At first, I thought he was just referring to the engagement aspects. In addition to those huge advantages, he was also referring to assessment aspect.
Why did sports and performing arts work so well for so many students? The answer is that they were REAL.
Yes, they had to practice or rehearse, but there was the game or the performance. There was a real assessment in the end. The result of the game, concert, show, production or performance was understood by all; including participants and spectators. That’s right, the assessment was not only REAL, but it was public. And being public makes it more REAL right?
What about the visual arts? Yes, they are typically more REAL than much of school. After a brief period of instruction on technique and then some guided practice, there is a finished product. And whether the art is brilliant or average, it’s most certainly REAL. It’s public. It gets hung up in the classroom or maybe beyond the classroom. Maybe there is an art show. Maybe there is an art contest.
As a former journalism instructor and publications advisor (newspaper and yearbook), I also experienced the value of REAL first-hand. My students had a finished product that again was public. It was judged or valued by others, got reactions (positive or negative) from others and was even purchased. They could potentially enter contests, change public opinion, educate others, and advance a particular cause and more.
It’s simple. It’s because these things are REAL. That’s right. Think about it. Students like to do things that matter no matter how seemingly simple or small they are. They want to see immediate results for their efforts. They want to see a difference in something based on their individual efforts, work or time.
Recently, I was reminded of this first-hand again. A business class at my school launched what seemed to be a simple business project involving two classes competing who could have the most successful cookie company. They each launched similar products of the cookie recipe in the jar model. The idea was not new and the product was certainly not the most sophisticated idea they could have conceived. But why was it wildly successful? That’s right again. It was REAL. It was something that they could complete in a timely manner and have to quickly go public. Before too long, they were in the throws or real-world experiences of marketing, advertising, production, competition, sales and more. All of the class member were suddenly engaged and involved.
Well, isn’t that what the STEM or STEAM movements are all about? They are trying to get students to make things, create things or solve things that are relevant and exist in the world – REAL.
Why is the Maker movement so alive? Again, it’s REAL. People, young and old alike, are realizing they can take their ideas and do something REAL. And there are REAL results. Whether the results are feedback, financial gain, expanding social networks, fun, etc., they are certainly REAL.
What about English? That’s easy. Instead of just studying famous writers, let’s try to make all of our students famous writers. That’s the simple twist. Yes, it’s about doing/experiencing vs. just studying, but it’s also about maximizing the individual application and possibilities. Our technology and global networks now allow and encourage the individual voice and unlimited opportunities for all to be published. Why are blogging, social media and other digital outlets so important to be used by our students in school? Again it’s so simple – it’s what the REAL world is doing.
(photos courtesy of Minarets High School)