Just as pounding the pavement to look for jobs has largely been replaced by online applications and LinkedIn, so too have career explorations been updated. Technology now factors into the learning process as early as elementary school.

At Roosevelt Elementary, two fifth-grade classes used iPads to research potential professions and present their findings. The classes are participating in an iPad pilot program. Fifth-grade teachers also have spent the last school year training to use the tools. All fifth-graders will receive their own devices in fall 2016, thanks to levy funding from the community.

However, the high-tech tools didn’t replace one time-honored strategy: networking.

At an event on Feb. 19, the students met with professionals from a variety of industries. The adults shared their paths to their current jobs and gave the students glimpses of the challenges and opportunities.

One fifth-grader was inspired after learning about human resources. “I like to help people,” she says. Now, she is considering entering the HR field or becoming a makeup artist.

“It was fun hearing what they want to be,” said Court Commissioner Kristen Parcher.

Teacher Jennifer Flores started the career research project a few years ago. However, this is the first year for the project at Roosevelt. “We wanted to give kids a start on thinking about their future,” Flores said.

And with iPads, “students’ access to information has broadened greatly,” added Brandon Baker, a fifth-grade teacher.

Students see the benefit of working closely with the tools needed to develop post-high school skills. “Students like technology and will learn more if they have it in their hands,” said one.

“There’s a lot of learning apps,” added student Emalee Laughery.

After collecting anecdotes from the professionals, students used their iPads to research careers and educational requirements. The project culminated in a March 30 presentation to their peers and parents that demanded a blend of public speaking and technical skills. Students also had an opportunity to evaluate one another’s presentations and provide feedback.

Fifth-grader Gabriel Sanchez-Torres has his sights set on occupational therapy. “I want this job because when my family goes out to the store or when we go to places I sometimes see people with problems with their bodies. I even see some kids with these kinds of problems. That makes me feel bad for them, and that is why I want to help them,” he said.

Joanna Lozano hopes to become a chef. She said, “I chose this job because when I am in the kitchen I feel I am in my own world and everything that I wish is happening.”

Aspiring physician assistant Heyleen Ramey acknowledged that she might eventually change her mind about her future profession. But she saw the value of starting to plan now.

“It’s good we’re thinking about it so that we work hard toward it,” she said.