CareerMash Toolbox: Ideas for discovering careers in the classroom

Here are some lesson plan ideas to get students talking about the variety of tech careers. Discover a new mashup today.


CareerMash bulletIdea: NASA's Eyes on the Solar System

NASA offers a wealth of aerospace-related educational resources for teachers and students, perhaps the most impressive of which is their Eyes on the Solar System application. The app gives global citizens a chance to navigate the solar system in 3D directly from their web browsers! All you need to do is click on “Explore the Solar System” and enable the Java applet when the system prompts you to do so.

The website offers an instructional video and a series of tutorials to introduce students to the interface, which is accessible from a Mac or PC. Once they’re comfortable, students can click on one of the feature missions, such as Mission Juno, which is en route to Jupiter. Alternatively, students can do self-directed exploration by clicking on “Explore the Solar System”, simulating examination from space of objects such as planets, moons, dwarf planets, asteroids, comets, the sun, and NASA’s own spacecraft.

Our recommendation? Try out the feature on the Mars Curiosity Landing to let students relive the excitement of this summer’s Curiosity spacecraft landing on Mars. Students can speed up or slow down the navigation while keeping their eyes on measurements such as distance and altitude. A number of assessments could be constructed around this resource, but it would also work well as an exploratory exercise or a complement for space-related research projects.

Eyes on the Solar System is an excellent visual introduction to space travel for uninitiated students. It is a great educational resource for teachers of Science (particularly Grade 12 Earth and Space Science) and Technological Education (particularly Grade 10-12 Technological Design and Transportation Technology).

CareerMash bulletIdea: Create a LinkedIn Profile

Summer is the perfect time to create a profile on LinkedIn – the social media site for professionals. While July is late in the game to find a summer job, any student with or without a summertime gig can benefit from building a presence on LinkedIn. Even students who have never held a job or volunteer position can outline courses they’ve taken, extra-curricular involvement, and skills they’ve developed. They can also solicit recommendations from teachers, coaches, or other adults they know.

This month’s CareerMash Toolbox is a downloadable PDF tip sheet that walks students through the steps involved in creating a profile and developing a contact network on the go-to social media site for career building. This tip sheet builds on a blog post about LinkedIn for students, which they may also want to read before getting started. Feel free to share this on your school website or social media sites!

CareerMash bulletIdea: Technology and Business Retrospective

If a job candidate’s skill-set combines business and technology, chances are they will be in high demand in today’s job market. It hasn’t always been this way, but over the last few decades, technology has become the driving force behind businesses in every industry. To help your students learn more about how tech has revolutionized business, why not have them find out from someone who’s been around to watch those changes happen?

Ask your students to pick an adult in their lives to interview. The ideal adult for this assignment has spent the majority of their working life within the same industry or type of career. It’s best (but not required) that this adult not work in the technology industry, to show students the many ways that all jobs have been affected by tech. At your discretion, you can also request that the chosen adult’s industry aligns with the content of your course.

Have students ask the following questions of their interviewee:

  1. Name, title, organization, and basic job description.
  2. How do you use technology in your day-to-day work (e.g. What hardware do you use? Which software programs? What do you use them to achieve?)
  3. What new uses of technology have been introduced by your business or line of work over the last 20 years? The last 10 years? The last 5 years?
  4. Are there any roles on your team or in your organization that didn’t exist 15-20 years ago, before new technologies were introduced?
  5. Have you ever taken mandatory training on how to use a new or existing type of technology? If so, what was it for?
  6. How has technology made your job, or your team’s job, easier?
  7. How has technology made your job, or your team’s job, more difficult?

Once the interviews are completed, split students into groups of three or four. Have students discuss their results with group members and identify as many common threads as they can among their answers.  For example -- all interviewees use spreadsheets to report to their bosses; all interviewees have taken mandatory training on social media; all interviewees feel technology has made it more difficult for them to achieve work/life balance because they are constantly connected. (If common threads are sparse, simply have them identify the answers they feel are most striking or surprising.) Have each group share the results of their discussion with the class.

Since this activity can apply to many industries, it is capable of meeting overall expectations in the Professional Practice and Career Opportunities strand of most secondary-level courses. Business Studies courses are a natural fit, including Grade 9 or 10 Information and Communication Technology in Business, Grade 9 or 10 Introduction to Business, and Grade 12 Information and Communication Technology in the Workplace. It is also very suitable for Guidance and Career Education courses including Grade 10 Career Studies, Grade 10 Discovering the Workplace, Grade 11 Designing Your Future, and Grade 12 Navigating the Workplace.

