The Future of Jobs

At Genius Plaza, we are working to ensure that all students, regardless of location or socioeconomic status, have the tools and resources to achieve their potential and have the skills to compete. With that in mind, this report by Pew – The Future of Jobs and Jobs Training – caught our attention.

As we look at promoting STEAM careers and coding, we need to also build strategic skills.

As an ed tech company that has also created an internal learning culture, there were many points we agreed upon, including this one:

“A considerable number of respondents to this canvassing focused on the likelihood that the best education programs will teach people how to be lifelong learners.”

We invite you to read the full report and let us know what you think.


Education Week in Review: May 26th, 2017

Education Week in Review

Each Friday, we will share education and EdTech chats, stories, and blogs we found that are of interest. We invite you to add others in the comments section.

This Oakland high school robotics club should be the future of a more diverse tech industry


Zuckerberg tells Harvard we need a new social contract of equal opportunity 

Teachers reveal how education has changed dramatically over the past 20 years 

50 Inspiring Quotes About Teachers 

The importance of challenging & validating students from every background

Celebrating Multicultural Children Through Literature + Book Review #ReadYourWorld

Level Playing Field (@LPFI)

5/25/17, 11:11 AMLeveling the Playing Field in #STEM for Underrepresented Youth. @philjo

Keith Peters (@principalkp)

5/24/17, 3:28 PMThis is why it’s important to remember students’ names and to pronounce them correctly. Value their individuality. #KidsDeserveIt 



valentina gonzalez (@ValentinaESL)

5/23/17, 6:08 PMStages of language development #ELL #ESL #katyool #language

Motivating student success with positive STEAM role models

During their school age years, kids are bombarded almost to the point of being overwhelmed with questions about their futures.  On a daily basis, students field questions about things ranging from what college they are going to attend, to where they see themselves in twenty years.  Twenty years!  Most kids can’t place themselves twenty minutes from their current moment in time.  At this point, I will hold back, because I don’t want you to misunderstand me.  Encouraging kids to think about their futures is not a bad thing.  However, if you don’t provide the student with the proper resources for them to have an informed contemplation, let alone make an informed decision, then you’re doing them a great disservice.

click to watch the video

 There is an old saying that if you’re trying to choose a career, you should think about what you would do if you didn’t have to work.  As I reflect back on the days when I took sayings like this to heart, I instantly remember listing every actor, singer, athlete, and fashion designer that I could think of.  Mainstream media made the individuals working in these professions icons, and for young impressionable youth such as myself and many of my friends, we developed the attitude of  “I’ll just do what they do.”  Great idea, right?  Because surely none of these professions required the individual to work!  As you can imagine, over the years, my viewpoint has evolved into a more realistic understanding of the level of  discipline, craftsmanship, and hard work it  takes to excel in these professions.   

click to watch the video

During their school age years, kids are bombarded almost to the point of being overwhelmed with questions about their futures.  On a daily basis, students field questions about things ranging from what college they are going to attend, to where they see themselves in twenty years.  Twenty years!  Most kids can’t place themselves twenty minutes from their current moment in time.  At this point, I will hold back, because I don’t want you to misunderstand me.  Encouraging kids to think about their futures is not a bad thing.  However, if you don’t provide the student with the proper resources for them to have an informed contemplation, let alone make an informed decision, then you’re doing them a great disservice.


click to watch the video

At Genius Plaza, we provide the student with those resources by way of our Learning Champions Initiative.  This incredible program aims to inspire at-risk students by showcasing diverse leaders who look like them and have similar stories, and are currently working in various fields, including STEAM careers.  Learning Champions expose students to their journey from a middle school student to the present.  They share their stories of triumph, sacrifice, and achievement.  They do so while giving the student an in-depth view into a day in the life of their profession.  Teachers leverage the multiple resources that come with the profiles, including animation for younger students, video interviews, six leveled eBooks in English and six in Spanish, vocabulary sets, exercises, worksheets, and virtual reality of their workspaces.  In addition to inspirational content, the Learning Champion sets provide autobiographical content and innovative resources which teachers can use to drive engagement with students.

click to watch the video

I have had the opportunity to interview many of these Learning Champions.  More importantly, I see the impact they are having on students, who now have access to not only their stories, but to the opportunity to learn about different professions, and even experience firsthand where these Champions work through VR video.

