By Mike Klein
Youngsters are curious creatures. They will engage in new styles of learning with excitement. Technology enabled classrooms to create a seismic shift in the teacher-pupil relationship. Smart boards replace dumb black boards. Tablets replace books. Students stacked in rows learning the same lesson has begun to shift toward pupils on personalized learning tracks with teacher participation rather than teacher domination. Therein is the big challenge; how do you get the adults on board?
“At the teacher level, it is a huge paradigm shift,” says Matchbook Learning founder and CEO Sajan George, who developed his model after spending years designing corporate – style turnarounds of big city schools that have the worst academic performance records. George discussed the Matchbook blended learning model at the Foundation’s May 23 leadership breakfast in Atlanta.
“You’re a teacher. You’ve been trained in the college of education and you’ve been taught you are the sage on stage,” George said. “You’re the master of your domain. You control the pace, the sequence, the content. Today, class, we’re going to study chapter one. Tomorrow we’re going to study chapter two. Next Thursday we’re going to have a test.”
George said in traditional learning the teacher has an “all eyes on me” comfort zone. But in the blended learning world – personalized online instruction supplemented with student-teacher sessions – kids learn at different paces and there is no single classroom plan for everyone. Kids move ahead when ready, not when it is convenient for the teacher or the school calendar.
“They’re accessing different content, different assessments, they’re learning different standards at different times,” George said. “That feels very chaotic. If kids need a personalized approach on how they learn, teachers need a personalized approach as well. Different teachers have different strengths.” (Watch Sajan George on the Foundation’s YouTube channel.)
The Foundation focus on the evolution of learning will continue Thursday, June 6, when Clayton Christensen Institute co-founder Michael Horn discusses customized learning at the Georgian Club in Atlanta. Dr. Jay Greene will discuss school choice on Thursday, July 11, at the Athens Country Club in Athens. (Click here to learn more about the Horn and Greene scheduled appearances.)
Five Georgia Board of Education board members were on hand to hear George describe the four components of the Matchbook Learning blended classroom. Those are an individualized learning path, a teacher-led path, a group project path and finally, an assessments path that enables teachers to assess whether a student has mastered skills necessary to advance to a next level. The four paths are simultaneous and skills are being constantly measured.
George began his career as a corporate turn-around specialist. During his corporate years he became engaged with a St. Louis public schools turn-around request. That experience caused him to leave the corporate world to establish Matchbook Learning. He has consulted with public school systems in several cities that include New Orleans, New York, Detroit and St. Louis.
Matchbook targets the lowest performing schools, those that perform in the bottom five percent academically because, George says, “They are so fundamentally broken that nobody is willing to hold onto the status quo. If we don’t design a system of education that meets the needs of our neediest children we’ll never have a public education system that meets the needs of all children.” (Click here to learn more about Matchbook Learning.)
Sajan George Presentation: http://www.georgiapolicy.org/ftp_files/SGeorge.ppt
As an employer, and a parent and a graduate of Georgia public schools, I am pleased that the Foundation has undertaken this project. (The report card) provides an excellent tool for parents and educators to objectively evaluate our public high schools. It will further serve a useful purpose as a benchmark for the future to measure our schools’ progress.