Education for the Information Age: Mass Customized Learning in SAD 44
It’s mass learning.
But it’s customized.
What might seem at first a contradictory term – Mass Customized Learning – is taking hold in SAD 44 and western Maine as a method to get beyond society’s 120-year-old framework for education, and better serve individual students.
SAD 44 staff and school board members are currently studying the system of learning described in the book “Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning,” by Portland author and consultant Bea McGarvey.
Teams from school districts that are members of the Western Maine Education Collaborative took part in a workshop in Farmington in June, and will continue work to learn and share MCL’s philosophies in their school systems this year, as the district considers changes in its approach to education.
SAD 44 has a committee dedicated to the effort, and at Monday’s School Board meeting member and Director Deb Webster of Newry made the first of three presentations focusing on the reasons for moving to the new model.
Using a presentation designed by McGarvey, Webster described the 1892 education model as an “assembly-line delivery system” that is outdated.
That system, she said, came into being in an industrialized era in which the focus of education was “to sort out and select talent,” weeding out students who did not perform well and moving along those who did.
Nineteenth-century educators set up the traditional 12-grade format, with the same basic subjects taken in the same order through high school that are used today, said Webster, along with letter grading, failing students in courses, and teaching all at the same rate.Under the system, “When students learn something is more important than whether they learn it well,” she said. “Everyone moves at the same pace.”
The system has changed little, she said, despite society moving from the Industrialized Age to the Information Age.
The Information Age is now shifting the focus, said Webster, so that whether a student learns something is more important than when.
The MCL method works from the assumptions that “students learn in different ways, and in different time frames,” said Webster.
Supt. Dave Murphy said after the presentation that there has been a lot of interest in MCL in SAD 44, and the district is exploring the possibility of staff members enrolling in a graduate course on the program through UMF.
He said so far, a total of 14 staff and board members have been involved in the MCL training.
Board members have also been provided with a copy of McGarvey’s book to read.
Girls’ soccer, Telstar sound system, restraint policy
In actions taken by the board Monday, directors approved a plan to revise the Telstar Middle School Soccer coaching assignments to include a varsity girls’ and varsity boys’ coach, instead of the former combined boys/girls teams with a varsity and J.V. coach.
The format will work better to provide a “feeder” system for the high school program, which now includes boys’ and girls’ teams, Murphy said.
The board approved a bid of $38,576 from Odds Are Productions of Portland to completely revamp the sound system in Telstar’s Helen C. Berry Auditorium. Funding will be provided through a $50,000 anonymous donation made in part for that purpose last year.
In other business, directors approved the first reading of a new policy to comply with new state law on the use of physical restraint and seclusion for students; gave annual approval for the district’s emergency plans; re-appointed Jolene Littlehale as SAD 44 affirmative action officer and homeless liaison and Dr. Richard DeCarolis as school physician (with a stipend of $500); and heard a presentation from consultant Lee Graham on the district’s updated Comprehensive Plan.
In personnel issues, Murphy announced the following appointments, transfers and resignations: Jolene Perry Dumas transferred from Andover Elementary School Grade 2/3 teacher to AES Title I teacher (part-time); Cynthia Bobbe transferred from Woodstock Elementary School ed tech I to WES school secretary; Jennifer Grover resigned as special education/AES school secretary; Marilyn Hamel resigned as ed tech III at Crescent Park Elementary School; Pam House appointed WES student council advisor and Tonya Prentice as WES soccer coach.
The board’s Personnel Committee also confirmed the appointments of Erin Stearns as CPS kindergarten teacher; Megan Smith as AES kindergarten/Grade 1 teacher; and Karen Thurston as AES Grade 4/5 teacher.