Sunday, January 1, 2017

10 Tips to Make Learning REAL

Another Christmas has passed and I am continually amazed by the technologies that kids now have access to. For example, my son received a drone from my mother-in-law and has been playing with it non-stop for days now. At first, he was focused on just the basics of flying the device. After having mastered take off, landing, and balance, his focus now is on using the camera to take photos and video.  It is awesome to see how engaged he is with the drone, but that he is also learning in the process.   Technology for him, like most kids today, has become an embedded component of their lives. They have grown up in a world where they have become accustomed to the fast-paced evolution of everything digital. 

The world as we know it has fundamentally changed our learners.  It is not that they are learning differently per se, but the environment in which they learn has dramatically changed.  The challenge for educators and schools today is to make learning REAL (relevant, engaging, authentic, and lasting) for all students and align it more with their world.  A great deal of emphasis has been placed on personalized opportunities for students. Whereas there are many benefits with this approach, the reliance on technology platforms and human interaction can take away from intended outcomes. REAL learning places a greater emphasis on making learning personal for students. 

Below are some quick tips that can make learning more REAL (relevant, engaging, authentic, and lasting):
  1. Provide students access to real-world tools to do real-world work (i.e. makerspaces).
  2. Allow students to select the best tool to complete a learning task while moving away from a one-size-product-fits-all approach.
  3. Provide meaningful feedback in a timely fashion.
  4. Connect standards and learning outcomes to their interests and passions.
  5. Implement Academy programs (school within a school).
  6. Offer virtual course options and innovative self-paced learning opportunities in lieu of traditional independent study programs (i.e. IOCS).
  7. Transform outdoor spaces into flexible classrooms and stimulating learning environments.
  8. Broaden student horizons by bringing in experts both face-to-face and virtually who work in emerging fields of work. Take kids on field trips through virtual reality technology.
  9. Move away from traditional grading and homework practices.
  10. Clearly articulate the “why” all the time so that students understand how what they are learning impacts them now and in the future.
REAL learning should be a reality for all of our students.  What would you add to the list I have started above? 


  1. You must be one cool principal!!! About the drone, be careful not to take out someone's eye :(. I had a drone at school last year and only trusted one student to pilot it.

    1. He was an awesome principal! Brought a lot of new ideas into our HS and opened many eyes to use technology in a very positive way.

  2. You've outlined how to truly motivate and engage students. Keep spreading the word.

  3. Great list, especially the note on explaining the "why" to students. Helping them understand how they're learning matters is so key.

  4. This leaves me wondering what teachers had planned for their students today -on their return from this kind of "home schooling." How can teachers' lessons measure up to this? How will they? Who will tell them and who will be accountable in the school, to offer kids what they DESERVE! REAL lessons. Spread this message! Its so important. I spent my week with my grandsons, playing with these type of toys. Now back to school. You showed me at my own school, with your own son, how he and all the kids deserve MORE! Thank you for this. I have the golden opportunity to pass this on. How far can my arms reach? I mentor TEN new Assistant Principals. If I can influence one, I am happy! But my goal is to influence all ten! :)

    1. We need more of this energy and motivation in classrooms Judy!