Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8, working in a partnership with The Pennsylvania Leadership Development Center, created the Mid Atlantic Mass Customized Learning Consortium four years ago. The consortium is open to all organizations involved in learning throughout Pennsylvania and surrounding states. Membership consists of those education leaders who will work to transform learning in their organizations to assure students (learners) receive learning at their learning level every day. The concept of “Mass Customized Learning” was made popular through the work of Chuck Schwahn and Bea McGarvey in their book Inevitible: Mass Customized Learning: Learning in the Age of Empowerment. Nationally, there are schools all over the United States implementing ideas of mass customized learning into their system; most notably in Lindsay Unified School District in California. As the Pennsylvania consortium grows from our current 45 learning organizations, there is usually one basic question that leaders have as they contemplate joining with the consortium.
Question #1: “We already personalize and differentiate our instruction so we are already “customizing” education in our schools, so aren’t we “doing” mass customized learning?”
Answer: Mass Customized Learning is much more than personalization, differentiation or performance based. MCL has two premises:
1. Dislodge the industrial age model of schooling.
2. Become uncompromisingly learner centered.
Think about the examples of customization in our world today. If you use Facebook, Twitter or Amazon your interactive experience is customized to your likes and dislikes. In our area of Pennsylvania you can have your coffee and sandwich selections customized to your exact taste at a Sheetz. Technology has progressed to the point where learning leaders can now leverage the technological tools to create a customized learning environment for our students (learners).
Mass Customized Learning advocates do not believe that we can “tinker toward utopia” (to borrow Larry Cuban’s term) anymore. Rather, we must work to create a new learning ecosystem that goes beyond the current educational system and allows learners and their families to customize their learning experience. Creating a learning ecosystem without barriers of time, space or place is essential for our learners and our society. We now live in a time and place where we can create a learning experience for all of our children that is not time based. By “time based” I mean that students move from one grade to the next and from one concept to the next often without regard to actual learning. It seems obvious that we should not accept an educational system that “teaches” students in “batches” based on their date of birth. Rather, let’s create a learning ecosystem that meets every student at their level (academic, learning, social, etc) every second of every day. This is what we discuss and implement as members of the Mid Atlantic Mass Customized Learning Consortium. To get a better understanding of the industrial age model of schooling, please watch the video below.
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