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Learning Manifesto:  Finding the Perfect Formula


What makes up the formula for teachers to engage students into the learning process? I have been searching for that perfect formula.


       In high school, I had my first experience with a subject that did not come easy. I was at my wits end, not able to grasp the concepts that I was being taught and I clearly remember the teacher telling me to not give up. She told me that there was no choice but to learn. She said if I just keep at it, I would understand. So, I kept working, I kept thinking about why I needed to learn the content.  Over and over, like the little engine that could, I worked. I tried different methods, I collaborated with my peers until finally I figured it out. This was my first introduction to finding relevance and having grit to establish learning. This was step one.


       In my  first semester of college in the x-ray program I was enrolled in radiographic physics and equipment which was a core course to graduate.  My initial thought was maybe I could pass the course if I really focused, never missed class, went to tutoring and found a study buddy. I had used this formula before so it must work. I remember very clearly sitting in class and thinking “wow, this professor really loves this subject”. With the exception of Albert Einstein, who really loves physics? She did, she really did. The amount of passion that this professor had was not just infectious but very motivating.  She was interactive, almost giddy as she showed us how the information applied to what we were planning to do.  Relevance rearing its head again. Her passion for the subject sparked passion for us. The students were not just lined up in rows but fully collaborative in their learning. She turned that dread into fun. I was fully engaged the entire course. As a result, physics was one of my favorite subjects. This was my first real experience with a professor that held true passion for their subject. It was a transformative moment.  My next thought was how do I ensure that I always have a teacher that holds this much regard for their subject?  It turned out to be very hard to do.


This is just a few of the examples of moments in my own journey that created the type of teacher that I became. Comparing all of those moments of content and courses that I held most dear, I discovered that the real formula for my learning was passion+relevance+fun+grit.


I feel the education system is broken on many levels, we fall to traditional methods of teaching such as lecturing which has proven to be ineffective over and over.  We teach to a test, even in higher education and in my field specifically, our students are required to pass a national test in order to practice radiography.  These tests do not highlight the many different  gifts that many students have to offer.  We implore methods like lecturing, multiple answering and memorization even though we know do not work effectively all because that is the way it has always been done. It is time to turn the page.


How does that translate into learning for my students when every course may not feel relevant, they may not be fun and you may not feel passionate about it?  The real trick is to turn those pieces over to the student. There is no perfect teacher formula to create. The student has to find the passion, the relevance, the fun, and then do the hard work. However, if we find an element that we can add into every course that students already find fun, relevant and are passionate about, then we have covered most of the distance.


The good news is that we have an element that we can use in today’s world of learning that students already use that meets that criteria. Technology is that element. Almost every college student has some type of digital device. They strive to stay connected to the world through smart watches, smartphones and social media. They use devices to stay connected to every element of their world. You would be very hard pressed to walk up to any college student and they do not have some sort of electronic device.  They are far more likely to not have a pencil.


It is crazy to imagine that we expect students to step back twenty years in technology in the classroom  while the subject we are teaching is technology driven.  Radiologic sciences, imaging sciences, all are computer based.  Changes in this field in the last 25 years have been unparalleled since they are driven by computers. Not only the way we obtain images of the patient, but how they are interpreted by the physician and the results ultimately delivered anywhere in the world by a keystroke.  


We must add the relevance, passion, and fun back to the learning and we can do that readily with digital learning. It is my belief that this element will not only add those key factors back but it will increase the students desire to work hard. 


In my practice, I have added a few simple elements that the students all clamor for during every class. Kahoot. Using their smartphones, they compete against each other and take quizzes for review. Every day, they take extra steps to understand the material so they can win against their classmates.  If this one simple digital element can create such fun and passion then adding more comprehensive elements can only improve their desire to learn.

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