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Niso dn lg13inindividualizationncollabf

  1. 1. INDIVIDUALIZATION + COLLABORATION = A model for innovationKatherine Watson Coastline Distance Learning, CA Bizarrissime@gmail.comAmong the most-often cited advantages of twenty-first-century online learning are two qualitiesthat may at first glance seem contradictory. That is, courses, programs, and learning objectivesdispensed online are touted to be enhanced for better individualization and collaboration,simultaneously.Thus, malleable “learning plans”, if not entire curricula, may now be tailored to individualstudents’ desires online in ways that were cumbersome, if not impossible, only a decade ago.Indeed, in the United States and abroad, a movement has developed that promotes programssuch as the Rhode Island (Usa) Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) to permit learners tocustomize, to tailor to each individual certain singular educational programs and, additionally, tostrengthen the senses of identity, self, and command.But in a world that is not only increasingly customized to the individual but is also ever moreconnected and internationalized among groups, collaboration has come to be key as well. Andin a rapidly shrinking world, intercultural awareness, understanding, and cooperation arenecessary underpinnings to the sort of collaboration that must define every effective world-wisesociety in the twenty-first century. Indeed, as Finkbeiner and Koplin (2002) have noted: “Thatwe meet this challenge of intercultural education (together) is critical if we are to achievepeaceful global unity.” Finkbeiner and Koplin (2002), who are based in Kassel, Germany,propose the notion that culture comprises a kind of behavioral, transactional glue bindingtogether the members of a human group for subsequent or consequent action, i.e.,collaboration. And European Union countries have conceived intercultural, international,collaborative courses of study exploiting multiple media of the sort deemed necessary toencourage the twenty-first century “understanding (that) is vital for increasing …effectiveresearch and innovation activity”, as the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and CulturalOrganization (Unesco) states (Wells and Zolyan, 2011). Exemplarily, the “Teaching Europe”European Literacy and Citizenship Education (ELICIT) program aims to unite academics andexperts as well as learners and trainees throughout the European Union in collaborativecourses of study in United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco)-proposed savoirs (subject-matter knowledge) and compétences ((usually technical)competencies).If, as Unesco researchers have claimed, “the laptop is now mightier than the sword”, and if“vibrant and varied voices” would complement one another in favor of new, sustainable benefitsto be made available to all the world’s peoples, then the seemingly contradictory pushes towardindividualization on the one hand and collaboration on the other must be harmonized. In thispaper, programs that have proven successful in achieving these ends will be examined andtheir potential further applicability in innovative curriculum design will be explored.Individualization: The ILP (individual learning plan)
  2. 2. Rhode Island’s Providence Public Schools Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) typify the programsbeing set forth worldwide “to personalize student learning and to contribute to students’academic, career, and personal/social success” (West and Sutherland, 2007). As West andSutherland (2007) cite the Rhode Island mandate, “increased ‘personalization’ of learning forstudents” underlies an effort to “help students establish personal goals and develop futureplans…coordinat(ing) activities that help all students plan, monitor, and manage their ownlearning as well as meet competencies in the areas of academic, career, and personal/socialdevelopment.”As the name indicates, the Individual Learning Plan aims to give students the self-assuranceand –esteem as well as the intellectual wherewithal to write and then re-write, edit, or hone theirown curricula, almost entirely on their own, and typically with the mediation of electronics. Theassumption is that “planning is important in the world of work, and so we should be helpingstudents to become better planners.” In this assumption, the “we” in question engages parents,teachers, counselors, tutors, technology assistants, and/or peer advisers. As Bloom andKissane (2011) have noted, it was the American “Education for All Handicapped Children Act(1975) (that underlay) the plans developed for each student (that were to be) updated annuallyby teams of teachers, parents, school administrators, related service personnel, and students.”Within two decades, programs originally designed in just a few states of the Usa to support theneeds of the needy were broadened to include learners of all ages across the nation, fromkindergarteners through collegians.In Rhode Island, each educational ILP is made up of a bi-partite curriculum, including an“Academic Learning Plan” (ALP) alongside an Individual, Physical, Social Success (I-PASS)program; many Rhode Island schools deliver both ALPs and I-PASSes online. Since “the morepersonal learning environment is essential” (West and Sutherland, 2007), “…it is driven bystudent needs, interests, and learning styles.” Each ILP must be conceived in accordance withRhode Island state standards in English, math, science, world languages, social studies,technology, the arts, and physical education, as well as in three student-selected electives, aninternship, and a “project”. Thus, although students are relatively free to plan their ownacademic programs, they must pass state-designed standardized tests in certain “corecompetencies” before they finish secondary school, and they must demonstrate “responsibility,dependability, punctuality, integrity, and effort…”, as West and Sutherland (2007) point out.Indeed, these last qualities of the I-PASS bear at least as much, if not more, weight than doacademic attainments in the matter of obtaining a Rhode Island school diploma.Rhode Island schools’ Academic Learning Plans (ALPs) are highly interactive, calling forlearners not just to lay out their class choices but to reflect upon those choices, too. Forinstance, each student must respond in writing to questions such as: “Which courses are youinterested in taking, and why?”, “Do any of these courses require prerequisites (e.g.,“Electronics” must be taken before “Maintenance and Repair of PCs”)?”, and “How will thecourses you plan to take assist you with career interests?” Notably, the I-PASS “social success”program dovetails with students’ ALPs, promoting what Baudry (2007) would call certain very“American cultural traits”, including clear documentation of “process”, encouragement in the acts
  3. 3. of “doing” and “explicitness”, and a positive sense of the social self and how that self integratesinto the greater world.Collaboration: Teaching Europe programsFor their part, Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Spain, and France have each developedcollaborative study programs, wherein learners form groups diverse in age, socioeconomicstatus, educational background, ethnicity, language, and overall culture.Typical of these programs in collaboration, the European Literacy and Citizenship Education(ELICIT) “multilateral lifelong learning” project comprises a consortium of sixteen institutionsfrom eight European Union member states with strong online presences, along with theAssociation Européenne de l’Education (AEDE) umbrella institution. The collective goal is toconceive, develop, manage, implement, evaluate, and then report upon effective,transdisciplinary courses of study leading to a new “portfolio of the European Citizen” for thetwenty-first century. Courses are designed to “teach Europe”, to educate learners in both thesavoirs (subject-matter knowledge, theory, how to think and do) and compétences (applications,practicalities) of each area of study, as suggested by the United Nations Educational, Scientific,and Cultural Organization (Unesco) in reports made in 1995, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2008, and2011. Realization of the ELICIT goal throughout the European educational network comprises aprincipal aim of an umbrella Teaching Europe campaign.As Harel (2010) has summarized it, the ELICIT project for “teaching Europe” has becomenecessary because of the social and economic strains imposed by vast diversity, not only inEuropeans’ languages, cultures, and basic demographics, but in people’s desires andexpectations. Harel (2010) suggests that this impressive diversity leads to a need for agroundwork, a set of commonalities, a base of both savoirs and compétences that allEuropeans can depend upon, and that this base be called a Portfolio of European citizenship,where the term portfolio is meant to comprise “a reference framework of competencies”, as wellas a collaborative, interactive database of resources. Notably, just as the aforementioned ILPencourages explicitness, “doing”, and a product, in the American way, as Baudry (2007) haswritten, so do programs such as ELICIT promote underlying implicitness, “being”, and acollaboratively developed integrated theory, idea, or vision in a typically European manner.The principal “competencies” said to define European literacy and citizenship fall out ofcollaboratively conceived, shared “values and societal vision”, as Harel states. That is, ratherthan setting forth individual student learning objectives or causing each learner to devise menu-like curricula that will meet specific state- or country-mandated demands that have been laidforth in distinct academic domains, the ELICIT programs are all designed with an overarching,collaboration-based worldview. Thus, in order to attain effective coopération, inclusion, andsuccès, for instance, topics have been selected that can be examined, discussed, and taughtfrom multiple perspectives; teaching happens across disciplines, becoming thereforetransdisciplinary by definition. For example, one ELICIT topic of study comprises “The euro”:Basic arithmetic can determine the value of the euro not only in comparison to other currenciesbut also within the European Union; students can even argue about how to price a product thatwill be sold in eurozone countries as well as elsewhere. And quite naturally, analysis of the euro
  4. 4. can clearly bring in discussions of both micro- and macro-economics, too. Furthermore, thenotion of the euro with respect to national v. super-national identity can be treated, as cansymbols of national and super-national identity of other kinds. The history of money, as well asthe history and development of the euro as a currency, after it was a simple theoretical dream, ifnot a megalomaniacal wish of Napoleon III, is clearly part of the euro’s tale, as is the history ofnational agreements, politics, and regional power struggles. The ELICIT student who wouldtackle the subject of the euro will find historical documents and lively, current, online-delivereddiscussion as his resource material, provided by experts in varying academic domains.Another exemplary ELICIT program calls for development of a concept of “glocalism”, wherethis portmanteau word implies the marriage of the global and the local, with the latter generallycomprising an example of something to which students can relate easily and the formerencompassing a much broader, cross-disciplinary view of the thing. In Ireland, the NationalCouncil for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) offers examples of transdisciplinary coursesaiming to achieve glocalism; one of these is “Leinster granite”, in which geology and geography,ecology, history, and chemistry, as well as population movements and methods of humansurvival are all treated. “Plate tectonics, the rock cycle, and weathering and erosion” comprisesa preliminary module in the course, which ultimately aims to encourage transdisciplinary thoughtand analysis through the use of numerous multiple-perspective modules of the kind proposedfor worldwide educational programs by Unesco and exploited most broadly in the EuropeanUnion.The UNESCO proposition: Savoirs, compétences, & capacitésThe United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco) has, for its part,suggested to United Nations member states numerous generalized compétences that it seesnecessary for twenty-first century learners to have attained before they finish their schooling,whether it be elementary, secondary, or post-secondary. Teachers, too, are expected in theUnesco plan to be not only capables, well grounded, or “literate”, in their specialized fields andup-to-date with current research and writings, but also to be technologically literate, that is,conversant with, if not fully competent in, Tice, or the electronically-based technologies ofinformation and communication, including online-available educational materials, social media,and electronic communication techniques. Indeed, Unesco notes, faculty, staff, and students intwenty-first-century schools must exhibit at least four capacités, or “types of literacy”, with thetechnological permitting access to, if not acquisition of, the others.If they are to be truly effective, claim Unesco researchers, the Individual Learning Plans (ILPs)of the type used in Rhode Island, Usa, and elsewhere, and the multi-faceted Teaching Europeprograms such as ELICIT must all begin with an ascertainment of technological literacy. Andthen, subject-matter curricula can follow.Thus, art history, English as a Second Language, français langue étrangère, or otherarts/language/culture immersion programs should hope, if not expect, learners to attain culturalliteracy by plunging themselves into alternative mindsets from the beginning of their coursework;students in mathematics and the sciences must gain a sense of numeracy, or mathematicalliteracy; learners in remedial, basic, or fundamentals courses must achieve ordinary, overall
  5. 5. literacy; and, as Unesco has emphasized, so should online-enhanced curricula grow fromtechnological literacy, which in the best, “future-forward” educational models, will imply andintegrate the rest.Typical of Unesco-conceived academic syllabi is a program of study in bioethics designed formedical school and pre-med students. As the bioethics syllabus preface states, “Heretofore,courses in ethics taught in schools of medicine have typically been organized around certainspecific medical dilemmas, such as the beginning and the end of life. By contrast, the newUnesco basic course is derived from principles set forth in the Universal Declaration ofBioethical Rights, comprising a number of modules, each one developing one of thoseprinciples.” (2008:05, translation KAW). That is, the Unesco bioethics syllabus begins with thequestion of defining “ethics”, followed by that of defining “bioethics”. The assumption is that thestudy of any subject matter will proceed most effectively when learners and teachers all shareand understand the same definitions of terms. Subsequent modules concern: “Human dignityand the rights of man”; “Beneficial and detrimental effects”, “Autonomy and individualresponsibility”; “Consent”; “Respect for human vulnerability and personal integrity”; “Socialresponsibility and health”; “Sharing”; “Protection of future generations”; and “Protection of theenvironment, the biosphere, and biodiversity”, among others. Philosophers and legal expertsjoin scientists and medical doctors in teaching the course and in providing its readings.Incorporated into many United Nations member nations’ educational curricula, each Unescosyllabus, such as the bioethics one, is normally integrated into a State-sponsored overview of aparticular subject. In some countries, such as France, a State-conceived, Web-based umbrellaorganization was created during the 1990’s to lie behind the theory and then promote practice ina way that Perrenoud (1995) calls “a construction of competencies comprising the long march ofeducation” (1995:20). In France, the Web-based Eduscol ( )encompasses the French Ministry of Education’s realization of the Unesco proposals, as theyare to be brought to fruition in schools of education or among academics who would executethem through plans such as the aforementioned multi-country, collaborative ELICIT.Eduscol features a “portail national”, a State-sponsored online-only portal, for educationalprofessionals, who are expected in the French system to remain continuously enrolled,engaged, involved, and in training, both individually and collaboratively. Online-deliveredmaterials, electronic live chat sessions, audio/video conferencing are all exploited; resourcesare suggested to educators according to their geographical and academic bases of operation.For example, medical professionals throughout the French-speaking world are invited, if notexpected by their employers, to remain connected to Eduscol’s RNRSMS (Réseau national deressources médico-sociales) through ListServes or other electronic means. Exemplarily, in lateFebruary, 2013, World Water Day and the International Day for the Elimination of RacialDiscrimination were celebrated simultaneously, with questions of the environment, society,population, pollution, public health, and ecology all examined and discussed collaboratively fromthe individual points of view of chemists, sociologists, biologists, oncologists, populationscientists, geologists, earth scientists, medical doctors, and participants in the internationalmédecins sans frontières, among others, in a clearly transdisciplinary way.Individualization, collaboration, and curriculum design in 21st-century education
  6. 6. As Gogoulou et al. (2007) have pointed out, and as Unesco-promoted programs havedemonstrated, the twenty-first century offers exciting opportunities for designing curricula thatwill effectively profit from and execute the defining ideas of both individualization/customizationand collaboration. Moreover, increasingly available electronic communications, particularly in“social media” such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and the like, have renderedaccessible the theories and the practices of diverse experts, without having to attend torestrictions of time, space, or source.Gogoulou, et al. have summarized the new twenty-first-century educational model ascomprising “…a movement of the focus from that of teaching to that of learning and from anindividualistic and objectivist view of learning to a social constructivism view” (2007:242), inwhich the latter entails active interaction between each individual learner and his environment,as well as “socially mediated knowledge” achieved most effectively through collaboration.Clearly, as Gogoulou, et al. state, “Educational environments that attempt to combinetechnological learning tools with personalization that caters for individual characteristics andlearning preferences have the potential to radically alter the landscape of learning” (2007: 243).That is, as has been suggested in Gogoulou et al. and executed in domains as far-flung as theaforementioned European Union ELICIT and the Chilean Edcamp Santiago( ), among others, modern electronic technologies,including social media in particular, can enhance educational results by merging the individualinto the collaborative.As Warren (2013) suggests, effective educational results—or learning—should be the product ofa diverse curriculum developed with input from numerous perspectives that share a fresh,creative mindset. That is, curriculum ought to be conceived in collaboration, rather than inisolation, with colleagues sharing the goal of creating something that learners will like enough toengage with and thence to apprehend. With respect to this last, it is evident that teachers mustknow their learners, how they learn, what they know, and what they want to know. Indeed, asDuit et al. (2003) have suggested, learners are individuals with thinking minds, each mind to berespected; they are not simply passive urns to be filled with each instructor’s notion of gold dust.Tinzmann, et al. (1990) pursue Warren’s notion further, suggesting that “a thinking curriculum”be developed that “involves interaction of the learner, the materials, the teacher, and thecontext,” not just groups of teachers creating curriculum collaboratively among themselveswithout any input beyond one another’s minds. The collaborative-learning teacher will become alearning mediator, in this system, according to Tinzmann et al. (1990), helping students toconnect new information to “older” information that they may already have attained and, notablyfor the goal of individualization mixed with collaboration, “helping students to figure out what todo when they are stumped…to learn how to learn (on their own).”Tinzmann et al. (1990) offer as a specific example of integrating the individualized into thecollaborative a course in Hawaiian folkloric readings in the Kamehameha Early EducationProgram. Called “ETR”, for “Experience-Text-Relationship”, the course offers an initial briefsummary of a text, accompanied by a teacher-led, student-collaborative discussion ofindividuals’ experiences with ideas or themes or events that the text relates. Then, the text is
  7. 7. read en groupe, with each class member reading a part aloud and with occasional stops fordiscussion, analysis, and prediction of what might happen next. Finally, in the relationship stageof the course, class participants are invited to relate ideas from the story to their own lives, past,present, and future. Tinzmann et al. note that, although the ETR may be particularly useful andeffective in cultures with strong oral histories or “talk story” practices such as those of theHawaiian Islands, it can prove to be an effective template applicable across the curriculum.Although the across-the-curriculum applications that have been suggested in theaforementioned Unesco proposals have tended to the research-oriented transdisciplinary,actively engaging experts in varying fields of interest to teach a subject matter as it relates totheir particular expertise, the twenty-first-century curriculum that would unite the individualizedto the collaborative would take advantage of a sort of mentor, master of ceremonies, impresarioto ensure that neither practical nor theoretical activities nor participants in them go off the rails;for instance, the mentor in the Hawaiian ETR is typically a teacher well integrated into both theunderlying theory and the realized culture surrounding the texts being studied.Conclusions and implications: InnovationA clear conclusion to be drawn from close readings of various Individual Learning Plans,particularly those of the Rhode Island schools (cf. RIDE, 2010) alongside curricula that typify theTeaching Europe system, such as ELICIT and other Unesco-promoted plans, is that, while theILP may seem effectively to ascertain subject-matter competency attainment, it remains anAmerican-style system, as Baudry (2007) might say. That is, the very definition of the ILPdepends upon the “field-independent” individual as a unit; it aims to strengthen self-confidence,self-directedness, and the sort of rugged individualism that has long defined theindépendantiste American spirit. By contrast, most Unesco-inspired syllabi exhibit an underlying“field dependence”, in which questions, ideas, projects, and research are done within a kind ofgroup-induced mental mosaic, in which the topic gains enhanced significance based on itssubject-matter surroundings as well as its social, political, economic, and cultural contexts.Notably, field-dependent learners realize quickly that, if they are to collaborate, they must attainmultifarious new literacies in areas with which they may not yet be familiar, and they findtransdisciplinary input to be most helpful.It seems evident that a significant implication to United States educators of analyzing programsof individualization/customization alongside the notions of collaboration is that the commonly-held notion of a single literacy must be broadened, if the sort of innovation is to transpire thatPieterse (2007), among others, has foreseen for the future, in which “the pendulum (is) swingingfrom unfettered market forces to growing state coordination, …an era of growing developmentpluralism, cooperation”. As has been suggested in Unesco documents, at least four intertwined,pluralistic capacités, or literacies, should underlie curriculum development, including “ordinary”literacy, or alphabétisme; mathematical literacy, or numeracy; cultural literacy; and technologicalliteracy. Indeed, as Unesco suggests, all of these literacies must be seen to have a bearing onall subject matters. Furthermore, as State Library of Iowa (Usa) documents suggest, thecommonly-held belief that any/all literacy rests solely within the bailiwick of librarians or teachersin remediation has to change. As access to information becomes faster and easier, and astechnological innovation permits greater/easier access to ideational innovation, so must the
  8. 8. techniques of evaluation and exploitation of that information be accelerated. Free informationacquisition is becoming, as Perrenoud (1995) suggests, a “right” of the modern, multiculturallyaware citizen.As Wells and Zolyan (2011) state in their summary of “Challenges of Globalization and Inter-Culturalisation in Higher Education”, “a policy of incorporating a multicultural approach acrossacademic curricula” comprises not mere political correctness; rather, it amounts to an exigency.Indeed, recently suggested changes to the rythme scolaire (literally, “school rhythm”, oreducational progress) in France give evidence of the sorts of social concerns that might well liebeneath the worries of how to set forth what for academic study anywhere in the modern world.L’Express magazine’s Chevrolet (2013) has noted that “schools tend to house the canaries inthe coalmine, where social tensions, if not crises, can first be seen.” Furthermore, Chevroletcontinues, “a proper education in the twenty-first century must take place in concert;government officials, school administrators, teachers, students, and engaged business leadersmust all have a hand in the planning…” And in a century when the technological means exist topermit us at once to retain our individual, idiosyncratic learning styles and to share our ideascollaboratively across what used to be boundaries imposed by time or space, age or sex orsocial status, individualization must be married with collaboration for effective innovation totranspire.REFERENCESBaudry, P. (2007). Français et Américains: L’autre rive. Paris: Village Mondial.Bloom, T. and Kissane, E. (2011). Individual learning plans: improving student performance. .Retrieved, P. M. (2013). Peillon prend un gros risque en maltraitant les profs. L’Express.Retrieved, R., Treagust, D. (2003). Conceptual change: A powerful learning framework for improvingscience teaching and learning. International Journal of Science Education, vol. 25, no. 6, 671-688.Finkbeiner, C. and Koplin, C. (2002). A cooperative approach for facilitating interculturaleducation. Reading Online 6 (3). Retrieved, A., Gouli, E., Grigoriadou, M., Samarakou, M., and Chinou, D. (2007). A Web-based educational setting supporting individualized learning, collaborative learning, andassessment. Educational Technology and Society. Retrieved
  9. 9. Harel, M. (2010). ELICIT European literacy and education, public part. Retrieved Center for Curriculum and Assessment (2011). Curriculum online. Retrieved, P. (1995). Des savoirs aux compétences: De quoi parle-t-on en parlant decompétences? Pédagogie collégiale vol. 9, no.1, October, pp. 20-24.Pieterse, J. N. (2007). Twenty-first century globalization. Routledge. Retrieved Island Department of Education. (2010). High school reform. Retrieved Library of Iowa. (2009). Sample information literacy curriculum framework. Retrieved, M. B., Jones, B. F., Fennimore, T., Bakker, J., Fine, C., and Pierce, J. (1990). Whatis the collaborative classroom? Oak Brook: North Central Regional Educational Library.Retrieved, A. (2013). Ten creative ways to teach English. The Guardian, 14 February. Retrieved, P. J. and Zolyan, S. (2011). Higher linguistic education from the perspective of reforms:New approaches, prospects, and challenges. European Centre for Higher Education. UnitedNations Educational Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Retrieved, D. and Sutherland, S. (2007). Individual Learning Plans Program Guide. Hope HighSchool, Providence Public High Schools. Retrieved
  10. 10. Harel, M. (2010). ELICIT European literacy and education, public part. Retrieved Center for Curriculum and Assessment (2011). Curriculum online. Retrieved, P. (1995). Des savoirs aux compétences: De quoi parle-t-on en parlant decompétences? Pédagogie collégiale vol. 9, no.1, October, pp. 20-24.Pieterse, J. N. (2007). Twenty-first century globalization. Routledge. Retrieved Island Department of Education. (2010). High school reform. Retrieved Library of Iowa. (2009). Sample information literacy curriculum framework. Retrieved, M. B., Jones, B. F., Fennimore, T., Bakker, J., Fine, C., and Pierce, J. (1990). Whatis the collaborative classroom? Oak Brook: North Central Regional Educational Library.Retrieved, A. (2013). Ten creative ways to teach English. The Guardian, 14 February. Retrieved, P. J. and Zolyan, S. (2011). Higher linguistic education from the perspective of reforms:New approaches, prospects, and challenges. European Centre for Higher Education. UnitedNations Educational Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Retrieved, D. and Sutherland, S. (2007). Individual Learning Plans Program Guide. Hope HighSchool, Providence Public High Schools. Retrieved