In previous blog posts, I have explored the notion of providing as many authentic learning experiences as possible for my kids. I must admit that I am a little bit over teaching / exploring concepts that have no relevance to the world that my kids live in. Whilst I realize that academic concepts sometimes need to be explored 'just because' it doesn't mean that I have to like it.
Over the past three years, I have had my students undertake a mathematical investigation using data collected from the Australian Stock Exchange. My kids are given a fictional amount of money and are required to investigate some companies that they can possibly invest their money in. Mathematical concepts that are explore include: percentage, graphing, profit / loss and data.
In 2010 and 2009, it was reasonably successful but I was looking for something more authentic and more engaging. Earlier this year, I found out that the ASX hosts a student game that runs twice a year. After investigating it further, I realised that this is what I was looking for and I signed the kids up. The game gives students $50 000 and the use real time data and trading scenarios / costs. The game ran for ten weeks and allowed me to easily track student progress very easily.
Each student was required to report back to the company directors of McDowall Millionaires. They had to produce a report at the beginning, half way through and at the end. Whilst a lot of them did not make a lot of money due to the downturn in the market, the enthusiasm they demonstrated for the task was infectious. The market opened at 10am Brisbane time and I would see kids start looking at each other from around 9:45 wondering who was going to ask Mr Proud if they can log on and check out their portfolios. Even though the game is finished now, I still catch them sneaking a look at their stock. It has been infectious.
So what lessons have I learnt from this activity? It reinforced the notion that I already knew - when students can see a purpose to the world that they live in, they enjoy learning and are more engaged. I have actually had a number of parents comment to me that this was one of the most powerful learning experiences that their children have ever undertaken. I just hope with the new ACARA curriculum next year that we continue to provide students with 'real world' experiences and don't loose sight on what is important: the lifelong learning that students undertake to make the world that they live in make sense.