In her opening address to the 2014 iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium, iNACOL President Susan Patrick asserted, “Seat time does not make sense; we’re measuring the wrong end of the kid,” by which she meant that flexible platforms will inspire greater student responsiveness and improve learning outcomes. She went on to describe the role that technology can play in customizing learning paths for students. Patrick defines this nimble, personalized approach to education as, “tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs and interests — including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn — to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible.” Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? It isn’t—it’s happening! Is your school on board?
Most of us in independent education have work to do. To adequately prepare students for tomorrow’s workforce, we have to expand or replace our list of essential skills—the most important skills are rooted in self-management, critical thinking, and communication. Michael Horn, author of Disrupting Class and Blended, asserts that one of the greatest barriers to student learning today is that school is no longer relevant to students’ goals, which are more oriented towards skills and passions than content and breadth of knowledge. Personalized learning is powered by a flexible platform that allows students to create their own pathways. Here comes the challenge: In independent schools, the teachers are not only still driving the pedagogy but we are still the owners of the students’ curriculum. Most of our schools are in some stage of this transition:
Teacher Centered to Students Centered to Student Centered
The problem isn’t so much where a school is in this transition because strategic leadership can harness the power of technology to chart a new direction relatively rapidly. The problem is that exhausted administrators are slogging through the transition at a time when what we really need is transformation.
The essence of personalized learning is the shifting of the locus of control from the teacher to the student. What might this transformation look like? While the paradigm shift might be hard to envision, here are some ideas that schools are implementing:
Brad Rathgeber, Executive Director