Introduction and instructor education for the CTECS Middle School Career Interest Development online course:
Quick Start: How To Videos
General Philosophy Behind the Course
How the course came to be
Improve Our Course
Online or offline
Artifacts/Exercises and Materials
Activity Completion Certificates
How To: Basics and Recommendations
Students must be led by the teacher
Bells or Class Periods
Reports: Review, Comment, and Change Grades/Points
Alternative Methods for Teaching this Course
E-mail Addresses and Passwords
E-mail Workaround for Student Enrollment
Quick Start: How To Videos
Note: Teachers are additionally enrolled as students in their own courses
General philosophy behind the course
Through our supportive consortium membership and Middle School Career Interest Development Summit, CTECS brings forth a new way to cultivate and develop career interests in middle school students. Our standards, descriptors, associated vocabulary exercises, and concise, problem-based learning activities allow students to apply social-emotional learning fundamentals as they begin to explore career possibilities. This is the crucial foundation that students will build upon throughout their professions and lives.
- Introduces workplace language and behaviors
- Teaches citizenship, equity, and global awareness
- Unifies stakeholder communities: CTE, SEL, PBL, and academics
The course was designed to be age-appropriate and teachers may easily modify instruction under the structure and materials the course supplies. The course is meant to be infused into regular programs and should work to complement what instructors are already teaching. While we lean toward career-minded CTE programs, the activities embed applied academics and we feel this course could easily fit into the scope of school counseling to improve social and emotional learning and to support successful maturation and transition into secondary, postsecondary, and ultimately career opportunities.
The course is free-form. The order and length of activity instruction is entirely up to the teacher. We supply a recommended blend of online face-to-face and private or group student work in which they communicate on their own or in a monitored chat environment supplied by your school. It’s a great way to bring a real-world context to any classroom, even if students are at home.
How the course came to be
The CTECS Consortium leadership and Board began plans for middle school curriculum at our annual Community of Practice Meeting in 2019. CTECS organized Middle School Career Interest Development Steering Committee and 2020 Summit. From that meeting with representatives across our consortium, we found our direction and philosophy, adopting CASEL influenced standards and designing activities around them. The course represents a synthesis between social and emotional learning within a CTE or career exploration context.
Research and key organizations that support the course skill areas, include:
- CASEL–Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning
- The Wallace Foundation
- ASCA–American School Counselors Association, Mindsets and Behaviors for Student Success
- NAPE–National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity
- Advance CTE
- ACTE–Association for Career and Technical Education
Improve our course
This course underwent a formal review and pilot period for product improvement in 2020-21, pre-launch.
We encourage continuing feedback and welcome additional activity ideas from teachers who use the course. Instructors are encouraged to use the embedded form at the end of every teacher’s guide within the course to help us improve.
See the following “big-picture” videos:
- Structure/Course Components: Multiple activities are organized under seven skill standards. Each activity contains a student section and a teacher guide section. Students cannot see the teacher guides. Each activity includes a pre-assessment and activity assessment. Each activity also requires students to submit at least one artifact or assignment.
- Online or offline: Teachers may teach this course entirely from the teacher’s guides and students need not be enrolled or logged in to the course. However, non-enrolled students will not be able to submit short answer assessments automatically, nor will they be able to acquire the activity completion certificates. Recommendation: Assign the pre-assessments before delivering instruction. Use in-person time to guide students through the lesson and assignment, and have students complete the assignment, vocabulary, and activity assessment at home.
- Pre-Graded/Pending Approval: For each activity, pre-assessments and activity assessments are pre-graded and approved. You should get an email when one is submitted. You can check answers in Gradebook. For artifacts/assignments, these are pending approval. You will get an email notification, then you can go to gradebook to review the work. Pre-assessment completion is pre-requisite to begin the activity assessment. Once the students submit an activity assessment, they may download their certificate of completion for each activity they complete.
- Essays: Most questions in pre-assessments and activity assessments are completed by short answer. A student must answer all questions in order to submit the assessment. Review of these materials is somewhat challenging and tedious, but we are trying to improve the process. However, it can be done through the essay report and filtering.
- Artifacts/Exercises and Materials: These are short projects that the students can complete on their own and submit through the activity assignments portal or as a shared link from if the completed files are stored in the Cloud or on a Drive such as Google Drive, the link to that file may be submitted through a link on the student page within the activity. If materials are supplied by the system, such as a blank worksheet, these files can be downloaded from the Materials section within the individual activity. Teachers may review and grade by using classroom management assignments report, or by-student on the front end of Gradebook.
