It has been a journey long in the making. It started as philosophy shift, rethinking educational systems and recognizing flaws. We were building factory workers in an age of disappearing factories. Students needed to leave high school just like their classmates several decades ago because the work they would do required them to rarely think outside the box, create new things and challenge existing ideas. For quite some time the real-world has rewarded those who do those things, but our schools continued churning out the same product. We changed how we thought about school first.
We wondered if we were alone in this. Quickly we found our answer - no, we were not. Many schools around the country, and world, have been shifting their philosophies and putting those shifts into action. Communication, observations and a lot of learning of best-practice went into preparing for a leap into personalized learning. The next step was changing the physical layout of our environment. With learners in mind, the arrangement, norms and structure of every inch space was changed to accommodate different instruction and learning styles. The second phase of the journey was the setup.
For quite a while we taught to the middle. The slower learners were left confused and behind, zapping most of their drive to continue. Students who were self-driven and motivated, well they usually got bored and disinterested. Personalized learning was a perfect solution to trying to benefit all learners, no matter where they are in their own learning journey. We needed to give something up and teachers have long cherish … control. Being receptive to learner’s needs can create the feeling of lost control. Maybe we don’t know exactly what we’re teaching tomorrow, but if a learner requests something it might be a good idea to give when they need. Helping them advocate for themselves and become self-aware has been an important piece of training. We may not be allowed the opportunity to pace a week or month like we used to, but learners taking ownership of their learning is a payoff ten-fold.
So, we have begun. There is already a Google Doc we used to write about things we want to do differently next year, but for the most part it has been a good start. Learners worked together to establish their own norms and expectations for each space. Learners create their own schedule for their day based on their needs. Learners prioritize their time and what teachers offer. Learners are doing things with their learning, not just returning a few memorized facts to their teachers when test day comes. Learners listen to music, lay on the floor, hangout with their friends and laugh. Learners are being allowed to be themselves and experience freedoms many of us teachers did not feel until we left the nest for college.
There may be things to improve and change next time, but Team Innovate is putting learning into the hands of learners. Sure, they may be a younger and little smaller than us, but they are people. It is amazing to see what impact can happen when we treat learners like the individuals they are.