Saturday, September 1, 2007

Individualized Instruction Online

To steal a saying from Oprah who probably stole it from someone else, yesterday I had an "ah ha moment." Usually those moments come for people when they hear others speaking or see something inspirational. My moment came when my own words were leaving my mouth. Sounds a little arrogant so far, dont worry, I'll knock myself down in the next couple sentences to balance things out.

Im not really good with labels. I rarely set a course and say here is the name of the course Im setting. For the most part, I just start doing things because I feel something is right, not because of a label or category it fits into. Sounds vague so far, okay, let me clarify.

Back to yesterday. A handful of thoughtful teachers stayed late on Friday to be part of a new Restructuring Committee at our school. Our principal got the idea out of the Model Schools conference he went to this summer. During the meeting we were bouncing around ideas and my principal said something that I felt needed clarifying. Im usually fairly heldback when it comes to these situations because I have a little bit of spotlight fright, but I spoke up. As I was speaking I heard myself saying, "Well, my goal is to provide individualized learning for all my students" or something to that effect. At that moment I realized I had finally found a label for an idea Ive been working hard at developing the last 6 months.

I feel blessed to be part of a charter school, and online distance education, and this is just one of the many instances why. If I say I want to provide individualized learning for all my kids, I can actually do it. All I have to do is be willing and flexible. Here is how it looks right now in my online classes. 3 of my 4 courses are essay and project based. The lessons are written up as projects, but for the most part they are assessments where kids write out their ideas. Beginning this year, Ive told my kids that anytime they see the words writing, essay or review than they have carte blanche how they want to handle it. Ive created a blog where Im posting lots of methods for completing projects and research to help them with options. The only stipulation is that kids have to meet the requirements I post in the lesson, but they can show me they have learned almost anyway they want. See, Im confident in my lessons enough to know the kids are going to get all the literacy and content that I want them to have, I just want them to have options for how to show it to me. I just want them to get excited about doing work because they have found a method for doing it that stimulates them. Does the method matter all that much or does the fact that the student learned something and can prove they learned it the most important requirement for my evaluation?

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