With all our Learning Champions and our Genius Plaza team, this is done in hopes of inspiring future generations while closing the achievement gap across the globe, one child at a time, one click at a time.

Google I/O 2017: VR comes into focus in the classroom

This year, on behalf of Genius Plaza, I had the opportunity to attend Google I/O, an annual conference held in California, where Google shares their latest technology and advancements. This year proved no different, with advances in machine learning, Android and – more importantly for Genius Plaza – virtual reality. Google showed various technologies, including stand alone VR headsets and new ways of rendering incredibly lifelike scenes on high-end devices and common web browsers alike. Today I want to highlight three new developments we are excited about and hope to bring to a classroom near you!

Seurat Seurat!

Seurat is a new program that takes HD film quality 3D scenes and quickly allows them to be played on all kinds of mobile hardware. Google partnered with IMXLAB at Lucasfilm to showcase the technology; they took a high fidelity digital set from Rouge One, which was thousands of hours in the making, and compressed the assets from the set to run in real time on a headset.


Click to see a cool example

Exceeding Expeditions

Expeditions  is Google’s virtual reality app built for education. Expeditions AR allows teachers to set up descriptions and points of interest in VR to experience places around the world. With Expeditions AR, students can gather around the Statue of David, a strand of DNA, or even a Category 5 hurricane without leaving the classroom. Teachers guide their students using virtual reality viewers. This program was quite successful, and Google revealed they are opening up the app to developers to create experiences. At Genius Plaza, we are looking forward to testing Expeditions  to help students co-create content and share their local wonders with the world!

Click above to see why we’re so excited about Expeditions


Great Geniuses Think Alike

Google has been thinking a lot about VR experiences and how they work best, specifically in the classroom. The team at Google highlighted three themes of great VR experiences: immersive, interactive, and social. This mirrors 1:1 Genius Plaza’s approach to educating our students. By having our students watch content that is culturally relevant, share what they learn with each other, and reflect on the experience, we have created a cycle that encourages an immersive love of learning.

Google’s team has given us all great tools to push education forward. This quote by Seymour Papert shared by the Google team is a great reminder to keep our eye on the real goal: tapping into the genius that lives in every child.

Why Branding is Important

Sometimes our intentions are good, but they miss the big picture. Last year on May 4th, also known as “Star Wars Day,” the brand Cinnabon tweeted an image of Princess Leia with a bun in her hair with a clever caption. It garnered a lot of positive attention for its playfulness and humor. The same image was used for Carrie Fisher’s death, which was met with negative reactions from fans who felt it was too exploitative for such a somber occasion.

Branding is important because it can affect a company in positive or negative ways. I recently attended a Design Conference called Create Upstate, and the information I received was gold. Branding is important because:

  1. Good branding is important because people who feel more do more.
  2. The stronger the message, the more likely it will ignite emotion in and connect with an audience. This creates loyalty and recognition.
  3. Good branding builds excitement, which can lead to word-of-mouth references and generous company promotion.
  4. A good campaign makes a significant difference, bringing in more attention and exposure.

I will share with you a project created by a Rochester design studio named Truth Collective that shows an example of a successful branding campaign for a nonprofit organization, and its results.

This campaign was created to promote an annual award ceremony given by a nonprofit organization called Causewave, located in Rochester. The award ceremony recognizes individuals and groups who have contributed to the community and to the organization in a significant way. Truth Collective created a campaign for this event, naming it Slaying Giants. The idea came from the mythological tale of David and Goliath. The idea of an average human male defeating a giant ten times his size is a symbology for the nonprofit; their small company successfully fights against corporations that are affecting society in a negative way. The material created for this campaign was released into the world through digital and printable outlets. A couple weeks before the event, ticket sales increased by more than 18%.

Besides the organization’s publicity and sales, branding is an identity. It is a foundation and support to the organization’s existence. A name is significant, but how significant is something without a face or personality?

