Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Career Plans Online

Education is supposed to prepare them for "the real world", but how much actually accomplishes that? Do kids even care about their future after school? I think that if we helped give students a way to see what their lifestyles might look like, it could potentially help them make better decisions along the way: what courses to take, how to get involved in their community, and what kind of formal education to pursue after high school (if any).

I've been working on a project at work called the Career Plan Builder. It's the first step toward letting students practice creating possible lifestyles, including careers, education and a few other lifestyle factors like where they want to live and what their family might look like.

I've always thought it would be cool to start up my own little shop collecting old mini-bikes and dirt bikes like the ones I grew up on, fixing them up and then selling them on eBay. So I made built that into a plan that would be a radical departure from what I'm doing...but it might actually suit me surprisingly well.

More in upshifting mode, I've often figured that I should have pursued industrial-organizational psychology -- the plan might look something like this:

The funny thing about these options is that they seem less audacious once you see them assembled into a whole plan. Anything is possible, right? I don't know if these plans will have the same effect on the tens of thousands of students who will use the application this year, but I'm excited about the possibilities.

In addition to the process of creating these plans, students get an action plan which shows them what steps would be required to make their plans happen. They then assess how likely the plan is to become their future and can print or e-mail them to friends and family. Ideally, these things are conversation starters, engaging families in a more realistic discussion of what a student will do after school. As part of a e-portfolio, this component extends what a student has been learning and projects their identity out into the future.

To make this concept really sing, I'd like to integrate elements of social software to get kids sharing their plans with like-minded kids, reflecting on the process with blogs and other tools, connecting with mentors, and receiving news and information feeds related to their plans. And the obvious next steps beyond these rudimentary visualizations of their plans would be interactive timelines, dynamic graphical representations of each plan...and the ultimate dream...real-time simulation to let students actually try out their future lifestyle and career. Ahh, the future.

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