- Vocabulary: Provided through direct link to Quizlet on the student page in each activity. A full text listing of the same vocabulary list is provided in full in each teacher’s guide.
- Activity Completion Certificates: These are unlocked and available for student download after the teacher has graded each activity assessment (short answer or essay type assessment). Students may upload these to their Tallo profiles, if they choose to create them. They include learning objectives for the activity.
- Tallo: Teachers, parents, and ultimately students should consider having the student (at least 13 years old) build a student profile on the safe and secure Tallo platform. Students should register their account through the CTECS/Tallo portal: https://tallo.com/ctecs/.
How To Navigate the System and Curriculum
- Login: Teachers and students use the same login page. This page also contains “Classroom Management” button for teachers only. If you or your students do not like the auto-generated password, you can click on the “Forgot password” link at bottom of the login screen and reset it to something of their own. All must use email addresses. There is a login link at the top menu of our wrs.ctecs.org pages.
- Classroom Management: Teachers only can complete student enrollment here and grading/review of submitted work. The green Classroom Management button is near the bottom of your profile page.
- Students should be led by the teacher. This is an online course, but meant for hybrid learning. If students are at home, we recommend using a video meeting platform to introduce your students to the course and work through login issues. Use your class meeting time to instruct for each activity from the teacher’s guides and have students complete assessments and assignments on their own. Follow up and review submitted materials via digital communications of your choosing.
- Order through the curriculum: This is a free-form course, which means you may proceed however you feel, staying within skill areas or jumping around. However, we feel it is important to teach one activity under each of the first six skill/standard areas before moving into the seventh: Career Exploration. Recommendation: Once finished with this cycle, go back through, teaching one activity from the first six before culminating their experience in the final area. Two activities are linked within two separate skill areas: Creativity: Good to Go AND Revision Adventure; Fantastic Mistakes AND Turn it Around. In both cases, deliver the former first.
- Activity Duration: Each activity was designed to be completed within two class periods. Course orientation and login for enrolled students might take another one-to-two class periods for course and navigation orientation.
- Enrolling Students: see video demo.
- Bells or Class Periods: Let us know if you want to break your enrolled students into different bells or class periods. Or you may keep all students together in one roster. It is best to make this decision before you begin teaching.
- Promote Student Success: by collecting and sharing submitted work from your students. If these are projects in which students appear in digital images, remember, you will need formal permissions from students and their guardians in order to share. Also, make sure students are downloading their completion certificates. We will be converting pdf certificates to digital badges. In either case, students will be able to share these on their own or through Tallo, a protected, secure platform.
- Grading: See “Gradebook” below.
Grading with Gradebook
Teachers only: From your profile screen, you will see a green button for “Classroom Management” beneath the course title listing. Click that and you can do two things. The first is to look at your current roster with grades for all submitted materials by students. You can export this data to csv file format allowing you to easily upload it to your school’s system.
The main graded components include:
- Artifacts (assignments)—require teacher approval
- Activity Assessments—pre-approved
Don’t forget that we have pre-approved all submitted assessments/essays. Assignment or artifact files uploaded through the student portal require your approval. You may also adjust the points.
Review, Comment, and Change Grades/Points
There are two ways to see student results:
- The by-classroom overview. This is the table you get when you click on Classroom Management Click on a student name and see what that student has submitted. You can actually see submitted assignments this way, and comment on them, but you cannot see individual essay answers this way. This is the easiest way to understand a student’s overall progress–what they have turned in and what still remains to be submitted. Beneath the table, there are two buttons for exporting everything to a csv file (Excel). Use this to get everything into Excel and manipulate from there and upload it to your school’s grading system.
- The Reports, by-student. Also in Classroom Management. The reports button is above your class (by-period) roster, the same one you use to enroll or remove students. The reports button is at the right edge at the top of that table. Click on the Essays or the Assignments report, then filter. Assignments can be handled in the first option. But the Essays report is where you would go to see student answers to essay questions. Use filters.
Use the “Comments” feature for the assignments/artifacts. This will show up on the student’s front-end. Or simply email your students if you want changes made. Instructors will want to review, change grades/points, approve and comment directly on assignments/artifacts and possibly some of the short-answer assessments that the system calls essays. Very few of the assessments are multiple choice or matching, so they will require additional review. In addition, students may resubmit or re-assess anything.
Note: Pre-Assessments prepare the student for learning and can inform a teacher what might be missing from a student’s understanding. Our recommendation is that teacher’s use these results as a general survey of the class, informing them where to spend more instructional time. To take an activity assessment, students must complete the pre-assessment in the same activity. To measure learning, teachers may also ask the students to complete the pre-assessment again at completion of the activity.
