One of the latest pieces from Tim Elmore on seeking to help this generation of students grow and mature through meaningful learning methods and experiences...
Kids today belong to a generation that’s never known a world without hand-held and networked devices. According to author Anya Kamenetz, “American children now spend 7.5 hours a day absorbing and creating media, about the same amount of time they spend in school.” What’s more, because kids have grown up multi-tasking they can cram 11 hours of content into those 7.5 hours. That’s more than a day at a full-time job. The truth is, it’s a new day. We have to figure out how to use this new world to develop a new generation.
Let me remind of you of something. Back in the 1960s, people bemoaned the vices of television. The American public became aware of how much time can be wasted in front of the tube, and worse, how damaging the violence, language and suggestive behavior can be to children. Eventually, however, some smart people began creating shows like “Captain Kangaroo” then “Sesame Street” and later “Blues Clues.” Based on research, producers recognized there were virtues in what many assumed was an “evil” medium. From “Sesame Street’s” debut in 1969, it changed the prevailing mindset about a new technology’s potential. People began to realize TV is neutral. It can be used for destructive or constructive purposes. Bingo. The same is true for today’s new technology. Handheld devices are at the same turning point, with an important distinction: they can be tools for expression and connection, not just passive absorption.
Take the “Smartphone” for example. It is a handheld device that’s simple to use and engages kids in their own learning process, at their own speed. Anya Kamenetz continues, “For children born in the past decade, the transformative potential of these new devices is just beginning to be felt. New studies and pilot projects show smartphones can actually make kids smarter.”
I have a question for you. Are you still teaching students the way you did five years ago? Whether you are a faculty member teaching a class of 300 freshmen college students, or a youth pastor with 20 kids in your youth group—you must be committed to engaging today’s student in a new way if you plan to flourish.
Case in point. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education earmarked $5 billion in competitive school reform grants to aid pilot programs and evaluate best practices. Major foundations are zeroing in on handhelds for preschool and primary grade students. The students, as young as six, pick up the devices and immediately engage in solving the math games on them. When the application is in a foreign language, they’ll group up in communities of three and help each other figure out the menus. Kids actually begin teaching themselves. Teachers can track student’s progress through software on their laptops. Everyone wins. It’s a virtual “pocket school.”
“What’s at issue is a deep cultural shift, a fundamental rethinking not only of how education is delivered but also of what ‘education’ means, writes Kamenetz. The very word comes from the Latin ‘duco’ meaning ‘to lead or command’—putting the learner in a passive position.” It’s still teacher centered. We’re the active ones.
1. Problem Based Learning
PBL is brilliant because it incentivizes students. Growth doesn’t revolve around a lecture or sermon, but solving a problem. Dr. Galen Turner, at Louisiana Tech, has changed the way they introduce students to engineering. Faculty ask them to look around the world and choose a problem. Then, they must invent something to solve that problem. All their learning revolves around addressing a real-life issue. Suddenly, any lectures they hear are relevant.
2. Student Driven Learning
This is where education is going. SDL engages students because their progress centers around their own speed and ability. Karl Fish teaches freshman algebra to ninth graders in Aurora, CO. He switched how he leads his class. He puts his lectures on YouTube, since students are on that site each night anyway. His class is now more interactive, as he helps students with their homework, helping them think about how to solve problems. Karl calls this switch the “Fish Flop.” It’s working.
3. Experiential Learning
The term isn’t new, although most schools and churches still don’t practice it. Today, students need real, three-dimensional experiences in their learning process. The flat screens they interact with on their phones, computers and TV require authentic experiences with real people in real time to produce authentic maturity. In 1985, David Kolb provided helpful insights into what makes experiential learning so powerful: Experience, Reflection, Abstract Conceptualization, and Experimentation.