Explore and document a case study of an e-learning innovation—something in which you have been involved, or which you have observed in a place where you have studied or worked, or an interesting intervention somewhere else that you would like to study in more detail. A practice may be a piece of software or hardware; a teaching and learning activity that uses technology; or a case study of a class, a school or person using technologies in learning in an innovative way. Use the 'seven affordances' framework to analyze the dynamics of the e-learning ecology that you are investigating.
Common Core State Standards. Educator Effectiveness. Standardized Testing. All are components of today’s educational reform, and all are teacher-centered. While these components can be helpful data points, innovative teachers striving to personalize learning often point out that educational reform has misplaced its focus. Laura Beth Dahm, a personalized learning and generative curriculum expert, points out a major problem in the current educational reform focus:
“If the learner is not at the center of every conversation, we have become disconnected from the work we are charged to do. As Alfie Kohn would argue, it is more vital to get kids interested in WHAT they are doing, not how WELL they are doing it. And, if students are interested, they become their own best critic. Thus, if students are as engaged as possible, they are learning as much as possible. As we are seeing the personalized learning movement gain traction, we are seeing commonalities in engagement take shape: generative curricula supported by strong communities and learning environments where student choice is at the center, ” (Dahm 2014).
While not a new concept; the learner-centered movement of the 1960s and 1970s fell short in large part because educators lacked the resources to support the work. The wide range of new technologies that have evolved and multiplied since the 1990s offer educators and learners the tools necessary to support student-centered curriculum.
It is common knowledge that we learn better when we are interested and engaged. Interest-based learning "engages students' curiosity and motivation and promotes collaboration...Varying instruction based on what students want to know and how they prefer to learn helps to create a collaborative, learner-centered climate that has positive effects on students' achievement. Such a practice requires that students be given opportunities to engage in hands-on, open-ended activities and provided with time and resources to explore their interests. It also requires that teachers seek out information related to their students' interests and backgrounds and adopt a role as facilitator, turning more responsibility for learning over to students" (Ohio Department of Education 2014).
Interest-based learning and generative curriculum are similar in. Dahm defines generative curriculum as, “a learning design which supports learner-generated topics, skills, and content, based on personal interests and motivators,” (2014). While the definition is simple, some misinterpret generative curriculum. Bobbi Fisher, teacher at Josiah Haynes School, in Sudbury, Massachusetts and Pat Cordeiro, an Associate Professor at Rhode Island College, point out that while generative curriculum focuses on learner voice and choice; it is not “a freewheeling, anything-goes effort,” (2). According to Fisher and Cordeiro, “It [generative curriculum] has boundaries, directions, and goals that become naturally evident through the dynamic collaboration of the teacher and children,” (2).
Generative curriculum “represents the growing trend of transforming and reorganizing the most fundamental educational activities: what students are taught and how their learning is assessed,” (Chen 35). Allowing student voice in what they will be learning increases the engagement and sets up a more collaborative relationship between student and teacher. The generating of a curriculum doesn’t need to be a group of teachers sitting in a meeting putting together a prescribed, one-size-fits-all, calendar of instruction. Instead, teacher and learner collaborate to create a pathway for learning and inquiry. The teacher can use several important elements to help students create pathways for learning: student interests, teacher interests, district-mandated curriculum, and community connections.
Below are a few resources to gain a clearer understanding of interest-based learning and generative curriculum:
The personalized learning movement is gaining momentum as more educators, parents, and students are demanding a different approach to learning.
APLUS+ (The Association of Personalized Learning Schools and Services) is an organization made up of more than forty personalized learning charter schools in the state of California. According to APLUS+, personalized learning can be defined by the following characteristics:
Personalized learning requires a major mind shift for all involved. Learning is no longer curriculum-centered: instead, it focuses on learner voice and engagement. Generative curriculum offers a path for teachers and students to engage in true personalized learning. Generative curriculum “starts and develops with children's interests, interests that remain at the center of the inquiry. As children and teachers pursue areas of interest, new curriculum is created collaboratively, learning becomes dynamic, and one avenue of interest leads to another. As themes and topics are initiated and pursued throughout the year, connections and relationships are made. Working with curriculum this way allows for authentic learning,” (Fisher 2).
