Personalizing Education in a Standards-Based System

My thoughts after reading Seth Godin’s post Back to (the wrong) school and Douglas Rushkoff post Are Jobs Obsolete? The other day I was looking at a curriculum map similar to this one:                   As I was looking over it I started shaking my head and wondering how do we personalize education in a standardized system? When every student has to learn the concepts covered in a specific unit by a specific time whether or not the students are done learning, have mastered the skills and concepts or are ready to move on. When curriculum maps and content standards drive classroom instruction how do we personalize the educational experience for our students? How do we allow them to follow their passion, to wonder, to follow paths of interest? I’ve talked before on this blog about my struggle with standards, about confining both teachers and students to what they can learn to one or two well written sentences of a bullet point.  Does it really matter that every child learns the same thing or at the same time? Or is it more important that they just become a learner? Learning how to learn, unlearn, and relearn and having the skills and the passion to make it happen. What if it was just a school’s mission and vision, or in my school’s case, our Definition of Learning that drove learning in our schools. What if at the end of every year kids had to show this: We value meaningful learning where students construct enduring understanding by developing and applying knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Increased understanding is evidenced by students who: Explain its relevance Describe how it connects to or conflicts with prior learning Communicate it effectively to others Generalize and apply it effectively to new situations Reflect critically on their own and other’s learning Ask questions to extend learning Create meaningful solutions   Do we care what class it happens in? Do we really care about the content? Or can we stand in awe of the great work our kids can produce when we make it personal and allow their passion to show through....

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Do you sprinkle or mix?

For many schools and educators, technology is like the topping or finishing touch to the curriculum or a project. It’s nice to have, looks good, adds to the overall flavor, but really when you get right down to it…it isn’t needed. For many this has been the approach of technology, fair enough….as through the 1980, ’90 and early 2000s as schools were putting computers into labs that is exactly what they were. It often was a free time, a time to play some games, or later on spend some time on the Internet. Once and awhile they added that sprinkle to a lesson. A PowerPoint to show learning, or typing your poem rather than writing it. We started with technology as the sprinkles to our curriculum and our teaching. Over the years however as these technologies have become mainstream in society our view of technology, for the most part hasn’t changed. There are very few jobs that do not require some computer literacy or typing skills. Yet many schools have yet to replace or add typing as part of the writing curriculum. We still view technology as the sprinkles or toppings rather than looking at how we can mix those sprinkles into the batter and make a whole new curriculum. What we need to do is start from scratch and think about how we build a new curriculum that includes these new skills and ideas. How do we add typing as a writing skill and e-mail as a genre any other way. Until education, educators, schools, and school leaders decide that these new literacy skills must be taught we’re just adding sprinkles. We’re left with some teachers taking time to teach these skills and some not. If technology remains the sprinkles some people will choose not to use them…no matter their color, flavor, or texture. We do not need a technology curriculum instead what we need to do is get out the blender and mix up a new batter that looks at this new digital era we now live in and decide what are the skills students need. Yes…something must give and deciding what goes is not easy. Personally I can make a case for teaching e-mail writing as a genre or typing skills within the writing curriculum. I can see global collaboration projects fitting in with social studies and science and exposing student to searching, finding, decoding skills...

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