Educators in tiny Fairport Harbor, Ohio, got hooked on the growing concept of personalized learning the way so many perch and walleye get snagged in neighbouring Lake Erie — with a fishing lure and some luck.
A struggling high school student made the lure on a 3-D printer and gave it to his superintendent, who used it to catch a fish. Hoping to tap into the buzz it created among students, the district applied for a state education-innovation grant to build a program around designing, making and selling lures.
The Hooked on Education program has used the focus on fishing to teach core subjects and a dose of entrepreneurship. It has leveraged community traditions in the single-square-mile fishing port for an intensely localized version of personalized learning, which is centred on the interests and needs of each child.
“This class actually changed my whole perspective on school,” said Terrell Becks, the now-19-year-old who made that first lure and later found success in the program.
Becks was so chatty that teachers joked he could sell snow shovels in Hawaii, but it got him into trouble in class and, after some fighting, expelled for a year. He was way behind academically and seemed a longshot for graduation when he joined about 30 students in the program’s initial group last school year.
The students were picked by teachers who felt they weren’t reaching their potential in the traditional classroom because they were gifted or special-needs or unfocused or, like Becks, kept getting into trouble. With a blend of class and computer work, they helped design their assignments and worked at their own pace.
They went fishing, researched fish species, read fishing essays, wrote about Great Lakes history, calculated boat speeds, made and painted lures, trademarked a lighthouse logo, connected with businesses and held a fish fry. There were some non-fishing projects, too, like studying family heritage to meet world history requirements.
The broad philosophy of personalized learning has received praise from across the political spectrum, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and significant philanthropic support from the likes of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.
Fairport Harbor’s approach includes some elements popping up a lot in the universe of personalized learning, such as having children demonstrate their competency as they learn and setting each student’s educational agenda in a way that takes individual interests and capabilities into account, said John Pane, who has researched education innovation for the RAND Corp.
Educators also have encountered …read more