Monday, May 12, 2014

Lightrail Learnings: Personalization for All

I usually ride the train very early in the mornings but today I was heading into town midday with a different demographic of riders, many of them college students of  various ages. I was struck by watching them study their course material using index cards, handwritten notes on lined paper and in composition books, notes jotted in the tiny margin of PPT printouts, and questions that appear to have come from a digital assignment or assessment but have been converted to a PDF or other format to be printed.

This comes on the heels of watching my husband, a very tech-savvy programmer, suffer through an hour long pre-recorded webinar to verify he read a company's info packet so he can move to the next round of job interviews. *eye roll*

Meanwhile, my (former *tear*) 4th graders are intuitively programming robots and simple web apps, using Google Apps like pros, and determining which tool (digital and otherwise) will best meet their needs and purpose. On a daily basis I read posts about the incredible learning and thinking going on in tech-enabled classrooms everywhere: like + Brandon Peterson talking of 1st graders listing ideas like "webcasts, QR codes, building websites, infographics" when asked how they might share their learning. Right now I am owning my learning experience by reading articles, engaging in online communities, and reflecting on my thoughts while composing this post on my blog - all from my phone while I ride the train.
This makes me wonder about the current state of things, and where it is all headed. What kind of learning experiences do college students of all ages as well as adults in the workforce want right now? What kinds of experiences would enhance what they're doing? I then start to think about what my kiddos, the current students who are in K-12 classes right now, will expect and want when they enter college and the workplace. Are professors and institutions of higher ed going to be ready for them? Will the system be prepared to honor the student-driven experiences and competency-based learning many of them will have engaged in the majority of their lives?

Sometimes I wonder, and maybe even worry a little, about the changes and shifts that need to be made to truly honor each individual learner in our society. But I also get super excited at the possibilities. Every time I see that student on the train trying to memorize material on an index card or quiz themselves using a printed PPT I have ideas about changing their learning experience. I also know there are a number of people like me who also get excited by the possibilities of digital tools and a more personalized experience for every single learner, and those people are doing amazing things to get us all closer to that dream. I feel so lucky to interact with some of these fellow learners regularly, and I never cease to be amazed and excited by the impact we have and the things we can create together - much of which has yet to be dreamed up.