For the past three days, I have engaged with educators to explore and reflect on how we meet the needs of all learners - both students and adults - at the Learning Forward Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas. I had an opportunity to reconnect with colleagues whose work I deeply respect as well as meet new professionals who stretched my thinking in different ways. Several trends have emerged that support both the conference theme of "All Learners, Many Perspectives, One Community" as well as my work on personalized professional learning.
Whether we are sharing examples from our school/district or describing strategies we have employed, context matters. Our environment and relationships shape our own development as learners, and in turn, the learning spaces we design for others. To design learning experiences in a bubble, without attention to context, would be irresponsible. We need to know our learners as individuals and understand the environment in which they construct knowledge before we can facilitate learning activities that broaden and deepen their skill base.
Moving from Preferences to Perspectives
In the learning design space, we talk a lot about learner preferences - visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc. While this matters, it's not enough. Honoring the whole educator calls upon us to value (and plan for) more than simply learning preferences. We need to invite learners directly into the design process, lending their perspective, not only on the content, but also the criteria by which their progress will be measured. Who better than the learner to define success?
Inspiring Collective Force
The whole is, indeed, greater than the sum of its parts. The collaborative energy and collective force learners generate when working together is far greater than the progress each would made in isolation. When operating as a true community, we ask the tough questions, we engage in deep conversation, and ultimately, we spark more innovation.