The Dystopian Future of Schools
Mike Crowley

“Personalized Learning” is an expression of teacher and school power, just like “Project-Based Learning,” and “Differentiation.”

All you have to do is assemble any sentence around any of those terms to see how ‘it’ — learning — is being done to the kid.

Language is thus powerful but perhaps unimportant at the same time. In our schools we talk about a continuum. First we say “Project-Problem-Passion-Based Learning.” This starts with that teacher generated (perhaps choice of) project(s), in an attempt to make the meaningless in a curriculum appear relevant. Then, Problem — still teacher generated — say, “how might we filter water?” or even, “how might we clean water?” with student agency taking a foothold. Then Passion — to us Student Passion, not teacher — as in “What interests you? What could you read/do/write/make?” And suddenly the classroom changes.

Finally, the term we use is “Maker,” and for us that means Student Created Context. The learner knows where she/he wants to go, and we ride along, fitting important skill development and knowledge in where appropriate.

Within all this, “technology” — meaning contemporary information and communications technology — is essential, as are all other kinds of tools. And that technology needs to be open and under student control, or it becomes a limitation instead of a key to the world.

  • Ira Socol