Posts Tagged ‘mass customized learning’

Connecting The Dots to Mass Customized Learning: Part 2 (Is MCL a Passion and People Driven Movement? YES!)

June 22, 2012

Again,  you can’t connect the dots looking forward.  You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. 

You have to trust in something–your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever–because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.
Steve Jobs
Stanford University Commencement Speech 2005

A few months ago, I submitted a post called ‘Connecting the Dots to Customized Learning”.   I am happy to report that finally the dots ARE connecting for me.  My quest has taken me to group meetings, websites, individual meetings, trainings, and a fair amount of reading.

In all of this, it has been the people who are leading the way with customized learning and standards-based education who have taught me the most.

Here are some of those key people (listed alphabetically as they are ALL #1s on my list) who were most knowledgeable and most helpful.  You would find them helpful too if you decide to connect your own MCL dots.

Jim Hodgkin
Jim is the Supt. in RSU #44.  He is probably the first person who introduced me to MCL.  He is a true believer, an early adopter, and PASSIONATE about it.  He is unafraid, undeterred, and unabashed in his pursuit of systemic change.  He is also MOST student-centered.   All in all, Jim is one of my heroes.

Linda Laughlin and Lori Lodge
These two educators are the leaders of the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning.  I have attended 4 of their meetings now.  They welcomed me in even though my unofficial title was “cling-on”.   This MCCL group is a bit of a phenomenon in my opinion.  Jim Hodgkin said it best, “If I have a tough week and go to a MCCL meeting, I feel better immediately.  It is so good to be with like-minded people who talk about things that matter” There is a sort of magic here that comes from a new organization struggling to do powerful work.  These two women give countless hours to the cause.  Their PASSION is on display at every meeting.

The Masterful McSisters  (I am changing my name to McEnright)

•  Mary Jane McCalmon
Everyone should have an opportunity to learn from Mary Jane McCalmon.   She understands systemic change and how school systems work inside out.  She also understands customized learning and standards based education.  She is deeply involved in this work and also is PASSIONATE about it.  She is one of the leaders in the MCCL group and also does masterful consulting, coaching, and facilitating around this work

•  Cathy McCue
Cathy is my sister by another mother.  She is my GO-TO person for all things standards-based curriculum.    She is tireless in her pursuit of implementing a standards-based curriculum in her school system, RSU #44, where she is Asst. Supt.  She understands systemic change and pays close attention to it.  If there is a better  standards-based mousetrap out there that saves teachers time and is highly effective, Cathy is figuring it out, I am sure.  She too is PASSIONATE about this work.

•  Bea McGarvey
Bea has a brilliant mind and is a brilliant educator.  Recently I attended one of her training on customized learning.  It was the best 3 hours I have spent in learning all year, possibly in the last five years.   She co-authored Inevitable and is deeply committed to customized learning and to all of us here in Maine too.  She has a fabulous website where she gives away the store for free, (as my father would say).  Is she PASSIONATE about this work?  Absolutely!  It appears to have become the priority focus of her life’s work.

Mike Muir
If you want to have a crash course in Customized Learning and all things systemic change, then spend an hour or so with Mike individually or go to one of his workshops, like I have, and you will come away a changed person (pun intended)!  I have said it before and I say it again, GO TO HIS WEBSITE and admire his Lead4Change work, among many other things. Mike is the Renaissance Man of Education in Maine, in my humble opinion.  He too is PASSIONATE about his work.

Don Siviski
Don is leading the charge from the DOE side along with our Commissioner Steve Bowen.  Customized Learning consumes him, as it is highly student centered.  He is tireless in his promotion of it.  If you have a chance to hear him talk on this subject, as I did recently, you will see, feel, and hear his PASSION for this work.  Don cares DEEPLY about it.

So that is the line-up thus far on the people who are leaders in this brave new MCL world.  I will warn you though, if you hang around them long enough, their passion is contagious!

Here is my newest dot to connect?  What role could and should the middle level play in this effort?  I am thinking that the middle level has a LOT to offer.  Anyone out there have any thoughts?


Positive Pressure and Support: Driving Your Initiative to a High Level of Implementation

June 14, 2012

Ok. It’s no secret.

Just having professional development doesn’t mean that your initiative is going to get implemented or implemented well. It doesn’t mean that your initiative will have it’s desired effect on your school.

Sure. PD is critical to getting where you’re going. But it isn’t sufficient.

Level of implementation matters.

A lot.

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to get better at implementing your laptops, or you’re using Bright Futures to look at your middle level practice, or if you’re working on a literacy initiative, or implementing the Common Core, or on Customized Learning, if you want your initiative to have the impact you’re looking for, then you need to insure that you have a high level of implementation with a high level of fidelity.

So, how do you get to a high level of implementation with a high level of fidelity?

The answer is possitive pressure and support.

Positive pressure and support has three easy pieces: expect, supervise, & support.

Expecting includes strategies like starting simple, participating yourself in trainings and meetings, having teachers set goals, and collaboratively setting expectations.

Supervising includes checking with teachers, talking about implementation at meetings, doing walk throughs, and talking about the walk through and level of implementation data.

Finally, support includes things like celebrating successes, facilitating the sharing of ideas, providing opportunities for PD (of course!), providing resources, and removing barriers and running interference.


How could positive pressure and support help your work at your school?


