On a recent trip to my local grocery store I was overwhelmed by the number of options I had for various products. Laundry detergent, for example. I counted 12 different brands and 27 different varieties of laundry detergent - with bleach, without bleach, for HE machines, with softener. All able to do the same job - clean my family’s clothes. The number of options made me realize that choices surround us every day. Which store I shop at, which products I purchase, which gas station I go to, which gas I buy, where I eat, the food I order - a world of choices for these everyday frivolous things. Yet we are given few options on the matters that mean the most to the majority of Americans - presidential candidates, health insurance coverage, public education.
A good friend and colleague from the Virginia Virtual Academy, Elizabeth Clark, best explains some of our students and the current educational system as “trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.” These students don’t fit into the “one size fits all” public schools that so many politicians (those that think they know our children’s educational needs best) leave as the only option in some states. Parents seeking educational options ultimately have one common goal - they want their child to be successful. In a recent Manifesto on the current state of ed reform, Jeanne Allen, founder of the Center for Education Reform, wrote, “The greatest opportunity for improving student motivation comes from personalized learning.” Personalized learning - a great concept, attempted but rarely successful in the brick and mortar classroom. How do you truly personalize learning in one environment - the classroom - with one curriculum - likely on the same grade level - in 60 minutes or less? A brick and mortar teacher unquestionably does his/her best, but with the resources and time given, truly personalized learning will not take place for most students. So what is the key to working towards more personalized learning?