A learner is going to find a way to learn what they need to know no matter how much they are tested, scolded, and herded from grade to grade, teacher to teacher. The world is changing. People are changing. I am seeing how more and more learners are finding their own way — to figure out who they are. Some are working through the system to get a degree and maybe find a job that may last a few years. They may retire with a pension, but, in more cases, they will move from job to job and not know if they will ever be able to retire. Many cannot find a job in their field. The system is broken and there’s a whole generation of workers discouraged and wondering why they spent their hard earned money on a degree that doesn’t get them a job or work that is something they are passionate about. A few start their own businesses but being an entrepreneur is something they were not prepared for in school.
Schools were designed around the factory model which has been in place for over 100 years. After years of teaching the same thing to all children — the “one size fits all” model, learners are demanding that their education meets their needs. Each person is unique and different and they are reaching out to get what they need wherever they can find it. Even the theorist John Dewey wrote in 1897:
“The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these influences."
How come Dewey knew this that long ago and the teacher still is the expert and the hardest working person in the classroom? Why is it taking so long to change?
There are a lot of factors in place that are impacting how schools are run. US schools are focused on teaching to the test and raising test scores. Textbook companies design curriculum and most teachers teach from the prescriptive script. That’s how they were taught and, basically, it is easier since the tests come from the same sources as the textbooks. Teachers are not supposed to be creative and innovative or take risks with the curriculum. It’s been tested, tried and true according the adoption process. But is it working?
Most textbooks are broken down into separate objectives that work if you are a high-achieving linguistic learner from New York or Texas. Everything is teacher-directed with examples and tips. However, each child is different in each classroom. Each teacher is different also. They may even have a mind of their own, background experiences that they can bring to the topic.
Personalizing learning will help your students do more than increase their scores because they will own their learning and use higher-order thinking skills that they will need to be global citizens and marketable. The world is different and more and more of our children are falling behind. We cannot teach out-dated strategies that will not prepare them for their future. The learner needs guidance to break out of the dependent role and drive their own learning. Students are leaving traditional school environments for online courses, home schools, and/or dropping out. Schools are closing. Teachers are being laid off. Communities are suffering. Change will happen if learners have anything to say about it.
So I say: Occupy Learning!!
Find a way to learn what you want when you want it. I use social media and curation tools to find resources around topics. I ask and search through my PLN (Personal Learning Network) for new ideas. We’re all learners together. You can find free online courses and webinars and even find a coach to guide you along your learning path. Learn who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Find your passion and go for it. Use whatever works for you. Don’t let anyone stop you from realizing your hopes and dreams.