The Essential Component of Personalized Learning

If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins
–Ben Franklin

There is one misconception that I hear repeatedly from educators when they discuss mass customized learning or personalized learning, and it gets right to the essential component of mass customized/personalized learning. But let’s remember this about misconceptions…they can prevent educators from helping their students, advancing their schools, and furthering their careers. This particular misconception is devious because it cloaks itself in the veil of “common sense”. After all, who can disagree with common sense? Misconceptions that are socially acceptable (and socially encouraged) are also difficult to change. The misconception that I hear a lot is not only expected for educators to believe but also educators are more socially accepted if they embrace this misconception.

The misconception is…

“Kids are allowed to do anything they want in a mass customized/personalized learning classroom”

This misconception then leads to a cascade of other misconceptions, each one getting the holder of the misconception further away from the reality of mass customized/personalized learning…

“Teachers no longer teach in these classrooms”

“It’s impossible to individualize for every student in my class”

“This has been tried before and it does not work”

Just reading these quotes make me want to give up and find a cabin far away in the woods and never think about education again! Fortunately, we have Ben Franklin to ground us in an essential aspect of human nature. Take a minute and read this quote through the eyes of a learner. Learners (and teachers) are consistently told to follow their passion. The most common form of career advice is to follow your passion. Without delving into the “pros and cons” of this advice, I encourage you to consider this quote as if mass customized/personalized learning will occur in your school or classroom. Of course, we all want to encourage our learner’s passion, but we also must remember that kids need an adult to help guide them on their education journey. In a mass customized/personalized environment the adult is an essential component of a great education. They are the reigns that help direct and guide the student. In many aspects, the teacher becomes more essential in this new environment than they are in the current education system. The teachers serve a dual role of passion ignitor and passion regulator for their learners.
Without a doubt, there is one truth about a mass customized/personalized learning environment…

“Teachers are the most essential component of a mass customized/personalized learning environment”

About Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.
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