Don’t undervalue the importance of branding. It’s more powerful than you think!

eBook Sets: A Game-changing Resource for Improving Comprehension Skills

As a teacher, you know that twenty-first century students have diverse literacy needs, and we are now faced with differentiating learning content according to each student’s learning style, interests, and readiness. We have also heard from many of you that one of the main challenges you face with students is related to comprehension skills.

Howard Gardner, a PhD Professor of Education at Harvard University, developed the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, with which many of us are familiar.  There are three general categories in which people learn: visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners. Gardner’s work on psychology, human cognition, and human potential led to the development of the initial six intelligences.

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

  1. Verbal-linguistic intelligence
  2. Logical-mathematical intelligence
  3. Spatial-visual intelligence
  4. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence
  5. Musical intelligence
  6. Interpersonal intelligence
  7. Intrapersonal intelligence
  8. Naturalist intelligence
  9. Existential intelligence

When using multimodal content, you create an environment where students feel motivated to participate in activities that fit their learning needs and styles. But the big problem many encounter is finding sufficient time to differentiate by modality, or finding content that fits each student’s learning style. Thematic sets are hard to come by.  Seeking out resources that share the same theme can be time-consuming.

At Genius Plaza, we understand the importance of multimodal content, which is why we provide access to hundreds of thematic eBook sets. These include, but are not limited to, eBooks, videos, vocabulary sets, printables, exercises, and games. Genius Plaza strives to provide teachers with culturally relevant thematic sets, which come nicely packaged to help teachers take back their time, allowing them to focus more on students’ learning needs and developing other skills. With Genius Plaza, you can teach the same concept by assigning one student a video and another an eBook or game, so students have the opportunity to learn verbally, visually, musically, etc.

Explore the benefits of incorporating eBook sets in the classroom.


For more information on Multiple Intelligences and how to apply this theory in the classroom, make sure to keep following my blog. Below, you will find an article with additional information:

Multiple Intelligences: Gardner’s Theory. ERIC Digest.


Education Week in Review

Education Week in Review

Each Friday, we will share education and EdTech chats, stories, and blogs we found that are of interest. We invite you to add others in the comments section.

Math and science program at UC Davis recruits underrepresented students 

These 10 States Have Most Education Equality by Race

What Are The Benefits of Using Virtual Reality in K-12 Schools?

@GreatCitySchls Live from #BIRE2017 - table discussions on key ELL-related ESSA requirements

@emilyfranESL We meet outstanding teachers every day who bring this tweet to life!

Upcoming conferences we are attending -

please join @geniusplaza at:

May 31 to June 2 - @BookExpoAmerica booth 1844

June 11-14 - National Charter School Conference booth 133

June 25-28 - #ISTE17  booth 2152

Building diversity into your hiring process

I once worked with a manager who would only interview candidates who graduated from his prestigious alma-mater. He ended up with a team of brilliant, but similar-minded clones, who knew all the same processes and techniques, having studied under the same professors. This led to an increase in immediate productivity as everyone knew how to follow the current procedures, but when it came time to brainstorm new ideas: dead silence.

The team fell into a niche, and when new objectives arrived, and technologies changed, the team couldn’t break out of their comfort zone. They went from being a high performing team, to a dead weight in their department that struggled to adapt. The company lost hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars trying to reprogram and restructure the department.

Subjectivity in the hiring process can lead to an increase in uniformity among teams, which has been proven to decrease creativity and lead to lower long-term performance.

Focusing extra attention on bringing in a diverse workforce can lead to long-term financial performance, and yet we find that companies often struggle to reflect this in their hiring practices.

How can you change your hiring processes to embrace, and even seek-out teammates of different skillsets, thought processes, and backgrounds? Here are some tips from our team at Genius Plaza:

Structure the “culture fit” conversation: Positivity, eagerness for the job, alignment with the company mission, experience working in similar environments. Culture fit is crucial in the hiring process and each individual success. Use these and similar factors that are based on solid criteria for evaluating the candidate, instead of “does (s)he feel right for us” or “does the team like this person.”

