by Carla Silver, Executive Director
When I am asked to clarify what I mean by a "contemporary" learning experience, I try to keep it simple. Students should have learning experiences that have three primary attributes:
1) Engaging - Learning experiences involve them as learners, not passive recipients. They are involved in deep ways, not simply answering questions and problems that are posed to them by teachers, but posing their own questions, identifying problems they want to solve and then actively participating in their own learning.
2) Relevant - Students see how their learning is connected to their daily lives whether it is the content they are learning, the skills, they are developing or the interpersonal and intra-personal habits and mindsets they are practicing. Educators, more than ever before can spend less time teaching content and more time helping students connect the dots to what and how what they are learning is relevant. And if a case can't be made for relevance, real relevance, then maybe it's time to ditch it. Students of al ages deserve to know how what they are learning makes them better thinkers and better humans. The dramatic decline in our civil discourse is, I believe, is exacerbated by schools shying away from having hard but essential conversations about daily, controversial topics. Yet this kind of learning is not just relevant, it is essential.
3) Meaningful - Many young people today are lost. They have grown up in a world of 24-7 information and perennial digital connection. They have underdeveloped imaginations and are unskilled at delaying gratification (Amazon can get anything they want delivered to them in a day). Learning experiences today need to help our students discover their purpose in the word and feel connected to the people and problems around them. Being problem identifiers and solvers gives young people meaning and purpose. It turns them on to being active citizens and contributors to the world in which they live. It connects them in deeply human ways to others as they work face to face on authentic challenges.
This is simple but it isn't easy. It requires us to give up a lot of what we have done in schools for the past 50 years. But I believe our students are worth it.