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Sunday, September 29, 2013

What does it Take to Engage a Student Today?

 Consider this: The National Academy of Sciences and Texas Instruments have collaborated on a program, STEM Behind Hollywood, which uses zombies to spark students' interest in science, technology, engineering and math. There is software, and it will cost eventually, but is available to teachers for free during a trial period. It includes exercises to reverse engineer zombie brains and use math to calculate the spread of contagions. "This is the kind of experiential learning that gives students a deep understanding of the concept," said Melendy Lovett, president of Texas Instruments' Education Technology. 

Whatever it takes? Right? Kids in classrooms are hit with so much media in every aspect of their lives--perverse and quirky soundbites and plot twists--classroom teachers must now provide an environment and challenges as exciting as a Hollywood set. As a young child locked behind a wooden desk, I used to dream of sailing on a boat in a river. I drowned out the sound of the teacher's voice by the sound of the water lapping against the shore on the Yangtze River. I could be yanked back to the classroom by the clash of a yardstick crashing on my desk by an irate teacher. I have no idea what those kids were learning. Kids have not changed. Give them a reason to care. Connect learning with a world they know and care about.

Many of the Millennial's Hollywood heroes have embraced STEM, have become STEM professionals themselves. They're not all twerks. Good for them, and good for anyone who's creative enough to engage kids in learning and in the process help them understand they, too, can be heroes in a world they may have not known existed before watching the Zombie Apocalypse Webinar.... Way to go, Mayim!

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