Sunday, 17 October 2010

Careers practitioners should inhabit rather than colonise the web

People turn to the net to find what they need to know about working life, and that includes learning about the world of work, career opportunities, places to study and and train.

The web contains (according to one estimate) 23 billion pages of information, indexed by Google. That amounts to an enormously complex haystack of information, opinions and viewpoints. Today's seeker of career advice faces an unprecedented range of influences - good & bad, inspiring, off puting, up-to-date, out-of-date, misleading, insightful or just plain wrong.

In his recent pamphlet "Career-learning thinking for contemporary working life", Bill Law outlines the view that Advisers can and should be helping clients scrutinise and probe the information they find on the web.

Bill's view is that we, as career practitioners should inhabit the net rather than colonise it with our exclusive expertise. Rather than ignoring the places on the web where people are already conversing about career questions, it is very tempting to set up our own specialist websites as expert enclaves.

Some of my colleagues have been trying this inhabitation strategy! They are delivering advice and guidance directly through Facebook to their teenage clients. The reception has been very encouraging, and there have been good results in terms of engaging with harder to reach young people, and gaining positive outcomes - i.e. into work and training.

When you look at some of the career related advice and views people express on Facebook, or in Yahoo Answers, or all sorts of other forums, you could stand back and feel outraged and want nothing to do with it. Alternatively you could respect the alternative nature of some of the advice on offer, (it's never going to be the same as our beloved expert authored career leaflets) and start joining in conversations and work with clients to help them improve their ability to evaluate, question and challenge.

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Monday, 24 May 2010

Young opposed to web guidance

I've heard lots of people referring to this article from Children and Young People Now, which reported on research by NICEC/CfBT into adviser skills and practice in web guidance.

After reading the executive summary of the research, I have to say I thought this an odd conclusion for CYP Now to reach. It's out of kilter with other surveys - for example Habbo just published research from 5,300 young people indicating that 72% would be happy to declare a brand their friend on the site. Even Razorfish's survey found 40% of adults were happy to declare a brand their friend on Facebook. And within the NICEC/CfBT Executive Summary the researchers stated: "young people think that internet-based services could be an effective way of delivering guidance services more flexibly and effectively in the future.”

The full version of the NICEC/CfBT research is now available, and having contacted Jenny Bimrose, one of the report's authors, I can confirm the CYP Now story is pure journalistic spin! It seems one young person commented they would not like Facebook used for careers advice and that they saw it as their own personal social space. The press picked up on this, and made a very different story with a message almost completely opposite of that which seems to come from the content of the research!

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

10 ways to support higher education applicants

Earlier in January John Morgan, President of a prominent teaching union in the UK was quoted as saying: "All the modern student needs is open transparent information about all aspects of the course, including its wage earning potential and actual job prospects, based on past graduates. Social networks will do the rest."

Take a look at the peer to peer advice requested and offered on popular sites like The Student Room or Yahoo Answers. You may come away shocked at the eagerness with which learners bypass career advice professionals and get answers from their peer group. This starts to look less shocking when you see the convenience factor - you can ask a question more or less anonymously, at any time of the day or night, and get answers almost instantly.

The quality however may leave something to be desired in some cases. But you can often detect real insight and advice based on personal, current experience, which any careers professional couldn't possibly get close to.

All this said, I don't think the role of careers teacher or adviser is quite redundant yet!

Here are ten roles I believe we can take on, which offer important support to our students in their university applications:

1. Explorer: Finding out about what’s out there. Trying it for yourself. Subscribing to expert blogs, or just using StumbleUpon to discover cool tools and sites.
2. Reviewer: Sharing your personal assessment of the suitability and value of what you find. Use social bookmarking tools like Delicious, or start your own blog.
3.Producer: Making your own content, through blogs, video clips and audio podcasts. Get a FLIP video camera, upload clips to YouTube, or podcast using radioinschools online studio, or Audacity.
4. Networker: Understand social networking processes. Learn about others experience and interests, and make referrals, or requests on behalf of clients. Visit Flowork to learn more, join Linkedin, network with fellow career professionals, set up a Facebook Fan Page for your institution.
5. Safety officer: Understand internet safety. Advise on safe social web use. Challenge risky behaviour online. Visit CEOP and Thinkuknow websites. Get training.
6. Intelligence Officer: Identify opportunities and intelligence sources, set up and monitor feeds on topics of interest. Help others create their own monitoring systems. Learn to consume RSS feeds using iGoogle, Google reader or other tools.
7.Tutor / Coach: Help students develop skills of online search, analysis and evaluation in the context of careers and labour market information. Encourage students online activity and model effective approaches. Help students with advanced search techniques, champion digital literacy in the curriculum, and be present online.
8. Curator: Manage, or commission your own online careers information resources/portal/ learning space. Start a virtual careers centre Create space on your VLE, start wikis or forums for students to share their research. Involve your Connexions Personal Advisers, or Careers Advisers/Counsellors.
9. Equalities Officer: Challenge stereotypes, and foster diversity and inclusion. The social web has created a platform for old prejudices, discrimination, and behaviour which can undo the work of those promoting equality and diversity in education and employment.
10. Guide: Signposting learners to appropriate / best content or people. Help individuals find their way to the best tools and resources for their needs.

