Content Creation and Calibration

Let’s be honest, it is hard to truly personalize learning when there are established standards for learning. Please don’t get me wrong. I am not arguing against standards for learning, I’m simply trying to reconcile the ideas behind the two approaches to distributing and measuring learning. I call this ideological dissonance, the instructional dichotomy. The table below illustrates my ideas on the difference between standardized learning and personalized learning:

Table: The Instructional Dichotomy

Learners vs. Students

Why am I interested in this topic? To answer this question, I must first start with a quote.

“If you consider anyone who is learning at any age and anywhere a “learner,” then you give the responsibility for the learning to the learner. When the institution or anyone who is teaching students are accountable for the learning — not the learners — the responsibility falls on the teachers for what “students” learn. Doesn’t this seem backwards? Where is the incentive and motivation to learn if all the responsibility is on the teacher? If you change the thinking behind the terms, then using the term “learners” makes more sense” (Bray & McClaskey, 2014). 

Bray and McClaskey’s (2014) quote caused me to examine the notion of personalized learning in a standardized classroom.  How can teachers possibly shift the onus of learning from the institution to the learner?  And how can teachers employ individualized instructional procedures that are in sync with each students’ learning stage and learning process? There is no straight answer for this. Nonetheless, Kalaitzidis, Litts, and Rosenfeld Halverson (2017), asserted that today’s communities of learners “thrive upon innovation in tools, meanings, and ways-of-knowing, and favor distributed, emergent, and egalitarian methods for achieving goals” (p. 179). Hence, to authentically personalize learning in a standardized classroom, teachers will have to adopt “design identities” and learn to distribute learning, teaching, and assessment across the entire class community (pp.195-197).  This will require ontological and paradigmatic shifts towards learner-centered instructional designs (Kalaitzidis, Litts, and Rosenfeld Halverson, 2017, p. 182).

Action steps for personalizing learning in a standardized classroom

Developing “design identities” will take time to cultivate and implement in our schools. Nonetheless, I have created some action steps that I believe teachers can use to help address the instructional dichotomy of personalizing learning in a standardized educational field. Let’s begin by stating, true personalized learning starts with the student and his or her learning goal. However, to remain in compliance with the State’s required standards, I suggest starting with the standard and help students contextualize their learning goals within the required State’s standards. The student’s learning goals can be converted into competencies that align with the State’s standards. Below lists the remaining steps in my action plan:

  1. Identify Learning Objectives and Learning Outcomes – aligned with the standards and converted into “I Can” statements
  2. Identify Student Learning Goals and Student Learning Goal Attainment – aligned with the learners
  3. Identify Instructional Methods and Procedures: How will the learning objectives be achieved? (e.g., direct teaching, games, simulations, lab, multimedia, discussions, reading, field trip, drills, demonstration, brainstorming, etc.) – aligned with the standards
  4. Identify Learning Stage: What learning stage is the student in? (e.g. acquisition, fluency (reinforcement), generalization (maintenance), adaptation (experiential)) – aligned with the learners 
  5. Identify Learning Process – Doing something (Concrete Experimentation), Thinking about it (Reflection), Doing some research, Talking with others and applying what we already know to the situation (Abstract Conceptualization), Doing something new or doing the same thing in a more sophisticated way based on our learning (Active Experimentation) David Kolb – aligned with learners
  6. Teacher provides feedback to student – Feed-up, Feedback, Feed-forward; (Feed-up – clarify the learning objectives; Feedback – Respond to Student Work; Feed-forward – Modify instruction for future lessons). – aligned with the standards
  7. Student provides feedback to teacher – Feedback – aligned with the learners

In sum, I still believe that it is hard to truly personalize learning for students when there are established standards for learning. Nonetheless, to help address this instructional dichotomy, I suggest that we continue to start with state standards and help students contextualize their learning goals within those standards.

References:

Bray, B., & McClaskey, K. (2014, March ). Building Personalized Learning Environments. Retrieved July 10, 2018, from http://www.advanc-ed.org/source/building-personalized-learning-environments

Fisher, D; Frey, N. (2009). Feed Up, Back, Forward. Educational Leadership. Retrieved September 12, 2018, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov09/vol67/num03/Feed-Up,-Back,-Forward.aspx

Kalaitzidis, T.J., Litts, B., and Rosenfeld Halverson, E. Designing Collaborative Production of Digital Media in Reigeluth, C. M., In Beatty, B. J., & In Myers, R. D. (2017). Instructional-design theories and models: Volume IV.

