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unCon 2014 Session: Experiential Learning

By: Sterling Dintersmith

For
the past century, school has been taught in the same way. The experiences of
the teacher are transferred via lectures to students. But what if it was
flipped around, and the students were having the experiences, and the teachers
simply guided them? Nicole DeSantis and Remy Carpinito of CampusTap led an
experiential learning discussion today where they presented the idea that maybe
the best learning can come from experiences and that this method can be applied
inside and outside the classroom.
Everyone
agreed that inside K-12 classrooms, kids given more freedom to design their own
projects and follow their own ideas would be more motivated and would learn
more. However, one teacher mentioned that proctoring this kind of learning can
be exhausting, and because of this many teachers end up letting textbooks and
worksheets take over. Additionally, teachers are often uncomfortable with open-ended
projects, because they symbolize a lack of control in the classroom. So, while
we know what’s really best for students and how to apply it, that type of
experiential learning is unlikely to become a widespread reality in the near
future purely due to the amount of effort it takes and the longstanding
tradition of lecture based teaching.
As
a group, we decided to address the problem that if the curriculum of schools is
not evolving with technology, students are not building the necessary skills in
school. Around this problem, we developed several ways that students could gain
that experience outside of the classroom. Gap years are often named as good
times to gain experience and figure out what you really want to do. Of
discussion member mentioned a possible creation of an experiential learning
program between high school and college, backed by innovative startups. Another
possibility for a student looking to gain experience 21st century
skills before college could be trying different fields of entry-level
positions, which don’t require a degree, in order to know what they when going
to college.
With
experiential learning a secondary roadblock is the lack of clear accreditation.
It’s harder to put a letter grade or degree on an experience like you can with
a standardized test, but what can show is a portfolio. Some group members argued
that accomplishments speak even louder than a degree, and emphasize that
someone is a problem solver and creative thinker. In some fields, such as
programming, a degree from even the most selective college won’t earn a job
without some kind of digital portfolio.

If
the education system can over come high standards of accreditation and
classroom strictness, experiential education would provide more productive and
motivated students who are prepared to take on challenges in today’s innovated
world. 

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