Today I am at the “21st Century Learning Leadership Forum” and it started off with a student panel. Every student was very articulate, intelligent, and shared some valuable insights about the way that they learn.
The problem (for me) was that there were a few things that I disagreed with when they spoke.
One student talked about how stories are dying, and that it is important to have experiences. I don’t know how many times I have talked about the importance of stories and how they illicit emotions. I believe that they are essential to the work that we do in our world.
He then talked about the power of virtually making sushi. All I could think of is, “Why wouldn’t he just make sushi?” To me, if you are doing something virtually it should be something that you couldn’t do in real life. Playing Wii Tennis is not the same as playing Tennis. Going to Rome is a totally different experience that many could not have the opportunity to take part in; that is something you do virtually until you can make it reality. (By the way, any time I virtually see food, I make it a reality way too quick.)
The last student that spoke talked about the idea of personalization and how all of the information should be tailor made for each individual. She later clarified that it was not the information (necessarily) that should be personalized, but the delivery of that information. There is value in seeing differing viewpoints and we live in a world where we have to teach kids to be cognizant that they can be flooded with information that they already agree with.
So I sat here uncomfortable, worrying that these kids were off, and sometimes in my head, WAY OFF, and guilt overtook me as I know that I have always valued what our students say. But then I thought about it, and the guilt subsided because I realized that they weren’t that off as they were talking about the way that they learn and not necessarily how all students should learn.
For example, many students could care less about gaming and find it useless, yet there are students who thrive in that environment. I believe that the structure of gaming is beneficial for designing learning experiences, but are games the way? My bet would be for many kids, the answer would be no, but for some, it would be a definitive yes. I don’t want to limit a student to what I know and value; they need to make the connections in their learning, not me.
As we all continue our work, we have to recognize that we cannot standardize personalized education. That last sentence doesn’t even make sense yet many continue to look for the “silver bullet” in education that we can just implement school, district, or nationwide.
If you want a silver bullet for education (more importantly, learning), maybe this is it –> Get to know your kids, figure out how they learn, and then serve their individual needs. This is not just something I am prescribing for YOU, but for myself as well. I have to continue to work on this idea as well. I think we all do.
I bet the solution of getting to better know our kids would have worked in 19th and 20th century learning as well. It just might look different now.