Tuesday, September 26, 2017

"When Am I Going to Use This?" - What Really Matters in Class

"When am I going to use this?"

A student's question about the usefulness of school content and curriculum is always a challenge for contemporary educators because many of us must face the reality and answer honestly - "Never," we might say. "You will never directly use this knowledge about The Great Gatsby or this skill for multiplying a polynomial or this diagram of cell's structure or this information about the Battle of Antietam." Education doesn't work that way - it's not all utilitarian. However, some of it can be, and for many of us, it's our hidden curriculum, or those little tidbits of information, insight, and life skills that we use to frame the rest of our lessons. For me, those tidbits might be healthy living choices or personal financial literacy. *

Just two weeks, as I shopped in Home Depot for light bulbs, a man walking past stopped and said, "Mr. Mazenko? Is that you?" He was a former student from nearly fifteen years ago, and as we talked about the class and what he remembered, he told me, "Save 10% and invest in a mutual fund. That's what I remember most. Every kid should do what you told us." Now, I taught him junior English, so much of our class was about appreciating The Great Gatsby and writing argumentative essays and sharpening grammar skills for the ACT/SAT.  But I also used to give regular book talks, and we'd often read short pieces from the newspaper that were challenging and relevant. So, when I brought in a Market Watch piece from the Wall Street Journal that advised people to "Save 10%" and I recommended kids read books like David Bach's Automatic Millionaire, it resonated with kids. In fact, many kids will tell me, it's this mini-lessons and supplements to the curriculum that make all the difference.

Anecdotes like this are why opportunities such as Digital Promise are so valuable in education today. The opportunity for competency-based learning opportunities on sites like Bloomboard-Digital Promise is part of the new innovations in education that allow learning and mastery of anything, anytime, anywhere. The digital age has the potential to be the great democratizing influence on education because no information is off limits. Anyone with digital access can learn as much as he or she wants by using online platforms. And, beyond simply accessing and learning the information, people have the opportunity to earn micro-credentials. At the Bloomboard-Digital Promise site, students and teachers have the chance to learn and earn up to twenty financial literacy micro-credentials. In many ways, the access to information and micro-credentials could be the key to expanding not only knowledge but certifications and access to careers.

Competency-based learning and digital access to content, curriculum, knowledge, and skills is the foundation of innovative education. I've noted before my criticism of concepts around seat-time and Carnegie units as the indisputable gatekeeper for education and certification. The work of groups like Digital promise is one step to increasing access and expanding knowledge.

* This is a sponsored post

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