The MC Learning Experience
Mass Customized Learning in Manheim Central
Determining the Manheim Central Learning Experience
Have you heard the term Mass Customized Learning or MCL recently? If you have, you may be tempted to think of this term as the latest “educational jargon or buzz word.” However, Mass Customized Learning is so much more. Mass Customized Learning or MCL is a way of thinking about school, a mind shift, and a viewpoint about how students learn. Mass Customized learning is about “Preparing Responsible Citizens to be Lifelong Learners!”
The premise for Mass Customized Learning comes from the book, Inevitable, by Charles Schwahn and Beatrice MCGarvey. The book is built on the idea that students learn in different ways and at different times. The authors argue that in schools, time is the constant and learning is the variable; while it should actually be that learning is the constant and time is the variable. They go on to explain that everything is changing as we move from the Industrial Age to the Information Age and that schools are seriously lagging behind. The basic ideas discussed in the book center around tailoring learning to better meet the needs and interests of students. As schools work to implement “Mass Customization” they work to identify what components of a more individualized instruction structure will look like for their own students.
There is not a diagram or a program or a model to spell out the way to implement “Mass Customization.” Districts across the state of Pennsylvania are embracing the fact that schools need to work differently to meet the needs of students and to prepare them to be ready for life in the 21st century. For the past year, Manheim Central School District has been working to identify what the "Manheim Central Learning Experince (MCL) should and could look like here in our district.
Teams of teachers have engaged in different aspects of this work as each level (elementary, middle, and high school) to determine which aspects of mass customized learning are already occuring, which are ready for implementation, and which are worth further investigation as long range goals. Elementary teachers have worked during each early dismissal to determine what the "Ideal Learning Expereince" looks like for an elementary student. Based on the work from several early release sessions, the elementary staff determined that the "Ideal Learning Experience" embraces the following five components: Collaboration, A Variety of Communication, Creativity, A Supportive and Positive Environment, and An Atmosphere where Students and Staff are Engaged and Wildly Excited.
Middle School teachers have worked with the admistration to visit several area districts that are implementing a "mass customized learning philosophy," to gather information about what this could look like for our middle school students here in Manheim Central. One idea that the Middle School has embraced is the idea of student voice and choice in their learning. They have been working to offer studenst opportunities to be able to choose electives or a "twenty time project" where students have voice and choice in their learning as they choose topics to research and share a project to demonstrate their learning.
The high school is exploring several options for students related to empowing the student. The team at the high school has identified what it looks like to be a "Manheim Central Ready Graduate." They are exploring several options for students to have additional choice in their day by offereing various electives that may be run in a seminar like format, exploring job shadowing and career development opportunites, and looking at ways in which students could have autonomy in the scheduling of their day.
Pequea Valley, Central York, Downingtown, Ephrata, Elizabethtown, Titusville, Big Springs, and several other districts are implementing components of “Mass Customization” in order to meet the needs and interests of their students. What will “Mass Customization” look like in Manheim Central? The possibilities are endless and exciting!
The graphic below identifies ten “weight bearing walls” referred to in the Inevitable book. Terms such as grades, grade levels, class periods, textbooks, learning within a school building, and report cards conjure up familiar images. Memories—and emotions—come rushing back from one’s own school experiences. Via the metaphor, the authors of Inevitable, acknowledge the essential function of "weight bearing walls" in schools. At the same time, they present compelling arguments for updating—actually replacing—"weight bearing walls" with support structures which empower schools to respond to the needs of today’s learners and incorporate 21st Century “building materials.”
The district is looking to gather additonal input from stakeholders as we further embark down the road of determining what the the "Manheim Central Learning Experience" will entail for our students. The districtwide, "MCL" committee will be working with students at every level to gain insights and information from them as to what they want from the "Manheim Central Learning Experience."
One quote from Albert Einstein that is pertinent to this work is: “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” As Manheim Central School District works to enact our vision of “Preparing Responsible Citizens to Become Lifelong Learners” it is inevitable that we embrace components of “Mass Customized Learning.” For we know that “students are only 20 percent of our population, but 100 percent of our future.”