In the text A New Culture of Learning, the authors talk about gamers “hanging out, messing around, and geeking out.” Although it seems like just play, it actually consists of a higher level of learning that we expect our own students to achieve in our classrooms. This makes sense to me because I believe that my students will achieve that higher level of learning (geek out) if they collaborate with their peers (hang out) and find a personal connection to the content that they are learning (mess around).
In a blog post about contextualized instruction, EFFTIPS discusses cognitive research that shows rote memorization rarely transfers from one context to another. Instead, learning will transfer more effectively if our students understand the “big picture,” and the when and how to apply what has been learned. We only acquire this deeper understanding if we put what we have learned to use through practiced application.
This is always easier said than done for me. I get that my students will acquire a deeper understanding if they have a personal connection to the learning, but sometimes it is hard for me to help make that connection. My students simply do not have an understanding of the outside world. Because we live in our own little community, I have a small vocabulary base to work with. My students don’t understand a lot of basic concepts, such as driving a car or depositing money in a bank or going to college. The most difficult part of my content courses throughout my masters program was trying to create community based problems for all of the many different concepts we were discussing. I felt like I kept creating problems based on the same subjects – basketball, subsistence, and school – because that is all that they know.
I would really like to hear how other teachers from small, rural communities find ways to connect their content to their students every day living.