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by Stacia Ashmore

As a species, humans are prone to making connections. We start out as wee tots, exploring the world through the base senses of taste, touch, see, hear, smell. As we grow, we start to connect some “things” to other “things”. Our senses develop subconsciously to make connections that will serve as a foundation for learning. As the logical part of the brain expands, that foundation serves as a “behind the scenes” advisor, preventing us from walking into traffic or grabbing the cookies out of the oven with our bare hands.

By the time a child graduates from high school, he or she has mastered the art of connections, whether he or she is aware of it, or not. As a higher education instructor, I have found a very effective strategy in reminding students of the conscious art of making connections. I, myself, am a fountain of useless information, and am often amazed when some bizarre fact I know comes in handy in a random situation.

By bringing awareness, this tactic can be artfully employed in the learning and retention of new subjects, and I find most students will understand material better when they can put it into some logical context of future usefulness. Algebra and geometry were always very difficult concepts for me. In fact, the only college course I ever failed was “Introduction to Mathematics”, which sounded easy enough, but ended up being all about “Proofs & Theorems”. It still makes my head spin. Why would I ever need to know that?!

When I entered the workforce and started to really learn how money works, it completely changed my outlook on math. If you ask me some random question about how x(3%)=Y, I’m just going to stare at you blankly. But if you ask me how much the commission check would be at 3% of the sales price, I’m pulling that number out of my brain in two seconds flat! The connection between “money & math” is important to me. That is an equation I understand! I can also tell you what percentage of an acre a property is that is a rectangular lot of 100’ x 120’. That is 100*200/43,560. No sweat. It’s all connected. There’s a reason I need to know that – so this information is stored in the part of my brain that allows quick retrieval when needed.

Helping students to connect the “Why I need to know this” and the “This is what we’re covering today” should go beyond a simple answer of “Because it’s on the test”. The logical future use of this information makes it meaningful to the learner, and therefore more likely to be retained.

By the way – connecting anagrams to information is a great tool as well! In real estate, we have DUST and PEGS. DUST are the elements that create value: Demand, Utility, Scarcity & Transferability. PEGS are the elements that affect value: Physical & environmental, Economic, Government & legal and Social. I can’t tell you how many times I have used these terms to explain to a client how or why their property is more or less valuable than they think it is, without creating animosity. These are facts, and I have never had a client that could disagree when it was well explained. And this goes beyond what most people understand as “supply & demand”, because it tells the underlying story and connects all relevant factors.

By making Conscious Connections, students can develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter, place it into context for future use, and learn strategies to be able to access this information on demand when the need arises. Many of the active and engaged teaching technologies and practices used at ACC are instrumental to facilitating this process. I look forward to learning more from my colleagues as I grow – both as an educator and a student.