“I’m a Visual Learner! Please DIFFERENTIATE ME!”

Here is the situation. You are stuck in an elevator. There is a dim emergency light on. The circulation fan is off, and the power seems to be lost. You grab the handy emergency phone. A man answers, and asks what your emergency is. You explain. There is a pause, a long two to three minute pause that seem s like it is taking hours to pass. A new voice comes on. “Hello, this is Captain Smith of the City Fire Department. The computer controlling you elevator has stopped responding. You are on the 23rd floor and it will take us 2-3 hours to free you. You may run out of air before that. However, there is another way. We can talk you through the process of rebooting the elevator. It should take about 20 minutes to complete.”

I ask you – do you say to the fireman, “Sorry I am a visual learner.”

Only if you have a death wish, or wish to pass-out from lack of good O2 rich air. I bet 99% of people would listen to this fireman, and do their best to reboot the elevator.

If you listen carefully when people try and fathom reasons they cannot learn, it is always because some mystical ingredient is missing. You might have a chemistry text book, but they need a video series to watch as well. You might have a video series, but they need it to be interactive so they can control the pace. Whatever it is, it is an excuse.

Of course based on our individual personalities and physiology, we can “learn better” if the situation suits us perfectly, but in real life how often does that happen?  And when the stakes are high and we need to be people who can make decisions, do we stop and ask for the information to be re-presented to us in a way that we prefer? NO!

So why is it that everytime I have a meeting, go to a seminar, etc people keep claiming they need customization, and that the presenter of the information needs to create that customization? If you really feel like you need to arrange things in a special way to learn, shouldn’t you be the one to take on this task?

We all are seeing a trend in education where teachers are being asked to customize every lesson on a per child basis. Not only is this impossible, it destroys the learning process. That process being that the PROCESS of LEARNING and the EXPERIENCE of the LEARNING is more important than the content. Teaching students how to find ways to restructure their world is more important than doing it for them.

So how does educational technology factor into this growing cloud of ignorant destruction? Technology can not only make it possible for everyone to control their learning, but it can also give each person the responsibility of sorting out their own idiosyncrasies .

Instead of one person trying to please multiple groups of 15-30 people, the one person should be able to show each group different ways to approach learning. In a very natural way, each person in the group will migrate to solutions that are easiest for them. Some people will, for various annoying reasons, keep their practice very cumbersome. This is when the facilitator has to step in and influence the learning choices.

Notice I am not saying teacher and student. I am avoiding these terms because learning methodology should apply to everyone in situations where they are trying to learn. Adults and children are physiologically different, and thus appear to be different types of learners. However, all human beings follow the same series when learning: trial – error – trial – error.  The more tries someone attempts, the better their chances for mastery.

Technology needs to be seen and used as a tool, not a solution. The most important thing a school can do is make sure that everyone in the community has equal access to varying types of resources. Educational leadership needs to stop dictating that teachers customize learning for each student. True leadership should lead to a change in culture and positive learning outcomes. Asking one person to micromanage 120 people is not going to work and does not work in any other field. What works is teaching those people who are facilitating learning to distribute learning techniques that allow individual participants to customize their experiences. When we distribute we enable opportunity. Everything else is just filling-in the gaps while walking down a path of utter inefficiency ending in a pool of frustration.

Tony DePrato


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