In order to personalize learning, generative curriculum becomes a necessity. Here is a video from Colorado Springs District 11. The district transformed their focus to offer learners a personalized experience.
In their book New Learning, Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope, use eight dimensions to analyze the nature and form of three different approaches to education: didactic teaching, authentic education, and transformative education. “These dimensions help us understand the design and form of education in a comprehensive and rounded way. Each dimension has been selected because it sheds light on a key component of the experience of teaching and learning…” (43).
The chart below is a modified version of the chart that appears in Kalantzis and Cope’s book, New Learning. The chart provides a general description for each dimension, an analysis of authentic education, and an analysis of transformative education.
|Dimension||Authentic Education: More Recent Times||Transformative Education: Towards New Learning|
|Dimension 1: Architectonic meanings are those expressed by a physical setting, the spatial designs that shape the way people relate to each other.||
|Dimension 2: Discursive meanings are expressed through the patterns of person-to-person communication.||
|Dimension 3: Intersubjective meanings are created in the interaction of one person’s will - their interests, motivations and drives - with another’s.||
|Dimension 4: Socio-cultural meanings emerge from the ways in which a person’s life experiences are negotiated in a particular setting.||
|Dimension 5: Proprietary meanings are formed in relationships of knowledge ownership.||
|Dimension 6: Epistemological meanings are those arising from the ways in which knowledge is represented and created.||
|Dimension 7: Pedagogical meanings are the ways learners make knowledge for themselves, as designed and facilitated by teachers and curricula.||
|Dimension 8: Moral meanings underlie the establishment of a balance of power between those who control and those who are controlled.||
Since generative curriculum moves away from the didactic curriculum-centered approach and requires a shift to a human-centered approach, it would be easy to say that generative curriculum falls under the transformative approach to education. While this may be true, it is important to take a closer look at the parallelism between generative curriculum and transformative education.
Dimension 1: Architectonic Meanings
The varying needs and interests of learners has always been present in the classroom. The difference is that in the didactic approach to teaching, this variety was largely ignored as teachers created environments that would accommodate those learners that fell in the majority as it pertains to the bell-shaped curve. In a transformative classroom that is shaped by a generative curriculum the interests and needs of each individual and teacher are acknowledged. Generative curriculum not only requires a shift in mindset; it also has implications for the learning environment. Ubiquitous learning - anytime/anywhere - is essential to generative curriculum. Learners are interested in information and experiences that are beyond the walls of a typical classroom. The typical classroom must also change. The rigid nature of desks and chalk boards make generative curriculum extremely difficult. Generative curriculum demands learning spaces that are flexible and can be used for many purposes and functions.
Dimension 2: Discursive Meanings
Generative curriculum requires a new approach to communication. As students become the designers and co-designers of their learning, the teacher takes on a role that is much like - if not the same - as the learner. Teacher-student communication is a collaborative experience, instead of a dictatorial approach to communication. Not only does the communication between teacher and learner shift, but the emphasis on learner-to-learner communication changes as well. “The New Learning thrives on enormous amounts of lateral communication between learners: face-to-face talk; Internet and mobile telephony; online chat; instant messaging; email and messaging around text, image, sound and video in content creation and sharing environments,” (Kalantzis Cope 64).
Dimension 3: Intersubjective Meanings
Generative curriculum often begins with the interests of the learner. It is imperative that the teacher - and particularly the learner - know the learner’s “needs, identities, expectations, aspirations, interests and motivations,” (65). Knowing this information is particularly important for generative curriculum where “learning is a matter of negotiation rather than imposed subject contents, and where students are meaning makers as much as they are meaning receivers,” (66). The most important idea that teachers need to understand for working with generative curriculum is that they are the co-designers of learning. Generative curriculum asks that teachers give up their commander position. “Teachers here need to see themselves more as collaborative researchers, designing and tracking, purposeful, transformative interventions. This will require supportive networking and professional collaborations: with other teachers, community partners and with learners themselves. Allow the learners to take greater responsibility for their learning,” (66).
