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Teachers learn to customize
RUMFORD -- Order a book from any electronic bookstore and up pops a list of suggestions for “readers like you.” Similarly select a tune for an ipod and find out about other music by the same artist or in that same genre. Both industries have used technology to customize their marketing approach to individual customers.
That’s what teachers in RSU 10 have been learning about during their professional development time on Wednesday mornings.
Through the use of technology, education can become customized to the student’s needs and interests.
MVHS Principal Matt Gilbert explained, “As educators, we’ve always known that students learn in different ways and over different time intervals. Yet, we’ve grouped students together by age and asked them to learn the same things at the same rates.”
According to Charles Schwahn and Beatrice McGarvey, the industrial age school structure worked when factories needed workers who could read and write. Factories used assembly lines and so did schools.
Schwahn and McGarvey wrote Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning, Learning in the Age of Empowerment. The book outlines the need for radical change to the school systems. The change would mean that individual learning needs and interests of all learners would be met every day.
“The traditional approach to education does not meet the needs of all learners,” Gilbert said. “Through reading and analyzing Inevitable, the MVHS staff and I hope to change what we do so that all learners have an opportunity to learn in their own way and their own time frame.”
RSU 10 administrators have attended workshops led by McGarvey and recently visited RSU 4 (Litchfield, Sabattus and Wales) to see customized learning in action.
During McGarvey's presentation to the RSU 4 staff, she challenged them to meet the needs of all students. She pushed them to not accept failure as an option for any kid. In today's society, there is a growing need for a more highly skilled workforce. The only way to develop that skilled workforce is to focus on every student being successful.
After his trip to RSU 4, Gilbert said, “We (RSU #10) need to hear this message. I'm looking forward to the time that we'll get to work with her as part of the Western Maine Education Collaborative and at our March workshop.”
Technology Teacher Jeff Bailey echoed McGarvey’s challenge, “The point of mass customized learning is we need to put the student at the center of what we do. We’ve had systems in schools that take precedent over putting students first.”
“I think that the goal of Inevitable is not to give us the solutions but to challenge us to think about creating new structures that allow us to meet individual student needs,” Bailey continued.
Gilbert concluded, “As we continue this journey toward customized learning, there will be plenty of opportunity for parent and community input. Unlike our current systems, customized learning recognizes that students learn outside of the school walls. For example, a student may work with a community mentor to fulfill some standards.”