I love this year’s Digital Learning Day theme of #FutureReady, an effort spearheaded by the Alliance for Excellent Education and the U.S. Department of Education. I like it because it’s all encompassing. It’s about how our schools can become more #FutureReady with increased connectivity, how our educators can become more #FutureReady by using new devices to transform teaching and learning, and how our students can become more #FutureReady to succeed in meaningful careers.
Having worked in the business-education partnership space for more than a decade, I’m often asked by employers what they can do to better support this education transformation and become more #FutureReady themselves. My answer is always the same—empower educators to better engage students.
In a recent study, “Engaging Students for Success,” conducted by the Education Week Research Center, teachers identified student engagement and motivation as the most important factors contributing to student achievement. Most of the respondents strongly agreed—schoolwork that is relevant to real-world challenges and life experiences plays an important role in engaging students so that they want to learn.
But do educators always have the resources to make the curriculum relevant? And do they have the tools and the time to integrate technology and workplace skills into interactive, content-aligned instruction?
Teachers often lack the resources, the tools, and the time. That’s why we worked with educators to design the Spark 101 Interactive STEM Videos—so that employers can provide the real career scenarios educators need to make curriculum more relevant.
This digital learning resource helps secondary teachers engage students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) coursework through career case challenge videos. We work with employers to identify the jobs of the future, the types of decisions employees make in those jobs and the problems they help to solve, and then we feature a real story in the case challenge video.
Teachers connect the workplace skills in the video to classroom coursework, and students problem solve and make decisions along with the employer’s team.
On Digital Learning Day, you will find educators leading collaborative problem solving around these real-world case challenge videos:
- Math and computer science—AT&T, Maximizing Mobile Technology to Take Care of Maximum Crowds
- Chemistry—P&G, The Chemistry of Long-Lasting Lipstick
- Biology—Kaiser Permanente, Diagnosing and Treating Sepsis
- Biosciences—Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Transcription Factors in DNA
- Environmental science—PepsiCo, Clean Drinking Water: Using the Scientific Method
- Renewable energy—Lockheed Martin, Finding Renewable Energy Sources in Antarctica
- Biology—NASA, Bone Density Loss in Space
- Chemistry—The Science of Special Effects: Safely Exploding a Car
This approach works. Early findings indicate that students using Spark 101 better understand how STEM relates to their lives and become more interested in STEM, helping them answer that age-old question,” When will I ever use this?"
And teachers say that Spark 101 is helping them better engage students and improve students’ problem solving abilities. In line with the Education Week study, our research found that nine out of ten students in our study wanted to understand why they are learning about a topic, and eight out of ten said they are motivated to learn when they can solve real-world problems.
Spark 101 is an example of industry and education coming together to create digital learning content that engages students. Spark 101 gives educators the resources to bring the STEM curriculum to life, industry a way to inspire our nation’s future innovators, and students the motivation and pathways to succeed in school and future careers. We all become more #FutureReady when we work together to help our students reach their full potential.
Read more #Edtech Perspectives at the Alliance for Excellent Education's Digital Learning Day.