School 21 was our earliest partner here at Upskill Me, joining for the pilot programme in 2019, and remaining an incredibly engaged school on the platform. Initially onboarding their Year 12 cohort in September 2019, the students enthusiastically adopted our service, with every single user active on the platform. Over 80% have since logged activities, ranging anywhere from a couple of hours, up to 200 per user in the first 3 months.
The skills and reflections demonstrated by School 21 students surprised and impressed us every week; feedback from the students themselves suggested that it surprised them as well, providing a crucial reminder of all their hard work that may otherwise have been forgotten in an even harder year.
In that spirit, we’ve paired up with School 21 to do a reflection of our work together, and are happy to present the five main benefits of using digital portfolios in schools.
The first, and foremost in many students, teachers and parents’ eyes is the opportunity we provide to generate firm records of student activities, especially this year, with GCSE and A-Level examinations being cancelled. Although the students will still be receiving grades from their teachers, it can be harder for students to visualise how their work will directly translate into results with this system. In contrast, every time a student adds an activity to their Upskill Me profile, they can immediately see it added to their profile, understand how it changes their appearance to future employers for the better, and feel empowered by their accomplishments and talent. Below are some quotes from students:
“Upskill Me helps me realise how much I’ve done this year, which was a surprise, given the impact of lockdown. I thought I had done nothing, but my profile shows that I’ve actually been busy”– Y12 Student, School 21
“It is really good to prove that you are special and you have many skills” – Year 12, School 21
Even in years unaffected by Covid-19, we believe exam results can never tell the full story of a student’s achievements- by encouraging them to record and report skills and non-academic activities, students will be launched at the start of their careers from being a list of number grades, to a complete individual with a rich history of diverse skill sets, making hiring decisions easier for companies, and more successful for the Upskill Me alum.
This is where our partnership with School 21 has really thrived, as their innovative Head, Heart, Hand curriculum structure places emphasis on project-based learning, which our platform is ideally suited to track progression of, despite the historical difficulty that comes with developing metrics for qualitative learning and growth.
Peter Hyman, writes about how most exams and assessed learning in school, fall into only teaching ‘cultural literacy’, instead of School 21’s approach of triadic learning, focusing on the heart (character) and hand (problem-solving and creativity) as well as head (academics).
Upskill Me is the tool to assess particularly Heart and Hand, as not only do our big 8 skills include resilience, creativity, and problem-solving- explicit values from the triad system, our gamification also provides quantitative indexing for the time and engagement students have with project learning. Self-assessment also forms a major part of our metrics, a valuable skill for all students. Evidence of this can be seen in the student quote below:
“Upskill Me gives an insight into all the skills I need to become successful and to turn my weaknesses into strengths, like Leadership, which I used to be unsure about. Now I know I could be showing leadership in a team situation, even if I’m not designated to head the group” – Year 12, School 21
Among our 8 highlighted soft skills, Upskill Me students also gain a crucial ability to reflect on their skills, experiences and goals. In school, this is really important for preparing the students in university applications- one School 21 teacher told us that students involved with Upskill Me had written noticeably better UCAS personal statements, in which the ability to recall and reflect on past experience is a central skill. Beyond the school setting, those same reflection abilities are invaluable in job applications, but also make for more conscientious, and open-minded employees, always looking for opportunities to learn and grow within their future organisations and as people.
If being a more motivated adult is the end goal, how do we kick that off in Upskill Me? The answer is a three pronged approach; our gamified platform giving points for each hour of skill-boosting activities, live challenges with real-world prizes, and crucially, by helping students understand the importance of the skills they’re learning. Students aren’t lazy- it’s just difficult to be motivated to do things if they can’t see the final product- so we show them the final product through our engaging video content from successful entrepreneurs, and our profile portfolio tool. Both are essential in showing students where their hard work could lead them, as one user, Ibrahim told us in feedback.
“The tools are really useful for when you need to apply to jobs, as you can show the employer your activity log alongside other things such as your CV. Also it gives you a sense of what you have done throughout your life and can help you grow, as you can see what activities/skills you are lacking in and need to improve on.” – Ibrahim, Year 12 at School 21.
This student had logged just one activity prior to feedback, but since his thoughtful reflection on the use of Upskill Me, he has added an additional 4 hours of activities- once he visualised the end use of the service, it became a major motivational factor.
These factors, combined, produce more rounded students with a variety of skills that are essential for their later entry into the workforce. The vision and approach Upskill Me shares with School 21 have created an online space where students can grow holistically, and become more conscious of their skills, weaknesses, and most importantly, their progress. It is this self awareness that will make them confident workers in the future.
“I now have a platform that showcases all my achievements so I can prove to employers that I am worthy of the job.”– Y12 Student, School 21
It has been far from an ordinary year for all of us, young people in particular, but the students and staff of School 21 have made it extraordinary, and made it theirs. At Upskill Me, we certainly can’t wait to see what they surprise us with in the year to come.
If you’re interested in learning more about our free platform, Upskill Me, get in touch at [email protected]
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