Including the Family in “Personalized Learning”

Personalized learning will mean something different for the parents of our students than for our students and our administrators and our teacher colleagues. As I continue to explore the topic of personalized learning, I haven’t seen a lot of information on personalized learning that includes families. For the most part, the crux of the conversation on personalized learning has been centered around teaching and learning. This obviously is important, however, where do the families of our students fit in within this educational shift?

Most districts and schools us the definition from The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) National Education Technology Plan (2010). Here is how they have defined personalized learning:

Personalization refers to instruction that is paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to the specific interests of different learners. In an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives and content as well as the method and pace may all vary (so personalization encompasses differentiation and individualization).

Rickabaugh (2016) submitted that the USDOE’s definition missed a few key elements linked to personalized learning. He stated, “the USDOE’s definition stops short of recognizing the powerful role students must be allowed to play in setting learning goals, planning their learning paths, tracking their progress, and demonstrating their learning as partners and co-designers alongside educators”(p. 5). I agree with Rickabaugh’s assessment of the USDOE’s definition and I’d like to add to his list of key elements that there is a powerful role that families too, must be allowed to play other than the traditional role that they have been playing.

Rickabaugh and his colleagues illustrated the key elements of personalized learning in the form of a honeycomb (Institute for Personalized Learning, 2015). One of the key elements within that honeycomb, is family engagement. Rickabaugh submitted that, “families can play the traditional roles of providing support for learning at home, but they can now also review their children’s learning goals and activities, track their progress, and even serve as an audience for student demonstrations and performances” (p. 49).

But isn’t there more to family engagement than reviewing their children’s learning goals and activities, tracking their progress, and serving as an audience for student demonstrations and performances? What about the family’s role in helping their child develop his or her voice and his or her choice within the learning path? What about the family’s role in helping their child develop agency? Recognizing that each family is different and that families have the right to raise their children in a way that they see fit, it is important for educators to understand how families can impact student voice, choice, and agency within a personalized learning environment. Might I add that some students may have preferences and interests that are contrary to the culture of their family. And some students are not able to articulate their learning preferences, learning needs, and learning interests. So, the next best source for teachers who wish to implement personalized learning, is parents.

What tools can educators provide parents to help them support their child’s learning goals? What tools can educators provide parents to help them scaffold their child’s learning preferences and interests that are in line with the culture of the family? To answer these questions, educators can use the learner’s analysis to discuss with parents a prescribed learning path for their child that was co-designed with their child. During a parent teacher conference, teachers can gather insights from parents and strategies that will help support their child’s educational development. What is more, teachers and administrators will have to make it clear to parents that the role of the teacher within a personalized learning environment is shifting to a true facilitator of learning. Hence, parents will have to be even more present in their child’s education since the shift towards personalized learning promotes learner independence and self-regulation.

In sum, our knowledge about personalized learning is still evolving, thus the empty cells within the honeycomb model of personalized learning (Rickabaugh, 2016). As we are learning more about personalize learning, we should also study the influence of family engagement on the learners’ voice, choice, and agency.

References:
The Institute for Personalized Learning (2015). Our Model.Retrieved September 3, 2018, from http://institute4pl.org/index.php/our-model/
Rickabaugh, J. (2016). Tapping the power of personalized learning: A roadmap for school leaders.
U.S. Department of Education. (2010). National education technology plan. Washington, DC: Author.

Paideia Proposal 2.0

To this day, I’m still fascinated with Mortimer Adler’s Paideia Proposal. I first heard about it in 2002 in a Graduate course at American University. I admired Adler at the time for his work as an Educational Essentialist and advocate for critical thinking. His model, the Paideia Curricular Framework encompassed both pedagogy and heutagogy concomitantly. His model worked well for his time, however, if updated with the citizenship component from the 5Cs for 21st century education (fig. 1 below), I’m sure that it can be fit for teaching and learning of today.

