Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Math Activities Using the Living Wage Calculator

There is a lot of talk about needing to make the skills and concepts taught in adult education programs truly meaningful and relevant to the lives of adult learners. I should know. I'm doing a good amount of that talking, personally (it's much bigger than me, obviously, and stems from the impact of Common Core and the College and Career Readiness standards).  That's why my jaw dropped when I heard this story on NPR's Marketplace radio show about Ikea setting its lowest wages according to something called the MIT Living Wage Calculator.

This calculator seems perfect for adult education classrooms and take-home activities.  Adult learners, almost across the board, are more motivated by the prospect of higher more sustainable wages than a credential or entry into college or even increased self-esteem.  Such a bleak reality is part of the fabric of the adult education mission, but it also presents an opportunity: lots of teachable moments that are usable in life beyond the classroom walls.  Learners could use the calculator to figure their local living wage, analyze the equation that resulted in that figure, what they might tweak to suit their own circumstances, etc. My head spins with ideas at the thought of it.

The nifty thing about MIT's Living Wage calculator is that it's actually getting traction where grassroots living wage campaigns have come up short (I speak from experience here in Richmond, VA - ahem, a major historic and modern day slavery landmark).  The defense-mechanism neutralizing effect of a calculator along with the lofty reputation of MIT seems to make the living wage concept palatable to industry and other authorities over personnel and purse-strings.

GED/HiSET/TASC teachers are probably wondering while reading this if they can swap this exciting living wage calculator for the overly complicated TI-30xs.  Not likely. But, you can use the living wage calculator to fuel relevant classroom activities and at-home projects that engage learners and help them aspire to a higher standard of living.  So, what are you waiting for?  Post a comment with the first activity that comes to mind and borrow the ideas left here by your fellow educators.  I'll send a tweet out right now to someone who might be willing to post the first idea(s)...      

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teaching with Technology and Robin Williams

In honor of Robin Williams consistent impact on my life, from childhood to 40yrs old, I wanted to post some of his fun commentary on computers and teaching and learning, circa 1982.

In the show, Mork and Mearth (love Jonathan Winters!) build a home computer called MILT that winds up controlling their lives.  Sure, the computer can order your groceries and pay bills for you, but the net effect is negative in this episode of Mork and Mindy, as the computer becomes a tyrant.

This negative theme regarding technology and innovation is common, although unbalanced (2001, anybody?).  It's not a far-fetched analogy for the arrival of computer-based instruction in the field of adult education: computers as things to be avoided or endured grudgingly. "You're nothing but a mechanical dictator. We'll never stop fighting you.  And we will win." Mindy's proclamation sounds a little like the participants in many technology trainings I've facilitated for adult education teachers over the years.