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Learning to solve real world issues through remote collaboration and mentorship

Students form virtual communities with teachers, professionals and world leaders to solve real world problems.

Photo of Nancy Goff
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I am a.....

  • Parent/Caregiver
  • Public health & systems change professional

Tell us about your idea

Students today need an education that is connected to the issues that they will face as adults. All of these issues-- like climate change, economic inequality, global conflict-- require cross-cutting, overarching skills that kids do not explicitly learn in classrooms today. These skills include things like problems solving, building strong relationships, collaborative goal setting, creativity and designing solutions to scale. These skills transcend any one topic area that is being learned in school, and are thus more important because they apply to all adult endeavors. 

In addition, the traditional topics being taught in schools today-- math, science, social studies-- are still important but lack inspiration when not explicitly linked to real world issues. Kids need to be taught the WHY it's important to learn shapes, angles and algebra in addition to the HOW. 

Taking all of this into account, my solution is to reimagine education to include curriculum that allows student to apply knowledge and skills to real world problems. 

I propose a remote mentorship model for teachers and professionals to guide students through the skills and knowledge identified above. Adults nurturing students intellectual, social and emotional growth has been shown through research to be key to becoming a successful adult. Mentorship benefits ALL students to become more successful adults, regardless of income, race, housing, etc., which makes it an important practice for promoting equity. Connecting with professionals that help them apply their learning to real world issues lets students envision their own future. They are also introduced to projects and people that they identify with so that they are able to write a powerful future story for themselves. 

The current COVID-19 crisis illuminates the power of technology to connect people without the constraints of geography to collaboratively solve issues. I propose that we use technology to convene multi-sector, remote collaboratives to identify real world problems and design solutions. Students would participate remotely alongside teachers, professionals, subject matter experts, decision makers and world leaders. While mentorship and applied learning are not new models, globalizing the practice through technology is. Imagine the possibilities for a high schooler in Kentucky that can learn about sustainable agricultural practices from professionals in Africa, or an aspiring doctor in Turkey who can learn about creating a successful health care access system for the uninsured in Cuba. Since access to wifi and computers are still a problem for much of the world, we could work with the private sector and local schools to provide access to the resources needed to participate for those who desire. 

On the surface, this idea understandably seems like a burden for already overburdened teachers and districts, so I would suggest that having such learning experiences described above replace existing content or curriculum where appropriate and consistent with state standards. If teachers and administrators worked across districts to implement such programs and form local or state communities of learners, they could share and leverage scare school funding and resources to increase efficiency while maximizing impact on students and communities. 

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

Rigid curriculum standards that don't work for all students, education disconnected from the real world, districts competing for resources vs. leveraging and sharing, access to applied learning opportunities limited because of race, income or geography.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

I am a mother of two that has been teaching and learning about the public school curriculum for the first time during COVID-19, while also wondering how to "fit in" real world education about global issues and practice of the skills that will be necessary to solve them. I am also a public health professional that lives in the world of multifaceted, interconnected issues and the systems and policy change solutions needed to solve them. 

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

I live in Portland, Oregon.

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