In an earlier post, Finding the sweet spot in personalized learning, I wrote about the Paideia Proposal as an additional scaffold for personalized learning. What I noticed is that Adler’s Column 1 is directly linked to pedagogy while Column 2 and Column 3 is linked to heutagogy. Pedagogy is defined as a learning and teaching approach that is primarily reserved for learners that are new to concepts, procedures, and topical knowledge. Heutagogy, on the other hand, is defined as “a learning and teaching  approach that is primarily self-directed or self-determined” (retrieved from https://www.educatorstechnology.com/). Table 1 below lists the attributes of pedagogy, andragogy, and heutagogy. For the purpose of this post, I will only be focusing on pedagogy and heutagogy.

Adler’s Paideia Proposal is perfect for personalized learning because the 5Cs are natural by-products of his framework (Table 2 below). What I would like to add to his curricular framework is the notion of student lead instruction rather than the teacher led lectures and an over-reliance on one textbook. In other words, how can students take more onus of the features within column 1 vis-a-vis digital learning tools? I propose that blended learning could be the answer to this question. By incorporating online learning, teachers are more free to facilitate the acquisition of organized knowledge within their classroom and function as a learning coach rather than an absolutist.

What about columns 2 and 3? How can students take more onus of the features within those columns? Column 2 looks very much like an apprenticeship while column 3 looks like inquiry. I propose that project-based learning (PBL) or problem-based learning (PBL) could be the answer to this question. However, to make authentic learning experiences connect with each of the 5Cs, I suggest that the projects or problems that are embedded within the learning experiences be related to citizenship, an important C from the 5Cs that is often neglected. In other words, what projects or problems could be embedded into a learning experience that would benefit the community in which the student is a citizen of? What resources and persons could students have access to that would further develop the student’s intellectual skills while enlarging their understanding of ideas and values?

All and all, Adler’s Paideia proposal is still relevant and necessary for the current teaching and learning course within curricular model theories. Furthermore, by using digital tools and PBL that incorporates community engagement and civic responsibility, Adler’s Paideia Curricular Framework could be upgraded to a 2.0.

Ode to OERs

My institution of higher learning is moving towards adopting Open Educational Resources (OERs). Thanks to policies and initiatives such as the Maryland Open Source Textbook (M.O.S.T),  my colleagues and I are working on creating and sharing OERs in all of our courses. I’ve spent the last few weeks exploring OERs and their potential to remove barriers for learners and faculty alike. I was so impressed with what I saw, that I decided to write an ode to OERs. Here goes…

Ode to OERs

OERs give learners and faculty  true creative freedom.
Liberated from ultra-expensive textbooks, all shout nil desperandum.
Opening the windows of the mind so that rays of knowledge shine in.
Librarians and Creative Commons Licenses are part of its underpin.
Information freely plays amongst different ideas.
Dynamic teaching materials and media, one truly endears.
Appealing to instructors and learners because of its public domain,
OERs present high quality resources that copyright would otherwise detain.
Constellations of resources unlocked by a Creative Common License,
freely creating and sharing information with unbounded salience.
Years of development and attention have bought them up to par,
As such, much learning begins and matures with powerful OERs.

Genius Hour: The Mother of Personalized Learning

The concept of “Genius Hour” was new to me up until I realized that Genius Hour is what my former school used to call the “Multiple Intelligences” or M.I. clubs. Back in the day, once a month, we carved out an hour for all of the students to go to an M.I. Club of their choice. The year was 1998, and once my principal made the announcement, the students would scramble in the halls to get to their cooking club, printing club, bird watching club, football club, etc., etc. What I realize now, that I didn’t know then, is that with M.I. Clubs, our school was genuinely interested in what students were interested in. We took a break from teaching the curriculum and taught what students actually wanted to know more about.

 

Genius Hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom.  It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time while in school (retrieved from https://geniushour.com/what-is-genius-hour/). You will recall, in an earlier post, that I wrote about encouraging students to follow their desires rather than their passions. On the contrary, by definition, Genius Hour encourages students to explore their passions. Still, I’d like to amend this definition and state that Genius Hour allows students to explore and discover pockets of passions which can be bundled into long-term learning desires.

