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Article: School-to-Career: Structuring your visit to a classroom
by Ralph Manak, BaySCAN
Appeared in the North Bay Multimedia Association's September, 1999 Multimedia Reporter

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©1999 BaySCAN


School-to-Career: Structuring your visit to a classroom
by Ralph Manak

This is the second in a series of articles exploring ideas and practical applications in "school-to-career."

This month we'll take a look at ways of sharing your professional experiences with students in a classroom setting. One of the main reasons to share your career story with students-of any age-is to develop greater awareness of the range of careers they might explore. In a recent study released by Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network and A.T. Kearney, the careers "best understood" by 8th and 11th graders were lawyer and doctor/nurse, followed by farmer and administrative assistant. When asked "What do you think is the 'coolest' job in Silicon Valley?" over 49% of the same students "didn't know." The reasons for students' limited awareness are beyond the scope of this article, but suffice to say that the students themselves are not to blame. Furthermore, industry professionals who participate in the STC system can help turn around the "workforce gap" situation while also improving students' overall education.

Awareness-building activities, such as visiting a classroom, provide low-overhead access to the STC system. One of the best ways to promote greater awareness is simply to interact with students, but to do so in a structured way that maximizes the impact of the time you spend with them. How you and the teacher organize the presentation can make a big difference in what the students get out of it. For example, it's one thing to give a talk in a show-and-tell format, another to share some products of your work, and yet another to share some of your actual practice through engaging students in an activity. In any case, a discussion with the teacher about how the class is normally run can reveal ways of working with the students get them interested and involved-which leads to more fun for the presenter, too.

Here are some ideas to help you get started:

Tell your story. The personal story of "how you got to where you are today" is a good introduction that gives a human side to the job while also sparking students' imaginations. Important and nearly universal themes (that illustrate the need for flexibility and a reliable process for decision-making) include "I started to do x but wound up doing y;" and, "I set a goal and made progress until I accomplished it-and more happened along the way."

Brainstorm about students' current understanding and expectations. As way to involve students while also giving you a window into their current experience and perspective, short brainstorming sessions are one of the best ways to build a dynamic rapport with a class. Ask the teacher or a student to record all the contributions. These sessions should be short and to the point-they will provide many touchstones for the rest of your presentation, if not a framework for it and how you will work with the class.

Bring examples of partial or completed work and guide students through a critique process. While this could be a whole-class discussion, working with small-groups might help ensure that all students participate. The teacher can co-faciliate the process. Goals include modeling for students how professionals work through design and constraint issues and raising awareness about what makes for good design.

Challenge students with a problem to solve. This could be an actual problem you are working on. Provide some tools or resources and give students an example of their use-and possibly a description of what goes into a successful solution. Students can "rapid prototype" solutions for which you can provide feedback. Or, you could provide a "case study" about a typical problem faced by you and your colleagues. This could be a design problem, or even something about the client relationship or team dynamics. Students could respond with their best advice on how to resolve the situation.

Next Month: Visits to your site!

Related Links:
Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network's Workforce Study:

It takes employers, students, and teachers working together to build an effective STC system. The local STC partnerships have the tools to help employers get started; please contact them for more information. If you have your own ideas for getting involved, please contact Ralph Manak at the Bay Area School-to-Career Action Network (BaySCAN).

Camille Madfes, Marin County STC Partnership
   415-897-4201 ext 235 |
Helen Ramstad, Sonoma County STC Partnership
   707-524-2851 |
Ralph Manak, BaySCAN Multimedia Network
   415-507-6233 |