Future-ready education: The lessons students need to learn aren’t taught by textbooks

New to the world of edtech, I arrived at the 2016 SETDA/ISTE conferences in Denver, Colorado, as the chief academic officer of the New Jersey Department of Education. I was there to celebrate two New Jersey educators who were being recognized for their work fostering student voice.

The conference began with “speed dating” rounds, where educators could learn more about companies looking to partner with and support their work with students. The kickoff began with each new company giving an overview of their products and services … and this is where I met Shawn and Devin Young.

As I sat in the audience and listened to two brothers from Canada tell their story — one a former disengaged learner, bright, unchallenged, and checked out; the other recounting heartbreaking stories of being bullied as an adolescent — I was drawn into the Classcraft world, where all students can find themselves and be empowered not only through academic and social emotional learning but also by finding a sense of belonging and purpose.

Children go to school learning content and skills in isolation and try to make sense of them in the world around them. They move through their day as whole children in a fragmented environment. They live straddling two worlds — the digital and the physical — and try desperately to bridge the divide.

High school students social emotional

On top of the academic challenges children face, they are also developing socially — a tricky path to navigate for adolescents. Many times struggling learners, especially those approaching middle and high school, feel ostracized and self-conscious because of their need for additional support. They have trouble connecting with their peers and feeling like they are part of the classroom family. Classcraft breaks down these boundaries by fostering a collaborative space where everyone belongs and is part of a team. Classcraft enables every student to find their inner hero and to be part of something larger than themselves.

I was drawn into the Classcraft world, where all students can find themselves and be empowered not only through academic and social emotional learning but also by finding a sense of belonging and purpose.

Our vision for student success, in the classroom and beyond

Kimberley Harrington ClasscraftEducators struggle to meet each child where she is and create a culture and climate which provides a solid and safe foundation for learning and risk-taking. When Classcraft enters the classroom, the learning comes alive, and students become empowered to take control of and invest in their own learning.

Business and industry tell us there is no shortage of jobs but rather candidates with the skills to be successful contributors in the workplace. Our students need to be able to move with fluidity as problem-solvers and collaborators equipped with perseverance and stamina to get through the tasks of the day. They need to be active participants able to take an independent deep dive or share and develop ideas with a group to complete a more complex task.

As a 25-year educator, I want to be in the Classcraft classroom as a teacher. I want to inspire my students to be the best version of themselves, to see themselves the way I see them, and to empower them to take ownership of their own learning journey. I want to remove the stumbling blocks of my own immigration into their digital world and make my lessons come alive through personalized learning quests, where each student is excited to be following their own learning path customized just for their needs, where positive behaviors are not only rewarded but become intrinsically motivating.

I want to see this contagious love of learning spread across the hallways and buildings where teams of children work together as a family of learners building one another other up and helping one another to get past the barriers and obstacles of growing up.

These are lifelong lessons that aren’t taught by a textbook but rather learned through the human experiences and interactions that allow the content to come into context. They’re critical for children to not only learn to be successful in the workplace but also become global citizens contributing to the world around them.

I want to inspire my students to be the best version of themselves, to see themselves the way I see them, and to empower them to take ownership of their own learning journey.

Photo credit: DGLimages; Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

Kimberley Harrington Kimberley has been an educator for 25 years. She has taught every grade K-8, been a director of curriculum and instruction, the chief academic officer at the New Jersey Department of Education, and served as New Jersey’s Commissioner of Education. Currently, she is a member of Classcraft's board. She is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, most recently the 2017 Boyer Outstanding Educator Award, the 2017 Governor’s Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Arts Education, and the 2017 EdTech Hero Award, acknowledging 25 national leaders. Kimberley enjoys spending time with her family — she is the mother of two sons, ages 15 and 21. And, she loves to play the bass and sing with her fiancé.
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21st-century skills, global citizenship, ISTE, Kimberley Harrington, New Jersey Department of Education, SETDA, Social Emotional Learning
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