Friday, September 20, 2013

"Experiential learning." Really?

Zombies pump life into free STEM lessons
The National Academy of Sciences and Texas Instruments have collaborated on a program, STEM Behind Hollywood, which uses zombies to spark students' interest in science, technology, engineering and math. The software, available to teachers for free during a trial period, includes exercises to reverse engineer zombie brains and use math to calculate the spread of contagions. "This is the kind of experiential learning that gives students a deep understanding of the concept," said Melendy Lovett, president of Texas Instruments' Education Technology. Forbes (9/18)
So is this experiential learning?  What do the students experience?  What makes this real?
Is it more engaging than calculating where a train traveling eastward at 60 mph that left Chicago at noon passes a train traveling westward at 50 mph that left Cleveland at 10:00 a.m. the same day? Who rides trains any more?  And why do I want to know this anyway?
Wouldn't you rather reverse engineer zombie brains?  I would.  But is it experiential?  Does it really connect to real life?  My life?  Your life?  Is our education so synthetic, so uninspiring that we must sink to zombie brains to shake life into our students?
Let's get real.

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