Yesterday I got to spend three hours with a tremendous team at Poway (Ca) Unified School District imagining the future of differentiated and adaptive learning systems. Poway is a 35,000-student district, and visionary superintendent John Collins has made a visible effort to pilot significant changes in how learning takes place. With the opening of a new K-12 school in 2014, he has given the site team a nearly blank slate to reimagine learning for the future these young students will encounter. In my meetings with them, just about everything seems to be on the table. That is powerful leadership and an exportable model for other public districts operating with severe funding constraints.
In yesterday’s session, a team from all over the district, including a member of the School Board, imagined what an ideal adaptive learning system might be, one that uses the power of technology to track each students’ progress, analyze strengths and weaknesses, and help the teacher design tailored work streams using a variety of pedagogies, curricula, tasks, and student groupings. Next week the team will meet with potential partner-vendors from all over the country to share ideas and discuss moving forward to create something that just does not exist in whole today. As John said, the goal is to do our best to create an optimum learning experience “for every single child.” The best I have seen, as I have reported before, is the work at Presbyterian Day School in Memphis, where they have created their own adaptive learning programs in math and reading, a truly remarkable flow that does, in fact, differentiate learning plans for every single student.
The software companies can write code but don’t have the in-house educational expertise to create a comprehensive platform. Educators know what they want but don’t grasp the full complexity of writing a program capable of tailoring to a million different student needs. OK. But we can start, and I am so going to link up the folks at Poway USD and PDS Memphis and help spark this brushfire!