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Looking Outside The Classroom to Empower Student Learning

Competition raises the spirits of the community and those involved. During this last year of online learning, one of the most difficult aspects of teaching students has been to keep them engaged. The monotony of virtual learning has worn down the spirits of everyone and has made the learning environment more of a “have to” than a “get to.” The difference is that when someone feels they “get to” do something, they take ownership of it. There is a whole different energy between the two and virtual learning has become the “have to” for both the teachers and students which has dampened the spirit of learning. Because of this, many schools have adapted to the virtual boundaries of the world to create global competitions and events. Some have been more successful than others. Yet, as creative as we can get as schools, the students’ interests still wane. So, as education is evolving, educators need to look outside the classroom for collaboration in maintaining a high spirit for learning. Competitive activities within the classroom can engage the students, but the opportunity for students to represent their school in competition outside of the classroom can engage the community and lift the overall enthusiasm for learning.

Flyer for the event on May 8th
Flyer for the event on May 8th

One such educational provider is a start-up from India whose mission is to enhance that spirit of young learners by giving them the possibility of using the skills learned from the classroom such as inquiry, research, critical thinking and communication. They get to apply these skills into the real world and experience the personal growth of learning what they are capable of achieving. I was introduced to Uable, based in Bangalore, while working on developing a comprehensive internship program at Stonehill International School. Our students have participated in their programs with very positive results.

Uable empowers teenagers for the future of work by facilitating collaboration with global experts, organizations, and peers on real-world projects. Their platform bridges the gap between academia and real-world by guiding students (ages 13+) through challenges across the most interesting sectors and domains, developing both their understanding of specific career pathways and their confidence in critical 21st century skills. Uable’s sectoral focuses include relevant areas that are exciting to teens ranging from fashion and food, to sustainability and finance. Across these areas, Uable offers students a range of career paths to consider such as considering how they could start a new business as an entrepreneur, what type of technology interventions they could improve as a computer scientist, or how they would communicate new ideas as a journalist. Their programs encourage students who are not sure of their passions or interests to explore a range of new possibilities and to better understand what different job roles entail.

Student making presentation for a Google challenge about how to create a remote for people with disabilities.
Student making presentation for a Google challenge about how to create a remote for people with disabilities.

Quest is the first-of-its-kind, invite-only competition to bring together students from the most innovative schools globally to solve the most pressing challenges of tomorrow. Specifically, students are asked to consider how they can enhance life in 2030 across four domains: Space Exploration, Climate Change, Health & Wellness; and Tech Around Us. During a live, 90-minute online event on Saturday May 8th, experts from these domains will guide students through corresponding short challenges to explore their ideas around these areas. Students then have the opportunity to work on one (or more!) of four complex challenges connected to these subjects. After submission of their work, students are eligible for prizes like one-on-one mentoring with experts, letters of recommendation, Apple phones, Celestron Telescopes, and more.

The challenges are led by global experts from these fields including Russian cosmonaut, Sergey Ryzhikov, and by professionals from organizations such as Google, Tesla, and Calm, among others. Students will be able to learn from the perspectives of seeing the outputs from a set of global peers with schools taking part across the world from more than 10 countries ranging from Paraguay to India.

Student making presentation for a Google challenge about how to create a remote for people with disabilities.
Student making presentation for a Google challenge about how to create a remote for people with disabilities.

At the same time, school faculty and staff are welcome to participate in the event and will be invited to special professional development and collaborative opportunities afterward. Participating schools will also be designated in a special cohort of Uable’s “Future-of-Work-Ready Schools.”

Through working with programs like this, it brings us to the reality of how education is changing for the better. Just like athletes who get to participate in competitions in order to exhibit their skills they learn at practice, outside of the classroom competitions provide an exciting opportunity for students to do the same. This program is unique and opens up possibilities for expanding competitions within our school communities beyond those found in sport. It also takes the “have to” of virtual learning to a “get to” of global interaction.

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John Bertken
I’ve been in education for over 30 years both teaching in the English and History classrooms, and Athletic Director. I am currently the Athletic and Activities Director at Stonehill International School in Bangalore, India. My greatest impact as an educator is in guiding students to gain confidence in their character skills that will lead them to success later in life.

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