Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Learning IS Personal

Each of us started out as curious learners. As an infant, we discovered our hands and how we related to our world. That was personal. It was all about us and our relationships with our parents or caregivers. As toddlers, we struggled to get up and walk. No one did that for us. It was all about us taking that first step and then another. The same with talking. If we wanted juice, we might have grunted but no one understood us. Being able to speak clearly helped us communicate our wants and needs. We did this ourselves maybe with a little nudging. But it was all about us. It was definitely personal.

Nils Fretwurst / Foto: Nils Fretwurst
The world revolved around us until we noticed we were part of a bigger world. We had to interact if we wanted companionship and to play. As we played, we learned about our part in a game or activity. The other learners were learning also at the same time. This was personal for everyone in the group. Adults probably observed and guided the process.

Yet, in most organized situations, adults took over and controlled what, where, and how each learner learned. Think about your own experiences when you were young and you felt like you could play and choose how you would learn? Then think about the times when you were told how to play or learn.
How did you feel in each of these situations?
Each of us has our own experiences growing up, different relationships, and how we learned. Each of us comes from small or large families with different backgrounds, neighborhoods, and friends. Because of these experiences, we are different than others. We are unique. Our learning experiences are personal to us. We are born inquisitive, curious, and creative. The power of us is our diversity. Each of us learns in different ways and may choose a different way to learn.

image from Geralt at Pixabay 
Then we started school. School, as most of us know it, was designed around the industrial model in the late 1800's so all children could be taught the same thing at the same ages. This was to prepare workers for factories and jobs with middle managers where employees did what they were told. Times have changed. The Internet has disrupted every business including education. Now businesses are looking for workers who are adaptable, creative, and innovative. Businesses like Kodak who invented photography have not adapted to the times and filed for bankruptcy. Remember when everything photography was Kodak? Now everyone takes pictures and shares them socially. Think of Instagram and who knows what might come next.

Sir Ken Robinson explains much of this in a recent RSA video why education must change from the ground up. It is about teaching and learning not delivering curriculum. It is about values, culture, and each learner being unique.

So we go back to why learning is personal and needs to focus on each learner and how they learn best. Learning becomes a big part of us if we can make it personal. If we want learning to be personal we need to call Learners NOT Students!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Responsibility vs Accountability

by Barbara Bray

Lately the word "responsibility" has been used interchangeably with the word "accountability" when it comes to teachers, teaching, and learning. Oh my! Why is it that teachers are held accountable for what learners are to learn? If teachers are accountable for what their learners are learning, are learners only learning for their teachers or a grade, not for themselves? Where does intrinsic motivation factor in the equation? Evaluations of teachers are often based on learner performance and data, so teachers feel not only accountable but responsible for what their learners learn. Doesn't this seem backwards? 
by  flickingerbrad 

When learners take responsibility to write something they are interested in for an audience of their peers like this learner from Yukon Public Schools, they are motivated to write, read each others work, and want to learn and do more. 

Responsibility means a moral obligation and something taken upon one's self.

Most of the teachers we know feel wholly and morally responsible for their learners. That's why most of us went into the profession: to make a difference. Yet is it up to us for learners to learn the content?

Accountability is more of a social contract or social obligation. Accountability can be measurable. If teachers are accountable for their learners' learning, then why would learners feel responsible for their own learning? 

If these are the correct definitions then "accountability" refers to making, keeping, and managing agreements and expectations where "responsibility" is the feeling of ownership. So that's it! That's what we've been talking about. Being responsible for our own learning. Maybe this also means that each learner needs to be held accountable for what they learn by taking responsibility for their own learning. Okay - so maybe we confused you, but this is what we mean when we talk about personalizing learning. Teachers usually feel a responsibility to create an environment that engages and motivates learners to want to learn.
As for the journey of life; at some point you will realize that YOU are the driver and you will drive!” Life, the Truth, and Being Free
So we went back and read Dave Truss' blog post: Personalization and Responsibility where he wrote that educators openly sharing in learning communities create an environment where teachers are learners, and they model what they want from learners. He referred to the last sentence in our report that details the Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization chart when learners and teachers reflect on their own learning and must communicate it to others, they are intensifying their understanding about a topic, their learning strengths, and the areas in which they need to develop further.
On this same post, Dave shared that Andy Hargreaves stated in The Fourth Way where we should be focusing more on responsibility with teaching and learning at the top of the pyramid

Barbara McCombs, PhD, from the University of Denver, states in her research Developing Responsible and Autonomous Learners: A Key to Motivating Students that motivation is related to whether or not learners have opportunities to be autonomous and to make important academic choices. Having choices allows children to feel that they have control or ownership over their own learning. This, in turn, helps them develop a sense of responsibility and self-motivation.
When learners feel a sense of ownership, they want to engage in academic tasks and persist in learning. If teachers and learners are learners first, then responsibility comes with being a learner. Learners of all ages become responsible for their learning when they own and drive their learning.

So what is it? Teachers and learners need to be accountable for their own learning by taking responsibility for their learning. What do you see as the difference between accountability and responsibility?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Design Learning from the Extremes

In Todd Rose's Tedx Talk Sonoma "The Myth of Average" which is about the myth of the average person. From his Project Variability, Rose states that "even though we have the most diverse population in the world, we are unable to exploit this natural advantage in human capital."

Rose shared how the Air Force had problems with their pilots reaching all the controls in the fighter planes. They realized there is no average pilot and no one was the same height, weight, and other dimensions.

Solution: The Air Force created adjustable seats so they fit all types of fighter pilots and banned the average pilot. They realized that no one pilot fit what was supposed to be "average."

Four percent of dropouts in the US are intellectually gifted. That comes up to 50,000 minds each year who don't fit in the average model. How much of this is bad design? We design learning environments for the average learner. We call our system age-appropriate, but it is not. Learners vary on many dimensions of learning.

Each learner has a jagged learning profile. They have strengths, averages and challenges. Just like the fighter pilot seat. If you design learning for the average, you design it for nobody. We have created learning environments where we can not expect learners to do what we want them to do.

No one is average. How about if we ban the average in education?

The average hurts everyone. Designing average destroys talents in two ways:

  1. The existing educational environment can not challenge learners as it creates an environment where they become bored and sometimes dropout. 
  2. It means that your weaknesses will make it harder for you to see your talent.  

It is all about nurturing individual potential.
Rose was a high school dropout with a 0.9 GPA who is now a professor at Harvard. He ends his talk with:
"For every one person like me, there are millions who worked as hard and have the ability who are unable to overcome the drag the educational environment that is based on average. We  have a once in a lifetime chance to fundamentally re-imagine the foundation of our institutions so they nurture the talent of every individual."