Here’s a deeper explanation of each of these.
Wouldn't we all agree that humans learn at different rates? Think of your own children. Did they all learn to talk and walk at the same age? As you sat in math class in middle school, wasn't it apparent that some students in class just picked up the stuff faster than others? This is a fundamental fact of human nature, yet we still hold true to a false notion that third grade must equal 180 days of school. Or the notion that those middle school math geniuses must wait unit the end of the course to move on to more engaging and challenging material.
Wouldn't we all agree that we have different learning style preferences? Some of us naturally connect with the written word and love to read and converse to make meaning of content. Others need movement and a tactile approach to learn best. Yet our school system churns out worksheets and one- size-fits-all projects.
Wouldn’t we all agree that technology has changed the landscape in every sector of our lives … except, perhaps, public education? Think online banking, online grocery ordering and delivery, booking car services via your smartphone, and the smartphone itself. Like these other innovations, an Internet connection and a device are revolutionizing our industry and people are making choices like never before.
So what does this mean for us?
- If a third grade learner masters all the math that is required of her – midway through the school year, why can't she start fourth grade math? If an eighth grader can do Algebra II, we must find a way to meet him where he is, not where we expect him to be. We all learn at different rates, yet we move students in a pack mentality. Technology will help manage this.
- Technology avails to us a massive amount of information that once was the domain of the teacher and a textbook alone. What becomes of the fundamental role of teacher when everything we teach is online and easy to access? Why would we need a textbook when the Internet holds more information than we can possibly consume?
- Competition is at the front door. Parents have more choices than ever before, and our stance of being “the only game in town” is over. It makes no sense to debate which is better; it boils down to locus of control. When you have a choice, you have some control. We all know that bacon-cheese fries are not the healthiest option and yet …
- We need to provide as much voice and choice as possible for our learners. Yes, some will not be able to manage total control of their schedules and their learning; but some can. The Industrial-based system treated everyone as a cog in the machine. True motivation will come when learners are provided a choice in how best to learn.
- We need to embrace mastery learning. When a student shows mastery of a concept or standard, they move on under the watchful eye of a teacher.
- You noticed I referenced a teacher. A human. Public education has always been, and hopefully always will be, a human-to-human endeavor. The human element is critical to improving the human condition. Throughout history, despite the innovation or invention, it has always come down to humans sticking together and embracing the new, together; this time is no different.
MCL is this and more. It is not:
- Just technology;
- Letting students do whatever they want; or
- Requiring students learn only from a computer.
MCL done right means that our learners arrive each day to a learning environment that:
- Meets them at their level;
- Allows them to use their best learning styles;
- Engages them in learning skills and concepts with content of high interest to them;
- Inspires them to come to school; and
- Sets them up for challenges, and success, in school.
MCL honors rate, style and technology, but, most of all, it is a human-to-human endeavor, connecting learners with learning facilitators who help them achieve and succeed.
That is the ideal learning environment.