After attending an interesting and inspiring talk with Dr Gary Stager yesterday I have been thinking about what we as teachers can do to teaching for the time that our students live in. Dr Stager suggested that working with students on real-life problems helps to motivate them to be interested in learning.
The big question we as educators should be asking is, “Why do our students need to know this?” If we are working with our students on real-life problems then the teaching and learning experiences can come out of the problem-solving. What better way to teach literacy, numeracy and the like than in a situation that the students can relate to.
Dr Stager showed examples of students of mixed age and ability mentoring each other. It wasn’t only the older students mentoring younger students but the ‘experts’ mentoring those with less experience whether older or younger. Using technology (computers, Lego etc) they created machines/programs that would solve problems that they had. Or they may create working models of things they are interested in. During the process they would need to learn the tools they are using, the mathematics, literacy or science (etc) that is required to get the desired result.
These are genuine, authentic learning experiences, and to me they are far more interesting than learning geometry, or the water cycle just because that’s what the teacher is teaching.
Why are we teaching what we are teaching? Why does the student need to know it?
We need to continue to ask ourselves these questions, and work towards developing authentic learning experiences which have meaning and purpose for our students. It’s far more than gaining credits or a qualification. It’s learning to learn.