Mass Customized Learning & Mrs. Dalloway: It’s All About Control

Note: The following lines were merely intended as commentary on a discussion thread in a Mass Customized Learning graduate course Dan’s taking at the moment.  But he’ll be danged if he didn’t hit some passion points there toward the end.  The prompt?  Where is your school/district at with regards to adopting an MCL operating philosophy and what challenges do you see it facing?

We are working toward mass customized learning across our district.  We have a customized learning time, working district wide to set a strategy for implementing MCL philosophy as the backbone for our district.  We’ve been together for over a year, but really, it’s only the past six months or so that it feels like we are moving in a unified direction.
I think we can get there.  Go slow, keep moving, don’t stop — that’s a piece of advice that got passed along to the team. Those last items two may seem redundant at first glance, but I don’t see it that way.

Keep moving: Each day make progress, no matter how small.   It’s a call for action.

Don’t stop: When you throw on the brakes because “it’s all moving too fast” and “we’ll come back to it later,” that’s when things really fall apart.  It’s a warning.

And it’s more than a little appropriate that there’s something of a dichotomy going on here.
MCL is at once energizing and daunting.  Just today I’ve gone through feelings of, “Yeah! Can’t wait to try this tomorrow!  THIS. THIS is the stuff.  ” to “Awww, frig.  Seriously? How the … this is … gah!  How will we ever get to THAT?!   People are dumb.”

Locus of control.  We’ve been reading Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway in AP Lit.  All about locus of control.  Clarissa Dalloway’s exists outside of herself, allowing her self worth to be determined by the people around her.  Miss Kilman deludes herself, believing herself to be in control of her life when really she seeks the approval of her spiritual advisor and wants so very much to experience the pink cheeks and delicacy of Clarissa.  Only poor Septimus, who realizes he will never be in control of his life, exerts what little control he has in order to end his own life.

MCL feels very doable when the locus feels within our classrooms, within our plan books, our laptops and blogs, our notes and designs.  Sometimes it even feels doable when we team up with a handful of motivated colleagues.   Add an administrator to that mix and yeah, now we are cooking with gas.

And then we start thinking beyond the classroom, beyond the building, we start looking at district systems, we start looking at grading protocols and credits, graduation requirements and transportation and how to make sure every voice is represented, curriculum maps and learning targets and then we put our heads between our knees and wait until the oxygen returns.

What’s our next step?  I’d like to think it is reconciling those two experiences, fostering the campfires of innovation, while the rest of us figure out a way to clear out the deadwood and make way for new growth.

About Dan Ryder

Dan Ryder & Jeff Bailey, co-founders of Wicked Decent Learning, a blog, podcast, Twitter feed and who-knows-what-all-else devoted to teaching and learning in Vacationland and beyond. Teachers, dads, actors, writers, geeks, buds.

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