To help middle- and high-school students learn about the 21st-century jobs awaiting them and take charge of their own education, Microsoft’s U.S. Partners in Learning program has unveiled a free online course called CareerForward.

The project aims to get students thinking about what they want to do with their lives, what types of careers they might want to pursue, and what skills and training they’ll need to succeed, Microsoft said.

Microsoft developed CareerForward in partnership with the Michigan Department of Education and Michigan Virtual University. The program, announced at Microsoft’s fourth annual School of the Future World Summit in Seattle earlier this month, is available to any U.S. student free of charge.

Students, teachers, and schools can implement the program either through classroom-based instruction or on students’ own time, individually. According to Microsoft, students who take the CareerForward course will be better prepared to embrace the global, 21st-century workplace by learning more about globalization, career planning, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship.

The course is organized into four modules, each of which addresses certain questions. It asks students to think about their own interests, abilities, and values, and it encourages them to explore job titles, identify their social network, and assess their ability to manage money.

CareerForward takes a multimedia approach to learning that includes video clips, internet research, and interactive tools. These tools encourage students to write their initial thoughts and then see how their thinking has changed throughout the course, Microsoft said.

"Students and the career choices they make are critical to the talent pipeline and future business prosperity in the U.S.," said Anthony Salcito, general manager of U.S. public-sector education at Microsoft. "CareerForward encourages the development of a skilled workforce, as it helps young citizens explore global opportunities and recognize the importance in jobs of the future."

More than 250 education policy leaders from more than 30 countries attended Microsoft’s world education summit this year, where attendees learned how their colleagues around the world are embracing change, incorporating educational technology, and partnering with the private sector.

"Educators today face many economic and political challenges, including decreases in funding in tough economic climates as well as the pressure to generate performance results that allow students to compete on a global stage," said Mary Cullinane, director of innovation for Microsoft’s U.S. public-sector education business. "This event push[ed] people to collaboratively address new ways of thinking and provide specific strategies to implement within their local context, allowing them to turn possibilities into reality."

Opening keynote speaker Martin Bean urged educators to adapt to students’ tech use. According to Bean, who is the head of marketing and business development for Microsoft’s education products group, schools are not adapting to students’ digital lifestyles–and students are tuning out as a result.

"Our end users [students] feel that the actual system in which they are forced to [learn] is so disconnected from the world they live in," he said.

Bean cited a U.S. Department of Education report from 2004, "Toward a New Golden Age in American Education–How the Internet, the Law, and Today’s Students are Revolutionizing Expectations," suggesting that while most students believe education is important, few think it meets their needs.

"America’s students are our ultimate constituents. We need to listen to them. They have demonstrated that they have a better understanding of the intricacies and opportunities presented by the technological revolution than many of their elders, notably including a generation of teachers and administrators who did not have the advantage of growing up with the internet," says the report.

Bean said the internet, mobile phones, text messaging, and other technologies are second nature for K-12 students in the digital age, and schools need to look for new ways to incorporate these technologies into the educational process.

"That horse is out of the barn, and it is unstoppable," he said. "We better figure out a way to harness and do something meaningful with it."
 
Links:

CareerForward

School of the Future World Summit

Microsoft Partners in Learning

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Online Learning for High School Success resource center. Preventing high school dropouts has become a key focus of education stakeholders and government officials across the country, as the skills taught in high school are imperative to students’ success. But with online credit recovery programs and virtual learning becoming more accessible to more students, many are able to regain momentum and graduate with high school diplomas. Go to: Online Learning for High School Success


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