Dimension 4: Socio-cultural Meanings
Learners’ interests are fundamental to the generative curriculum, so it is imperative that teachers and learners spend time getting to know each other; including “prior experiences, interests, and aspirations,” (66). Generative curriculum demands inclusion - not just a respect for differences but a need. This “New Learning identifies and negotiates alternative learning pathways to common goals, appropriate to students’ capacities as formed by prior learning, meeting their needs and satisfying their interests,” (66).
Dimension 5: Proprietary Meanings
Collaboration is key for generative curriculum. Teachers are no longer working in their silos, but are instead working in teams. Students are also working with an emphasis on collaborative knowledge production. “New learning opens up space for collaborative learning, reflecting the changing shape of today’s workplaces and learning communities beyond the formal institutional settings of education. Collaborative work is produced in pairs or small groups; students thus learn how to think and act as team players. The collective outcome is greater than the sum of the individuals’ contributions,” (69).
Dimension 6: Epistemological Meanings
According to Dahm, “in a generative platform, the student chooses the learning, and the educator helps connect his or her interest to the learning target. This forces a collaborative approach to learning where the whole child is at the center, and the learning target exists to support that child, ” (Dahm 2014). This structure is “a profound shift in the direction of [how] knowledge flows. Learners become co-designers of knowledge, developing habits of mind in which they are comfortable members of knowledge-producing and knowledge-sharing communities. And teachers build learning experiences that engage with learner subjectivities, developing and negotiating learning scaffolds that can be customised for different individual learners or groups of learners and extend learners and so build on and extend learners’ identities and senses of destiny,” (Kalantzis and Cope 70). Kids are naturally curious so teachers may be surprised at how student choice often matches standards - particularly because the standards support research and exploration.
Dimension 7: Pedagogical Meanings
Transformative education demands a shift in the teacher role. Kalantzis and Cope state, “No longer do they stand and deliver. No more are they primarily a font of disciplinary knowledge. Their role expands as they are now not only knowledge experts but also designers of knowledge-making environments, builders of learning scaffolds, managers of student learning and researchers of learner performance,” (71-72). This is consistent with the characteristics of the generative curriculum teacher outlined by Dahm; “This learner centric model forces the role of the educator to change from one who delivers content and knowledge to one who facilitates learning experiences, introduces new ways to engage in learning, supports research and inquiry, and connects the interest of the student to the rigorous standards,” (Dahm 2014).
Dimension 8: Moral Meanings
Kalantzis and Cope point out an important distinction between the New Learning students and the didactic education student: “The New Learning imagines a kind of person who is able to navigate constant change and deep diversity, learn as they go, solve problems, collaborate, innovate and be flexible and creative. This kind of person will not be traumatised by change,” (72). Working as co-designers and active knowledge producers requires skills that go far beyond the skills necessary in the traditional textbook approach to learning.
Interest-based learning and generative curriculum are not new approaches to learning and education. "The great educational philosopher John Dewey was one of the first to emphasize the important linkages among interest, curiosity, and effort. Dewey made the persuasive case that interest-based learning is more beneficial than effort-based learning," (Kaufman 2014).
Educational reform of the 1960s in America was "characterized by new curricular emphasis. Teachers were encouraged to experiment and use their creativity to make education more interesting and involving for their students. Rather than textbook oriented stay in your seat type of learning that had characterized teaching instruction in the 1950's, students were allowed choices, given flexible scheduling, individualized instruction and non-graded schools," according to Dr. Judy Gelbrich, professor at Oregon State University."However, the curriculum reform movement of the sixties did not have the hoped for results in improving educational outcomes. Test scores dropped, enrollments fell and public confidence in teachers was eroded," (1999).
