Part Three of Our Special Blog Series
From our earliest moments in life, learning becomes a driving force in our daily activities and a perpetual source of gratification as we garner new knowledge and new aptitudes that we didn’t have before. Young children have a yearning to learn something new every single day, yet for many reasons school-aged students can often lose that thirst as each consecutive school year drudges on.
Students anticipate holidays and summer breaks for a pause from their school routine, but too often they mistake their need for change as a need to take a break from learning altogether. Researchi shows that the long breaks between school years are one of the most corrosive factors in the achievement gap. So as we march toward another summer, we owe it to our students to uncover fun new ways for them to continue their learning.
What does it take to create a district where learning never ends—and not just over the summer, but during the school year as well?
Digital resources have become the key to continuous, uninterrupted learning because they deliver learning that is fun, engaging, flexible, and always accessible. Read on to learn how to use digital resources to create a district where learning never ends.
1. Have Fun Through Game-Based Learning
Having fun while mastering critical skills may seem like a tall order, but it is possible for students to have the best of both worlds. Digital game-based, supplemental learning programs are a fun and popular resource to keep students engaged in learning a standards-based curriculum throughout the year.
In their paper, Playing (and Learning) to Win: The Transformative Power of Digital Game-Based Learningii, co-authors Ray McNulty, Brian Shulman, and Margaret Jorgensen remind us that “game-based learning is not a new concept…. games have long been used to help kids learn at home and at school. Games are engaging and take advantage of every child’s (and many adults’) desire to play and experience the sheer fun of winning while building self-esteem and learning new skills in the process” (p.3).
Game-based educational programs like Fuel Education’s Stride™ are proveniii to be highly successful in motivating students—even those who are severely disengaged—to persist in their learning, both inside and outside of the classroom. Stride offers up a variety of digital rewards for skill mastery, including academic badges, coins that can be redeemed for playing time in a variety of video games, and high-score contests with their peers.
Having fun while learning at their own pace in the privacy of a digital learning platform can open students’ minds, making them receptive to more and more challenging learning content.
“When students are engaged and motivated and feel minimal stress, information flows freely through the affective filter in the amygdala and they achieve higher levels of cognition, make connections, and experience ‘aha’ moments,” says Judy Willis, M.D. (Source: The Neuroscience of Joyful Education, Psychology Today, p. 1).
Best of all, students can access game-based programs like Stride anywhere they can connect to the Internet—including from home, the library, or a friend or relatives’ house. This makes self-driven and independent learning accessible to them at all times, and because they enjoy it, they will make it a priority even in their free time.
2. Invest in a Digital Library
Reading is something that becomes second-nature to us from the time when we are first able to recognize words. Wherever we go, from the grocery store to the doctor’s office to riding along the road scanning billboards, we instinctively look for something to read—and learn!
For this reason, reading is a key area where you can work to ensure that learning continues on a daily basis. This year, go one step further than assigning a summer reading list or offering students an incentive to read books over a break: invest in a digital library to help them along.
Investing in a digital library for your students is a great way to provide them with easy and continuous access to reading that they will both enjoy and benefit from academically. For example, FuelEd’s Big Universe digital literacy platform offers over 13,000 eBooks for K–12 readers. The collection covers high-interest literature in both fiction and nonfiction, and it is all accessible 24/7 on any device. A recommendation engine helps students to identify genres and subjects students are interested in—and personal bookshelves allow them to save and share their favorites with others.
Monica Fuglei, in her article How Reading for Pleasure Helps Students Develop Academically, says, “Early exposure to reading appears to pay off in that it creates an expectation in children that reading is an essential part of their daily lives… as students grow up, it appears that some level of independence should be encouraged as it supports their commitment to reading and that later elementary and middle-school students should be spurred to choose their own books within a challenging framework” (Concordia University-Portland Blog).
A digital library allows students the ability to continue their commitment to reading, the freedom of choice in what they read, and the flexibility to do it whenever and wherever they want.
3. Focus on the Future with CTE
While technology, trends, and interests continue to change year after year, one thing remains the same about every class of students—they are all individuals. They all have different dreams for the future, whether or not they have begun to tap into them yet or even to recognize their own strengths.
For many districts, implementing a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program or a robust offering of career-focused electives can be the answer to reaching middle-school and high-school students who are feeling unmotivated and disengaged from school and learning.
When you open up the variety of electives your students are able to take, or offer them distinct Career Readiness Pathways, these expanded choices often result in students who become eager to jumpstart their futures—and willing to continue learning as they work toward industry-recognized certifications, pursuing a postsecondary degree, or entering the workforce upon high school graduation.
Introducing a world of career options to students at a very young age is a strategic way to ensure that learning continues day to day, and year to year, as they explore possibilities and eventually identify a future goal for themselves.
According to a recent study by the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) and Career Cruising (careercruising.org), “Research shows that CTE and career guidance help keep students in school and positively impact student persistence. In fact, 81 percent of students who left high school without a diploma reported that relevant, real-world learning opportunities would have kept them in school—a particularly relevant number given the research that suggests many students begin disengaging in middle school” (Career Exploration in Middle School: Setting Students on the Path to Success, p. 3).
FuelEd offers more than 100 career-focused electives in areas like agriculture, health sciences, business management and administration, hospitality and tourism, information technology, and manufacturing. Because these courses are online and accessible anytime, students with attendance obstacles have ultimate flexibility to participate from home or in a blended learning scenario.
Ready to create a district where learning never ends? Contact Fuel Education and let’s get started.
i Summer learning and its implications: Insights from the Beginning School Study. Karl L. Alexander, Doris R. Entwisle, Linda Steffel Olson. New Directions For Youth Development, No. 114, Summer 2007, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
ii Playing (and Learning) to Win: The Transformative Power of Digital Game-Based Learning. Sept. 2014: Ray McNulty, Brian Shulman, Margaret Jorgensen. Originally published by CTE Technical Assistance Center of New York/Successful Practices Network, http://spnetwork.org/