Blind-review of applications: Have your HR or Recruiting team present candidate applications without names or locations attached, to ensure each candidate is reviewed objectively.

Embrace relocation: Don’t eliminate candidates who are not in the area, if they make clear they will relocate. It may add some additional time to their start date, but they are bringing a new perspective and ideas with them. With the average cost of replacing a low performer landing in the thousands of dollars, it can be worth it to pay a bit more up-front to bring someone from afar.

Diversity job boards: Utilize job boards that focus on hiring women, veterans, or diverse candidates, to turn your applicant flow into a more reflective pool of the population. Big-name job boards may land you hundreds of applicants, but every recruiter knows that one strong candidate is worth a hundred mediocre ones. Our CEO Ana Roca Castro likes to remind us that recruitment of diverse candidates sometimes may be tough, so you need to look harder.

Work with International Students: Working directly with colleges can help find fantastic international students for Internship and Co-Op positions, or during their authorized practical training period after graduation (for F-1 visa students).

At Genius Plaza diversity is one of our core values. We are proud of our record and recognize we need to continue to make diversity and inclusion a priority each and every day. For us it is part of our corporate culture, a competitive advantage that drives innovation and allows us to better serve educators and students.


-Scott Kattrein

Talent Manager at Genius Plaza

Genius Plaza Increases Access and Delivers Culturally Relevant, Personalized Learning

An interview with Ana Roca Castro, Founder and CEO of Genius Plaza

Q: Tell us about Genius Plaza.
A: Genius Plaza is an education technology social enterprise delivering culturally relevant, personalized learning content, working to democratize education as we work to ignite the genius in every child. We know that genius lives in every zip code with access the only barrier, which is why we want students from all backgrounds to relate to the content, including the stories, the characters, and the experiences. The default for educational resources offers character diversity of about 2%. We at Genius Plaza cham
pion in the richness of diversity and experiences in classrooms around the country, with more than 90% of our eBooks and lessons featuring diverse protagonists.

Diverse STEAM Career profiles for every reading level

What kinds of services and educational products does Genius Plaza offer?
A: Genius Plaza’s educational platform offers access to thousands of multi-level, culturally relevant teaching resources. Working across all devices, and with math and language arts mobile apps, learning has no boundaries. Educators can personalize the reading level for each student, and in both English and Spanish. Our products offer co-creation, where educators and students customize the questions within our games, exercises, and eBooks, allowing students to become protagonists of their own learning journey. Re-teaching tools include five authoring opportunities: videos, eBooks, exercises, vocabulary sets, and worksheets.  Some of our free apps include: eBook Plaza, Hangman Plaza, and Mad Minute Plaza.

How can teachers and parents use Genius Plaza to focus on whole child education and personalized learning?
A: Our Learning Bank of resources allows you to instantly find hundreds of books in English and Spanish, and related assessments for each individual student. It can often take a teacher hours to differentiate lessons for a class on different levels. We believe that lesson planning for the various levels in one classroom should be as easy as planning for one child.

How does the Genius Plaza platform method work?
A: When a district, school, teacher, or parent sign up for Genius Plaza, they have access to our resources for a calendar year. Students choose a career goal and an avatar reflecting a motivation for their academic success. We incorporate a learning, reflection, re-teaching, and peer review process built into our platform. With this method, we can ensure that a child not only absorbs important information, but also critically thinks about a lesson, becoming the protagonist of their learning by co-creating and through peer review. At each step of the way, we offer culturally relevant touch points in songs or lessons from our STEAM Career Champions.

How do educators with English Language Learners (ELL) /Multiple Language Learners (MLL) use Genius Plaza?

A: Genius Plaza works to combine modern advances in technology to bring the best tools for innovating ELL/MLL instruction in math and language arts. We believe that the proven benefits of differentiating learning should be easily accessible to ELL/MLL educators. Genius Plaza helps bridge the gap by showing educators metrics and resources at the right level for each student in both English and Spanish. A newcomer can be properly challenged in their native language and contextualized before embarking on the English version of an eBook at the right level for the language.