While some of the characteristics of education reform in the sixties are similar to education reform today, implementation was inconsistent and often misguided. The top-down implementation did not engage classroom teachers in the innovation, educators lacked tools to support this new approach to learning, and education reformers were not prepared to overcome the obstacles they would face due to the didactic structure of education that had already been in place for many years.
In his article "Educating the Next Steve Jobs" Tony Wagner, Harvard education specialist, states the new challenge for 21st century education: "To succeed in the 21st-century economy, students must learn to analyze and solve problems, collaborate, persevere, take calculated risks and learn from failure," (2012). Unfortunately, learning in traditional American education settings are not offering learners opportunities where they can practice and grow these skills. In the video below, the need for changing our education paradigms is illustrated.
The continuous evolution and development of new technologies offers a unique opportunity not previously seen in education. For the first time, tools are available to support educators and learners in this approach to learning. Through technology, interest-based learning and generative curriculum are possible.
New technologies have the ability to serve learning in a transformative way. Learners no longer need to be studying the same topic, nor do they need to be at the same stage in their learning process. In addition, learning does not have to be skill-driven: instead, learning can be interest-driven. In his blog post "Can Interest-Based Personalization Deliver Better Learning Outcomes?" blogger Eric Horowitz states, "Students have unique interests, and over time they acquire a large body knowledge related to them. By personalizing a lesson so that it resides within a domain of interest, students may be able to make better sense of the abstract concepts," (2013). When students are generating the topics for learning they are engaged and have a greater investment in the process and its outcomes. Finally, learners are often able to achieve a deeper knowledge of the information. Below are a few examples of new technologies that acknowledge learners' interests:
Mathalicious: offers Common Core aligned lessons that look at the math behind real world topics. Here are a few questions that learners look at within the lessons: Do people with small feet pay too much for shoes? Do taller Olympic sprinters have an unfair advantage? How symmetrical are faces?
NoRedInk: online interface that helps learners improve their grammar and writing skills. Through a series of questions and practice quizzes, the site learns about each user. The interface adjusts to the learner's skill level and interests. As users work through practice exercises, quizzes, and instruction, their favorite celebrities and friends are used to maintain engagement.
In this video on interest-driven learning, Constance Steinkuehler discusses video games and how they relate to interest-based learning. She also explains why it is important to allow learners to generate their own curriculum.
In 2005, the Kettle Moraine School District formed a Transformation Task Force. The results were a vision for “Learning Without Boundaries” and began a course for transforming learning that continues to evolve throughout the district today. According to the Transforming Education page of the Kettle Moraine School District website, “Our work continues to be not so much about the answers as it is about questions. Maintaining our focus on our vision of Learning Without Boundaries, we strive to provide the conditions that allow our students, our parents, our educators, and our community to question the expectations we have of education. How do we define "well-educated" in the context of a new generation of learners in the 21st century? How do we deliver relevant learning opportunities that prepare all students for their future?,” (Deklotz 2014).
Several families, administrators, and teachers were already looking for a new approach to elementary education. With an emphasis on personalized learning, in 2011 several multi-age classrooms were created at Wales Elementary School. By the 2012-13 school year, these multi-age classrooms evolved into KM Explore Charter School. Below is the executive summary for the school.
Description of the Educational Program
KM Explore embraces the notion of a ‘generative curriculum’ grown from the collective voices and choices of the community of students, families, and educators of the school itself. Learning at KM Explore is on a continuum where each student is seen as a learner on a self-propelled journey embedded in a community of learners.
KM Explore will involve students in the design of a different kind of school. By being multi-age in structure, community-based in function, and integrated in its curriculum design, KM Explore students will provide evidence of learning in a manner that is meaningful to them. A fluid and adaptable schedule will remove traditional boundaries of learning. Integrated curriculum design, the creative process, and high level questioning will be woven throughout the learning experience. The fundamentals of reading, writing, and math are foundational to this generative curriculum as they are embedded and integrated into the day-to-day work.
