Tag transfer

“Why do we need to know this?” [Connecting the classroom to the real world]

This past week the rethinkED team participated in a day-long think tank on how to re-invent the American High School, in an effort to develop a proposal for the XQ Super School Project. While I am excited to share some of the ideas we had, today I thought I’d start by thinking about one really powerful idea that kept me thinking long after our session ended:

“Why do we need to know this?”

^ This question is one that often pops up in the classroom. Quite frankly, students often do not see a connection between the abstract and tedious work done in classroom and their lives outside of school, both future and present. This lack of connection is problematic for a number of reasons:

  1. Without this vital connection, we often encounter the “inert knowledge” problem; students learn something but they don’t know how to use it. This relates more broadly to issues of transfer: how can we help students to use something they have learned in one context, at one time, or on one type of task in a different context, time, or on a different task? I am currently taking a course about Transfer of Learning. While transfer is arguably a main goal of education, research has generally found weak support for transfer. Students often do not learn content in ways that facilitate applying knowledge later in life or in different situations (I hope to talk about this more in upcoming weeks!).
  2. A second issue is the lack of value assigned to content learned in school. Without understanding potential applications of a skill, students see little value in learning it in the first place. If I don’t value what I am learning, I am less motivated and engaged.

Connecting classroom and community through project and problem based learning…*

With this in mind, I loved hearing this TED talk by Cesar Harada: How I teach kids to love science. He connects science to real community problems, both local and abroad. From developing an invention to estimate plastic in polluted oceans to analyzing seabed radioactivity near the Fukushima nuclear power plant that was damaged in 2011, Harada’s students work on real and relevant work problems in their science classroom. This sort of problem and project-based experiential learning can help students see the relevance of science education. Furthermore, Harada is cultivating a generation of innovators and problem solvers. His classroom is a workshop. Through rapid prototyping with tools, his students have become scientists and inventors. As he says,

“So citizen scientists, makers, dreamers — we must prepare the next generation that cares about the environment and people, and that can actually do something about it.”

THE POWER OF CONNECTION

By connecting science skills to real-world issues, we can increase the relevance of school education and give our students much needed experience in using skills in a meaningful way. As illustrated by Cesar Harada, connecting schoolwork to real life problems has benefits beyond increasing value and transfer; we can empower students to be innovators and problem solvers.

This process of embedding learning in the community and in real, complex problems is something that we hope to include in our XQ proposal. By providing students with a variety of contexts in which their knowing can be directly applied, we can create a more engaging and useful education that has applicability far beyond the classroom…*

 

“Leave Blood On the Ground” – What Skateboarding Can Teach Us About the Creative Process …*

"Leave Blood On the Ground” - What Skateboarding Can Teach Us About the Creative Process ...* |rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

“I believe that if you aren’t getting bloody somehow in your work, whether opening a psychic wound, closing one, disinfecting one, or just plain jamming your finger into one to see what happens, then it’s doubtful the work will be worth anyone else’s time.”

I discovered the quote above in an article in which author and professional skateboarder, Michael Christie, reflects upon Five Ways Being a Writer and Professional Skateboarder Are the Same. A core principle of our team is this notion of transfer or translation, of taking insights from one field and applying them to another. Christie’s reflections on the similarities between skateboarding and writing do a glorious job of highlighting the depth and richness of understanding that may be gained by transferring insights from one area to another. This quote is taken from his fifth point, that both (great) skateboarding and writing (or any other creative pursuit) should leave blood on the ground.

“There must be some kind of stakes for the writer, personally — whether they’re explicit in the book or not it doesn’t matter. Writing ought to be, at least on some level, potentially injurious. Like in skateboarding, there is always a razor-thin line between catastrophe and triumph, between falling and staying up, between bad writing and great writing, between a brilliant book and a terrible one, and I think writers ought to try to tightrope walk that line.

In both skateboarding and literature, there is that sublime moment when someone pulls something off that is clearly at the very outer limits of their ability, that is even perhaps beyond their ability, but yet it somehow worked out anyway — and this is where the true magic happens. Art is risk. That’s why it captivates us. And if a writer taking this risk has left a little (metaphorical!) blood on the ground, then all the better for those watching. The spatter is how we know they meant it.” – Michael Christie

transfer, rethink, create …*

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