Think about some of your most memorable, relevant, and positive learning experiences. What were they like? How would you describe your level of involvement and input during those experiences? How did they impact your thinking, develop your skillsets, and change your worldview? Reflecting on these experiences can serve as a valuable reminder of what great teaching and learning should be like in our primary and secondary schools. So, let’s take it to the next level by pondering this, “how can learning experiences like the ones you recalled become the norm and not the outlier in K-12 education?”
I venture to guess that a common feature to the learning you remembered had some level of personalization involved. Meaning, you had input regarding the what, how, and application of learning. In other words, you were able to build a personalized educational pathway. Embracing student pathways both in specific classes and during their schooling is a daunting, but necessary, reorientation of education. The obvious shift is that student choice is in integral part of the experience. Additional challenges to using personalized pathways involves the vision and craft of teaching.
Such a transformation requires a robust professional learning plan to support teachers. Specifically, teachers would have to be well versed in learning theory and pedagogy, be able to build inspiring relationships, have growth mindset for themselves and students, and be comfortable not being the holder of all content knowledge. Finally, the use of technology as a tool to facilitate student learning will be an essential part of a classroom dedicated to personalized pathways.
In order for teachers to start using a pathways approach to teaching and learning, it’s imperative that the technology tools they use impact the purpose, process, and products of a lesson, so they can personalize education for their students. Here are the elements edtech developers need to ensure are built-in to their products:
I love the sentiment “whomever is doing the work is doing the learning.” It reminds us that students learn best when experiences are meaningful. But learning can be a messy, complex, and fluid process. Therefore, it is important to remember the insight of educational psychologist Lev Vygotsky regarding expectations and classroom culture on learning, “children grow into the intellectual life of those around them.”
Purposeful use of technology supports personalized pathways to learning. When supporting this transformation it is important to meet teachers where they are and nurture teacher leaders as models for colleagues. Doing so will create powerful learning experiences for students that they will never forget.