Mass Customized Learning…Oxymoron it is NOT!

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PIMS Student uses origami to show what he learned about the causes of the American Revolution

If you were fortunate enough to have attended the MAMLE conference at Sugarloaf a week and a half ago, you heard quite a bit about Mass Customized Learning.  In my own mind, mass and customized seemed to contradict one another; yet, after lots of time to process this phrase, I’m FINALLY starting to really understand it.  Here’s what it means in my terms: learning that allows for personalization, based on how one learns, the pace one learns and one’s interests.  You’ll notice the multiple times I wrote the word “one” in that sentence.  It was done purposefully to show you that even though the word “mass” is used, it really comes down to individuality of learning.

I’ve read Inevitable by Bea McGarvey and Chuck Schwahn, I’ve heard Bea present, I’ve heard Bill Zima present, and I’ve heard Commissioner Bowen speak about it.  I get it…yup, I’ve bought in, because it makes soooooo much sense to me.  We no longer live in the Industrial Revolution Era.  We need to alter how we do “business”, so to speak, to keep up with the times.

So, what’s stopping me from implementing this concept in my classroom, you ask?  My biggest barrier is my school schedule.  And, though I can wrap my head around how we could change the schedule, I haven’t been able to figure out transportation for rural schools. Oh yeah, and there’s the whole school district aspect that I can’t change.

But, there are things I can do within my classroom that are supported by customized learning, so I’m trying them.  Here’s one example from Social Studies class.  I shared the first learning goal with students explaining what they were expected to meet and asked them how they thought they could prove to me that they’ve met the goal.  The brainstormed list was astounding, and quite creative, I might add.  Next, they shared the kinds of resources they could use (since we had already had the lesson on primary and secondary sources, this was pretty easy for them).  Some students even asked if I would be available to teach lessons along the way, rather than just facilitate.  Woo-hoo…some wanted teacher direction!  The best part for me was that students who had been struggling with motivation and/or staying on task completely bought into the idea of their having control.  One particular student is fascinated by origami, so his project incorporated content with an origami piece.  He was excited to show what he learned in a way that he liked doing.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m still finding glitches, such as still being limited by numeric grades and quarters, but at least students have had the opportunity to dabble in customized learning, and they’re enjoying it.  Hopefully their critical thinking skills will continue to develop also, as they seek to choose ways to best show their learning.
So, I’m curious, what are others doing to implement customized learning in their classrooms?  I look forward to reading your ideas!

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