Friday, March 15, 2013

Blowing the Ceiling off of Learning

I know, I know, it's been a really long time since I have posted! To anyone still following along, I apologize. I'm ready to get back on the horse...

Lately, so many of my conversations and trainings have had to do with self-directed or personalized learning. With student access to devices, so many more options are becoming available. Teachers are building digital content into MOODLE, our learning management system. Students can access a flow chart or plan for the unit and then move through it at their own pace. They can access video lessons and presentations for direct instruction. They can access activities and assignments. They can take formative assessments as they move through the material to ensure that they are ready to move on. 

The challenge in all of this is creating the online material, the videos, the assignments, the quizzes, etc... It seems to me that we need to be creative about how this gets created. There is no question that our classroom teachers will still need to make much of the material. They are the experts in knowing what their students need and so they will need to create materials that respond to those needs. However, some of the material can be created by others so they can focus on the teaching and the individualization. When I think about the many resources our district has available, I think we need to rethink their roles. 

We have district resource people for different subject areas, math, LA, etc... We have tech integrationists, peer coaches, gifted and talented and special ed teachers. Why not redirect them at least part of the time to begin creating a critical mass of online material so teachers can have students access it as needed.

Think about how much time we spend assessing students for services. What if we spent that time developing material. Who cares if they qualify? If the material is there, and they are ready to use it, let them get started. 

I have talked often about gatekeepers. We have people whose job it is to determine if kids can or can't do things. Why? Put it out there and see who is WILLING to try. That is far more important than ABLE. We send the wrong message to our students when we say that a test determines if you can or can't do something. How often do you try something new and find out you can do it when you didn't think you could? 

I believe that "if you build it, they will come." If we build a rigorous, engaging online curriculum and make it available to all our students, we can focus on the quality of the curriculum rather than on being gatekeepers. We will have students access it. Some will succeed, some will not, but they will determine that not someone else. Then it is up to us to help them be successful not get in their way.

Imagine a student who could pretest out of a unit that they already know or could finish a unit in half the time. They could then choose where to go next and direct their own learning. All they need is some direction. Let's put our resources into building the path for those students and let them choose their path!