The mission of KM Explore is to engage a community of learners through authentic learning experiences by empowering them to be self- motivated thinkers, creators, and collaborators.
The vision of KM Explore is to customize student learning through an integrated learning framework that fosters authentic collaboration, engagement and reflection.
Building Blocks of KM Explore
1. Generative, Interdisciplinary Curriculum
2. Multi-age Learning Community
3. Habits of Mind
4. Optimal Learning Spaces
5. Collaborative Teaching and Learning
Building Block #1 Generative, Interdisciplinary Curriculum
The curriculum in KM Explore will combine core subject areas into integrated and authentic learning experiences. Students will view learning as a continuous process as opposed to segmented learning experiences broken up into short time periods. Skills and knowledge defined in the Common Core State Standards will be learned through personalized projects, group initiatives, and personal learning plan goals, determined by the individual student or group of students. An important role for KM Explore educators is to facilitate and guide the students through their learning process and facilitate new learning experiences based on student interest, pertinent current events, or opportunities available in the community. Student choice will play a large role in how and when certain targets are met and how academic proficiency is demonstrated. Content area standards, fine arts targets, physical education experiences, and social development will be integrated into the curriculum as much as possible rather than taught as separate entities. In addition, students will be encouraged to pursue independent interests in a wide range of areas in and outside of the school day. Personalized learning plans will be developed to guide and track the learning of each student. This will hold all students accountable to the standards while still allowing them choice of how and when each target is met.
Building Block #2 Multi-age Learning Community
KM Explore will be multi-age where students learn on a continuum, making continuous progress as they move forward in the curriculum. Children are challenged to achieve to their potential because there is no limitation of a grade-level curriculum. Students will respect each others’ differences, develop their own identity, and collectively work to create a safe, successful, and meaningful learning experience for everyone in the classroom community. Recognizing what it takes to be a mindful and productive member of a community will be one of the cornerstones of the students’ learning experience in this school. Students will collaborate with one another and draw on each other’s individual capabilities to further their own learning. Students will also benefit from seeing the same teachers over an extended period of time. Teachers will build an understanding of how each individual student learns and be able to work with the students to create personalized learning plans that span several years including summers and breaks.
Building Block #3 Habits of Mind
A focus of all students, educators, and parents in KM Explore will be the habits of mind which determine the quality and efficiency of learning. It will be equally important for students to realize what they have learned but also what skills and habits they needed to do to get there. Students will be well versed in evaluating themselves on such habits as persistence, managing impulsivity, collaborating, thinking flexibly, innovating, posing problems, and planning ways to find solutions. These habits and dispositions that determine success will be assessed alongside of each student’s knowledge and skill base in the core areas. Students will be mindful of themselves and communicate what they need to do to improve upon their behaviors and mindset in order to become effective life-long learners. Knowing the knowledge and having the skills is important, but having the ability to attain new knowledge and skills independently will ultimately determine a person’s success.
Building Block #4 Optimal Learning Spaces
KM Explore students know that the community of learners and educators isn’t just found in one classroom, but everywhere they explore. By using an “anytime/anywhere” approach to learning, education becomes a way of life, and not just confined to the school day. With a place-based curriculum, students see the school as part of the local community and the local community as part of the learning in the school. Parents play an important role of anytime/anywhere learning experiences. Experts and elders in the community will be utilized to share their expertise. Off-site locations will be utilized frequently to maximize the learning experience of each student.
KM Explore will redesign school spaces in order to resemble areas where productivity, collaboration, and real life learning occur. The physical structure and design of the learning space will be purposefully crafted so that each student has a variety of options to choose. Community space can include a studio, health and wellness room, culinary arts space, recording room, as well as a large community gathering space. A variety of seating designs will be available in order to create an environment conducive to all types of learners. Furniture will include couches, chairs, and tables of various sizes and designs to offer choices that both encourage collaboration and allow for more quiet independent work areas. Seating arrangements will be flexible depending on the current learning needs of each student.