According to TeachThought, Genius Hour is:

  1. Student-centered
  2. Messy
  3. Emphasizes inquiry and research
  4. Authentic
  5. New challenges (i.e., it creates new problems to solve in your classroom)
  6. Inherently personalized
  7. Inherently creative
  8. Purpose-driven
  9. Maker-friendly
  10. Often collaborative and social

Genius Hour is not:

  1. Standards-based
  2. Data-driven
  3. “Free time” for students
  4. Teacher-centered
  5. Without any rules or expectations
  6. Less rigorous (compared to other approaches to learning)
  7. Structure-free
  8. Requires whiz-bang technology
  9. Unfit for schools and other formal learning environments
  10. Requires less planning and less teacher “effort”

After reflecting on the principles behind Genius Hour, I concluded that Genius Hour is the mother of Personalized Learning because during Genius Hour, students explore their interests and begin to understand themselves as learners and their learning preferences. During the structured inquiry, students have an opportunity to assess their knowledge gaps and ascertain their learning needs. Moreover, Genius Hour promotes project management, iterative thinking, systems thinking, exploration, critical thinking, and valuing lessons acquired from failures.

For instructional designers, Genius Hour is yet another strategy that can be utilized within any instructional systems design models. For instance, instructional designers for online learning can use Genius Hour to personalize learning based on learner analyses. Learners are taking courses for a reason, hence, doing a thorough learner analysis will allow the instructional designer to prescribe opportunities for learners to specialize in their interests.

The following is an example from my work. I’m currently working with the Borg’s Ubuntugogy as Contextualized Instructional Design Model.  See figure below:

Within this instructional design model, I could easily prescribe Genius Hour to occur within the apprenticeship phase of Borg’s model. Borg defined the apprenticeship phase “as a delivery method for experiential learning” (p.81). Hence, during this portion of the model, I could prescribe learning tasks that are structured around the principles of Genius Hour using a  framework that I developed based on Michalko’s ThinkerToys.

Borg defined an apprentice as “someone who learns from a skilled practitioner through shared experience” (p. 82).  Hence, the instructor is the skilled practitioner that will create a shared Genius Hour experience that can be individually personalized. In my framework, I propose that Genius Hour start with Mind-pumping. Mind-pumping fills the minds of learners with informed ideas, thus helping them to “act like an idea person” (Michalko, 2014). The following strategies will help learners fill their minds with ideas and capture those ideas before they dissipate.

  • Keep an idea log
  • Set idea quotas
  • Paying close attention to what happens around you daily
  • Capture ideas by writing them down

The next step I prescribe is to center the learner’s interests or challenges within a specific goal. Hence, learners can use the following strategies to highlight his or her  ideas that will help to attain the goal.

  • In what ways might I…
  • What are the key words within my challenge or interests
  • The five Whys
  • Squeeze challenges or ideas with restraints

Now, the meaty part of Genius Hour, the Creation Framework portion taken from Michalko’s ThinkerToys.  According to Michalko, “Thinkertoys reflect linear and intuitive thinking, both of which are necessary for optimum creativity. The basic difference between the two is that the linear Thinkertoys structure existing information while the intuitive toys generate new information using insight, imagination, and intuition.

Finally, design thinking can be employed once the creation of a solid idea is evident. Steps in design thinking include:

  • Empathize
  • Define
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test

In sum, Genius Hour is the mother of personalized learning because learners embark upon a learning path of their choice within the context of the course. Learner voice is very evident and their preferences are made known throughout the inquiry. Moreover, learners develop agency when they perceive their ideas as valid.  If instructors want to enhance learner retention and course completion, then Genius Hour is perhaps one way to deeply engage learners and provide support for their learning needs, preferences, and interests.

Reference:
Borg, S. (2017). Ubuntugogy as Contextualized Instructional Design for Adult Leadership Development within the Swaziland Leadership Academy. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED582698 on August 26, 2018.

Michalko, M. (2014). Thinkertoys: A handbook of creative-thinking techniques. Berkeley: Ten speed press.

Passion versus Desire

“Follow your passion”, they say! “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion” (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel). I’ve heard sayings like these, amongst others, coming of age in Small Town, Maryland.

