Customizing Learning to Innovate “Inside the Box”



I often ask these questions of participants to get them to think about how we are using our time differently.

The first question is the following:

How many of you in this room go onto your personal social media while you are working?

Many people look around, maybe toward their administrators, and very few put up their hands.  I believe that many aren’t admitting to it because of who is the room, but many also would never do that during the day because they think their personal life should never infringe on their work.

Then I ask the second question:

How many of you check your work email at home or on your own personal time?

The majority of the time I ask the second question, 100% of hands go up.

So let’s get this straight.

We live in a time where our personal should never get in the way of our work life, but it is okay if our work life gets into our own personal time?

There is something wrong with this scenario.

Some people will say that they don’t check their email or do “work” at home because they do not let their work infringe on their own time.  That is great.  Personally, I have a balance of both. Sometimes at work, I can’t focus and do some personal stuff and sometimes at home, I feel like working. In fact, at certain points of the day when I am home, I thrive in my work.

So what does this all mean for education and learning?

Our focus should not be on what we do at certain times but more focused on the quality of what we do.  But are we shifting our thoughts and actions this way? For example, from our students, do we look for quality and high-level learning as an indicator of success or that a student is doing what they are doing at the time we have told them to do it?  “Self-regulation” is more about finding what works for you, not for someone else.

I remember having a conversation with a school district administrator about rethinking a professional learning opportunity for staff. Instead of teachers coming in on certain professional learning days, if they were to blog or share actual work and link it back to a simple google doc, they could earn days in lieu through the process.  The administrator could not wrap their head around the idea.

I often talk about “innovating inside of the box,” and the box here was that teachers had to do a certain amount of time of professional learning.  So does mere “presence” on a day constitute learning, or does a created product show more of what someone has learned within a certain amount of time?

We will always have constraints in education, but we can work within those constraints and create better opportunities for our staff and students.  Maybe this doesn’t work for all people, but I guarantee it works for some. If you want to personalize the opportunities for your students, we need to customize the opportunities for our staff.

Please don’t think I am saying that teachers, in charge of children, should just come to school at whatever time works best for them. There are elements in life that are still about “compliance,” but it is how we find as many opportunities to empower those we serve to do work that goes above and beyond, not meet basic minimum requirements.

Source: George Couros