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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The importance of learning outside the classroom

As educators, we wish we can teach you everything you need to know to get through life. Unfortunately though, there just isn't enough time in the day, for one, and two, we have many other students to help, as well. Because of these simple realities that prevent us from teaching you everything you need to know to successfully navigate through life, it's important that you seek learning opportunities on your own outside of the classroom to supplement and enhance what we're trying to teach you during the school day.

There are many ways you can learn outside of the classroom, and what's cool is that they don't have to seem like a lot of work. They can actually be quite fun, and they can start with your own hobbies, interests, and career aspirations. Furthermore, all of this learning outside of the classroom can potentially come to help you in completing actual school assignments because you'll have more knowledge, ideas, experiences, and examples that you can write about, present on, and relate to. Let's explore further.

Here are some great examples of ways to learn outside of the classroom setting:

Clubs and activities at school: I strongly encourage participation in these co-curricular opportunities. Clubs and activities are a great way to supplement in-class learning by developing or strengthening skills in areas like communication, negotiation, leadership, planning, budgeting, problem solving, and teamwork, among others. Beyond that, they can provide an opportunity for developing meaningful relationships with fellow students as you learn and grow together around common interests, goals, and ideas. These relationships can translate into lifelong friendships and valuable networking connections. Some examples of clubs and activities include student government (or you may know it as student council or principal's cabinet), newspaper, yearbook, debate, forensics, or any club with a particular academic focus (like philosophy, psychology, etc.), among many others.

Sports (either school or club teams): Goes along with clubs and activities above - a great way to stay in shape while also learning and strengthening your skills in areas like teamwork, communication, leadership, negotiation, and coordination.

Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org): Launched by Sal Khan, a Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) –educated former hedge fund analyst, the Khan Academy is a free online education platform, with instruction by Khan himself, all by video. The Web site features an extensive variety of courses and tutorials in areas like math, science and engineering, computer programming, arts and humanities, economics and finance, test prep, career exploration, the college admissions process, and a lot more. Within the economics and finance course offerings, Khan has a subcategory devoted to entrepreneurship, featuring exclusive interviews and conversations he conducts with top entrepreneurs and business leaders.

TED Talks (www.ted.com): Featuring brief talks via video by a plethora of business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, writers, philosophers, scientists, and subject matter experts of all kinds, TED bills itself as “Ideas worth spreading”. From its Web site:

“TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.”

Documentaries: I love borrowing documentaries on DVD from my local public library on a variety of subjects, as well as checking out the offerings from time to time on Netflix and the History Channel. If you love the game of baseball, and its fascinating history and legendary characters, I highly recommend Ken Burns' Baseball. I've loaned out a couple of times now another documentary by Ken Burns called Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, which not only explores current therapies to combat this dreadful disease, but also takes us through the history of cancer fighting and the pioneering doctors and scientists whose groundbreaking work and ideas have gotten us to where we are today. Through documentaries, I've learned about Milwaukee's Italian-American community, the 2008 financial crisis, the lives and times of captains of industry, the education system, the history of American cars, and, now that I work in a public high school and with a number of special education students throughout the day, various learning and emotional and behavioral challenges.

Conversations: That's right, conversations. Simply talking with others. Interested in exploring a particular career? Wondering how college life is like and what the college admissions process entails? Looking to take up a hobby? Curious about how a particular product is made or how a process works? Fascinated about what it's like to serve in the military and wanting to learn more? Wanting to meet new people and get more involved in your community but not sure where to begin? You can get some answers to these and other questions by striking up conversations with people you already know. Examples include your parents and siblings, your friends' parents and siblings, teachers, coaches, classmates, your employer and co-workers, aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents.

Newspapers and magazines: Keeping up with events and developments in the broader world around you can potentially prove beneficial for you in numerous ways. Having a decent working knowledge base of news and trends in technology, the economy, government and politics, business, trade, education, and world affairs can position you ahead of the competition in the workplace.

Volunteering: Explore the many benefits of volunteer work. Volunteer work can provide a wealth of opportunities for learning new skills, strengthening current talents, making meaningful connections through networking, gaining new perspectives, sharing talents, and making a difference in the lives of others.  

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