On Getting Smart, we talk a lot about integrating technology into K-12 schools in the way that will improve learning most for students. We try not to lose sight of where that learning will take these students. All students need to leave high school prepared for college or careers and headed on their personal route to find success. With everything changing so fast, it is hard for students and their parents to keep up and know all the options available for students today.

Evan Nisonson, a former teacher from Los Angeles, taught an intro to poetry course to non English majors when he first started in the field. Although he was a very prepared to teach the class, he found out on the first day of class there was an ordering mishap and the students would have no text books! Eventually, this turned into a happy accident because, as a result, Evan discovered the power of online learning. He quickly decided the goal for his students would be to use digital resources to collaborate and build their own poetry textbooks online.

Now Evan is CEO of ConnectEDU and wants to spread that passion for the potential technology holds for all learners. The organization works to answer how can schools help students be more prepared for college and careers by nurturing talent, even as early as elementary school. They work to provide services to help students imagine careers, focus on career goals and develop a plan to get there, along with help from the parents and teachers.

With a general high school dropout rate of 25-30%, ConnectEDU feels like there is a gap that definitely needs to be closed. They are currently working in seven states and are working to build more partnerships. Communicating the availability of resources looks different in every state- but when the state partners with ConnectEDU to help get the word out, the implementation is most successful. For example, in Hawai’i the P20 Partnerships in Education partnered with ConnectEDU to power the college and career planning via the My Future Hawai’i platform. Hawai′i P-20 and its partners have set ambitious college and career readiness goals for the state. “By 2025 our goal is that 55% of Hawai′i’s working age adults will have a two – or four – year college degree,”  says Karen Lee, director, “and 100% will be career-ready.” The partnership creates a unified tech platform with local customization, fostering cross-agency collaboration and allows counsellors, students and their families a robust platform to access all the possibilities they can pursue after high school.

Recently, ConnectEDU hosted a meeting of the minds in Seattle, bringing together Microsoft, The National Academy Foundation and Seattle Public Schools to discuss ways for organizations like Microsoft can connect with schools and how schools can prepare students for today’s workforce. ConnecteEDU sees the gap stopping schools from making strong connections with the private sector making it unclear as to what skills companies are looking for in their future employees- today’s students. “The event was a powerful display of the connectivity within the education industry. The information the presenters shared gave insight into how each school, district, and corporation is working, individually and in unison, to build the future workforce, one step at a time.”

Another great example of the type of work ConnectEDU can offer a community is happening in Nashville right now. Local businesses are growing but the talent needed to run them is not always easy to find or tap into. By partnering with the Chamber of Commerce there, ConnectEDU is able to create a “Talent Community” or a private, online network to foster workforce development that will help fill these positions and establish the up and coming leaders for the future.

EdTech holds the power to personalize learning for students from very early on in their education journey. ConnectEDU shows students, parents and educators how to stay tapped into that potential so students can leverage their years in school to place them on the path they need to be on to find their dream job.

ConnectEDU is on Smart List: 30 Orgs Boosting College Access & Success.

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