#EdTech Perspectives: Using Spark 101 in Your Classroom

Engaging Industry to Engage Students

Jane Kubasik, Founder, Spark 101 @Spark101STEM


I love this year’s Digital Learning Day theme of #FutureReady—an effort being spearheaded by the Alliance for Excellent Education and the U.S. Department of Education.


I love how it’s all encompassing.  How our schools become more #FutureReady with increased connectivity. How our educators become more #FutureReady as they effectively use new devices to transform teaching and learning.  And how our students become more #FutureReady to succeed in meaningful careers.


Having worked in the business/education partnership space for more than a decade, I’m often asked by industry what they can do to better support this education transformation—and at the same time, become more #FutureReady, themselves.  My answer: empower educators to better engage students.


In a recent study, Engaging Students for Success,” conducted by the Education Week Research Center, teachers identified student engagement and motivation as the most important factors contributing to student achievement. Most of the respondents strongly agreed that schoolwork that is relevant to real-world challenges and life experiences plays an important role in engaging students so that they want to learn.


But do educators always have the resources to make curriculum relevant?  And do educators have the tools and time to best integrate technology and workplace skills into interactive, content-aligned instruction?


That is why we worked with teachers to design Spark 101—to serve as the medium for employers to provide the real career scenarios educators need to make curriculum more relevant.


The digital learning resource helps secondary teachers engage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) coursework through career case study videos. Spark 101 works with employers to identify the jobs of the future, the types of decisions those employees make and the problems they help to solve – and feature a real story in the case study video. Teachers help connect those work place skills to classroom coursework and engage students to solve problems and makes decisions alongside the employer’s team.


On Digital Learning Day, you will find educators leading collaborative problem solving around these real-world cases:


  • Biosciences teachers bringing Dr. Robert Tjian virtually into classrooms through the Howard Hughes Medical Center case study on Transcription Factors in DNA.



And it works.  Early findings indicate using Spark 101 helps students better understand how STEM relates to their lives and makes them more interested in STEM —helping student answer that age-old question,” When will I ever use this?” And teachers say that Spark 101 is helping them better engage their students and improve their students’ problem solving abilities.   In line with the Education Week study I mentioned earlier, we found 9 out of 10 students in our study wanted to understand why they are learning about a topic and 8 out of 10 students said they are motivated to learn when they can solve real-world problems.


Spark 101 is an example of industry and education collaborating to create digital learning content that engages students. Spark 101 gives educators the resources to bring STEM curriculum to life, industry a way to inspire the nation’s future innovators, and students the motivation and pathways to succeed in school and future careers.  We all become more #FutureReady when we work together to help our students reach their full potential.


About Author: 

Jane Kubasik founded the non-profit 114th Partnership to ensure all students graduate prepared for success in college, careers and the community by bridging the gap between education and industry. The Partnership launched Spark101.org to engage students in STEM through career case study videos, freely provided to teachers. Early findings indicate using Spark 101 helps student, including girls, better understand how STEM relates to their lives and makes them more interested in STEM. 

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