and connect them to meaningful careers.

Career exploration can begin in a student’s younger years or as an adult. This approach has guided my mission as a founding member of Thinkabit: to expose more students and educators to the world of work and the idea of self-development.

This method has been key to my professional success. I have had three separate careers throughout my adult life. My early years as a public school teacher and then a manager in hospitality would not have automatically led me to predict that I would work at a leading technology company. However, I recognized my passion for creating career development experiences, facilitating educator trainings and leading marketing efforts – and now work my dream job at Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab as a leader of the QWOW experience.

The QWOW approach has been impactful with participants of all ages. The QWOW experience has included employees going through our Career Explorations program, veterans, college interns and Thinkabit participants. In fact, approximately 90 percent of veterans that went through QWOW found employment after learning more about their strengths, interests and values.

In our experience working with employees, veterans, and students ranging from middle school to grad school, we found that it is important that every worker and student learn to manage and own their career through self-awareness and ongoing identification of opportunities. No one is able to predict what the jobs of the future will be, so it is essential that individuals build a strong educational base and identify their unique talents so they can be best prepared for the future of work.

Our efforts not only seek to spark interest and motivate people to encourage students to self-explore but also expose them to the wonders of STEM-related careers. Incorporating these lessons in school will not only better prepare students for 21st century careers but also increase high-skilled jobs in the U.S. and maintain American competitiveness. We’re passionate about helping the next generation learn to invent, innovate, identify career opportunities, and explore what’s possible in the world of work.

Christi Cline is a senior career development specialist for Qualcomm, Inc., where she works as program manager and career coach for Workforce Development Labs programs, responsible for leading implementation and experiences for Hire-A-Youth, the Qualcomm World of Work, and the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab.

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Education’s HR Tech

Can technology help tackle our looming teacher shortage?

GUEST COLUMN | by Sarah Silverman

credit-teachiowa-govApplications for teaching certificates are on the decline, as are enrollments in traditional teacher preparation programs. Conventional wisdom among state leaders says that teacher shortages present an impending catastrophe. States are scrambling to increase emergency certifications or, in some cases, lower the barrier of entry into the profession entirely.

The data suggest that this looming crisis reflects more than just the latest ebb in a multi-year cycle – it is a sign of deeper structural shifts that could affect education’s most vital resource for years to come. As the challenge evolves, we may have to think differently about the systems that enable schools and districts to identify and develop human capital. These shifts also mean that education’s own version of HR tech will have to play a bigger role. Here’s why:

We Need Better Data

Teacher shortages are not uniform across the K-12 spectrum—or even regionally. And state and local leaders just don’t have the data to understand what type of shortages exist. One recent study in Oklahoma projected an overall shortage of teachers, but masked the surplus among elementary educators and even more differences in geographic supply. The state nonetheless issued 1,063 emergency certificates in SY15-16.

As the human capital demands of districts and schools evolve and skills gaps loom large, outmoded forms of data collection and back-of-the-envelope approaches to talent management need to change.

As more and more school and district leaders implement digital recruiting and management systems that mirror those used by the Fortune 1000, they are able to pinpoint needs, track trends over time, and manage hiring processes in ways that efficiently move educators from recruitment through screening into a meaningful talent management cycle.

Efforts to gather better data can pay off. Minnesota recently collaborated with the state support center Regional Education Laboratory Midwest to refine its required Teacher Supply and Demand report by asking more actionable research questions. The report led to better insights into key certification needs in the state and resulted in the legislature modifying certificate reciprocity policies so teachers who received credentials in other states could more easily begin teaching in Minnesota.  

Application Management Matters

Poor application management processes can destroy an otherwise healthy candidate pool and result in a weaker teaching force. Today, district hiring processes are often circuitous or lack transparency as a result of contract-based hiring rules.

Done well, Application Management technology will help districts to more effectively and efficiently fill their most critical vacancies. States are also getting into the mix through initiatives like TeachIowa, which plays a matchmaking role between candidates and opportunities and is helping to professionalize the experience of identifying and onboarding teacher talent.

