Is That Assignment Still Relevant?
I asked my 9 year old what she thought of brochures. Her response… “What’s a brochure?” I highly doubt when she goes in for a job interview she will be bragging about her brochure making skills. Folding something in thirds does not make it more valuable. Why does the activity enhance the learning? What is the authentic audience for the activity? If we do not ask these questions we run the risk of the activity being busywork or just something to do.
The Real World
I often hear the justification of preparing students for the real world as a rationale for doing something. There is a lot of picking and choosing going on as to what real world skills we are going to expose students to. Sitting in a chair all day doing paperwork is not really preparing students for the future. Helping students to be creative critical thinkers does. In the real world, collaboration and the ability to get along with a team is a highly valued skill, so why so many individual assignments? Following directions does not create leaders, freelancers or entrepreneurs but we need our students to be ready for those things. In the future jobs that follow directions are replaced by robots. RIGHT NOW if you call for an uber in some cities a self-driving car will come pick you up. Instead of an explicit list of directions, consider an open-ended challenge.
Digital LiteracyIt is not a matter of preference, students MUST be digitally literate. It is absolutely every single one of our jobs to help prepare students for living in a world that interacts digitally. Does this mean every assignment should be digital, absolutely not. Use Glitter. However, with each lesson plan should we not be considering how we are increasing digital literacy? We may decide this lesson/activity is not enhanced by tech, but many can be! How many people do you know use a FitBit to enhance their physical activity?
Choose Modern Skills
Uh huh, maybe on some alternate planet one day one of the students in my class might find a need for making a brochure. We can always find a justification for why “cursive” is still relevant (it’s not). Sure there are some instances where that skill could maybe possibly be used some day.. because just in case there is a nuclear explosion and my calculator can not graph a parabola for me I better know how to do it by hand.
If you’re going to spend time having kids do a skill, do one that will be useful 20 years from now, not 20 years ago.
The activities I did when I was a student are for the most part OUTDATED! That world does not exist anymore. I used to have an encyclopedia at my house, that I never used. However, daily I use Google to look stuff up. Looking stuff up is part of the modern culture. Expect kids CAN and SHOULD find information without you telling it to them. Design for it. Teach them how to do advanced search. We can not just loose kids on the Internet. Do not assume they know how to find, skim, filter and analyze information. It is important we help students learn this.
Collaborative Spreadsheet of Ideas
So if a brochure is outdated, what should we do instead? Add your activity upgrades to the spreadsheet.