Friday, September 20, 2013

Real-World Learning - It's Really NOT That Hard

I just read this article in Forbes by Emily Canal entitled "Zombies Infiltrate Classrooms to Bring STEM Back to Life" about how The National Academy of Science and Texas Instruments  have created a new program that provides STEM lessons through the lens of zombies, superheroes, space and forensics called STEM Behind Hollywood. Wow - I wish I were back in the classroom cause I would be all over this!  What a great way to get students really excited about learning. Kids are into movies, particularly with those focused on zombies, scifi and superheroes, and here's a way to connect that interest to learning about math, science and, win, win!

Similar to my post last week about real-world curriculum and technology connections, the message here is real-world learning is important and needed in classrooms. It's not that hard to find amazing resources out there that help make learning topics such as math and science engaging, exciting, relevant and WAY better than a boring old worksheet. Obviously, math tech nerd that I am, I tend to focus on amazing real-world math resources such as Mathalicious and YummyMath, to name just a couple.  These sites provide content that is of interest to students because it involves the world around them and therefore the learning takes place in context, making it more memorable, relevant and motivating to learn.

My point - if we can learn the same concepts in a more engaging way that helps students remember it and, more importantly, WANT to learn it - i.e. REAL-WORLD connections, why are so many not doing so? If your excuse is it's too much work to find real-world connections - guess what - it's really NOT!  Look around - there is a plethora of real-world resources out there that can help you spark interest.  Maybe it's as close as the TV or the movies.

(Speaking of TV, for those math teachers out there, if you have not watched the series Numb3rs, that's a great resource. The series is over now, but you can watch the whole 8 seasons on Netflix.  I admit...I am addicted.  I am on Season 4 and still not tired of the math and science involved. And I have actually made a real-world connection of my own as a result of the math on the series.  Reading a research paper yesterday on online professional development, they talked about using social networking theory to analyze teachers online status, and I actually knew exactly what that was because of an episode from Numb3rs!  Hence my obsession lately with real-world learning. I just checked and the activities and math/science alignments are still available for this series for those of you interested - found this nice blog post from Tom DeRosa called "We STILL Use Math Everyday" that provides how to find the lessons and the alignment.)

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