LL May 2.13

Real World Problem-Solving and Innovation

I have to start this post by saying that I am a confirmed TED-aholic. What an amazing idea  and resource for just about everyone. You may notice, if you scroll through my posts, that I like to feature TED talks if for no other reason than because they are direct but not too specific. They simply celebrate great ideas and thinkers. What an amazing idea.

This brings me to this 21st Century Competency of Real World Problem-Solving and Innovation. I think that this is the key and most 21st Century-ish concept of the NeXt Lesson. This is what modern technology can help people do and can help teachers celebrate. Consider these videos and read this article about young people making very real impacts on the world very local to them and even reaching quite literally to the stars.

These are amazing and of course these are some very special young people but I don’t think that you can say that their stories are too big to see them as having any application to our classrooms. I think the point of these young people is that they had a need to innovate or share their ideas and had to look for ways to do that. This is what I see as the point here and also what I see as the most profoundly sad thing as well.

I say sad because all three of these videos speak to the reality that these people had to do these things on their own time. They did it happily because it was their passion but they could not find the space or time to do these within their own schooling. One Jack Andraka actually mentions how he had to sneak science articles into his science class and read them under cover of his desk so that he did not get in trouble from his science teacher!! Does this not cause pause or even horror among educators? It should because it speaks to the lack of authenticity and real-world applicability that students see within their classrooms. This will be the death of schools, (if it has not already done so).

I say this with all humility and a healthy dose of guilt because as I look back on my own teaching and realize that I never really got past the ENTRY stage of Real World Problem-Solving and Innovation. I created lessons and activities that while thought-provoking and interesting, had basically no direct relation to the world that my students lived in. They had to stumble onto those connections without me providing direct links OR the forum to share their ideas with anyone. I unfortunately cannot go back and fix those errors, or apologize to those students that had to perform my tasks, but I think that the future of education has to take this into account.

We have to look for ways to utilize what this century has delivered on a silver, (or more accurately, touch screen), platter. We have to look to bring the real-world into our classrooms and encourage or even demand that our students go out and change their world. This is no longer a good idea that could possibly make its way into an Independent Study or Extra Credit Project. This needs to become a basic requirement for all students.

Their portfolios should include a tally of the lives they have changed and the people they have impacted. Their report cards should not only comment on what level of ministry discerned literacy they have achieved but what level of innovation and impact they have had on the globe. This is not pie-in-the-sky thinking: this is what we need to do and something that we can relatively easily get to using tools like Skype, Twitter, blogs, and dare I even say, TED.

CGE Responsible Citizen

The Catholic Graduate Expectations demand this of us and I think that we cannot simply “prepare students to become responsible citizens” we have to demand that of them WHILE they are in our midst. The tech allows the forum and the tools to share ideas and work with billions of people, we as educators need to embrace that and demand it.

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