(Insights after visiting Hydetown Elementary in Titusville, PA)
Hydetown Elementary is one of three Vanguard Schools that volunteered to test the implementation of mcl4yl this school year. I, along with four of my colleagues, had the opportunity to spend an entire day, 5-plus hours, watching, discussing, and learning from learners, learning facilitators, and leaders about Hydetown’s successes, challenges, and suggestions. I learned things so significant that I wanted to share those learnings with all of the people who are wanting to implement the vision described in detail in Chapter 11 of Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning.
Before going further, however, I want to let you know that I was nearly blown away with what I saw and heard. In short, every young learner should have this learning opportunity. Learning Center Leader Lisa Royek, with strong support from Superintendent Karen Jez, has moved Hydetown Elementary from the Industrial Age to the Information Age and beyond. Lisa would want you to know that the challenge of doing so was so great that she tried to talk her Learning Facilitators out of going for the vision full bore. Lisa would also like you to know that the Learning Facilitators are the ones who made this vision happen; and, for this vision to impact all learners so positively. Heroes and heroines, all of them!
So here come my learnings . . . learnings that will be helpful as we take in three more Learning Centers beginning next school year.
- MCL4YL will not look the same everywhere. The MCL vision described in Chapter 11 is quite detailed and so the vision of each system is going to be quite similar. They will all want to do what the team in Chapter 11 was able to do, but the symmetry ends quite quickly with the vision.
Lisa has a staff that is unique, a community of parents that is unique, a board of education that is unique, a rather old school building that is unique . . . I could go on, but to summarize, the context should, and will, determine how that Leader and her LFs can best make mcl4yl happen.
- Leadership. No surprise here, but without a talented, savvy, committed, and courageous leader, it “just ain’t gonna happen.” But you knew that was coming! What I learned and articulated to anyone who would listen that day and since is . . . that the successful implementation of mcl4yl requires three basic elements: a strong belief that the vision is best (actually, a “must”) for learners; that they have to run with what they have, with what is possible to do in their situation; and significant change like this can’t happen without strong leadership. I personally can’t see how Hydetown could have done this without Lisa Royek!!
- Teach Learners about MCL. Not about MCL as described in Inevitable, but what MCL means to learners. The highlight of my day . . . and for my colleagues . . . was a lunch period that lasted an hour and fifteen minutes. Twenty or so learners, ages about 7 to 11 in a circle talking with us about their experiences and reactions to MCL. At first, I thought that Lisa had set this all up and that the kids were saying what they had been taught to say . . . but about 10 minutes into it I realized that they all knew what MCL was from their “learner point of view.”
To the number, they expected to be working on learner outcomes that were at the right level for them, not too hard and not too easy; that they needed to be responsible for their own learning. REALLY!! We watched them all day as they were fully engaged in their learning . . . they were in control, it was their work, and they appeared to be enjoying their challenges and successes. Young learners on their way to being, not just graduates one day, but lifelong learners.
- Learner Engagement. Hydetown is an example that proves . . . yes, I think “proves” is the right label . . . that if you meet learners at their learning level, and if you make learning a bit of fun, they will be self-motivated. In my day at Hydetown, I did not see a learner who wasn’t working at something. I’m afraid to give it a 100%, but it must have been close to that. MCL4YL requires the focus on intrinsic motivation and it is happening there.
- Better preparation for getting started. We suggested that school systems interested in mcl4yl should spend this year planning and begin implementation next school year, but Hydetown and two other systems couldn’t wait and began implementation with the start of this school year. Things would have been smoother if we had worked with them on the Learner Management System, and we will try to do better with the next batch of systems that want the MCL vision.
Parting Comments: There are things that the LFs could be doing that would make their success even better for learners . . . but enough for now. What they have done this year is far beyond my expectations . . . and I think “their” expectations as well. They are proud and should be.