Empower students to tell their personal story and boost application strength with Xello

Empower students to tell their personal story and boost application strength with Xello

One goal of K-12 education unites educators, parents, and students. That goal is to prepare students to have a productive and meaningful life. College and career readiness (CCR) helps students meet that goal. Part of that requires students to be able to genuinely tell their story.

How can educators empower students to tell their stories and prepare for college, careers, and life? For our October Roundtable, we welcomed Stephen Soderback, High School CCR Director, Vista High School, CA, Jennifer Park, CCR & CTE Counselor, Gadsden ISD, NM, and Matthew A. Fritzius, CTE Curriculum Supervisor, Broward County Public Schools, FL.

Here are a few tips they offered that can help students!

Empower students from a young age and throughout K-12

Young people need to feel empowered and make their own decisions. Telling them what they should want to do and how to do it is a recipe for chaos. The earlier students are empowered to make decisions – with guidance from educators and family – the better off they are.

From a young age, students can begin to think about what they want to do in the future. “We’re working with our lead elementary counselor to start career exploration with Xello early and really build out the scope and sequence to match what we do in the middle and high school,” says Jennifer, who’s district in New Mexico serves 13,000 students. The student population is about 90% Hispanic, and 80% of our students are English language learners, and about 75% fall in or qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Students grow and change their minds regularly. Few know what they want to do in 10th grade, let alone middle school. “The students are young and learning about what they want to do,” she says. “The Xello assessments are so helpful because they don’t just give students the assessment but provide an opportunity to adjust answers, take another set of questions because obviously they’re going to change as they get older.” At Gatson, they start this process in 7th grade.

Another way to empower students is through their internships. They can figure out their interests by their experiences.

At Broward County Public Schools in Florida, which has 200 plus schools and serves 250,000 students, juniors are encouraged to pursue internships. To do so, the district insists they complete a variety of lessons to demonstrate readiness for the internship. The goal, according to Matthew A. Fritzius, the district’s CTE Supervisor, is to start the lessons in middle school and sprinkle them through high school.

Broward County is introducing Xello’s career planning tool to middle school students. Before students start thinking about internships, they need to determine what high school to go to since Broward is a choice district.

“As early as middle school, we expose students to the various different high school programs that exist,” says Fritzius. When students determine what career interests them, it makes picking the right school much easier.

Students can also consider long-term possibilities with Xello. “One of the things that I absolutely love about the Xello platform is the local labor market data where students can see what the job outlook looks like in a particular field and the salary range,” he says.

Put the story in writing

Whether the next path is more schooling or the work world, students need to tell their story through a resume. But how can students open a door with their resume when they have little experience?

“Building a resume is daunting for our students,” Park says. “Many put their education on the resume, but they don’t know what to do after that.” It’s like when family ask their students, “What did you do in school today?” The typical answer is nothing, but that’s certainly not true. Students don’t know what they don’t know. Therefore, they don’t realize they have other things that would be appropriate for their resume.

Our program has multiple features that make this task less overwhelming for students. Xello’s digital portfolios let students create and share digital work across subjects and reflect on what they’ve learned. The portfolio is accessible within Xello, so students, teachers, and families will get a more comprehensive view of a student’s learning.

Educators can give students the option to create shareable links to their portfolios. The links can then be viewed by colleges, employers, or members of the community.

“The portfolio is like a next generation resume,” says Soderback, whose California-based high school has 2,000 students. “There’s lots of places in Xello to be able to track and document past student experiences.”

Xello’s Resume Builder makes it easy for students to take valuable information they’ve learned about themselves through assessments and self-reflection and turn it into a professional resume. There are tips and samples on every page to guide students in the do’s and don’ts of writing a stand-out resume.

As they fill out each section of their resume using content already entered in the About Me section, they have the option to add new skills, interests, or experiences. New content is then synced and saved to their About Me profile. At any point, they’re able to readjust the order of the sections so they can put their most relevant skills and experiences first.

“Xello gives students the ability to keep track of their activities and volunteer experiences so they can tell not only the academic story but their career development story as it goes forward,” Soderback says. It’s their story, and it’s saved in an easy-to-review format. Students can draw on it and present it to potential employers, schools of interest, and more.

“Our students have been able to save their experiences and skills and apply it to their future work opportunities,” Park says. “It’s amazing when they start building their resumes because they can just start typing things in and then there are suggestions to add that can help them stand out.”

These days, employers focus on soft skills. “Employers are much more interested in someone they can mold and has the attitude and the approach they’re looking for than a laundry list of technical skills,” says Fritzius.

“I think the information provided about careers within Xello gives students a leg up right out of the gate,” Park says. “They build that prior understanding careers even before they choose to pursue it and have a career focus and goal that they can articulate.”

Engage students and educators

Getting students excited and engaged in CCR and Xello seems like it should be a slam dunk. Yet, like all new tasks, both parties need to be bought in before they feel engaged.

This is especially true for educators, bogged down with many responsibilities and pressures. To engage and excite the staff about a new procedure, champions are needed. Having someone (or multiple people) on campus to promote and sell the technology is essential. The champion encourages those reluctant users to engage and helps as needed.

Besides having a person available to help, there’s Xello Academy. Whether for new teachers learning about the program or veterans looking to brush up, the self-paced courses help educators integrate Xello into instruction. The courses are comprehensive and interactive, and information is presented in a clear sequence to ensure all participants master learning objectives.

To encourage educators to engage in Xello Academy, teachers get PD hours for using it, which is essential for retaining licensing.

Soderback suggests having a PD with instructors and counselors to ensure they understand the platform. “Have them play with their own profile and their own assessments, so they understand what the tool is about and the different features.”

Park has educators log into a student account at the same grade level that most of their students are in and then walk them through the lesson step by step. “I think people were excited when we rolled it out because they were able to do that, use a demo student account. They got to do their Matchmaker, and sometimes it showed them that they were in the right career, and that got them excited.”

How does that excitement get transferred to students? First, they need training. Soderback has an initial meeting with all the students. He takes the students through all the assessments and sets up a preliminary plan with them. “You need to be able to have students engage and be led through directly for that process.”

Starting slowly and taking it step by step with students is also helpful. Finally, incorporating Xello and CCR into every class rather than making it a separate class conveys the message that this is a worthwhile and necessary program.

Ultimately, students realize that Xello and CCR help their future, and it behooves them to engage in the program.

The future is both a scary and exciting place. Students are more prepared for their future path with a good CCR program. It helps them tell their story and determine their direction.

To learn more about how Xello’s features can help students tell their story, check out our October Roundtable.