The Intersection of Informal and Formal Learning


The Intersection of Informal and Formal Learning

May 10, 2022

Research says students should explore careers as early as middle school to inform post-secondary education choices. But, are our school systems providing equitable access to career-connected learning for all 6-12 grades?

During the 2022 SXSW EDU Conference, which took place in Austin, Texas, I was buoyed by the post-pandemic opportunity to gather face-to-face with my peers in the K12 education and career readiness space for an insightful conversation on the topic of the intersection of informal and formal learning.

I was honored to partake in this illuminating discussion — moderated by the Hechinger Report – along with David Miyashiro Superintendent, Cajon Valley, and Tinsley Maier Co-Founder & CPO, Edgi Learning.

Here are the key takeaways from the discussion.

Middle school is the best time for kids to start exploring careers. Based on our work with several districts, we know that career exploration in the classroom works, as long as kids have a choice. In fact, 87% of middle schoolers are interested in ways to match their skills and interests with potential careers, according to our middle school career exploration grants outcomes white paper. However, it’s nearly impossible to scale the impact evenly across the county in any reasonable timeframe.

Learning beyond the classroom is the great equalizer in terms of increasing access to career-focused education. Based on ASA’s ongoing research about Gen Z, we know that more than 65 percent of students feel they would have benefited from more career exploration in middle or high school. At the same time, we know that educators have their hands full in the classroom now more than ever due to pandemic-era learning loss. Through technology, self-directed, digital-first learning experiences beyond the classroom are the best way to scale access. This gives learners the agency they crave and meet them where they are, as more than 90 percent of young people are using mobile devices. Moreover, research ASA conducted in Q4 of 2021, based on a survey of more than 2,000 teens on their use of digital tools for career exploration, shows that more than 78% agree they would use career exploration tools on their own even if it were not required.

Connecting career readiness learning for kids with the workforce needs of the community. Cajon Valley Union School (CVUSD) District’s World of Work program, considered as a highly successful model for early career learning, decided to connect learners with working professionals from the community. The program was made possible through a grant from ASA, and through a partnership the San Diego Workforce Partnership, one of the leading workforce groups in the country. Many of these career people from various sectors, such as real estate, military, law enforcement, and business, were well positioned to share how they were able to achieve success through non-traditional pathways. They came from diverse educational backgrounds and achieved success, as some entered the workforce immediately after school, and then went to college years later. Superintendent Miyashiro’s vision for the students in the district is happy kids engaged in healthy relationships, on a path to gainful employment. Starting in kindergarten, kids explore careers available to them in San Diego County, which helps them to develop their unique strengths, interests and values around a vocational identity. That’s a win-win for the students and their parents and the community.

Leveraging a free and innovative learn to earn model that keeps students engaged and motivated. Edgi Learning, which focuses on creating a new kind of social learning experience that gives students control over what they’re learning and how they’re learning it, offers a completely free learn to earn program for high school and college students. Students join Edgi and then they start earning in-game currency Edgi coins. This is totally made up. It’s not on the blockchain. Students earn Edgi coins, and then they can exchange that currency for real world items. “We’ve had students working toward an iPad where they can start creating graphics, and they want to become a graphic designer. So, by learning, they’re actually getting real world rewards for that,” said Maier. This is a unique way in which Edgi Learning is reaching students who normally wouldn’t have these highly engaging educational opportunities in the classroom. The company is very proud to be reaching students all around the world right now. The majority of students are in India and the Philippines. Edgi Learning is able to connect with students from around the world in this free ecosystem where they can learn and earn and make friends.

Overall, it’s clear that a blended approach to teaching kids about careers – inside and beyond the classroom – is the most effective way in which to provide all students with the knowledge they need to make informed choices to achieve their education and career goals.

Thanks for reading, and please let us know your thoughts.

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