Essays Report: https://wrs.ctecs.org/essay-management-page/
All submitted files or short-answers can be filtered in a number of ways:
- Groups (Your Classrooms by period)
- Courses (Select appropriate if you are teaching both Middle and High)
- Activities/Section (select one from the entire course)
- Quizzes (select one from the entire course)
- Status (select from All, Graded, Ungraded)
Once filtered the way you wish, you can click on the following headers to organize your table the way you want:
- Title (uncheck, not helpful) / First name / Last name / User name / Status / Points / Question / Content / Course / Lesson / Quiz / Comments / Date
If you are searching for one student, rather than how everyone answered one question, use the search bar with the student’s name. Then the table will contain only results from that student, but everything they have submitted.
Teachers are notified automatically by email whenever students submit anything through the system. Gradebook will also post it online.
Alternative Methods for Teaching/Grading This Curriculum
If you don’t want to deal with enrolling students via their emails, or you find Gradebook difficult to deal with, you can still use this course successfully. But you will need to deliver all elements by extracting them from our system, but you still need to login yourself. You will lose much of the connectivity and automation the course provides, but you might teach entirely from the teachers’ guides in each activity, assign the artifact, use your standard communication methods, and work through the assessments however you choose. At the very least, you can export a blank excel with all gradable objects listed to import into your own grading system.
E-Mail Addresses and Passwords
Check with your IT Department to make sure you have clearance to receive system emails/notifications. We do not retain your password, so if you can receive system emails, you can reset your password and receive notifications from students. Have your IT folks whitelist our main course site: https://wrs.ctecs.org/.
If you have trouble with your login, please remember to include your full, case-sensitive email address as your user name. For password issues, the fastest solution is to click on the forgot my password link at the bottom of the login screen.
Students might experience short delays if they submit an initial login at the same time. They also may see screens about cookies and redirects, but not to worry. If for some reason, they bounce onto a page and are lost, you can have them go directly to https://wrs.ctecs.org/profile/. They may already be logged in. The login page is https://wrs.ctecs.org/login.
E-mail Workaround for Student Enrollment
There are different ways to enroll students on the USERS drop-down menu. If you want to upload a .csv file, there is a sample linked, follow/use that structure, but leave the password column blank. You can upload 25 students at a time this way. Some folks have been getting error messages when they successfully enroll. Not sure why this is happening, but when they refresh, the students are in. If you have multiple classes/groups, make sure you have selected the correct class period before you begin to enroll. There can be short delays as the system is uploading new users and sending automated emails to student addresses.
What if my students don’t have email addresses, or cannot communicate through them outside of school?
First, you should never “register” students. By-code registration is not available. This course works best if students have their own emails and you can communicate with them that way. If they don’t have email addresses and you have a gmail account, for example, you can still add students by adding unique numbers or last names within your gmail address.
Example: my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to enroll a student (Student 1). I would just need to put “+1” in between my prefix and suffix to route the email to me: email@example.com. Keep in mind that you now would receive that automated email with a password for just that single student. But now your student could use that full email address to login. If you are doing it this way with these fake email addresses, have the students click the Forgot your password link before they login the first time to the system and choose a password they want. This method is not ideal (your inbox will be filled), but it will still track anything the student submits, so it’s better than nothing. Obviously, the best method is for the student to have a unique email address that they will actually use.
We wish you did not get any of these, but if it happens, we want to hear about your error messages. Try to give us the scenario with the URL of the page or process you were shooting for, and, if you could, an easy view inside your computer’s decision (the console) by following the instructions on this page: https://balsamiq.com/support/faqs/browserconsole/. In Chrome browser, for example, it’s just a matter of going to the upper right corner of the browser window (you will see three vertical dots), clicking to drop down the browser window, on which you will click on more tools, then developer tools. That will open a page that gives you more specific results like this:
Orientation Videos Middle School Course
12/01/2020: Click here for our weekly Zoom meeting, this one featuring Danielle Kinder (Kentucky), Sabrina Peterson (Colorado), and Ashley Thomas (Kentucky). We discuss what is working and what needs improvement, including new ideas for added features and even marketing.
11/17/2020: Click here for our weekly Zoom meeting, this one featuring Ashley Thomas, a teacher from Kentucky. We discuss issues including system integration solutions for Google Classroom.
10/20/2020: Click here: for our Zoom meeting on Oct. 20, 2020. Tech issues are addressed within the final 15 minutes.
For live help, please contact Darren Morris (firstname.lastname@example.org). Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern) weekdays if you would like to give him a call: 804-543-6094.