The focus of schools today really isn’t learning. The focus is standardizing the student population. What we are left with is an educational system that is vanilla. Don’t get me wrong, vanilla has its place in the world. Vanilla makes an excellent base, you can add almost anything to it and it is only enhanced. But we aren’t really enhancing it with anything are we? We are stopping at vanilla. We are standardizing learning until each of our students is popped out the other end looking exactly the same. This isn’t really what this global, connected society calls for, is it? What it calls for is innovation and creativity, anything but vanilla. Yet in our schools, we strip it all away and pass students through making sure that they reach certain standards and pass certain tests. Where is the individualization, the flavor?
It seems to me, that in this world where everything else can be individualized, education should be individualized as well. We have managed to customize our cars, our computers, our happy meals, how is it that we haven’t figured out that education needs customization as well? A few weeks ago while we were driving, I asked my husband if he had a favorite teacher when he was in school. He gave it some honest thought and couldn’t come up with even one name. How sad. He wasn’t a traditional learner. Sitting and being lectured to and taking tests must have been torture for him. He is a graphic artist. He has always been naturally creative, innovative, and artistic. He loves to know how things work, how they are put together. He sits and reads blogs and tinkers in our garage for hours. He taught himself how to use Photoshop, he is a learner. Not one teacher stands out in his mind as a favorite, someone he really clicked with and enjoyed learning from. I find it hard to believe that there isn’t a teacher out there somewhere who could have been his favorite. When we were in school, the connections that could be made today weren’t possible. What if we started customizing education? What if we connected learners with teachers around the world who really understood them as learners? What if every teacher was a favorite teacher? With the collaboration tools today, this doesn’t seem a farfetched dream to me. If we had teachers who understood, recognized, and drew out the passions of students, maybe learning wouldn’t be so vanilla.
Standardizing is not the answer in education. We don’t need a group of people who can do exactly the same thing, the same way. We need a society that has many talents. I am afraid that right now we are losing the great talent to standards. Students don’t feel that they measure up, so they give up and drop out. It isn’t that they aren’t brilliant and don’t measure up somewhere, they just don’t fit in the standardized school box. These kids are still getting “Left Behind”.
With the tools we have available to us today, how could we begin to offer customized learning?