Building Block #5 Collaborative Teaching and Learning
Students in KM Explore will often be asked to collaborate to meet their learning goals. Therefore, the educators must also practice and model a collaborative teaching system. Teachers will work together to plan, assess, and facilitate learning in and outside of the classroom, operating as a team as opposed to a single entity. Students will learn through example about what it means to effectively work as a team as the teachers model their collaborative relationships and discuss openly how they are able to work together and how they collectively overcome struggles or compromise on disagreements. Educators and students will often be involved in the planning of new learning opportunities, and through these experiences and observations students will eventually embody a collaborative nature. Educators will discuss students, assessments, and observations in order to design a system which will be most beneficial for each individual student. Having multiple teachers with unique skill sets will increase the likelihood that every child will reach his or her fullest potential.
KM Explore Belief Statements
KM Global is a charter high school authorized by the Kettle Moraine School District that focuses on leadership and student interests through a personalized learning design. This innovative learning design prepares students to be responsible, flexible, critical thinkers who make an impact on their local, national, and global communities. Students will demonstrate knowledge through the attainment of specific learning outcomes guided by rigorous program standards, they will become engaged learners with dispositions that foster responsibility and personal leadership, and they will work in problem based learning, internships, field experience, cultural integration, travel and other relevant experiences.
KNOW - BE - DO FRAMEWORK
Knowing: Attainment of specific learning outcomes guided by rigorous standards.
Being: Development of dispositions that will foster responsibility for personal leadership.
Doing: Participation in learning through projects; internships; travel; and other relevant experiences.
INNOVATIVE LEARNING DESIGN
Personalized Learning: Students choose to investigate the answers to questions that match their interests and goals for the future through a personal inquiry along with the guidance of a learning coach.
Learning Outside the Walls: Through advanced technology, interviews, field trips, internships, and guest speakers students learn how to communicate and interact with different cultures and industry professionals extending their learning far beyond the traditional classroom.
Collaboration: Students work together through interactive seminars and community engagement. The small multi-age groups used in this model allow students to negotiate team dynamics, assume leadership positions and collaborate around content.
Technology: Technology is used to support real time connections and discussion to foster collaboration and relationship building. Students are provided with laptops and webcams, but also have the option to use their own devices.
Blended Courses: content is delivered both online and through small group instruction. This allows students to move at the pace that is right for them and prepares them to adapt to a variety of delivery methods used in college and the workplace.
KM GLOBAL CURRICULUM IS BASED ON FOUR PILLARS OF LEARNING
KM Global: YOUR interests, YOUR pace, YOUR future.
Developing well-rounded leaders through an individualized approach
Life Charter School in Hartland, Wisconsin serves learners in grades 6-8. The school vision focuses on entrepreneurial leaning experiences, inquiry-based methods, and personalized learning plans that help learners discover their passions.
The article explaining the necessity for generative curriculum was written -and published - by Bobbi Fisher and Pat Cordeiro 1994. While their arguments were important then, they seem all the more relevant today. With the world changing at such a rapid pace it is absolutely necessity that education focus “on the learner and learning,” (Kalantzis and Cope 39).
Fisher and Cordeiro believe the following of generative curriculum: “[We] believe that when we look at curriculum from a generative point of view, both children and teachers direct its procedures and outcomes. Learning is an ongoing, dynamic, authentic, appropriate, and exciting. Generative curriculum goes beneath the surface of classroom topics, themes, and concepts, and involves everything in classroom life. Life and learning are an undivided whole in which each book, topic, area of interest, art project, experiment, or other pursuit increases understanding of the whole,” (7).
Generative curriculum and interest-based learning are not new approaches to education: however, new technologies allow teachers and learners to manage a personalized learning experience.
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