Monday, June 16, 2014

What does 'real-world' education look like?

So often we talk about making education relevant. We talk about making 'connections' to the real-world and events that are occurring all around the world.

We are challenged to find ways for students to see value and relevance to what they are doing in school. We are charged with creating a learning environment that is both challenging and applicable to the very lives we and our students are living.

So, then why do we spend so much time thinking up fake and made-up problems and designing situations for our students to solve and work on?

The truth is, the world definitely doesn't have a shortage of problems that are worthy of our attention and time. In fact, if education became more connected to the world and solving its problems, we just might be onto something...

English: The ability to read and write... the ability to communicate comes second nature to many, but what about those who lack these seemingly 'basic' skills? Roughly 11% (775 million people) of the world's population is illiterate. What if we could change this? What if we could empower these 775 million people?

Social studies: Whether it be the issues occurring in Ukraine, the drama and riots unfolding in the midst of the World Cup, or the ever escalating concerns in Iraq and the Middle East, our students are living in a world of increasing uncertainty, and it's this uncertainty that needs both our attention and awareness. What if our students focused on ways to prevent these types of disputes to make the world a safer place?

Science: The impact on the environment is very real, and it's future generations who will feel the brunt of the negative effects. Let's put more minds to work on this issue and let's bring it to the forefront for students and their future. Sometimes it's the mind of a child that can best see the truth and cut through all the 'gray.'

Math/engineering: Bridges, roads and major infrastructure deficiencies exist across the globe, and perhaps if our math/engineering students were allowed to tackle these real-world problems, some viable and worthwhile long-term solutions could be discovered.

Foreign language: The world is getting smaller and smaller and as global connectedness becomes more and more a common reality, the need for cultural tolerance and global understanding are becoming increasingly important.

Foods/nutrition: There is a global food epidemic and starvation is still a very real problem in our world. Imagine if our students were working toward more food sustainability, more nutritional food and a better means of getting this food to those who are most in need.

PE/health: Obesity rates are rising and overall health seems to be in decline for the masses. We've reached a point when life expectancy is starting to stagnate. Let's allow and work with our students to figure out ways to get that number going higher again. Let's take a step forward in raising students who are health and fitness conscious and are committed to living a long and healthy life.

In closing, let's stop thinking of problems for our students to solve, and let's start working on the problems that are right in front of us...