Education Opinion

Using Road Trips to Help Kids Find Their Passions

By Justin Reich — July 20, 2012 2 min read
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“There is so much opportunity with new technologies. But so much innovation is taking on the character of the old style of schooling.”
- Mike Marriner, Roadtrip Nation

I was really lucky last evening to grab a beer after work with Mike Marriner, one of the founders of RoadTrip Nation. Many of you may know Roadtrip Nation from its PBS television show, but the whole project is taking a new direction towards providing curriculum and online platforms for students and teachers.

Specifically, Roadtrip Nation wants to help young people discover their interests and passions through the great American rite of the road trip. When Mike talks about young people, you feel the catch in his throat, the knot in his stomach, when he talks about kids who can’t imagine their future, who can’t find a reason to go to college, or who can’t figure out how to choose a major once they get there. He sees school as a place not just for filling brains with stuff, but for giving children a reason to want to learn in the first place.

The Roadtrip Nation curriculum invites students to explore the lives of people in their surrounding community. On the Roadtrip Nation television show, students interview and visit with celebrities, business owners, politicians, motivational speakers and all sorts of interesting people. The Roadtrip Nation education program helps students begin to explore their own interests, and then interview and visit with the local politicians, small business owners, tradesmen, and interesting people in their own community. The curriculum is facilitated by an online platform, RoadtripNation.org, that let’s students share their experiences, be inspired by other roadtrippers, and glimpse into communities around the country. It’s been used by tens of thousands of students so far, and I look forward to it seeing smashing success in the years ahead.

The Roadtrip Nation team has made a special focus on working with students in underserved communities and institutional settings that don’t typically have great access to counseling and career exploration. I write a lot about whether free tools and resources will mostly benefit the rich, and the Roadtrip project is a perfect example of how you can design delivery systems for your interventions that target the kids we most want to reach.

I know of nothing like Roadtrip Nation. I can’t think of anything in my own educational experience like it, or in the educational experiences that I have provided for young people in my career. And that’s exactly what we should be doing with new technologies: creating new models, addressing new challenges, reinventing what it means to have an education. Roadtrip Nation is taking video, social networks, and other new media tools and pulling them together in unique ways that address the incredibly pressing challenge of helping young people find their paths and passions in a complex world.

Note to young edu-entreprenuers out there: Quit trying to make the old system run faster. Build something way better.

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my papers, presentations and so forth, visit EdTechResearcher.

The opinions expressed in EdTech Researcher are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.