Guest Writer: Frankie Wallace
Image Source: Pexels
English, math, science, and history — these are the subjects students often learn about throughout their years of public education. Although these are important subjects for students to learn about as a part of their educational foundation, there are some basic life skills that students don’t learn as part of their curriculum. This leads many students to struggle without basic knowledge of how to “adult,” or to complete basic tasks that all adults must do.
Over the last decade, technology has had a huge impact on how school administrators have approached education. It’s now easier than ever for teachers and other education professionals to personalize their lesson plans. Instructors can easily customize the way they engage with individual students, even remote learners. By exploring some of these technologies, teachers can develop classes that will give students the type of education they need to be ready for life after graduation.
U.S. Education System
Technology is a great resource for students to use to apply themselves, especially when more formal resources are limited. According to a 2015 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, 94% of kids between 3 years old and 18 years old lived in a household with a computer, but only 61% of that group had access to the internet at home. Although schools could bridge this gap, many administrators don’t trust students enough to provide them with open internet access, which can undermine learning.
This is one reason that students graduate without learning many important life skills, including money management, how to file tax returns, and even cooking. If schools offered and encouraged students to participate in classes that provided them with necessary life skills, more students would be ready to hit the ground running once they graduated.
Cooking classes aren’t commonly offered as humanities in public schools. The closest most schools get to teaching about nutrition is usually health class, which teaches students straightforward but important lessons about the human body. However, many people end up going their whole lives without understanding the huge role that nutrition plays in their health, which contributes to our American diet and lifestyle that is largely considered unhealthy.
By teaching students about the importance of healthy eating, teachers can help them develop diets that keep them healthy and avoid poor eating habits. Although nutrition information is pretty straightforward, teachers today can use apps and other software to help students regulate their diet and exercise and to form healthy lifestyle patterns early on in life.
Platforms to Teach Health Advice
- Fizzy’s Lunch Lab: If you’re teaching a class of young learners, PBS’s Fizzy’s Lunch Lab is a colorful and informative look into the building blocks of a healthy diet. With a mix of single- and multi-player games, informational videos, and music that encourage positive nutritional habits, this is a versatile platform that can keep students engaged for quite a while.
While some nuance and context may be needed to help students gain a full understanding of the issues at hand, the experiences your students will have with this free site are good launching points for discussions regarding health and proper dieting.
- Real Talk: Certain topics can be difficult to approach in terms that teens can relate to. Students can feel uncertain asking questions about sex, healthy relationships, and online safety. Educators can feel uncomfortable about providing certain answers. Real Talk is a free app that looks to bridge this gap by providing middle and high schoolers with relatable stories and reliable information about these topics.
By reading and discussing these stories, students can learn a lot about sensitive issues without experiencing feelings of vulnerability or embarrassment. This can help them develop the skills needed for strong personal development.
Another important life skill that students don’t learn, unless their parents themselves budget and take the time to teach them, is money management and fiscal responsibility. It’s not uncommon for adolescents to use their newfound freedom as adults to make some serious financial missteps for short-term rewards. If they are not taught to manage money, they can make some poor decisions — and get themselves in a lot of trouble when they realize they have found themselves in insurmountable debt.
For example, many young adults haven’t learned what the process of buying a car entails or the important differences between buying and leasing a car. This can cause difficulties when it’s time for them to do so and can lead them to make fiscally irresponsible decisions. Teachers could help prevent this bump in the road by exposing their students to technology that will help keep track of their budgets and act as responsible consumers.
Platforms to Teach Financial Management
- Pennybox: Managing income and expenses is a key part of financial management, though many students don’t get true experience with this prior to graduation. Pennybox can help remedy that. This virtual banking system allows students to manage finances in a risk-free environment. This free app has many applications at home as a teaching tool, but it can also be used in classrooms with young learners.
Teachers can allocate funds to students, potentially as a reward for academic achievements or for setting a positive example in social interactions. Students can then manage these funds to “pay” for privileges. Discussing the importance of saving money for greater rewards could be an impactful lesson for young students.
- $ky: Money Matters: If you’re looking for a platform more suited to students in elementary and middle school classrooms, $ky: Money Matters is a good option. Created in a collaboration between the Charles Schwab Foundation and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, this free game provides a look into life expenses students can expect to encounter later in life.
Students will answer some basic questions about their goals in life (Will they go to college? What kind of job do they want to pursue?), then encounter a number of financial decisions. It’s a good representation of how financial decisions can impact the course of one’s life. While the specifics of these decisions are not provided within the context of the game, it is a good launching point to broader discussions about personal finance.
Finding a Job
Finding a job is one of the most important life skills a person can have when they finish school, as this will provide them with their livelihood when they gain their independence. However, by the time many students graduate, they don’t know how to successfully create a resume or a cover letter, both of which are often necessary for attaining a job. However, neither of these documents are easy to write, and they must be deliberately crafted with care.
While resume writing would be a good class or class segment in and of itself, technology today makes it easy for students to learn. By showing students the right software to use to create these documents, teachers can give their students basic instructions that will help them figure out how to craft a good resume.
With the stagnant wages that exist in the U.S., all young adults should know how to manage their money and create budgets that will help them succeed in the future. Money problems can be incredibly easy to get into when you’re new to financial responsibility or when you are just starting a new job and don’t know how much money you’ll have after bills. In order for students to be successful in life, they need to learn how to get a job, keep a budget, and be financially responsible.
Platforms to Teach Career Skills
- Kidblog: This platform allows educators to create controlled environments in which students can share and react to content with their peers. There are many skills that can be taught with Kidblog, including digital citizenship, online content creation, and the importance of networking.
There are clear real-world applications for these skills when it comes to finding and securing a job. Regardless of your desired career, being able to engage with others effectively online is essential to maximize professional opportunities and growth.
- VR Career Training: Countless VR applications can teach real-world skills necessary for specific professions. Students can learn a wide variety of skills by interacting with objects in simulated environments. Retail companies, police departments, hospitals, and many more employers provide VR training to new and prospective employees to teach integral skills while spurring interest in their respective industry.
These applications could also have applications in the classroom. Having a career day at your school? With this technology, you can expose students to a wide range of professions and give them a “hands-on” glimpse into the day-to-day work required of each.
Technology and Education
Technology is a hugely beneficial resource that has made it easier for people to do a large number of organizational and administrative tasks. It has changed the way a lot of work is now done. This has required teachers to change the way they approach teaching students about a variety of topics. Today, it’s more important to know how to effectively use software to complete certain tasks than to understand how to complete the work without it. However, technology devoid of context does not necessarily help students.
Although technology is playing a larger part in how students learn, a good education requires more than the latest technologies. In order to teach well, educators need to structure classes and develop lessons that keep students focused on what they’re supposed to be learning and don’t simply provide them with potentially distracting technology. Teachers must determine the concrete ways that technology will help us meet educational goals before encouraging the school to invest in expensive technology and software.
Proficiency in working within computer programs and computer skills in general are valuable skills for almost any profession. Some schools offer classes where students can learn to type and become familiar with computers. However, not enough classes exist for students to learn how to use Microsoft Office products and other software commonly used in office work environments. Getting students accustomed to this type of technology could greatly improve their future work opportunities.
Teachers make a huge difference in the lives of their students, and their dedication to providing learners a well-rounded education can be the difference between a student that is prepared for adulthood and one that is not. Real-life skills are crucial, and the way that educators structure their classes can help students know what to expect as they set foot into the real world.