Career Detectives

There has been a lot of conversation about gamification and serious games in education. Some people are skeptical about this, but I can see the potential for career education. However I’ve seen a lot of products that haven’t really worked as games or haven’t found their application in the classroom. I’d really like to find a way to do some more research in this area.

In this post I interview Jon and Joseph from Big Green Fox about their Career Detectives game for schools. They have been working with schools using a game for a number of years now. 

I’d be really interested to hear more (and perhaps feature a guest post) from any schools that have used either this game or anything similar.

Who are you?

We are a pioneering company, unique in our commitment to careers education starting earlier, in primary schools, and supporting educators in delivering a competency, not just content, based education which helps young people better understand why they are attending school. We don’t believe that a child’s future should be determined by a computer so our teaching resources encourage peer-supported exploration and positive discussion about life choices with friends, teachers and family. In doing so we aim to raise aspirations and attainment, broaden horizons and increase social mobility.

Big Green Fox was founded by Joseph Leech, a former careers advisor and local authority Education Officer, and Jon Maiden, formerly the director of an arts education charity and manager of a school for blind and multiple disability children in South Africa.

What is Career Detectives?

Career Detectives is a powerful tool to help teachers embed careers education within the core curriculum. The resource, which is centred around a board game, raises aspirations by making links between educational subjects and future career opportunities and broadens young people’s horizons by educating them about the wide range of opportunities in the world of work.

Career Detectives helps children understand the purpose of education and give learning context, integrates Careers with the Maths, English and Science curriculum to demonstrate the links between education and future life choices, provides a range of stimulating information about careers across all sectors, enhances and raises awareness of key skills including team work, communication, leadership, creativity and confidence and embeds other key learning outcomes including healthy eating and citizenship.

Career Detectives board

Why did you decide to present career learning as a board game?

Most of us were less than overwhelmed with our own careers education at school, and continue to be so about that offered to our own children. Computers may have much to offer but an over-reliance on databases has led to an emphasis on Careers Information to the detriment of Careers Advice and Guidance.

Moreover careers education needs to be embedded into the curriculum, not offered as an add-on. In this way pupils begin to make essential connections between what they are learning, what is on offer in the world of work, and the employability skills they need in addition to their qualifications to get where they want to be in life. However, teachers are rarely trained in careers advice and guidance and we have designed Career Detectives as a resource which can be easily used and applied by teachers, assistants, and other support workers to this end.

Playing Career Detectives

Why a board game? Aren’t kids only interested in Xbox these days?

On the contrary, our experience has shown that this is only a myth perpetuated by adults. Our feedback has shown overwhelmingly that children relish the opportunity to play a game with friends that enables them to work together collaboratively, develop new skills and communicate and work away from a computer screen on something creative and tactile.We’ve found that children themselves have loved it.

Career Detectives

Does it being in a game format trivialise it?

At Big Green Fox we feel that most careers education begins too late, when children have already made important choices, become fixed in their notions of what they are good at and less good at, and begun to limit their own horizons in accordance with their own social context. Creative careers education needs to begin at an early age to enable maximum social mobility and increase aspiration by informing all children what a wide range of career choices the world has to offer.

Games are the perfect way to begin this process. They are a powerful means to engage young people with education, encourage teamwork and collaboration, and stimulate positive discussion. In fact studies show that games can raise average test scores by as much as 90%.

Who is using it?

Career Detectives is now being used widely across the UK and abroad. It’s being used by both primary and secondary schools as well as by youth groups, colleges, universities, Education Business Partnerships (EBPs), careers services, local authorities and children’s services, and businesses as part of their outreach programmes.

We designed Career Detectives to be a highly flexible tool to help any educator deliver careers education but have been amazed by just how far and wide the resource is now being used.

How is it going down?

Career Detectives has been unanimously well received by pupils, teachers and careers advisors alike and has also received praise and endorsements from UK government ministers, educational tsars and prominent business leaders. In fact you can read our testimonials on our website.

There has been a lot of changes in school based careers work lately. How have these impacted on you and Career Detectives?