CareerMash bulletIdea: Visualize your Digital Footprint

Every time you log into a social media site, withdraw money from an ATM or drive a car that uses GPS, the online activity generates data about you that others can search for and discover. This data trail is sometimes called a “digital footprint”, and it’s a big reason why Internet privacy is so important. But managing your digital footprint isn’t just about hiding – digital footprints can also project a positive image of who you are and what matters to you.

It’s important to encourage students to reflect on what their digital footprint says about them. A fun way to do this is to use the Facebook app Status Cloud to generate a “word cloud” that represents the most commonly used words from student status updates across a given period of time. This can serve as the basis for a number of activities depending on the course and available technological tools. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Have students anonymously upload their word clouds to a shared Flickr account or Facebook album and ask students to guess which of their peers uploaded each one. Try simply printing the word clouds and posting them around the classroom for a low-tech version of this assignment.
  2. Before students generate their word clouds, show them an example for reference, and ask them to sketch a prediction of their word cloud, either by hand or using graphic design software. Then have them compare and contrast their prediction with the word cloud generated by Status Cloud in a brief essay.
  3. Have students write a short essay on which aspects of their word cloud they feel are accurate reflections, and which words they feel do not reflect accurately on who they are. This assignment could also include identifying steps they can take to manage their digital footprint.
  4. Communications Technology students may wish to turn their word clouds into video or audio narratives such as a news segment or podcast. This kind of activity can get students thinking about what kinds of stories and conclusions can be drawn based on words they post most frequently online.

These assignment ideas are highly appropriate for the Ontario secondary curriculum’s grade 9 and 10 Technological Education and Computer Studies courses, aligning with overall expectations for Professional Practice and Career Opportunities. They also meet overall expectations for Guidance and Career Studies courses such as Career Studies, Discovering the Workplace, Designing Your Future, and Navigating the Workplace.

CareerMash bulletIdea: Host Your Own CareerMash Youth Tech Jam

You’ve heard about the CareerMash Youth Tech Jam (CYTJ) event series – if you’re an educator in southern Ontario, your school might even be participating! If CareerMash isn’t bringing the series to your school, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a CYTJ of your own. This month’s Toolbox provides you with the tools you need to host a CYTJ at any school across Canada.

The CYTJ’s purpose is to get students thinking and talking about the future of technology as it relates to the five key themes of this year’s World Congress of Information Technology (WCIT), being held in Montreal. We covered all five themes in CareerMash blogs: healthcare and medical research, education and digital skillsmedia, arts and culture, energy, environment and sustainability, and transportation and smart cities.

Each blog features examples of how digital technologies are changing the world and discussion questions on the theme (e.g. “Do you think apps could positively impact global health care? What health care apps would you invent if you had the chance?”).

One great way to get your students involved in the CYTJ is to have them read one of the CareerMash blog posts. All students can look at the same theme if it’s relevant to the course, or you can assign all five to different students. Ask them to note the examples and questions most interesting to them and to brainstorm potential answers. Then, break students into small groups to share their thoughts in a 20 to 30 minute discussion. With 10 to15 minutes of class time remaining, each group should nominate a presenter to share two ideas, questions or topics that generated the most discussion within their group.

A more self-directed option for students would be to explore CYTJ themes individually and prepare a one-page essay response to an example and question of their choice from one of the blog posts. The purpose of the assignment should not be to identify correct and incorrect answers but to engage in creative thinking about the future of technology. This one-page assignment can double as an entry in the CYTJ contest (closing June 30) for a chance to win a trip to Montreal in October for the WCIT!

The broad nature of the CYTJ’s five themes means that these Toolbox lesson plans can work well with almost any secondary school subject and grade level in the Ontario curriculum. Beyond Computer Studies and Technological Education courses, this Toolbox feature could be used in courses under Social Sciences and Humanities; Business Studies; Canadian and World Studies; Health and Physical Education; English, Mathematics, Guidance and Career Education; and Arts or Sciences. Simply select the theme that most closely aligns with your course’s subject matter.

CareerMash bulletIdea: Engineers Can Change the World!

Making a positive difference in the world is a key career objective for young people today. As a result, many teenagers gravitate toward professions like medicine, teaching or law without realizing that tech careers like engineering make countless contributions that are positively changing our lives every day. Exploring the real-life experiences of these engineers can help altruistic students broaden their career options.

