“A solid Learning Relationship Management System fuses all the strengths of these other systems with the most critical piece of personalized learning: the voice of each individual learner.”
With an increased focus on testing and data in our educational systems, we are losing the most significant factor for success in personalized learning: relationships.
In arguing for a new system to address the needs of today’s learning, Gunnar Counselman writes that “We’ve stripped relationships out of schools for the sake of efficiency, making them cold, transactional and unmotivating. People just don’t learn like that.”
In education, we have many systems in place for managing student information, classroom materials, assessment data, etc. But we don’t have very effective tools for managing the relationships that are needed in a successful, robust, personalized learning environment.
We’ve even tried to borrow systems from the business world, yet they all fall short in some way.
Here’s what doesn’t work.
A Learning Management System (like Moodle, Google Classroom, or Edmodo) is a powerful tool for teachers to organize and distribute learning materials. Many have features that allow you to assess students as well. Some of these can almost stand alone, handing out virtual worksheets to students without much interaction on the part of the teacher.
While most teachers don’t use them as a substitute for their teaching, this focus on the materials is the limitation of the LMS. It is simply a curriculum manager. It does not take into account the learner, individual learning styles, unique interests of the learner, or the relationship that the learner and the teacher have.
Data collections can be instructive when determining the next steps for a teacher in a classroom, and a student management system (InfiniteCampus, Skyward, etc.) is usually used to collect that data. If the right data are evaluated correctly, this can shift teaching in an entirely new direction. Individual test scores can point out where strengths and weaknesses are, but they can’t do anything about it.
Again, while teachers can leverage what they know of an student’s assessments, often the data in these systems are used on a more global level to take the pulse of the school system, not the individual. This is the shortcoming of an SIS. Realistically, there isn’t enough time to draw out data, analyze it, and apply it in the creation of an individualized plan for each student.
With customer relationship management systems, we are getting closer. In the early 90s, businesses began using technology to manage information on customers and where they were in the purchasing “funnel.” This system, indeed, focuses more on the customers and the relationships with them, but it often tries to automate that interaction. But the purpose for this automation (sales) is very different from the need in education (learning).
So to think that we can simply apply CRMs to the educational setting is a colossal mistake. This assumes that our students are customers. CRMs treat them like a commodity to be groomed and cultivated so we can make a sale (i.e. the stuff we are teaching). In a system like this, the focus remains on the activities of the salesman/educator, and the student remains the passive recipient of our “pitch.”
The type of management system we need to truly personalize learning for every student is one that manages learner relationships. Learning happens because teachers, learners, parents, and community are connected, and they are connected to the right materials, industries, experts, texts, companies, and tools. Managing all these components for each individual learner is hardly possible without a solid, flexible Learning Relationship Management system (LRM).
Specifically, such a system must include:
Fortunately, we can use technology in a way that helps us more effectively manage these relationships while preserving our focus on the learner, not the materials or the scores. A solid Learning Relationship Management System fuses all the strengths of these other systems with the most critical piece of personalized learning: the voice of each individual learner.
Author: Cory Peppler
With over twenty years of experience as an educator, Cory Peppler has served as a classroom teacher, library media specialist, and technology integrator. He writes about technology, education, and parenting.
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