Book Notes & Thoughts: Inevitable, Mass Customized Learning


They apparently couldn’t choose a title, so there are three:


Mass Customized Learning (MCL)

Learning in the Age of Empowerment

by Charles Schwahn & Beatric McGarvey

I’ll admit, I did more skimming on this one than usual as it is meant to be a vision to practice manual and I’m not actually working in a school right now. I’ve also been part of a research group studying personalized learning schools for the past year, which means I’ve heard and seen a lot of these stories. I think for teachers and leaders in traditional school settings, however, this could be a powerful book for reimagining what learning can look like. The authors do a nice job of pairing vignettes from multiple perspectives – students, teachers, parents, leaders – with specifics about support systems or assumptions that we make.

One of the most compelling and frustrating aspects of educational change is that “we all know these things. Yet, our behaviors do not support them.” (p.82) When you finally see the disconnect between the way we do school and the way we choose to do the rest of our lives, from shopping to listening to music to hanging out with friends, you can’t stop seeing it. Some people might challenge that school shouldn’t be the same as real life – it’s “work” after all, whatever that means. I was recently reading over an interview with one of the teachers in our study and she said that her former colleagues keep commenting how she looks so much more relaxed and happy this year. It seems we are all perpetuating a system that stresses us out (kids, parents, teachers, and leaders included) just because that’s the way it is and always has been? So much of what we do – one test for all kids, writing papers and getting feedback a week later, sitting in lectures – isn’t actually the best way to do it. If our purpose is to facilitate learning, if this is the function of schools, then the form of our schools needs to follow this (p.78). Capitalizing on the technology and resources that are already at our disposal means that it’s possible.

Continue reading “Book Notes & Thoughts: Inevitable, Mass Customized Learning”

Reaction: Distributed Leadership & Systems of Practice

Aren’t these beautiful, mathematical systems?

Readings this week:

Halverson, R. (201?). Systems of Practice: How Leaders Use Artifacts to Create Professional Community in Schools.

Spillane, J., Halverson, R., Diamond, J. (2004). Towards a theory of leadership practice: a distributed perspective. Journal of Curriculum Studies. 36 (1): 3-34.

I’ve read so much in the past four months (more than I have in the past 10 years) that sometimes I lose track of what I wanted to come to graduate school to study in the first place. The readings this week took me right back to questions I wrote in my personal statement: “How can a system-wide professional growth model be designed that inspires a professional culture? Is cultivating passionate and engaged teachers enough to shift an institution? What other structures or leadership opportunities do teachers need to feel connected?”

The distributed perspective for leadership presented by Spillane et al. proposes that leadership is never limited to one person alone. It is distributed across actors, tools, and context. The relevant level of analysis for the practice of leadership is the tasks that leaders do. Changing the practice of leadership thus begins with changing the tasks and routinizing these new tasks, eventually rooting the changes into the norms or culture of the organization. What resonates most with me is the fact that distributed leadership is both a way to see leadership and a way to change it.  Continue reading “Reaction: Distributed Leadership & Systems of Practice”