RE@L Wishes All Students, Teachers and Helpers Another "Happy New School Year!"

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We have another opportunity to make more learning happen for more kids!!!

Thousands of kids here in MN have already started school for the 2016-17 school year. Others will start the day after Labor Day after the last hurrah of our Minnesota State Fair. Many years ago, some of us, as young students, thought that Labor Day meant we all had to go back to work. Hey, it was hard work!

Top_10_Characteristics_of_a_21st_Century_ClassroomWow! have the surroundings changed in those many years! Chalkboards are  gone, desks move, and there are no inkwells or penpoints. New tools for learning are everywhere!

Today, of course, much of what we need to know comes from new tools: mobile devices, laptop computers, smartphones, video-conferencing. We even have so-called “flipped” classrooms where students review the information at home, and show and tell their new skills to their learning groups and teachers. Some students are doing schooling in their own homes. Many are now able to choose the school they want to attend and the debate about the efficacy of charter schools continues. Yes, teaching and learning are very different today!

Unknown-1But, with all that, if you walk into a classroom today, different as it may be, you’d still know it’s a classroom. It’s not a learning-room, or a students-room. It’s a room designed for a class of students. A class is and has been for over a century a group of students of approximately the same age. The fact that many students have still not mastered the skills to be successful still looms as a bad dream for many teachers. And a nightmare for many students! A class of students is usually not the best way to deliver k12 education.

So, let’s talk about more dreams that could come true for K12 kids and teachers. What steps might we take that would actually lead to  better learning for many?

saturn kids at computerBoth your RE@L Blogmeisters were involved in educational ventures that broke molds, produced significant success for many learners and helped many teachers make more learning happen for more kids.

UnknownHere’s something teachers can do that works: Put students in greater charge of their own learning. Is there a simple way to do this, you ask? Yes, there is!

Require each student to prepare their own Personal Learning Plan (PLP), complete with their learning goals, the skills they have mastered, what they still need to know, and the help they need to learn it. Be sure to have them report periodically on their progress and update their PLP as needed. Their learning futures are in their own hands. With, of course, help from both teachers and parents. Look at the graphic at the right to see how a PLP works. It contains a loop to make it work better. 

Next, insist that parents become a key part of their child’s PLP. Ask parents and mentors to check the plan’s progress with the child at least once a week. Ask them to attend a Conference Progress night, where their child shows a  Personal Portfolio of what they know, and tells what resources they still need to continue to improve. Celebrate their successes and manage the work that still needs to be done.

Bush&Elijah copyPutting the student in a position of greater responsiblity gives them greater ownership of the learning.

We tried out this PLP notion in an inner-city school called the Saturn School of Tomorrow and it was sensationally effective! 10,000 visitors came from all over the globe to see the kids and this PLP process in action. Among them was the President of the United States! Here, one of our students shows the President his skills in robotics and explains to him that that he was a student who learned better using his hands-on tools.

Why not try it with your kids in your school!

So, what’s REAL’s resolution for this new school year, you ask? We are committed to bring to the K12 market superior, new learning software that will whet learning appetites, provide teachers with helpful, supportive resources never before available to them. Our software will include exciting new STEM-based learning activities, and new simulation learning games that capture imagination and teach new skills. At RE@L we listen to and involve both students and teachers in the planning and the testing of our products. That’s how we know they will work.

realstemsmall-950x400RE@L’s so-called “secret sauce,” learned early on at MECC, is to publish software products that will totally engage the learner and result in learning success. How do we make this happen?

We listen to both kids and teachers to make our products better.

As a result, there’s more new trails coming and highly exciting, new learning quests, too.  

So, have a great, new school year! Stay tuned to RE@L!

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Please email your comments or questions to:  comments@realexperiencesatlife.com

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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.