Target groups: School children of 13-15 years old and their mentors (teachers)
SUMMARY OF THE PRACTICE
In addition to the wide range of local (regional) activities offered to youngsters within the framework of the Get Online Week 2014 in Russia, PH International Tvoy Kurs project staff launched the nationwide Choosing the Career in IT contest targeting 9th-11th grade students and aimed at nurturing the next generation of qualified IT- specialists.
The first edition of the contest attracted over 1,000 participants from 152 schools across Russia, opening the world of IT and expanding participant horizons to consider the role and potential of ICT as a valuable part of their career paths.
The following two years the contest was held, replicated based on extensive, positive participant feedback from both tutors and students.
develop communication and presentation skills, as well as critical thinking ability in students of senior school age;
ensure students a better preparation for project presentation;
involve as many students as possible in the audience, to give them a possibility to gather inspiration for doing their own research;
raise the prestige of IT professions and encourage youngsters to take up ICT studies and careers;
introduce school children to the IT for Youth project and Microsoft YouthSpark Initiative resources, tools, and online tutorials.
Exploring career options is an important step. While students were conducting research on IT professions, they were able to explore the world of IT careers and assess their skills and abilities for future jobs. Students gained better perspective of opportunities in the IT industry, including understanding the skills and knowledge required for successful employment and effective work. The projects prepared by participants enabled them to start making an informed choice about their own future jobs.
The contest also helped students develop essential interpersonal skills such as communication and critical thinking.
As a continuation of the of the Choosing a Career in IT contest, a number of schools across Russia organized their IT Career Days, conducted career-guidance training events for their students aimed at motivating students to consider IT as a possible career path and expressed their desire to join the project.
Financial – to buy gifts for the contest winners (+mailing expenses);
Online resources and tools – to launch the contest, collect entries, display the best entries + resources and tools for mentors in your activities. Those could be any of the programme that you are using, in our case it was IT for Youth project and Microsoft Youthspark resources and tools;
Human – to develop the idea, terms of the contest, online application form and evaluation form; to design the contest page, to launch the contest, evaluate participants’ work.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PRACTICE
The participants were tasked with conducting independent research on any IT profession, creating a short video clip about the chosen profession and writing an essay summarizing and sharing their choice. The next step was to organise the IT Career Days at school and present their work to their peers, teachers, parents, and invited experts ensuring to share professional ambitions, aspirations and initial plans to achieve goals.
After the participants defended their projects, their mentors were tasked to download the students’ works (essay and link to the video clip) on the project site through a special online form, along with photos and their constructive and effective feedback (acknowledging mentee’s strengths and indicating weaknesses).
The difficulty lies not so much in organizing the contest, but rather in the current state in Russian education. The general significant challenge we’ve been (still) facing is that the Computer Science program in Russian schools doesn’t present programming as an exciting and creative process, and there is no good career guidance program offered to students in schools and universities to help them realize their opportunities.
While attracting school teachers to the project contest we faced several challenges: teachers do not have enough time for the additional workload due to their primary responsibilities and paperwork demands at schools; numerous teachers are not well motivated; some teachers lack skills and knowledge to teach programming and they feel intimidated by students’ knowledge of tools they do not understand.
Taking into account these issues, the project staff organized and held webinars, training courses and master-classes for teachers where they were introduced to the training materials and tutorials for teachers and trainers and various resources provided by the project. The project courses and curriculum were adapted to be relevant to teachers of all levels of experience and ensure state educational standards are addressed.
The all-Russian contests arranged and held by the project staff have been designed to engage with and appeal to both teachers and students as partners in learning programming.
The essays and video clips were assessed according to the evaluation criteria developed by the organizers (e.g. presentation skills were also evaluated). All participants received certificates, and three best projects were acknowledged with diplomas and prizes.
“The Choosing a Career in IT contest was extremely valuable for the students! They gained some significant soft skills and learned to search for information, submit it in a creative and informative manner, and share it with their peers.” (CS Teacher’s feedback)
Fourteen year-old Anton Klochkov from the Khabarovsk region was one of 70 participants who entered the contest. Being an active member of a robotics school club and passionate about using robots for any possible sphere of life, Anton prepared the project about his dream profession – robotics engineering. Anton did a great job, his essay and video clip got the highest score from the jury, and his informative and captivating presentation about robots and robotics engineering was so inspirational that both adults and kids enjoyed listening to him and asked him hundreds of questions! What is more important – several kids were captured by his idea and joined the robotics club!
“I am very happy to be the winner in such a great competition“, Anton says, “It was an exciting and collaborative job with my tutor, and I learned quite a lot of cool things while searching for information and sharing it with my schoolmates. I hope my story will inspire other guys to chase their dreams!”