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Next Step Needed: Teams, Athletes Create Teachable Moments For Class

summer sluggerFor the spring, millions of kids will be sitting home as teachers try to continue to deliver on hundreds of hours of classwork while learning themselves about the use of technology that can improve their efforts in education not just now, but into the future. We also have thousands of athletes, trainers, and other personnel at teams, leagues and universities sitting on the sideline. Is there a way for both to work together not just for training methods and coaching skills to get people active, but for curriculum as well? Some think yes, and we have seen some examples.

MLB and Everfi recently released “Summer Slugger” a digital education platform originally created to address summer learning loss during vacation months. Summer Slugger is a free baseball-themed and gamified education course focusing on math and literacy skills. Since the program’s launch in June 2017, MLB clubs have introduced more than 140,000 young people in the U.S. and Canada, ages 8-11, to the program, with thousands more accessing the platform at home.

“One constant that remains unchanged amid the current evolving situation is our commitment to promoting student academic achievement and positive outcomes,” said Melanie LeGrande, VP, Social Responsibility, MLB. “MLB and our clubs are proud to assist the millions of parents and school teachers in helping our young people succeed during these challenging circumstances.”

Summer Slugger contains 36 series (each designed to take no longer than 10 minutes to complete) which cover the following educational topics: units of measure, place value, arithmetic, geometry, spelling, phonemic awareness, vocabulary and comprehension.

We have also seen Drone Racing League work with an industry leader, Eduscape, to create a program giving kids and teachers access to Drone technology for an at home STEM program which is growing, but there is still a need for more innovative thought to use athletes and their voices around the area of education.

There are at least 36 states that have closed their schools, impacting approximately 32 million K-12 students. The majority of these schools are shifting to online teaching using Learning Management Systems.

eduscape“Studies show that approximately 75% of K-12 schools subscribe to a LMS on some level, with costs ranging from $5 to $10 per student. Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams provide LMS-like platforms at no cost, but with less embedded features. LMSs were originally designed for the higher education market and are the backbone of colleges and universities, especially institutions such as the University of Phoenix with an enrollment exceeding 95,000 students,” said Eduscape founder and CEO Alex Urrea in a post this week. “The majority of the dozens of LMS companies began solely as higher education service providers and started offering their platforms to K-12 only around 10-12 years ago. The challenge has been that despite the emerging features in LMSs today, most educators have used them as glorified bulletin boards; posting paper-based assignments in PDFs, applying simple assessments such as multiple-choice and true/false quizzes, and to upload YouTube videos for students to view. This is primarily due to a lack of effective and ongoing professional development that supports the shift to, at a minimum, a blended learning model.”

So can community relations staffs at teams and leagues now find a way to help with teaching kids online? Urrea thinks so. “Kids want to be stimulated and motivated to keep learning and they are more digitally savvy than ever before,” he said. “The teachers also need to have access to quality, simple to adapt tools, so can’t teams develop some projects that involve simple math of say, the science of shooting a basketball, or how batting averages work, to supplement hat is currently just stagnant work? The irony is that many athletes who are sitting at home probably have young kids who are struggling to grow with school work, so this solves two issues; keeping kids engaged in education and also getting elite names involved in solving hat ill become a bigger issue; the education lapse of America.”

This is not a problem which will be solved overnight, and unfortunately with the spread of COVID-19 it won’t be going away in the next few weeks. Companies like Eduscape have been clamoring and pushing schools to better adapt to online learning for years, with administrators only finding out recently that a majority of the teachers had not adapted to online tools while they have had them. This process will be evolutionary as well as revolutionary should schools and educators seek to adapt. And in the simplest of ways, by creating compelling content, teams, leagues and athletes can help, both for the short, and then long term.

About Jerry Milani

Jerry Milani is a freelance writer and public relations executive living in Bloomfield, N.J. He has worked in P.R. for more than 25 years in college and conference sports media relations, two agencies and for the International Fight League, a team-based mixed martial arts league, and now is the PR manager for Wizard World, which runs pop culture and celebrity conventions across North America. Milani is also the play-by-play announcer for Caldwell University football and basketball broadcasts. He is a proud graduate of Fordham University and when not attending a Yankees, Rams or Cougars game can be reached at Jerry (at) JerryMilani (dot) com.

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