Just when you thought your job was reducing in scope! Another ten hats!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Failure proof goal setting

It's that time of year when talk turns to our goals and resolutions. And like an old record, there are those stories telling us our good intentions are mislplace, since the majority of new year resolutions are (as this Guardian newspaper article suggests) "doomed to failure".

But at any time of year, those planning their careers, seeking jobs or course opportunities, or simply wanting to improve aspects of their life, can benefit from goal setting.

The things is - how to make them failure-proof? Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire found in research that those who succeeded in achieving their goals, adopted several strategies:

* They broke goals down into smaller achievable steps or focussed on just one goal at a time
* They kept a diary of their progress
* They told their friends about how they were getting on with their goals
* They had a positive focus to their goals rather than a negative one

There are many online tools to use for goal setting. Some are free, others require subscription. Two of the best I have found are inpowr and lifetick.

Inpowr has an excellent self-assessment tool, which will remind those with coaching experience of the "Life Wheel", or UK careers advisers of the "APIR assessment". It helps identify areas where you may want to set goals. It uses a "tag cloud" to help you think of goals you could set yourself, based on what other users have set themselves. It then connects you with those other users, through community features for mutual support and discussion online.

Lifetick is a subscription product, although the free version has most of the same features, including an Iphone version. The main difference is that you can only work on 4 goals at a time. I like Lifetick's approach which first gets you to think about your values, and then links goals to specific values. The process is more sophisticated than Inpowr, and there are on-screen prompts to help you set SMART goals. The reporting features and goal tracking are extensive.

Happy goal setting!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Virtual School Counselling/Career advice

It's interesting to see new models of teaching appearing, and that alongside online learning, there is an emerging need for virtual career advice and counselling support. Dr Erin Berry-Sams spoke at the INACOL Virtual Schools Synposium in November 2009. She has 3,000 online learners in her care at Virtual Virginia. She offers virtual career and school counselling services to them.

Erin described the Functions of virtual school counsellor, and a distinction from the face to face school counsellor. Face to face school counsellors may not be fully aware of what supplemental courses actually involve. This is where the virtual school counsellor may come in. This role may help a student where issues are connected with the virtual course.

The Virtual Schools counsellor may offer:
• Individual counselling (in conjunction with local face to face counsellors)
• Academic and career counselling
• Group counselling
• Consultation (e.g. with teachers when students have special needs)
• Curriculum and classroom guidance
• Systems support

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Virtual Schools


At the end of last year, several thousand delegates gathered at the Inacol Virtual Schools Symposium to share ideas and learn more about the rapidly developing area of virtual school education in the United States.

Susan Patrick, INACOL President gave an insightful keynote. She predicts a global shortage of teachers over next 10 years. 70% of US school districts offer at least 1 online course. 45 have policies and state-wide programs. Online learning is reaching 1% of student population. In 2005 around 20,000 K-12 (5-18 year olds) made online course enrolments, but in 2009 that has already topped 1m. Florida Virtual School is a leader in the field and has 154,000 student enrolments.

27 states allow full time online learning. Virtual schools are being used for meeting the needs of students getting back on track, for gifted students to take more advanced courses (e.g. Stanford University online programme) and helping students develop skills for future.

In Turkey 15m students have used online education systems developed by ministry of education. Australia is aiming to provide a laptop for every high school student.
India – would need 200,000 new schools to cope with population demands, so want to use virtual instead.

In China – 100m virtual school students are anticipated in next 10 years.
Singapore closes down its physical schools for one week a year so teachers and pupils can use virtual learning instead. All educators are trained to use such collaborative teaching approaches. The country is wanting to ensure continuity of learning in the face of potential pandemics – e.g. H1N1(Swine Flu).

Reasons for continued growth:
1. Online learning expands options to study courses otherwise unavailable.
2. Online learning growing rapidly (30% annually) in the US.
3. Many research studies show online learning can be as effective or better when compared with face to face study.
4. Achieving equity in teacher distribution.
5. Supporting struggling schools, and a new model for sharing access to the best teachers.

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