It wasn’t that long ago when I went to a teacher in-service training where the speaker told the crowd to have students create a passion notebook. Students were to use their passion notebooks to help them capture the ideas that they were passionate about, and the students were to write about their ideas during the writing block. I bought into this teaching strategy, because it was a novel solution to the writing woes of my students for that time (circa 2005). Fast forward twelve years, I’ve learned that passion is based on emotions and emotions change with the weather.

Merriam – Dictionary defined passion as a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept. Other dictionaries have defined passion as any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.

shoes-1246691_640 (1)

On the other hand, Merriam – Dictionary defined desire as a “conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment“. Other dictionaries have defined desire as, “to wish or long for; crave; want.” According to those definitions, there is a huge difference between passion and desire. And based on one of my earlier posts, it isn’t passion that leads to renewable learning

I believe that passions are short-term and may or may not remain with the learner until they are fulfilled. Whereas  desires are long-term and remain with the learner until they are attained. Desire brings about transformation while passion brings about shifts. Acting much like a fad, passions come and go, while desires form internal standards that are followed until the craving has been satiated.

Instead of telling students to follow their passion, I now tell students to follow their desire, because passion is based on emotions. Asking students to follow their passion will only lead to shallow learning. Thus students’ interests, preferences, and needs will be based on shallow curiosities. However, desire is based on the joy of attaining the wish or craving. Hence, asking students to identify their learning desires will lead to deeper learning. Desire is linked to an intrinsic goal or deep hunger that is not satisfied until the goal is attained. Ergo, I believe that learning can only be truly personalized when student’s learning desires are factored into the equation.

Gamification Can Help Teachers Personalize Learning

Gamification is the key to helping teachers implement personalized learning because “gamified environments are ideal for mastery learning[;] allowing students to repeatedly practice skills to meet learning outcomes” (Kingsley & Grabner-Hagen, p. 553). Research shows that gamification increases learner engagement, motivation, and critical thinking. Furthermore, games offer challenges to learners and are the best way to support student agency, student identity, and student “productive” power.

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According to Moje and Lewis (2007), student agency is the making and remaking of the students’ self, identity, and relationships. According to the Merriam-Dictionary, agency is defined as “the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power.” Hence, gamification places learners in a role, condition, or state in which they have to exert their power through decision making, perseverance, leadership, and critical thinking.

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Moje and Lewis (2007) submitted that Student identity is a continuous formation of the student acting as a subject within a community. In other words, how students behave, speak, and function ultimately forms the basis of the students’ identity. Hence, gamification requires that learners act as a particular subject in a particular discourse community. Strictly speaking, depending upon the goals of the learning quest, learners have to function in a particular role in order to successfully complete the learning goals of the quest. They must also understand the context, nomenclature, and linguistic rules of the discourse community within the quest. What is more, gamification places learners in a variety of roles and discourse communities that they would not otherwise be. 

superman-1825726_1920Student “productive” power, as defined by Moje and Lewis (2007), is not only having the skill and will to achieve learning goals, but also having independent thought and autonomous action towards self-regulated learning and self-directed learning. Hence, gamification capitalizes on autonomy, learner choice, and learner control.

In sum, gamification shows learners that failure is not final… As a matter of fact, the repetitive activity of games supports perpetual skill building and leaves little time for players to sulk in failure. Much like gaming, personalized learning environments allow students to be immersed in a rich learning experience that yields multiple outcomes of learning, thus generating a learning constellation progression of knowledge and skills. If educators really want to implement personalized learning in their classrooms, then they will need to consider gamification.

Reference:
Kingsley, Tara L. & Grabner-Hagen, Melissa M. (2017). Vocabulary by Gamification. The Reading Teacher. 71. doi:10.1002/trtr.1645.

 

Moje, E. B., & Lewis, C. (2007). Examining opportunities to learn literacy: The role of critical sociocultural literacy research. In. C. J. Lewis, P. Enciso, & E. B. Moje (Eds.), Reframing sociocultural research on literacy: Identity, agency, and power. (pp. 15-48). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Renewable Learning

When the last  tissue is used, one does not expect that the tissues within the box will renew themselves. Instead, the tissues and the box have to be replaced. Curriculum Theory Models are like an empty tissue box because they don’t generate renewable learning experiences.  The focus of Curriculum Theory Models is on meeting standards, teaching methods, maintaining a learning pace within a finite amount of time, and assessing cognitive behaviors.

