Reflections from an Educator

Michelle Strickland is an educator at Trigg County High School in Cadiz, KY. Her class all competed in the Imagine FutureEd competition, and she supported them as they completed the activities and developed their scenarios. Two of her students, Savannah VanGotum and Layne Shelton, were selected as winners of the competition for their scenarios "CPI Nan" and "The Limits of Technology." Below are her reflections on the experience.

What made you decide to participate in the Imagine FutureEd competition?

My principal received an email about it, and he forwarded it to me. This year we started a makerspace in our school, and he suggested that the competition might be a good fit, so that was the catalyst.

Can you describe the makerspace setting? How did you incorporate Imagine FutureEd into your other activities?

We are in a very rural area and there aren’t a lot of places available for kids to have internships or co-ops, but we are constantly looking for those opportunities. We run the makerspace as an internship and do all project-based learning. For example, we teamed with the day care that's in our school and made construction projects for them out of cardboard. We learned 3D printing and went through some CAD training for that. We learned how to run wiring.

We spent a month on the competition. We did the lessons and I added some supplemental activities, such as watching and discussing videos about the future and inviting a guest speaker to offer some of her ideas about the future of learning. One student found the video A Day Made of Glass. We decided that if that future was possible, we should all start investing in window cleaning products today!

Why do you think teaching your students to think about the future is important?

A lot of our students don’t really think past graduating. I think it was important to start thinking outside of our area. We do have about 4 or 5 factories here, and there are not a lot of other job opportunities besides farms. Some of those jobs can be replaced by machines, so we spent a lot of time talking about that, and it was a really good catalyst for them to start thinking: if a factory gets replaced, what would I do? We watched excerpts from Hidden Figures and discussed how the characters saw that a new computer was going to be able to do the work they were doing, so they taught themselves how to use that machine and changed their own ideas of what their job could be.

What were some of the highlights of the process in your opinion? 

I think it was great to help them think about something besides their own immediate future, like  their graduation. They started to realize that education is going to affect them when they pay for taxes. When they become adults, they will have a part in education, even if you aren’t directly taking a class. It's important for everybody to think about.

What’s your ideal future of learning? 

I want a future where we understand how to motivate students and how to tap into their internal motivation to learn. I want teachers to be the catalyst that helps kids realize "I need to learn this" and then help them do that. That’s what we really tried to do this year by introducing them to things that none of them had experienced but that they realized might be important skills for them to learn. I want to see a future where we better understand how to instill that desire to learn within students.