One of the biggest challenges that we all face is the way to make learning as authentic as we can. I am a big believer in authentic learning and to be honest, do not have much time for anything that does not relate to my kids world. The kids can even pick it now. One of the first things they ask me when we are investigating something new is ‘How does this relate to my world?’ Sometimes I find it hard to find an answer. The other day we were looking at classifying triangles (which I see is still part of the new national year seven mathematics curriculum….but we wont go there) and one of my kids said ‘Mr Proud, when am I going to use this?’ To be honest, I struggled to come up with an answer. I am also a big fan of the work that Alan November does and his whole notion about kids with authentic audiences and real world purpose, will be more engaged in the process of learning.
So where am I going with all of this mind dump? Over the past four weeks, my students have been playing the Australian Stock Exchange student game. For those who are not aware of what the game consists of, students are given $50 000 to invest into a list of 100 companies from the ASX over a ten week period. The object of the game is to make as much money as possible and there are actual prizes. The ASX does a great job providing a whole bunch of educational resources to help develop student understanding of these deep concepts.
Whilst I thought that the kids would get into this investigation, I have been blown away by the level of enthusiasm that they have demonstrated for the task. I have parents telling me that their children are going home and watching the final financial forecasts on the news and getting up early to watch Kochie on Sunrise to get any finance tips. They have been blogging about their experiences on the Learning Place and are currently writing their half way summary reports to be presented to the McDowall Millionares board to be assessed over the September break.
How does this relate to authentic learning? The amount of understanding that these kids are grasping onto through this investigation is unbelievable. Whilst I realise that I am in a perfect situation with 1-1 laptops, I have done something similar in a non 1-1 environment before. The kids basically beg me at 10am to let them work on it (as the market opens at 10am) and it is not unusual for kids to be sneaking a look at their portfolio during other learning times (of course I don’t encourage this…) and lunch times. We have one particular student who sees himself as a bit of a wheeler and dealer and he has made contact with a stock broker. He organised for our class to receive a daily email newsletter (worth about $500 / 4 months) for free outlining trading strategies. They are seeking out avenues and justifying their decisions along the way. It is authentic because they are learning about decision making, wealth creation and other various forms of things.
So if I could only make everything (including my triangle classification) authentic to my kids…..all of my battles would be won!