Removing unnecessary efficiency barriers isn’t always difficult, but it does require careful planning and commitment. It also requires effective technology tools that keep educators engaged throughout the process and help hiring leaders understand their options in order to maximize fit. Reliable application tracking systems, connected with the other components of human capital management, can both make this change feasible and raise the bar for schools and districts.

Toward Integrated Talent Management

For the first time, technology is enabling school districts to integrate historically disparate systems (HR, recruitment, professional development) into comprehensive talent management platforms that can help school and district leaders understand and manage the lifecycle of a teacher – from recruiting and application to evaluation and delivery of personalized, high-quality development opportunities.

Teacher shortages, coupled with new federal guidelines for professional development, are heightening demand for technologies that integrate applicant tracking systems with evaluation and development tools to help district leaders understand teacher supply and better align it with demand. Aggregated at the state level, talent management platforms generate data to help policymakers understand what’s working – and remove the guesswork at the school or district level to make development expenditures more effective.

Integrated systems are also providing unprecedented insight into professional growth over time, as well as critical information on engagement and school climate that may be used to predict average length of tenure and likelihood that educators will remain in a school or choose to leave.

As the human capital demands of districts and schools evolve and skills gaps loom large, outmoded forms of data collection and back-of-the-envelope approaches to talent management need to change. Technology can play a critical role in supporting the new needs of teachers, leaders, districts, and states. By partnering with state and district leaders, entrepreneurs can help to answer critical questions, close efficiency gaps, and even support best practice in talent management. The opportunities to innovate are endless, but the need to solve today’s operational challenges is urgent.

Sarah Silverman is Vice President of Whiteboard Advisors, a DC-based education policy consulting firm.

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Cool Tool | Smartick

credit-smartickHere’s a cool online math learning methodology and practice application for students ages four to fourteen. Nearly 25,000 children from 53 countries have used the Smartick Method to learn math skills and concepts, and improve their reasoning skills and reading comprehension. This methodology includes highly-focused, short bursts of practice (15 minutes daily) with lessons that continually adapt to a child’s needs. The design of the application offers encouragement and positive reinforcement, helping kids learn to love math. The proven method ensures each student’s understanding of mathematical skills with a customized and personalized curriculum, accelerates their learning, and develops their maximum capabilities, leading to a comfort with math conducive to learning even more. The application is also designed to complement classroom math lessons. In addition to helping parents and teachers promote the development of math skills by leveraging engaging interactive tools, it helps improve a child’s reasoning skills, reading comprehension and “softer skills” like self-confidence, discipline, study habits, ability to focus, and self-learning capabilities. Incorporating global best practices from learning methodologies, such as JUMP, Singapore Math, Jo Boaler and traditional Japanese methods, the program combines with findings from research conducted at leading learning institutions such as Harvard and Chicago University. Learn more.

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Cool Tool | CollegeVine Mentorship Program

credit-collegevineFact: The average public high schooler will share a single guidance counselor with 471 other students (in stark contrast to the extensive, personalized attention given their private school peers). Recognizing this, CollegeVine, formerly Admissions Hero, has unveiled a new tool designed to help: The CollegeVine Mentorship Program. Combining a network of highly trained near-peer counselors with proprietary algorithms, the program pairs high school students with personal mentors as they navigate the often challenging road to higher education. Incorporating a digital platform and real-time communications to connect teens with top-notch guidance across the country, the program draws on the expertise of successful, hand-picked college students already enrolled at the nation’s top universities. It works because these mentors are not only keenly aware of the nuances and pressures of the transition from high school to college having just walked that road themselves, but they also speak a common language. In other words, they just “get it.” CollegeVine’s near-peer mentors—roughly 200 college students representing 20 different majors, substantial extracurricular experiences, and far-ranging success—impart guidance on everything from academic and extracurricular advising to admissions insights, rapport-building and stress management. This blueprint for the future gives parents of public high school students a way to help their kids compete and find success without breaking the bank. Learn more.

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