MIT Report Provides Lessons for K12

What lessons does the report The Future of MIT Education hold for K12 learning organizations? Quite a bit, it seems.

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Over at Educating Modern Learners, Audrey Watters posted a reflection on the report The Future of MIT Education (free registration required). As I read her post and reviewed the report, which offers 16 recommendations, it struck me that K12 learning organizations could take a few lessons from MIT on examining today’s realities to realign mission with the goal of remaining relevant to contemporary learners in an ever-changing learning ecosystem.

The report acknowledges MIT’s progressive work in Open Courseware, MOOCs, and edX; yet, it also reflects fundamental shifts in remixing and re-imagining learning beyond these successful undertakings.  While the report is rich in lessons for K12, only three are highlighted below.

Lesson One: The Process

One of the first lessons for K12 was the process: community engagement, a realistic timeline to undertake such in-depth work, framework questions to consider, and working group structure. This orchestration reflects a commitment to undertake a serious self-examination, while also establishing further work for each group to continue forward-thinking progress. In other words, the report and its recommendations avoid stagnation by remaining dynamic in scope and benchmark assessments in ongoing work.

Forward-Thinking Preserved – This orchestration reflects a commitment to undertake a serious self-examination, while also establishing further work for each group to continue forward-thinking progress.

Lesson Two: Use of Space

Recommendation 15:  “The Task Force can envision academic villages that provide environments for enhanced interactions to occur both inside and outside of the classroom and laboratory settings. The Task Force can also imagine a system of maker spaces strategically located around campus, further enhancing the experiential learning so integral to an MIT education. These maker spaces would complement the state-of-the-art maker space facility now being planned to support innovation and entrepreneurship activities.”

Why This Matters: I’ve written about how the use of space can transform traditional learning approaches, revamping curriculum to more relevant and integrated offerings. And maker spaces play a critical role in instructional and curriculum shifts, making an impact not only within K12 schools but libraries and museums, as the work of co-authors Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager attests in Invent to Learn.

Maker spaces play a critical role in
instructional and curriculum shifts.

Lesson Three: Pedagogical Shifts

Recommendation 7: “The Task Force recommends that this commitment to pedagogical innovation for the residential campus be extended to the world to set the tone for a new generation of learners, teachers, and institutions.”

While problem-based learning, game-based learning and blended learning are addressed in Recommendation 7, these are not new concepts in K12. What is an important lesson for K12 is the need for curriculum designed in modules, which the report defines as “breaking a subject into learning units or modules, which can be studied in sequence or separately.”  The recommendation also recognizes that the “very notion of a ‘class’ may be outdated.”

Why This Matters: As a new learning ecology unfolds, “classes” will unbundle, forming more module designs to support Do It Yourself (DIY) learners mining content to take away knowledge and skills important to them. Perhaps modules are designed to honor what students already know and not the time spent in seats, allowing them to master new skills, modified but akin to the competency-based model in place at Western Governors’ University for “almost 20 years.” As I’ve written before, it will be commonplace for edupunks to learn from leaders in the field and bundle learning for customized, passion-based learning playlists, where seat time and courses have little meaning.

As a new learning ecology unfolds, “classes” will unbundle, forming more module designs to support Do It Yourself (DIY) learners mining content to take away knowledge and skills important to them.

How is your learning organization adjusting to modular curriculum design? How is your learning organization designing learning experiences to serve contemporary learners? How are you preparing for the unbundling of traditional classes? Please share your story.

Running the Digital River of Learning with You,

Emily Vickery

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