Start Where Your Students Are

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Jackson_rbwSubmitted by Robyn Jackson, whose article, “Start Where Your Students Are,” appears in the February issue of Educational Leadership.

I recently gave a presentation in which I discussed how crucial the concept of currencies was in helping prepare 21st century learners. Most educators fail to recognize many 21st century skills as viable classroom currency. As a result, they miss valuable opportunities to make school relevant for our students. For some attendees, it was a hard sell. They thought that I gave kids too much credit and that the real reason students aren’t engaged is because they’re just plain lazy.

The problem with that argument is that these same lazy, disengaged, apathetic, disruptive students inside our classrooms are highly engaged bloggers, designers, gamers, and builders outside our classrooms. They are also great multitaskers who manage to cram close to 11 hours of content into 7 or 8 hours a day. So they’re clearly not lazy. I think that the real reason so many of our students refuse to use their currencies in the classroom is that many of our classrooms just aren’t relevant.

Does that mean that we must rush out and buy SMART Boards, kill classroom discussions in favor of classroom blogs, kit out our computer labs with iPads, and replace the three Rs with video games? Of course not. These lame attempts at relevance for relevance’s sake do little to invite students to invest in school with the same passion they invest in the virtual worlds outside school.

Real relevance is showing students how their currencies are relevant to the classroom and helping them leverage these currencies to better access and customize the curriculum to fit their learning needs.