Linear pacing guides and standardized assessments that seek predetermined answers leave little to no room for enrichment and extensions of learning within Curriculum Theory Models. As stated in an earlier post, enrichment and extensions of learning aligns with the student’s interest, student’s desired knowledge, and the student’s preferences, thus enabling personalized learning. It is my opinion that renewable learning occurs when learning is personalized for each learner.

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Instructional Design Models use learner centered specifications that meet desired competencies and proficiencies for learners.  Unlike the disposable learning of Curriculum Theory Models, Instructional Design Models incorporate enrichment and extensions of learning based on the learner’s analysis, thus creating renewable and personalized learning experiences. Using the tissue box analogy from earlier, I liken instructional design models to a handkerchief, which is more robust than a tissue, and it serves more purposes than for just wiping the nose.

For starts, in Instructional Design Models, the design of learning is centered around the learners’ Zone of Desirability. The Zone of Desirability is defined as the gaps between the learner’s current knowledge state and his or her desire to know. This gap becomes an irritant to the learner, and creates a strong craving for information that could potentially fill the knowledge gaps. In some cases, the information received may not be correct, thus forming misconceptions for the learner.  Nonetheless, the learner satisfies his or her desire to know by seeking information from self-designed learning experiences that can possibly fill the knowledge disparities, thereby creating new knowledge for the learner. The figure below illustrates the process of cognitive behaviors within the learners’ Zone of Desirability.

Zone of Desirability

Many learning institutions are trying to make a shift to personalized learning without considering Instructional Design Models. Fitting personalized learning into Curriculum Theory Models is like fitting a square peg into a round hole.  This is because Curriculum Theory Models start with a standard rather than with the student’s Zone of Desirability.  As mentioned earlier, it is the Zone of Desirability that promotes renewable learning. The figure below illustrates the linear process of Curriculum Theory Models.

In addition to Instructional Design Models, the theory of personalized learning also makes learning renewable because it promotes student identity, student agency, and student “productive” power. Moje and Lewis (2007) defined productive power as  power that “is produced and enacted in and through discourses, relationships, activities, spaces, and times by [students] as they compete for access to and control of resources, tools, and identities” (p. 5).

Student power is “a complicated and challenging construct, simply because the working of power in [student’s] learning lives is often neglected or is relegated to a position of an outside agent (the teacher) acting upon the subject (the student)” (Moje, 2007). However, personalized learning is a person-centered learning theory that allows students to negotiate relationships, discourses, and activities in order to effectively share control of resources and tools. Thus personalized learning supports the students’ right to exercise their “productive power” within the classroom.

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In sum, Instructional Design Models are more equipped to usher in personalized learning than Curriculum Theory Models simply because Instructional Design Models capitalize on the learners Zone of Desirability and the productive power of learners. If student “productive power”, voice, choice, and agency are factored into the learning design, then learning will always remain renewable.

Reference:
Moje, E. B., & Lewis, C. (2007). Examining opportunities to learn literacy: The role of critical sociocultural literacy research. In. C. J. Lewis, P. Enciso, & E. B. Moje (Eds.), Reframing sociocultural research on literacy: Identity, agency, and power. (pp. 15-48). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Blurred Lines: Is There a Difference Between Online Learning at University or Udemy?

Is learning from a hobbyist validated learning? Does one have to learn from a certified trainer, college/university professor, or coach in order to have validation for his or her learning? With the expanse and abilities of the internet, most people can facilitate authentic online learning experiences for a variety of audiences and purposes. Still, are those experiences valid or are they ineffective? In other words, a college/university degree or a DIY badge, that is the question.

First let’s define learning. According to McCarthy, “learning is the making of meaning” (p.6). How each of us constructs this meaning is based on perceptions and processes that are extracted from our experiences. Hence, the meaning that is made from various learning experiences is based on how we take in the things we learn (perception) and what we do with what we take in (processes). “So learning grows out of this natural rhythm of perceiving and processing” information from the environment (McCarthy, 2000, p. 17).

Now, let’s define valid learning. According to the Collins Dictionary, “something that is valid is important or serious enough to make it worth saying or doing” (Collins, 2018). Hence, valid learning can be defined as the outcome of what the learner has perceived and processed as important within the learning experience. Hence, it is up to the learner to determine whether the learning experience was valid or not.