Have your students read the CareerMash Meet The Pros profiles and watch the videos of engineers describing their careers:

Brett Sverkas & Andy Schonberger, engineers at Earth RangersAsk students to write a short summary on how each of these careers applies engineering to achieve positive change in the world. Also ask them to explain which of these careers interests them most and why.

In the Ontario curriculum, this assessment meets Overall Expectations for “Personal Management” and “Exploration of Opportunities” in the Grade 10 Career Studies course. It also meets Overall Expectations for “Technology, the Environment, and Society” and “Professional Practice and Career Opportunities in Technological Education” courses including Computer Technology, Green Industries, Health Care and Technological Design. It may also be relevant for students in Canadian and World Studies and Social Sciences and Humanities courses to learn more about technology’s role in global change.

CareerMash bulletIdea: Digital Forensics - Front Line Sleuths for Cyberbullying

As our lives become more transparent through social networking and instant communication, we also become more vulnerable to anonymous or underhanded attacks by cyber-bullies. These bullies can use computers to taunt and sometimes impersonate their victims. And because of the indirect and often anonymous nature of the crime, the bully can be hard to catch.

Digital Forensics Analysts use their technical expertise and eye for detail to find clues in cases where computers play a role. A recent example happened in Nova Scotia where a digital forensics team found the location of a cyber-bully who impersonated and slandered a girl on Facebook, (check out the full article here). If that team had access to the bully’s computer, they could potentially find the original files that were uploaded, how they were created, and the time they were used, to provide more evidence against the perpetrator.

To give students an idea of what someone in computer forensics does, have them read the CareerMash career profile for Digital Forensics Analysts and this short Computer Evidence Basics FAQ. Then ask them to use this knowledge to write a hypothetical scenario where they are part of the team from Nova Scotia investigating the alleged cyber-bully. How would they go about seizing the computer? What might they find? How might this information affect the case? How do they prove who was using the computer? And what are other inherent difficulties with this type of evidence?

In the Ontario curriculum, this assessment meets Overall Expectations for Technology Fundamentals (A) in the Grade 9 Exploring Technologies course, as well as Professional Practice and Career Opportunities (D) in the Grade 10 Introduction to Computer Studies and the Grade 10 Computer Technology course, and Grade 11 & 12 Computer Engineering Technology courses. Cross-curricular applications include Information and Communication Technology in Business, and Career Studies.

Idea: Computer Security Careers - Identifying Risk

Computer security specialists think creatively and logically to identify risks. Risks can be in the IT architecture itself, and how people – including employees and customers –use it.

Have your students take notes on the kinds of risks they identify as they play the game The Case of the Cyber Criminal (below) at home or in class.

The Case of the Cyber Criminal - flash game

Students can outline the technology, communication, or training steps a company might take to guard against each of these threats, by exploring CareerMash profiles of computer security specialists, and the other profiles mentioned in the Monthly Mash: Diploma program in Computer Security & Investigations (Fleming), Digital Forensics program (UOIT), Information Systems Security program (Sheridan), Tak Chijiwa, and Natalie Silvanovich.

In the Ontario curriculum, this assessment meets Overall Expectations for Technology Fundamentals (A) in the Grade 9 Exploring Technologies course, as well as Professional Practice & Career Opportunities (D) in the Grade 10 Computer Technology course, and Grade 11 & 12 Computer Engineering Technology courses. Cross-curricular applications include Individual & Family Living, Information & Communication Technology in Business (and in the Workplace), and Career Studies. 

Idea: Retail Careers

The retail industry has over 2 million jobs, and the sector’s IT professionals create cutting-edge tools that make everyone's holiday shopping easier! By the time you hold a new tablet computer in the palm of your hand, it has gone through many pit stops from the manufacturer, say in China, to your retailer’s shelf in Mississauga. Creating an assignment for your students to trace this path, also known as a supply chain, can help them explore the tech-related careers available in retail.

The following assessment can be structured to meet several overall and specific expectations in the Exploration of Opportunities strand of Ontario’s Guidance and Career Education module, and could be included in a student's career portfolio. Ask your students to use CareerMash to identify 5 tech-related occupations along the path from an innovator’s brain to a retail store, and detail the job responsibilities, education pathways, and potential workplaces for each. The Retail Industry profile on CareerMash is a great place to start brainstorming as well as the Retail and Tech career mashup.