Lainey Weiser is the amazingly positive driver behind Just Start IT, now moving into an incredible second year and growing enormously. She gives her opinion on why we need this program.
When I graduated from high school I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I just knew that I had so much energy to give, but didn’t know where to place it. I look around at students graduating from secondary schools today, and see that many mirror my own experience.
I was lucky though. I had a father who kicked me out of bed and demanded that I get a job. I got even luckier as I landed up working for an incredibly inspiring women, who mentored me for the ten years I was with her. But for many, their gap year leads to further indecision, leads to wasted enrollments, leads to rising numbers of incompletions in the tertiary education space. Is it the high school system that fails some? Or is it the fast paced, technology driven world that we live in, that makes it increasingly hard to engage high school students?
Let’s face it, being a teenager is hard. You are driven by hormones, overwhelmed by peer pressure, inundated by adult expectations, while simply battling to work out where you fit. All of this, while living on a diet of frenzied “texting” and snap chat. It’s a wonder that teens muster the energy they do. Being surrounded by the next great tech app on your watch that tells you your heart rate, while reminding you you’re onto the last carton of milk, should be indication enough that the way we engage with students needs to change. They are engaged with technology in a way that big people just aren’t. We try. But the pace of our lives, and the “uncoolness” of our age doesn’t allow for us to stay as in touch or be as in tune with the rapid rate of tech change up as our young, hip, teen counterparts.
Now this doesn’t mean that I’m suggesting we all wear our jeans half way down our bums with our boxer shorts sticking out, or walk with gangster slouch. I am afraid to say when I say Wazzup to the students I connect with they think i’m totally weird. What I am saying is that the high school classroom structure of yesterday aint working no more! Now we have all heard of flipped classrooms, and project based learning, but what I’m suggesting takes it one step further. I’m suggesting multi-dimensional programs.
What does that even mean? Most programs run in high schools today are dry. One dimensional. If the students are being taught business, they are taught how to create an invoice in excel, or type up a business letter. They go through the processes. I’m not saying that’s bad. But I am saying it’s dry.
Get students to form teams and talk about things that create issues for them. Get them to come up with solutions to those issues. Get them researching what else exists in that space. Get them passionate by brainstorming different angles of coming at things, and get them buying in to the ideas that are of their creation. Help them to validate their ideas by talking to people who make up their market. Then get them working on lean business plans, and then writing up documents, and the uptake will be totally different.
Engage them by working within their realms of experience.
Engage them through technology, creativity and their passion and I reckon it’s a winning combination.
That’s why I’m working so hard to get this program going, so that my kids and all our kids can engage with the possibilities that technology brings to them, the digital natives.