Jasmin B. Cowin, Ed.D.
How could Seymour Papert’s essay: The Gears of My Childhood inform Vermont’s commitment to implementing Personalized Learning?
Vermont’s implementation of the Flexible Pathway Initiative and PLP’s will require students to meet with teachers to discuss their skills, interests and learning styles and career/college goals. This approach not only aims at the “cognitive aspects of assimilation” but also at the “affective component.” The Gears of my Childhood by Papert describes in detail the author’s personal fascination and intensive childhood involvement with gears. In his essay, Papert speaks to the affective feeling of loving his inquiries and his pleasure in discovery of the”How.”.
PLP’s and Flexible Pathways need to take into account that students entering the teen years need “more voice and choice, in both process and product, and especially platform.” For students to fall in love with learning is something which can not be reduced to purely cognitive terms. Falling in love with learning is intensely personal and idiosyncratic. However, if given a voice students will often rise to the challenge and opportunity.
“The PLP redesign was a real eye-opener in seeing how students would prefer to create their own projects. It reminded me that, when given the right opportunities, students will jump right into a project and take the responsibility for their own learning and achievement.”
“It reminded me that student voice needs to factor in much more than it currently does in our plan. We need to revisit what are our non-negotiables. Can we let students choose the platform? Their goals? Ways of reflecting? Etc.”
As this generation of students in Vermont and globally prepares for their future they must be prepared for a fluid and lifetime assimilation of new technology and models of national and international coexistence. “The rate at which technology changes has reached a dizzying speed, with new tools and platforms emerging constantly. “ Luke Rhinehart wrote: “Man must become comfortable in flowing from one role to another, one set of values to another, one life to another. Men must be free from boundaries, patterns and consistencies in order to be free to think, feel and create in new ways. Men have admired Prometheus and Mars too long; our God must become Proteus.”
Vermont’s PLP model is poised to open new avenues for students to explore their passions, interests, and strengths with guided, flexible paths. “What an individual can learn, and how he learns it, depends on what models he has available. This raises, recursively, the question of how he learned these models. Thus the “laws of learning” must be about how intellectual structures grow out of one another and about how, in the process, they acquire both logical and emotional form.” Papert sees the computer as the “Proteus of machines”, the universal enabler, an instrument flexible enough so that “many children can create something” which assimilates new models of knowledge into their individual styles of learning. However, kindling the spark of “love” for learning and inquiry as the driving force in creating a “genesis of knowledge” is the powerful message of Papert’s essay and the universal message to and for educators.