Balance hard and soft skills

Find ways to balance hard and soft skills with more group work, presentations, and one-on-one discussions.

Teach your students to be humans. This includes getting and keeping a job, interacting with other humans, and interpreting their world. This knowledge takes a balance of technical knowledge and communication skills. Humans need both to survive and be happy. Help your students. Use connected learning practices such as connecting students to their interests through product centered goals who have a shared purpose in an open-networked community, and make sure to cultivate peer culture.

© Convergence Academies
© Convergence Academies


Example for use:

Instead of students being asked to keep to themselves, get them engaged with the students around them to learn how to communicate in a professional environment.

Working with others is a fact of life. Cultivate teamwork and communication because they will be better citizens of the world. Instead of students working on their own, teach them to work with others.

© Convergence Academies
© Convergence Academies

Activity: Business Planning


As a math exercise, students will work in teams to create a business plan. After breaking the students out into groups, ask them to choose the type of business they will create. Give them restraints such as a small-scale, instead of a large corporation. Ask them to choose a company that will be in the neighborhood of their school. What types of business do they need near to them?

This project is aimed at students grades 9+


The students will use the internet to research types of businesses possible. Have them look up possibilities on Google Maps to see if there is a need in their school community for the business. Have them use the internet to research existing company names. Are there companies that already serve the purposes they are considering? As a group, have the students vote on the company and the company name they will be creating. Afterwards, have the students research available commercial spaces in their school community.

How much will the rent cost a month? Are there extra charges for utilities? How many square feet is the space? What do they need to buy for the business? How much is each item? Have them save prices through screen-shots. How large is each item? Will everything they need fit into the retail space they chose? What amount is the start-up cost? How much will they need a month to make even?


Have the students create a layout drawing to show how the items will fit in the space. Ask the students to pull from Google Images to use as discussion catalysts in the group and to possibly include in the final proposal.


Ask the students to create a shared Google Document that will include the following:

Introduction and summary

Company overview including location, space description, and cost analysis

Industry analysis including competitors and trends

Customer analysis including their community research

Marketing plan such as branding concepts, how to reach your market such as advertising like a website, direct mail, events

Operations plan including who in the group does what jobs


Each group will create a presentation using the Google Document. The students not in the group presenting can be the bank who will vote on their plan.

–Unit based on Digital Media Mentor KW interview

Inspiration from Teachers

“Okay, we have a genuine conversation here now, Where can we go with these two viewpoints? If nothing else, we’re going to have a conversation…were using the digital media safely and and being able to find ways to navigate and explore those options, and then have a conversation about them. Having people able to present and stand in front of an audience and talk about what they’re interested in is incredibly important…The best way to do that, I think, is just getting up there and practicing that comfort of talking to someone, having a conversation.” –Digital Media Mentor AN

“Verifying that they can make something, that they have done it, and it can be presented to an audience is a pretty gratifying thing…when you are that age, whether you are interested in performance or not. That is something that everyone has to do at some point in their life. Having as much exposure to it really normalizes it for them. I think it makes interacting with humans easier as well.” –Digital Media Mentor AN

“They had to have questions for interviews, and actually conduct an interview…definitely communication skills.” –Digital Media Mentor DM

“I find those Q&As, or presentations of their projects very valuable because, and it has happened, if someone raises the right question it allows for conversation. It opens up a door that may have not been opened before.” –Digital Media Mentor DM

“I think [the reason] why students enjoy me as a teacher is because it is really about kind of creating that community. At the end of every class, those students are friends, and they have made a group.” –Digital Media Mentor LL

Your idea does not have to always be complete. It can always grow. It should grow, because if it does not then you are stuck. That is an important thing to education because students are learning differently today.” –Digital Media Mentor LL

“Get them thinking about maybe things they were not thinking about. Then get them comfortable talking in front of each other, which I think is one of the hardest challenges in why students do not speak, is because they are afraid that they are going to be judged for that.” –Digital Media Mentor LL

“The really cool part was the authentic participation.” –Digital Media Mentor KW

“They were working in groups to make the picture…each group would give feedback to other groups…there are these little conversations happening in each group about the other people’s picture, and they are like, ‘I think it is good because of this,’ ‘I think it is confusing because of this,” and they are learning from each other instead of just feeling lectured at.” –Digital Media Mentor SM

If you can communicate well, then you can handle life. It is really important…and then also collaboration…you grow up and you still have to work with other people…but what is a way in which it can be relevant and enjoyable and build some skills that you need?” –Digital Media Mentor SM

“Getting students to participate. It really did not matter if it was open-ended as long as they were engaged and they were learning something.” –Digital Media Mentor MH

“The whole one-on-one thing also applies to the one-on-group…and just a little bet of asking/probing things, pushing the group as a whole…and then just making sure that they are talking as a group and that the discussion encompasses everyone.” –Digital Media Mentor MH

The moments where I did feel effective was when we broke the class into groups and especially when we did the final presentations, I would take a group away from the whole class into the gym, have them demo their game and go through all the tweaking, and probe them on what is working, what is not working. They were all paying attention and engaged.” –Digital Media Mentor MH

“If someone is having trouble, you can say, ‘This group knows that concept. Why don’t you ask them about it?’ and get them to cross-pollinate ideas.” –Digital Media Mentor MH

“I like creating the environment that gets everybody primed to share something intimate…where students felt comfortable sharing things.” –Digital Media Mentor LS

© Participatory Learning Strategies