As a middle schooler growing up in the 1990s, I was one of many girls who had a goal of marrying Zac Hanson.  I was driven by the desire to meet the band. I envisioned that Zac would fall in love with me, obviously at first sight. I never thought that what I was doing would be considered “techy” or that this passion project could be setting me up for a future career as a computer scientist, software engineer, learning designer, research associate or UX designer—all jobs that I learned about much later in life by reading Careers with Code magazine.

Fast forward to 2018. I'm a technology integrationist and I'm part of an educator group called MidMN, named for our location in central Minnesota. We come together to share best practices and collaborate on projects that benefit our students. At one of our meetings, there was an “aha” moment when we realized that we all had passions when we were younger—just like our students today.

Instead of nurturing these interests in our individual classrooms, we organized a student-powered conference where middle schoolers could showcase what they were really interested in learning about with a wider audience.

We had three sessions with four concurrent presentations for students to choose from based on interest. Each topic was aligned one of the ISTE Standards for Students, and students earned (and proudly displayed) buttons for attending each session.

At the end of the day, we gathered to recap why we were there, make connections about what students did that day and how it could relate to their future—and we challenged them to take what they felt passionate about and pursue it.

Read the full article about student obsessions can shape career path by Angie Kalthoff at EdSurge.