Getting College Readiness is like…setting up a new smart phone?

Everyday more people are willing to dive into the ever growing world of mobile technology. The reality is that almost everyone has a smart phone. Now, this apparent level of willingness to explore technology doesn’t mean that everyone is able to effectively use their device upon purchase. In fact, the process of setting up one’s shiny new gadget requires a particular skill set that could in fact teach us a lot about how we should be preparing students for their post secondary endeavors.

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Problem-Based Learning Characteristics

Whether you are talking about getting students ready for college and career or setting up a smart phone, you have to have a method of addressing the challenge. In the case of a new smart phone, we often time jump right in without ever looking at a manual or speaking with an “expert”. Instead, we opt for a more organic but effective method of problem solving. The method I am referring to is very similar to what we know as inquiry or problem-based learning. If you really think about it, the task of setting up a new smart phone involves the following characteristics:

  • A realistic problem that is relevant in light of the person’s skills and interests (There is usually a really important reason for getting a smart phone..we need it to help us get organized!).
  • A strong need-to-know (Bottom-line, we need the stupid phone to work like we want it to work.)
  • A foundation that promotes questions (We can explore the device and, thus, identify what we need to seek assistance to address)
  • A multi-faceted assessment with multiple outcomes (This what I like to call phone customization. We all want our phones to fit our unique needs and personalities, so the possibilities are limitless)
  • Participation in a learning network (We often consult YouTube, the web, blogs, or a techie friend for help.)

I used the smart phone as an example, but what I’m talking about could be applied to any problem or challenge. If this is a common approach to problem-solving and it works for adults, why not promote this method in the classroom with students? For kids of this generation, this skill set is already well developed and ingrained; it is actually their preferred method of resolving problems and challenges. So, let’s take advantage of our knowledge about problem-based learning to help students capitalize on what they’re good at to become more successful now and during college and beyond.

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