With the proliferation of online courses and do-it-yourself training programs in the west, many courses are being taught by presumed experts. Actually, it’s never been easier to launch an online course then it is now. YouTubers,  Vloggers, Instagrammers, Podcasters, and other online content creation gurus are bringing the spotlight to online learning and creating a potential disruption to higher education.

The rising cost of higher education is forming new opportunities in edupreneurship. Many inquisitive learners are opting to create their own learning plans by choosing to take online courses from online content creators rather than from universities and colleges. What is more, the question of whether having a university or college degree still remains relevant has arisen.

As Couros (2015) argued in his book, The Innovators Mindset, “your degree is not a proxy for your ability to do any job. The world only cares about and pays off on what you can do with what you know and it doesn’t care how you learned it.” Hence, the future of learning may not solely be validated by college degrees, but by what the learner is able to create. In sum, if the learner perceives that his or her learning experience is valid, then regardless of the context, that learner has achieved learning. Therefore, through the lens of the learner, there is no difference between receiving information from a University or from Udemy.

Reference:
Collins English Dictionary (n.d.). Definition of Valid. Retrieved July 10, 2018, from https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/valid

Couros, G. (2015). The innovators mindset: Empower learning, unleash talent, and lead a culture of creativity. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting.

McCarthy, B. (2000). About learning. Wauconda, Ill: About Learning.

What do Instructional Design Models and Early Childhood Programs in Reggio Emilia, Italy have in Common?

From birth to school age, learning is already personalized for preschool children. Especially in Reggio Emilia, Italy. As young children grow and develop, they explore their environments and develop natural interests for learning. They acquire “a hundred languages, a hundred hands, a hundred thoughts, a hundred ways of thinking, of playing, [and] of speaking…” (Malaguzzi, 2012). Then, as illustrated in the poem, No Way, The Hundred is There, the school and the culture kills ninety-nine. The school and the culture “tell the child to think without hands, to do without head, to listen and not speak, to understand without joy…” (Malaguzzi, 2012). The school and the culture help to force students to abandon the natural learning process and their natural learning interests, thus complying with contrived learning topics which may or may not feel relevant.

I liken the theory of personalized learning to instructional design models since instructional design models place students at the center of the design process. Students are encouraged to set goals and to participate in the design of their learning pathways. As preschool children design their own learning byway of following their desired interests, instructional design models also allow students to acknowledge and recognize their learning interests, learning preferences, and learning needs by way of their natural learning desires. This  promotes student voice, student choice, and student agency. Table 1 below compares curricular design models with instructional design models. I included this table because it supports my claim that the theory of personalized learning is strongly related to principles of instructional design.

My experience in Reggio Emilia, Italy has taught me a lot. For starts, expert pedagogists present reality, explore reality, and turn facts into conjecture for their young students daily, in order to increase critical and creative thinking. Expert pedagogists also reinforce the young child’s sense of the possible using their Zones of Desirability. Zones of Desirability is defined as the gaps between the young child’s knowledge and his or her desire to know. This gap becomes an irritant to the young child, creating a strong urge to fill his or her knowledge gaps with missing knowledge. As a result, the child seeks information and self designs learning experiences that can possibly fill those knowledge gaps thereby creating new knowledge.  Moreover, Zones of Desirability limits knowledge fragmentation within the young child and is a part of the knowledge building processes and the learning processes that the child gains.  Figure 1 below, shows the flow of knowledge within the Zones of Desirability.

Figure 1:

With the student being at the center of instructional design models, one can imagine that Zones of Desirability are embedded within instructional systems design.  As the student proceeds to learn what he or she desires to learn (based on learner preferences and interests), the instructional designer personalizes the learning experience for students by default.  Hence, what do instructional design models and Early Childhood Programs in Reggio Emilia, Italy have in Common? They both cultivate the curiosity and imagination of learners, and they both use instructional design practices that lead to the satiation of learner curiosity, desires, and goals.

Reference:
Edwards, C. P., Gandini, L., & Forman, G. E. (2012). The hundred languages of children: The Reggio Emilia experience in transformation. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger.