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Lg13innov individualization3marsff

  1. 1. INDIVIDUALIZATION + COLLABORATION: A model for innovationKatherine Watson Coastline Distance Learning, CA Bizarrissime@gmail.comOne of the most-often cited advantages of twenty-first-century online learning is its quality ofcustomizability. That is, malleable “learning plans”, if not entire curricula, may now be tailored toindividual students’ 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 programs such asthe Rhode Island (Usa) Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) to permit learners to customize, to tailor toeach individual certain singular educational programs and, additionally, to strengthen the senses ofidentity, self, and command.But in a world that is not only increasingly customized to the individual but is also ever more connectedand internationalized among groups, collaboration has come to be key as well. And in a rapidlyshrinking world, intercultural awareness, understanding, and cooperation are necessary underpinningsto the sort of collaboration that must define every effective world-wise society in the twenty-first century.Indeed, as Finkbeiner and Koplin (2002) have noted: “That we meet this challenge of interculturaleducation (together) is critical if we are to achieve peaceful global unity.” Finkbeiner and Koplin (2002),who are based in Kassel, Germany, propose the notion that culture comprises a kind of behavioral,transactional glue binding together the members of a human group for subsequent or consequentaction, i.e., collaboration. And European Union countries have conceived intercultural, international,collaborative courses of study exploiting multiple media of the sort deemed necessary to encourage thetwenty-first century “understanding (that) is vital for increasing …effective research and innovationactivity”, as the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco) states (Wellsand Zolyan, 2011). Exemplarily, the “Teaching Europe” European Literacy and Citizenship Education(ELICIT) program aims to unite academics and experts as well as learners and trainees throughout theEuropean Union in collaborative courses of study in United Nations Educational Scientific and CulturalOrganization (Unesco)-proposed savoirs (subject-matter knowledge) and compétences ((usuallytechnical) competencies).If, as Unesco researchers have claimed, “the laptop is now mightier than the sword”, and if “vibrant andvaried voices” would complement one another in favor of new, sustainable benefits to be madeavailable to all the world’s peoples, then the seemingly contradictory pushes toward individualization onthe one hand and collaboration on the other must be harmonized. In this paper, programs that haveproven successful in achieving these ends will be examined and their potential further applicability ininnovative curriculum design will be explored.Individualization: The ILP (individual learning plan)Rhode Island’s Providence Public Schools Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) typify the programs beingset forth worldwide “to personalize student learning and to contribute to students’ academic, career,and personal/social success” (West and Sutherland, 2007). As West and Sutherland (2007) cite theRhode Island mandate, “increased ‘personalization’ of learning for students” underlies an effort to “helpstudents establish personal goals and develop future plans…coordinat(ing) activities that help allstudents plan, monitor, and manage their own learning as well as meet competencies in the areas ofacademic, career, and personal/social development.” 1
  2. 2. As the name indicates, the Individual Learning Plan aims to give students the self-assurance and –esteem as well as the intellectual wherewithal to write and then re-write, edit, or hone their owncurricula, almost entirely on their own, and typically with the mediation of electronics. The assumption isthat “planning is important in the world of work, and so we should be helping students to become betterplanners.” In this assumption, the “we” in question engages parents, teachers, counselors, tutors,technology assistants, and/or peer advisers. As Bloom and Kissane (2011) have noted, it was theAmerican “Education for All Handicapped Children Act (1975) (that underlay) the plans developed foreach student (that were to be) updated annually by teams of teachers, parents, school administrators,related service personnel, and students.” Within two decades, programs originally designed in just afew states of the Usa to support the needs of the needy were broadened to include learners of all agesacross the nation, from kindergarteners through collegians.In Rhode Island, each educational ILP is made up of a bi-partite curriculum, including an “AcademicLearning Plan” (ALP) alongside an Individual, Physical, Social Success (I-PASS) program; manyRhode Island schools deliver both ALPs and I-PASSes online. Since “the more personal learningenvironment is essential” (West and Sutherland, 2007), “…it is driven by student needs, interests, andlearning styles.” Each ILP must be conceived in accordance with Rhode Island state standards inEnglish, math, science, world languages, social studies, technology, the arts, and physical education,as well as in three student-selected electives, an internship, and a “project”. Thus, although studentsare relatively free to plan their own academic programs, they must pass state-designed standardizedtests in certain “core competencies” before they finish secondary school, and they must demonstrate“responsibility, dependability, punctuality, integrity, and effort…”, as West and Sutherland (2007) pointout. 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 for learners notjust to lay out their class choices but to reflect upon those choices, too. For instance, each student mustrespond in writing to questions such as: “Which courses are you interested in taking, and why?”, “Doany of these courses require prerequisites (e.g., “Electronics” must be taken before “Maintenance andRepair of PCs”)?”, and “How will the courses 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 of “doing” and “explicitness”, and a positive sense of the social self and howthat self integrates into 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, socioeconomic status,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 institutions from eight EuropeanUnion member states with strong online presences, along with the Association Européenne del’Education (AEDE) umbrella institution. The collective goal is to conceive, develop, manage,implement, evaluate, and then report upon effective, transdisciplinary courses of study leading to a new 2
  3. 3. “portfolio of the European Citizen” for the twenty-first century. Courses are designed to “teach Europe”,to educate learners in both the savoirs (subject-matter knowledge, theory, how to think and do) andcompétences (applications, practicalities) of each area of study, as suggested by the United NationsEducational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco) in reports made in 1995, 2000, 2002, 2005,2008, and 2011. Realization of the ELICIT goal throughout the European educational networkcomprises a principal aim of an umbrella Teaching Europe campaign.As Harel (2010) has summarized it, the ELICIT project for “teaching Europe” has become necessarybecause of the social and economic strains imposed by vast diversity, not only in Europeans’languages, cultures, and basic demographics, but in people’s desires and expectations. Harel (2010)suggests that this impressive diversity leads to a need for a groundwork, a set of commonalities, a baseof both savoirs and compétences that all Europeans can depend upon, and that this base be called aPortfolio of European citizenship, where the term portfolio is meant to comprise “a reference frameworkof competencies”, as well as a collaborative, interactive database of resources. Notably, just as theaforementioned ILP encourages explicitness, “doing”, and a product, in the American way, as Baudry(2007) has written, 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 of collaborativelyconceived, shared “values and societal vision”, as Harel states. That is, rather than setting forthindividual student learning objectives or causing each learner to devise menu-like curricula that willmeet specific state- or country-mandated demands that have been laid forth in distinct academicdomains, as is done in the Rhode Island ILP system, the ELICIT programs are all designed with anoverarching, collaboration-based worldview. Thus, in order to attain effective coopération, inclusion,and succès, for instance, topics have been selected that can be examined, discussed, and taught frommultiple perspectives; teaching happens across disciplines, becoming therefore transdisciplinary bydefinition. For example, one ELICIT topic of study comprises “The euro”: Basic arithmetic candetermine the value of the euro not only in comparison to other currencies but also within the EuropeanUnion; students can even argue about how to price a product that will be sold in eurozone countries aswell as elsewhere. And quite naturally, analysis of the euro can clearly bring in discussions of bothmicro- and macro-economics, too. Furthermore, the notion of the euro with respect to national v.super-national identity can be treated, as can symbols of national and super-national identity of otherkinds. The history of money, as well as the history and development of the euro as a currency, after itwas a simple theoretical dream, if not a megalomaniacal wish of Napoleon III, is clearly part of theeuro’s tale, as is the history of national agreements, politics, and regional power struggles. The ELICITstudent who would tackle the subject of the euro will find historical documents and lively, current,online-delivered discussion as his resource material, provided by experts in varying academic domains.Another exemplary ELICIT program calls for development of a concept of “glocalism”, where thisportmanteau word implies the marriage of the global and the local, with the latter generally comprisingan example of something to which students can relate easily and the former encompassing a muchbroader, cross-disciplinary view of the thing. In Ireland, the National Council for Curriculum andAssessment (NCCA) offers examples of transdisciplinary courses aiming to achieve glocalism; one ofthese is “Leinster granite”, in which geology and geography, ecology, history, and chemistry, as well aspopulation movements and methods of human survival are all treated. “Plate tectonics, the rock cycle, 3
  4. 4. and weathering and erosion” comprises a preliminary module in the course, which ultimately aims toencourage transdisciplinary thought and analysis through the use of numerous multiple-perspectivemodules of the kind proposed for worldwide educational programs by Unesco and exploited mostbroadly in the European Union.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 sees necessaryfor twenty-first century learners to have attained before they finish their schooling, whether it beelementary, secondary, or post-secondary. Teachers, too, are expected in the Unesco plan to be notonly capables, well grounded, or “literate”, in their specialized fields and up-to-date with currentresearch and writings, but also to be technologically literate, that is, conversant with, if not fullycompetent in, Tice, or the electronically-based technologies of information and communication,including online-available educational materials, social media, and electronic communicationtechniques. Indeed, Unesco notes, faculty, staff, and students in twenty-first-century schools mustexhibit at least four capacités, or “types of literacy”, with the technological permitting access to, if notacquisition of, the others.If they are to be truly effective, claim Unesco researchers, the Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) of thetype used in Rhode Island, Usa, and elsewhere, and the multi-faceted Teaching Europe programs suchas ELICIT must all begin with an ascertainment of technological literacy. And then, subject-mattercurricula 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 cultural literacyby plunging themselves into alternative mindsets from the beginning of their coursework; students inmathematics and the sciences must gain a sense of numeracy, or mathematical literacy; learners inremedial, basic, or fundamentals courses must achieve ordinary, overall literacy; and, as Unesco hasemphasized, so should online-enhanced curricula grow from technological literacy, which in the best,“future-forward” educational models, will imply and integrate the rest.Typical of Unesco-conceived academic syllabi is a program of study in bioethics designed for medicalschool and pre-med students. As the bioethics syllabus preface states, “Heretofore, courses in ethicstaught in schools of medicine have typically been organized around certain specific medical dilemmas,such as the beginning and the end of life. By contrast, the new Unesco basic course is derived fromprinciples set forth in the Universal Declaration of Bioethical Rights, comprising a number of modules,each one developing one of those principles.” (2008:05, translation KAW). That is, the Unesco bioethicssyllabus begins with the question of defining “ethics”, followed by that of defining “bioethics”. Theassumption is that the study of any subject matter will proceed most effectively when learners andteachers all share and understand the same definitions of terms. Subsequent modules concern:“Human dignity and the rights of man”; “Beneficial and detrimental effects”, “Autonomy and individualresponsibility”; “Consent”; “Respect for human vulnerability and personal integrity”; “Social responsibilityand health”; “Sharing”; “Protection of future generations”; and “Protection of the environment, thebiosphere, and biodiversity”, among others. Philosophers and legal experts join scientists and medicaldoctors in teaching the course and in providing its readings. 4
  5. 5. Incorporated into many United Nations member nations’ educational curricula, each Unesco syllabus,such as the bioethics one, is normally integrated into a State-sponsored overview of a particularsubject. In some countries, such as France, a State-conceived, Web-based umbrella organization wascreated during the 1990’s to lie behind the theory and then promote practice in a way that Perrenoud(1995) calls “a construction of competencies comprising the long march of education” (1995:20). InFrance, the Web-based Eduscol (https://eduscol.education.fr ) encompasses the French Ministry ofEducation’s realization of the Unesco proposals, as they are to be brought to fruition in schools ofeducation or among academics who would execute them through plans such as the aforementionedmulti-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-delivered materials, electronic livechat sessions, audio/video conferencing are all exploited; resources are suggested to educatorsaccording to their geographical and academic bases of operation. For example, medical professionalsthroughout the French-speaking world are invited, if not expected by their employers, to remainconnected to Eduscol’s RNRSMS (Réseau national de ressources médico-sociales) through ListServesor other electronic means. Exemplarily, in late February, 2013, World Water Day and the InternationalDay for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination were celebrated simultaneously, with questions of theenvironment, society, population, pollution, public health, and ecology all examined and discussedcollaboratively from the individual points of view of chemists, sociologists, biologists, oncologists,population scientists, 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 educationAs Gogoulou et al. (2007) have pointed out, and as Unesco-promoted programs have demonstrated,the twenty-first century offers exciting opportunities for designing curricula that will effectively profit fromand execute the defining ideas of both individualization/customization and collaboration. Moreover,increasingly available electronic communications, particularly in “social media” such as Twitter,Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and the like, have rendered accessible the theories and the practicesof diverse experts, without having to attend to restrictions of time, space, or source.Gogoulou, et al. have summarized the new twenty-first-century educational model as comprising “…amovement of the focus from that of teaching to that of learning and from an individualistic andobjectivist view of learning to a social constructivism view” (2007:242), in which the latter entails activeinteraction between each individual learner and his environment, as well as “socially mediatedknowledge” achieved most effectively through collaboration. Clearly, as Gogoulou, et al. state,“Educational environments that attempt to combine technological learning tools with personalizationthat caters for individual characteristics and learning preferences have the potential to radically alter thelandscape 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(http://edcampsantiago.wordpress.com/ ), among others, modern electronic technologies, including 5
  6. 6. social media in particular, can enhance educational results by merging the individual into thecollaborative.As Warren (2013) suggests, effective educational results—or learning—should be the product of adiverse curriculum developed with input from numerous perspectives that share a fresh, creativemindset. That is, curriculum ought to be conceived in collaboration, rather than in isolation, withcolleagues sharing the goal of creating something that learners will like enough to engage with andthence to apprehend. With respect to this last, it is evident that teachers must know their learners, howthey learn, what they know, and what they want to know. Indeed, as Duit et al. (2003) have suggested,learners are individuals with thinking minds, each mind to be respected; they are not simply passiveurns 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” bedeveloped that “involves interaction of the learner, the materials, the teacher, and the context,” not justgroups of teachers creating curriculum collaboratively among themselves without any input beyond oneanother’s minds, teachers comprising a professoriate that may know how to teach but not what toteach. The collaborative-learning teacher will become a learning mediator, in this system, according toTinzmann et al. (1990), helping students to connect new information to “older” information that theymay already have attained and, notably for the goal of individualization mixed with collaboration,“helping students to figure out what to do 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 the collaborativea course in Hawaiian folkloric readings in the Kamehameha Early Education Program. Called “ETR”, for“Experience-Text-Relationship”, the course offers an initial brief summary of a text, accompanied by ateacher-led, student-collaborative discussion of individuals’ experiences with ideas or themes or eventsthat the text relates. Then, the text is read en groupe, with each class member reading a part aloud andwith occasional stops for discussion, analysis, and prediction of what might happen next. Finally, in therelationship stage of the course, class participants are invited to relate ideas from the story to their ownlives, past, present, and future. Tinzmann et al. note that, although the ETR may be particularly usefuland effective in cultures with strong oral histories or “talk story” practices such as those of the HawaiianIslands, it can prove to be an effective template applicable across the curriculum.Although the across-the-curriculum applications that have been suggested in the aforementionedUnesco proposals have tended to the research-oriented transdisciplinary, actively engaging experts invarying fields of interest to teach a subject matter as it relates to their particular expertise, the twenty-first-century curriculum that would unite the individualized to the collaborative would take advantage ofa sort of mentor, master of ceremonies, impresario to ensure that neither practical nor theoreticalactivities nor participants in them go off the rails; for instance, the mentor in the Hawaiian ETR istypically a teacher well integrated into both the underlying theory and the realized culture surroundingthe texts being studied.Conclusions and implications: InnovationA clear conclusion to be drawn from close readings of various Individual Learning Plans, particularlythose of the Rhode Island schools (cf. RIDE, 2010) alongside curricula that typify the Teaching Europesystem, such as ELICIT and other Unesco-promoted plans, is that, while the ILP may seem effectively 6
  7. 7. to ascertain subject-matter competency attainment, it remains an American-style system, as Baudry(2007) might say. That is, the very definition of the ILP depends upon the “field-independent” individualas a unit; it aims to strengthen self-confidence, self-directedness, and the sort of rugged individualismthat has long defined the indépendantiste American spirit. By contrast, most Unesco-inspired syllabiexhibit an underlying “field dependence”, in which questions, ideas, projects, and research are donewithin a kind of group-induced mental mosaic, in which the topic gains enhanced significance based onits subject-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 attain multifarious newliteracies in areas with which they may not yet be familiar, and they find transdisciplinary input to bemost helpful.It seems evident that a significant implication to United States educators of analyzing programs ofindividualization/customization alongside the notions of collaboration is that the commonly-held notionof a single literacy must be broadened, if the sort of innovation is to transpire that Pieterse (2007),among others, has foreseen for the future, in which “the pendulum (is) swinging from unfettered marketforces to growing state coordination, …an era of growing development pluralism, cooperation”. As hasbeen suggested in Unesco documents, at least four intertwined, pluralistic capacités, or literacies,should underlie curriculum development, including “ordinary” literacy, or alphabétisme; mathematicalliteracy, or numeracy; cultural literacy; and technological literacy. Indeed, as Unesco suggests, all ofthese literacies must be seen to have a bearing on all subject matters. Furthermore, as State Library ofIowa (Usa) documents suggest, the commonly-held belief that any/all literacy rests solely within thebailiwick of librarians or teachers in remediation has to change. As access to information becomesfaster and easier, and as technological innovation permits greater/easier entrée to ideationalinnovation, so must the techniques of evaluation and exploitation of that information be accelerated.Free information acquisition is becoming, as Perrenoud (1995) suggests, a “right” of the modern,multiculturally aware 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 across academiccurricula” comprises not mere political correctness; rather, it amounts to an exigency. Indeed, recentlysuggested changes to the rythme scolaire (literally, “school rhythm”, or educational progress) in Francegive evidence of the sorts of social concerns that might well lie beneath the worries of how to set forthwhat for academic study anywhere in the modern world. L’Express magazine’s Chevrolet (2013) hasnoted that “schools tend to house the canaries in society’s coalmine, where social tensions, if notcrises, can first be seen.” Furthermore, Chevrolet continues, “a proper education in the twenty-firstcentury must take place in concert; government officials, school administrators, teachers, students, andengaged business leaders must all have a hand in the planning…” And in a century when thetechnological means exist to permit us at once to retain our individual, idiosyncratic learning styles andto share our ideas collaboratively across what used to be boundaries imposed by time or space, age orsex or social status, individualization must be married with collaboration for effective innovation totranspire.REFERENCES 7
  8. 8. Baudry, P. (2007). Français et Américains: L’autre rive. Paris: Village Mondial.Bloom, T. and Kissane, E. (2011). Individual learning plans: improving student performance. . Retrievedhttp://www.mnschoolcounselors.org/Resources/Individual%20Learning%20Plans_Industry%20Report_053012.pdfChevrolet, P. M. (2013). Peillon prend un gros risque en maltraitant les profs. L’Express. Retrievedhttp://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/politique/peillon-prend-un-gros-risque-en-maltraitant-les-profs_1224593.htmlDuit, R., Treagust, D. (2003). Conceptual change: A powerful learning framework for improving scienceteaching and learning. International Journal of Science Education, vol. 25, no. 6, 671-688.Finkbeiner, C. and Koplin, C. (2002). A cooperative approach for facilitating intercultural education.Reading Online 6 (3). Retrieved http://www.readingonline.org/newliteracies/finkbeiner/Gogoulou, A., Gouli, E., Grigoriadou, M., Samarakou, M., and Chinou, D. (2007). A Web-basededucational setting supporting individualized learning, collaborative learning, and assessment.Educational Technology and Society. Retrieved http://www.ifets.info/journals/10_4/21.pdfHarel, M. (2010). ELICIT European literacy and education, public part. Retrievedhttp://www.elicitizen.eu/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/2010_3825_PR_ELICIT_pub.pdfNational Center for Curriculum and Assessment (2011). Curriculum online. Retrievedhttp://www.curriculumonline.ie/en/Post-Primary_Curriculum/Senior_Cycle_Curriculum/Leaving_Certificate_Established/Geography/Geography_Guidelines/Sample_Lesson_Plans/Perrenoud, P. (1995). Des savoirs aux compétences: De quoi parle-t-on en parlant de compétences?Pédagogie collégiale vol. 9, no.1, October, pp. 20-24.Pieterse, J. N. (2007). Twenty-first century globalization. Routledge. Retrievedhttp://www.jannederveenpieterse.com/pdf/Twenty-First%20Century%20Globalization.pdfRhode Island Department of Education. (2010). High school reform. Retrievedhttp://www.ride.ri.gov/highschoolreform/DOCS/2010/Annotated%20ILP%20Examples.pdfState Library of Iowa. (2009). Sample information literacy curriculum framework. Retrievedhttp://www.statelibraryofiowa.org/ld/q-s/school-librarians/reqandsupp/sample/viewTinzmann, M. B., Jones, B. F., Fennimore, T., Bakker, J., Fine, C., and Pierce, J. (1990). What is thecollaborative classroom? Oak Brook: North Central Regional Educational Library. Retrievedhttp://www.uni-koeln.de/hf/konstrukt/didaktik/koopunterricht/The%20Collaborative%20Classroom.htmWarren, A. (2013). Ten creative ways to teach English. The Guardian, 14 February. Retrievedhttp://edcampsantiago.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/ten-creative-ways-to-teach-english/?goback=%2Egde_2525043_member_216627402 8
  9. 9. Wells, P. J. and Zolyan, S. (2011). Higher linguistic education from the perspective of reforms: Newapproaches, prospects, and challenges. European Centre for Higher Education. United NationsEducational Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Retrievedhttp://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002147/214731e.pdfWest, D. and Sutherland, S. (2007). Individual Learning Plans Program Guide. Hope High School,Providence Public High Schools. Retrieved http://www.aypf.org/documents/PPSD_Advisory_Toolkit.pdf 9