iStatement project starts students on career paths

By on May 28, 2010

by Paula Coughlan
KANELAND—By exploring career fields while still in high school, students have a chance to see if those paths are the ones they really want to take before heading to college or other training.

Students in the freshman-level Applications of Technology classes at Kaneland High School are completing self-produced videos called iStatements, in which they focus on what careers they might want to pursue and how to begin taking steps toward them.

The three-minute videos each freshman is making in the class is the capstone project that wraps up a career-focused unit, instructor Andrew Ingras said. The project encourages students to think differently about preparation for a career.

After completing a variety of self-reflective and career-related activities in the class, students put their experience into the electronic production about themselves. They include pictures, videos and music in which students answer three questions: Who am I, where do I want to go, and how might I get there?

Students including Amanda Lesak have begun thinking of how answering those questions will help them choose a career.

”Instead of saying, ‘Oh, I want to be a doctor,’ and then the next day, ‘I want to be a dentist now,’ the project made me realize that in life you have to work hard to achieve your goals and to be more realistic about the future and consider more options,” Lesak said.

Reflection is a major part of the class, a process through which a student might realize they want to be an accountant, for example, and transfer that into the action of taking accounting and business classes while they’re still in high school.

“The reflective process is the most important part of the project,” Igras said. “It produces a tangible way of translating thought into action. For one of the activities, I give the students a list of about 50 different topics (such as independence, money, being creative, art, being helpful) and they have to rate how much they value that topic.”

In addition to reflection, the class focuses on manifesting, a process in which students visualize their lives as successful, much like athletes visualize success and use that in their games. Students also zero in on personal missions to facilitate setting goals, identifying options and exploring pathways.

“We ask students to develop a plan of short and long terms goals that lead to career options, credentials, advanced certificates or a degree,” Igras said.

Students also use digital literacy, the practice of using computer-based tools, to tell the story of their past, present and future lives. Students bring in any type of image possible that can be transferred to a computer, ranging from pictures from the Internet and videos shot by the student to photos from a digital camera.

KHS one of 2 schools participating in state
Kaneland High School instructor Andrew Igras first heard about iStatements through VALEES (Valley Education for Employment System), which provides ongoing training for teachers whose high schools feed into Waubonsee Community College.

VALEES was looking for teachers who wanted to participate in training for the iStatement project, and counselor Andy Franklin and Igras volunteered for it. Kaneland and Newark High School are the only schools in the state with iStatement in their curriculum.

“We piloted the class in the 2008-09 school year, and all Application of Technology teachers decided to do it for the 2009-10 year,” Igras said.