When I was a child, I dreamed of one day becoming a firefighter or doctor. When I realized, however, that meant facing actual flames or blood and germs, I quickly switched gears. As I grew older, I became drawn to how people think and how society works, and I realized that I have a creative edge. Fast forward to 2018, and I am an instructional designer. No fire or blood in sight!
I never dreamed that one day I’d be helping develop next-generation digital curriculum. As iSTEM Without Borders founder and Engineer Melony Mahaarachchi stated, “A lot of people ask me if I dreamed of becoming an aerospace engineer as a kid. My answer to them is, you can’t dream of things you don’t know about.” This was my sentiment exactly, there wasn’t a way for me to dream of that at five years old, at 15, or even 20 years of age. I needed to live it to know it.
“A lot of people ask me if I dreamed of becoming an aerospace engineer as a kid. My answer to them is, you can’t dream of things you don’t know about.” – Melony Mahaarachchi
Helping Students Find Their Calling
Career and vocational education can provide the upper hand that students need to get ahead of the game when it comes to post-secondary success (Bass, 2016). Whether considering a college education, vocational training, or joining the military, having options to “test drive” a career can help students find their path, or at least narrow it to a field of interest.
As an instructional designer I’ve had the pleasure of designing some of StrongMind’s elective courses. Not only do we develop top-of-the-line general elective courses as part of our digital curriculum, we create innovative Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses that aid students as they discover career opportunities that may help them choose their future path.
We design our CTE electives to provide students with a knowledge of what career opportunities exist within a particular field and give them practical, hands-on experience. For instance, in our Graphic and Web Design course, students design their own web page, receiving guidance in everything from copyright laws to creating a physical layout for their page.
Students get hands-on experience in designing their own webpage in StrongMind’s Graphic and Web Design course.
To give our students a real-world understanding of what a particular career entails, we have developed a series of documentary-style videos called Career Connections. These videos feature one or more accomplished professionals sharing knowledge, experience, and inspiration with students.
Interviews with real people, in the real world, working in a particular industry give students an inside view into a career to help them determine if it’s a path they want to further pursue. Students can see what it takes to enter the field, what the day-to-day looks like, as well as see an example of someone who is already successful in that field.
Andy Weed, clinical associate professor of design at Arizona State University, is known for helping his students become the best possible designers. See what he has to share with aspiring graphic designers in this Career Connections video.
For many students, career and vocational courses can be life-changing. Imagine if I never took an art course or a social science course while I was in high school. Would I have discovered the skills I possess to make me successful in my career today? Would I be in this career at all? As an instructional designer I get to use my love for art and design as well as my love for how people and society think. How I discovered my career was greatly impacted by CTE courses and programs at my alma mater. It helped create a clearer path for my future.
Today, my StrongMind colleagues and I love creating those same opportunities for all the future videogame developers, graphic artists, forest ecologists, and – who knows – maybe even instructional designers?
By Hieyam Abdu
Hieyam was born in Phoenix, AZ, and is of Eritrean decent. She is a creative, enthusiastic and experienced young professional aspiring to grow in the instructional design and e-learning field. She is a self-proclaimed knowledge seeker and lipstick aficionado, with an earring collection surpassing 70 pairs.