We’re finding that there has been a flurry of demand for Career Detectives since the government announced that careers education was to become mandatory for pupils in year 8 onwards from September 2013. Teachers and other school staff, who may have no training in careers advice and guidance, have been given the responsibility of this new provision and are now pro-actively seeking resources which will help them more effectively deliver careers education.

But overall this is not a trend confined to the new year 8 provision. As careers services are increasingly cut back but schools are still required to offer independent careers advice, we find many teachers keen to use a resource which offers an independent source of information whilst helping them frame their advice and guidance into structured, creative and enjoyable lessons.

What is next for you and the game?

We’re looking to build on the success of our first year and see Career Detectives used more extensively across the UK and beyond. To this end, we’re exploring partnerships with other organisations who share our vision for better careers education and a more competency focused education system, such as with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Sheffield.

We’re also busy developing our next two careers resources which we hope to be available later in 2013. Work It Out will be the first interactive whiteboard resource to exclusively focus on helping young people develop the key competencies needed for employment, whilst learning more about different careers and the purpose of education. And with Career Trumps, children use the playing cards to discover about a multitude of careers across all sectors in a fun manner which stimulates positive discussion about future career choices.

Exciting times ahead for Big Green Fox!


Noreena Hertz talks about decision making

I came across this really interesting podcast yesterday. In it Noreena Hetz talks about the various different factors that influence decision making. She argues that very few people understand the way that they make decisions. She notes that people are not only consuming information in a rational way they are also consuming other kinds of information that they are not necessarily overtly aware of.

Eyes Wide Open

This is part of her promotion for her new book Eyes Wide Open:  How to Make Smart Decisions in a Confusing World.

Known knowns and known unknowns in my engagement with social media

I had an interesting conversation yesterday about the research that exists on career, professionalism, social media and the digital environment. All in all we agreed that there were hell of a lot of “known unknowns”, and also that there were a lot of “we think we knows, but no one has ever really proved it” floating about.

I try and keep some sort of a track of the literature in this area on my citeulike using the social media tag. However, my reading of a lot of this literature is that it is pretty fragmentary with lots of people carving out little corners to research but little systematic work. In terms of forming my own theories about the role of social media I have been strongly influenced by Clay Shirky’s work, particularly in Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus, but these books only skirt round the edges of the issues of education and employment that I’m primarily interested in.

Elsewhere on this blog I’ve looked to see what other people are advising in terms of how to manage your career online. However, these books are generally pretty limited and pretty clearly focused on how to use particular tools.

In my own work I’ve looked at various different issues: how do students use social media at university; what is the value of social media for career guidance (also with respect to policy in this area and specifically in relation to blogging); how can researchers use social media for their professional development (and for social research). I’ve also looked at how we can support students to develop their digital career literacy, written up little experiments that I’ve tried on this and tried to pull together all my thinking on the internet and career.  Hopefully this body of work (combined with my regular outpourings on this blog filed under socialmedia or social media) provides some useful starting points.  However, I’d be the first to admit that it has been developed in a rather oportunistic fashion.

So what I would like to propose is three research questions that I would really like to know the answer to. If people think that these have already been answered then please direct me to the relevant literature. If not then please direct me to the relevant pile of research funding.

  1. How do the internet and social technologies in particular change individuals experience of the education system? How are educators and educational institutions using these technologies and perhaps more interestingly how are learners using technologies in unofficial and unsanctioned ways to support their learning?
  2. How do the internet and social technologies in particular change individuals experience of transitioning from education to work? How can we use the opportunities provided by new technologies to support this process of transition?
  3. How are people using the internet and social technologies in particular to pursue their careers and develop their professionalism? What are the dangers and opportunities that this presents and how do these interface with organisational issues.

OK, so those are three fairly big issues. I don’t expect to answer all of them myself, but they represent an attempt to define a clearer research agenda in this area.

Any thoughts?

Extreme makeover: Career Edition

I’ve just found this film from the University of Saskatchewan’s Student Employment and Career Centre. In it the Centre polishes up four student’s career skills and CV before sorting out their interview outfits.

What do people think about this sort of thing? Appearance clearly matters in recruitment and in working life. Catherine Hakim calls this erotic capital. Should career professionals be talking about it more and designing services like this to enhance it?