Warren on Back to School: Better Needs Evaluation, The Role of Struggle
Warren Barkley may have contributed to making WiFi a global standard and is leading our technology vision as SMART’s CTO, but his K-12 experience may surprise you. Thanks for sharing this personal reflection, Warren! I challenge our blog readers to share their own personal K-12 school reflections — how does your personal experience with school inform your role as an educator? We welcome you to share with us on Twitter or in the comments below. You can find @warrenbarkley on Twitter too.
If you asked my parents, they would have told you that the K-12 education system failed me. My Dad was a huge fan of public education, he was president of the local PTA and started his career as a high school teacher in Canada. As active as my family was with the education system of that time, one of my learning needs still somehow slipped through the cracks. During my first year of my first university degree, I got 3 Fs in the opening term. It turns out I could not write and after some testing, we figured out that I was dyslexic.
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Appeal to Millennials’ Strengths for More Engaging Lessons
In part three of this four-part series about how educators and businesses are engaging with the Millennial Generation, we explore ways to leverage the strengths of millennial students to inspire participation and meaningful discussions in class.
There’s a lot of speculation online about what makes Millennials tick, but when it comes to knowing what this generation is all about, teachers who spend five days a week with millennial students are the real experts.
Ask any teacher what makes today’s young learners different from their Gen X and Boomer predecessors, and you’ll get an earful. But while most teachers are good at spotting the differences, fewer are fully confident in their ability to bridge that generation gap. Online communities may be awash with educators who have mastered the art of reaching Millennials on their level, but not every teacher knows their mochi from their emojis.
To those teachers, we say: fear not! You don’t need to get a PhD in Ariana Grande to speak your students’ language more fluently. In this age of personalized learning, the key to engaging millennial students is to design learning activities that play to their strengths.
Millennials gravitate toward social science
According to research from the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers, today’s students will be more likely than their forebears to pursue careers in social sciences and applied fields, such as criminology, communications, and culinary arts.
With this in mind, think about how these applications can help you teach core subjects like Math, Science and English. If K-12 students are taking a greater interest in criminology, for example, nearly any lesson can be structured as a detective case. Some examples of this type of activity file on the SMART Exchange include a soil science sleuth activity, a cellular mitosis case, and “Who Ate the Socks?”, a logical reasoning activity. Likewise, history topics which might have been structured as debates or oral presentations in the past can be reformatted as court proceedings in which a historical figure is put on trial with prosecutors and defendants.
Of course, as you move through the school year, you’ll get a better sense of what other topics interest your students. As part of your reflection practice, take what you know about individual students’ interests, and see if you can find a pattern. After that, reach out to your PLN and ask whether other educators have identified the same trend in their classrooms. This conversation naturally leads to the sharing of ideas and resources that will help you plan lessons that inspire and engage your students.
Millennials are solution-oriented and entrepreneurial
Anyone who works with young people can tell you that today’s connected world is both a blessing and a curse. One of the drawbacks of being plugged in 24/7 is that today’s students are hyper-aware of the biggest problems in our world, and being on the receiving end of so many gloomy messages can be exhausting. For example, a constant stream of messages about environmental issues like global warming or deforestation can lead to frustration in young people if they can’t see any solution to the problems they’re inheriting.
Fortunately, today’s students have entrepreneurial spirit and, given the confidence that they can make a difference, they’re keen to innovate solutions. This generational trait can be the seed of some really powerful classroom projects. By emphasizing to students that small solutions can make a real difference to big problems, you’ll inspire them to engage deeply in solutions-oriented, project-based activities. This encouragement will certainly fire up students’ inquiry and creativity, and it might even lead them to start a project that can grow beyond the classroom.
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