Customizing Education in Central York School District
Imagine one road similar to what we have been doing for the past 120 years. We’ll call that the Industrial-Based Road.
Now, imagine another road. We’ll call it the Road Less Traveled.
The Road Less Traveled is unfamiliar, difficult and to some, a threat. It lacks the well-worn grooves needed for an easy, familiar passage. It is a road that our parents have not traveled, nor their parents and even most of us!
The Road Less Traveled is the Information Age Road, where students have a device and access to the internet, two game changing conditions according to Will Richardson.
If you experience discomfort with schools providing devices to students and embracing social media, it is OK. You never experienced ... the possibility of two roads ... and only consider school in the framework of the 120-year-old Industrial-Based Road we all traveled in our youth.
If you judge what your local school district is doing based upon your schooling years ago, you might be confused or concerned. Your experience is a one-lane road that has only known the industrial age road. To suggest there is another way, is counter to your entire educational experience and your frame of reference. It is OK, and I understand your reservation.
The Road Less Traveled, or the Information Age Road, is essentially the road to Mass Customized Learning. It is a road that empowers educators to customize our learners’ educational experience through technological advances and access to technology resources for everyday learning in our classrooms and beyond. Outside of school, we are very familiar with customization. Companies like Netflix, Pandora and Starbucks are customizing for billions of people worldwide. Gone are the days when you are forced to listen to a radio station for hours hoping the DJ plays your favorite song. Today, you are the DJ, and Pandora is your own personal radio station, accessible wherever and whenever you choose.
Remember when we grew up, and Sanka offered only two choices – regular or decaf? Consider the choices coffee consumers have in today’s Starbucks-laden environment. If you guessed today’s consumers have over 80,000 choices of beverage combinations, you are right.
Whether you like it or not, and most of us like it, the world is customizing for the consumer … except for most of us in public education.
Disagree? Consider the following:
• What if it only took you half a year to complete Algebra I? Are you able to move at your own pace and select the next course? Who made the rule that a course or grade level must be 180 days?
• What if you were really ready for third grade, halfway through your second grade year?
• What if we asked students, "How is this best learned?" and let them have voice and choice in the completion of their work as opposed to everyone receiving the same worksheet and one-size fits all instruction? (or in my day, that beautifully pixelated filmstrip that I had the pleasure of turning to the next frame at the sound of the beep).
• What if parents, learners (formerly known as students) and learning facilitators (formerly known as teachers) could monitor a learner's progression 24/7 from any device. Everyone would know exactly where they are in the grade or class and what was the next topic to master? I credit Chuck Schwahn and Bea McGarvey, authors of Inevitable at http://masscustomizedlearning.com.
How many organizations, businesses or sectors can lay claim to the ability to remain unchanged for over 120 years? (Think Rip Van Winkle and what he would and would not recognize in today's world.)
We don’t have to look far to see what happens when a well-worn road becomes outdated, its grooves are no longer easy and familiar to travelers, but abandoned for other roads less traveled. Border’s Book Stores and Circuit City are two examples of a growing list.
How will we prepare our learners for their future, and not our educational past? How can public education NOT recognize there is more than one road available for today’s learners … and how can we NOT respond, accordingly, with a learning experience that meets their needs?
Are we really future-focused? Or are we putting our heads in the sand, ignoring the possibility of the Road Less Traveled, and content to stay in our well-worn groove until we travel the easy path to irrelevance and/or extinction?