As a new school year approaches, teachers, parents, and all the other supporters of students find themselves once again faced with the challenge of making the learning process engaging, and to retain student interest. The statistics on the latter point are especially troubling in the STEM fields in which we so badly need new talent.
This TEDTalk is a few years old, but Tony Wagner’s views on the importance of innovation remain relevant, “…not just the major innovations in STEM, but becoming a country that produces more better ideas to solve more different kinds of problems— ideas that generate jobs ideas that other people want and need solutions to.” In his research, he found that the teachers and mentors who had the most impact, across a host of reputable institutions and in both STEM and STEAM fields, were outliers. Outliers that put an emphasis on collaboration, real world problem based learning, intrinsic motivation, and the willingness to take risks.
At the Smartforce Student Summit, we’ve had the good fortune to see these learning styles actually play out. We’re watching the the rise of the apprenticeship, as it grows in popularity in the United States, giving more and more students the opportunity to learn hands on with with real-world problems. Programs like the FIRST Robotics competition encourage student collaboration and a safe place to take risks. And we’re constantly coming across stories of young innovators and entrepreneurs who are pursuing their goals because they know they can make the world better. Innovation in education happens every day, and it is on every one of us, teachers, mentors, and students alike, to continue to be willing to do so. Good luck with the coming school year, we can’t wait to see what the new year brings!