Learning from March Madness

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March madness is here. My team lost the Big Ten Tournament Championship yesterday (University of Michigan vs Michigan State University) so I’m in recovery mode. I watched the battle this time with great interest in players’ skill, technique and seamless ability to adapt to the quick moves, change-ups and turnarounds that happen repeatedly in this kind of contest. Michigan State suffered this season with the loss of their top players to injuries. Now they are back!

The physical/mental/emotional responses are a marvel. Needless to say, days, weeks, years, hours of practice contribute to these seemingly innate abilities. All accomplished through team collaboration, immediate feedback, ‘rinse and repeat’ scenarios until these athletes are spent in all imaginable ways. These guys came to the university with already demonstrated prowess. But they had to gel with coaches, culture and fellow team members to become a viable contributor to success on the court. Egos had to be set aside; the value of ‘we’ vs ‘me’ had to be instilled. At the same time, each player’s strengths needed to be lauded and keenly developed in tandem with others’ in order to hone a victorious squad. Yes, this is a metaphor for school transformations and meaningful uses of technology in a personalized environment.

Every child brings skills, interests and needs to the learning arena. Though they aren’t chosen or recruited for our schools they have value to contribute to their personal achievement as well as in collaboration with fellow learners. What if we educators (coaches in a sense) knew early on what each learners’ strengths were and embedded them in a scenario for goals for achievement both on the individual’s and group’s levels? There would be emphasis on activating the learner’s abilities toward potential while honing a collaborative model among all learners.

With the use of technologies – learners can collaborate face to face and virtually. These powerful avenues in tandem have the potential for changing a school culture while developing a winning team of achievement-oriented students. Imagine the levels of support among learners there would be. Each having the others’ back – helping, guiding, reflecting on progress, needed resources and analyzing results. It’s like watching films of previous games – assessing each person’s contributions, hand-offs, team effort and where greater focus was needed. Sports teams rely on each player’s abilities to react quickly and seamlessly – to flex automatically in reaching the goal. Learning in today’s education can become this because of the potential to highly integrate and make ubiquitous the meaningful uses of technologies….individually and collectively. Feedback can be quick and immediately reflected upon; the change-up toward greater success can be automatic.

Of course, to achieve the above in schools it will take time and focus. It will require educators to adopt and understand the necessity for the changes to occur to best meet the needs of a new century in a new age of faster than the speed of sound information.

School administrators stand in yet another key position. Following the thought process above he/she can adjust a culture to accommodate the same collaborative, rapid, team exchange among the adults on board. Honing each educator’s skills, finding connections and building robust communities of practice is like building a strong athletic team – aimed at mutually agreed upon goals of changing schools for the better and personalizing the experience for each child.

Leslie Wilson CEO – One-to-One Institute Co-author – Project RED

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