Monday, February 11, 2013

Non-traditional Education Can Save the World

I am just not a traditional kind of girl anymore, especially when it comes to school. Last week I went to a Georgia Council on Economic Education (GCEE) Stock Market Game training at the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta. The class was billed as an advanced class for experienced teachers, so I signed up. The first class I took with the GCEE was a nightmare, featuring an instructor who verbally castigated one of the attendees for checking her email while he was talking, then continued to talk about her when she left the room, and generally treated the whole group like naughty children who could not be trusted with the wireless code. It was so bad that I left early and called the GCEE, only to be told that the instructor was "excellent." Hmm. But I digress. I was hoping that this advanced class (limited to high school teachers only) would be better.

The good points: a couple interesting resources, like Gen I (a free online game that features applications and problem-solving), and the attendees were more experienced in playing the  Stock Market Game (the winner of the past couple rounds was there). The building was beautiful, the coffee with the breakfast was good, and we had a real lunch in the executive dining room (where I hoped to pump the winner for information but got derailed by questions about HoneyFern). I also found out about a scholarship for high school students, and the instructors were very informed and knew what they were talking about.

The downsides: there was a lot of focus on standards and assessments and bell ringing (how much time people have). At one point, one of the presenters hinted that by completing one of the other online games for financial literacy, EverFi, students could earn one of the only certificates they might ever get, including a high school diploma (as in, they might not get a diploma, so at least they will get something. Georgia does have a miniscule graduation rate, so this may be accurate, but still.)

I guess I am mostly done with these trainings with large groups of people at varying levels of learning, especially when the training is not differentiated. There is too much conversation about concepts that are too basic or not appplicable and not enough relevant, hands-on learning (although we did have a couple mini-games, one of which I won). I get impatient listening to someone talk endlessly about something that I could teach myself in 30 minutes.

Maybe the value is that I actually have to sit and listen to the information; when I get it in an email, sometimes I file it away and never get back to it. I did meet some nice people, and it was nice to talk to adults during the day for a change, but that may be about it. I just wish these were a bit shorter, more hands-on and more differentiated. The same instructional techniques that are for students work for adults, too, but somehow we forget that adults don't want to sit and be talked at for three hours either, no matter how good the coffee or fancy the lunch.

Baby steps, I suppose. Start with HoneyFern, then take over adult ed. Hmmm....

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