MLTI Leadership Webinar Tuesday March 13, 4 PM – Mass Customized Learning: A Shared and Concrete Vision

March 12, 2012

Inevitable cover

Tune in for the next MLTI Principals webinar tomorrow afternoon at 4 PM. We’ll be joined by Lori Lodge Curriculum Coordinator at RSU57 , Chuck Schwahn co-author of Inevitable, and Steve Garton Coordinator of Educational Technology for MDOE and MLTI. The topic this month will be chapters 6 and 7 of Inevitable, A shared and Concrete Vision of Mass Customized Learning. So, gather your colleagues, grab your favorite digital device, a phone, and join us for what promises to be another interesting and informative hour of conversation! To register for the webinar just go to and select the March 13, 4:00 link.

Students at the Center: Reaching High Standards Celebrating Innovative, Powerful Learning in Our Schools

February 8, 2012

MAMLE and the Middle School of the Kennebunks will sponsor the first ever exposition in Maine devoted entirely to student-centered learning within a proficiency-based school culture. Sessions, led by both students and their teachers, will be exciting to attend as we discover how teachers across grade levels and curriculum areas are creating innovative, student centered units and programs that stimulate learners intellectually and challenge them to think critically and creatively while meeting standards. This unique event will occur on Friday, April 13 at the Middle School of the Kennebunks.

This day-long conference will highlight student-centered, performance-based units and projects (classroom, school, or community-based) from across the K-12 spectrum. The presenters will demonstrate how their particular learning opportunity…

1. Engages students in innovative, creative ways

2. Focuses on specific learning outcomes

3. Incorporates student voice

4. Provides multiple ways for students to demonstrate learning

You need to attend if…

  • You and your students have examples of student-centered, performance-based units and projects to share.
  • You want to do transform your teacher-centered instructional approach to one that is more student-centered, and you need to see some concrete examples to give you ideas how to do it.
  • You’ve had no experiences with student-centered, performance-based units and need to find out the basics.
  • You want to be inspired by students and teachers sharing their exemplary work.

Every superintendent in the state of Maine has received a copy of Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning, and the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning is growing exponentially as more school districts explore the concept of customizing learning through student-centered, proficiency-based curriculum and instruction. The Students at the Center event provides an opportunity for students and educators to share strategies for transforming education from a teacher-centered approach to one where students’ learning targets, learning styles, and interests combine to provide optimum success for each student.

All details about presenting and/or attending are available at


Contact Dr. Wallace Alexander, Executive Director of MAMLE

Interested in Customized Learning? Take a Look at These Books

October 22, 2011

Are all your students learning well, getting good grades, scoring well on tests?

Ours aren’t either.

I think that’s the case with a lot of schools. I think that’s why 9 districts have formed the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning (MCCL) and why Maine’s Education Commissioner Bowen is so actively pursuing customized learning.

So if you want to read more about customized learning, what might you read? Take a look at these three books. All three focus on different approaches to and aspects of customizing learning. They all share the idea that we can customize learning by starting with learning targets and then students collaborating with their teachers to master those targets in interesting and meaningful ways.


Book: Delivering on the Promise

The 9 Maine districts who have become members of MCCL are exploring the Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC) model. Delivering on the Promise by Rich DeLorenzo and team, provides a nice 30,000 foot view of how the approach was developed in one Alaskan school district, and of the components of the approach.





Inevitable, by Bea McGarvey and Chuck Schwann, both makes the case for mass customized learning, but also lays out a vision of what it might look like and how we might do it. My district has had members of the visioning committee (made up of educators and community members) and the entire administrative team read this book, as well as having made copies of the book available to community members. Commission Bowen had all his department heads read this book, and now asks each department how they are moving in that direction.



Book: Passion for Learning

Another approach to customized learning is student-designed standards-based projects. The Minnesota New Country School is given much credit for developing this model, and their work has been recognized by the US Department of Education, and others. Ron Newell has captured this work and makes clear the student-designed project approach in Passion for Learning.



It’s Your Turn
What are your favorite readings about customized learning?
Have you read any of these books? What were your favorite parts?
What are your thoughts about how the ideas in the books might come to life in your school?

Paradigm Shift

October 1, 2011

I know I’ve sensed the ground shifting beneath me before in education but not like what I am sensing at this time. Recently all staff at the Maine Department of Education read Inevitable by Bea McGarvey and Chuck Schwahn. The books were purchased by the Maine Coalition for  Excellence in Education. Bea faciliated a half-day session with staff on the book. We passed our books on to every superintendent throughout the state. During the next two months Don Siviski will meet with each superintendent group to discuss the book. The superintendents will pass their books on to a school board member or another administrator in their school district. Just that alone is unique at this level . . . A simple process to that makes a statement. To me the straight forward message: “this is important”.

So what is important about the book? It outlines mass customized learning which is about transformation change. This isn’t about the industrial age of education (mass producing). It is about the information age (mass customizing learning). What is required to make this happen? A huge paradigm shift, not just by schools but by everyone in and out of schools. A tall order, but as Bea says “it’s inevitable”!

A new Sir Kenneth Robinson video link was sent to me recently. I wonder if Bea and Ken have ever met?! If not, they should. He makes so much sense to me. Take 11 min. and 41 seconds and take a look and let us know what you think.

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