Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Defining College Prep - Part 5

In my original post on the topic, I explained that I've been exploring what "college prep" actually means, both in 2011 and in the years to come. After all, I believe its entirely possible we're doing "college prep" in schools across the country based on what college looked like for us years ago rather than based on what college actually looks like now and may look like in the near future. To get a current, accurate snapshot of what's happening on college campuses, my school organized an Alumni Summit, a round-table discussion with current college and university students. In a nut shell, they said the three things most frequently expected by their college professors are:
  • Collaboration for the purpose of solving a problem
  • Reading, writing, discussion
  • Clear, concise, fact-based oral communication
After my last post, Randy commented on a number of things based upon his experiences in high school, in undergrad and in law school, but he pointed to another piece of the college prep puzzle: time management. Randy said, "The students who I saw fail in their endeavors, were the ones who simply could not find an efficient way to manage their time." Randy then asked me to weigh in, so...

In short, I believe time management is a skill kids need if they're going to be successful not only in college but also in life. The good news is that we have four years to work with them on this. However, there are two sides to the time management issue. The first is obvious: there's plenty to do and only 24 hours available every day. With the advent of all sorts of digital calendars, daytimers, alarms, alerts, etc., students today have all the tools they need to manage their time. We must teach them how to use these tools effectively. For example, with the roll out of our 1-to-1 laptop program this year, part of what we'll be doing is teaching kids how to set up and use Google calendars. For those with iPhones, we'll take the teaching a step further and help them sync their laptops and phones. This process will include instruction on how to plan days as well as how to plan weeks, months, semesters, test dates, project timelines, etc. It will be up to the students after that to implement the planning skills we teach them.

Now for the not-so-obvious flip side of the issue... Our alum at the Alumni Summit brought up a really interesting time management issue they face, one that may surprise you. Their rigorous high school experience (Randy, you can identify with this) left them with virtually every waking hour of every day planned, scheduled, prioritized, committed, and more. When they found themselves attending class in college only a few hours a week with no after-school activities like football, choir and clubs, they had no idea what to do with all the unscheduled down-time. They said it actually became harder to plan their project timelines and study sessions because there was too much free time. I have to admit, I didn't see that coming. Being the resourceful kids they are, they've adjusted. However, I believe we ought to consider helping our kids think ahead and be prepared to handle hours upon hours of unstructured downtime.

Thanks, Randy, for bringing up this topic.

1 comment:

Randy Wright J.D. said...

Excellent points. Indeed, I am surprised to see that technology is now moving into the class room in such a way as to be a tool. I remember that in the earliest forms of computer technology, and cell phones, it seemed that they were toys and distractions. Of course, technology has progressed, and they have become invaluable tools.

It is interesting to draw a direct correlation between the technology serving as an aide to time management. In law school, and more importantly for the bar exam (which I'll be sitting for in February) there is an option to hand write your exams, or to type your essays on the computer. I saw students fair well on such exams with both, but I would believe that it would be a wiser choice to implement the technology.

A student only receives one grade per semester in law school (that one exam), and typically an exam ranges from 2-4 hours. Before computers were implemented, students who had to hand write their answers were afforded 12 hours for the exams (however this varied from school to school). Thus answers that are handwritten run the risk of not being detailed enough, or worse, that the professor will be unable to read the student's writing. Of course, as with any endeavor, students must have confidence within themselves..exam anxiety is a self-destructive foe.

Excellent post Nathan, I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question.

Randy A. Wright J.D.