We are very pleased to have Gillian Locke, a senior at Kettle Moraine School Districts’ KM Global Charter School, guest blogging for us this week. Gillian is in a personalized learning environment at KM Global and spoke eloquently about her experiences when she was one of the panelists at our Youth Summit in March.
Unlike most seniors in high school, I have the freedom to choose what I want to do when I wake up each morning. I am not limited to an 8 hour bell schedule like my peers, nor does my learning stop when I drive off the high school parking lot at 2:30 pm. I don’t have to just do homework in the evenings, and don’t even have to go to classes during the day. Being a part of Kettle Moraine’s new charter school KM Global allows me to direct my learning on my own.
I have two classes in the traditional high school, physics and orchestra, because these were classes I wanted to take with traditional instruction. The rest of my classes are a mix of different formats-I’m getting my English credit this semester, for example, through project work. I’ve spent the entire semester studying in-depth about the topic of my choice. I work with my advisor to make sure I’m meeting the right standards and learning targets, but am free to take the direction of my project where I choose. Some classes, like my AP Comparative Politics and French classes, are what we call blended courses, because these classes combine traditional textbook work and note taking with online assignments, discussions over internet sites like Moodle, and independent research. And then there’s my Global Leadership course, which takes place through seminar work. Every Wednesday, you can find all of the what we call ‘Globalers’ in a little room at Kettle Moraine High School, discussing current events, creating resumes, listening to guest speakers, and participating in team building workshops. To say the least, KM Global is so much more than just an online school.
Because I have so many options, and different formats for learning, I have become a lot more in tune with how I learn best. For example, I’ve learned that I do best by having group discussions and writing things down, but this may not be the case for every other student. This is ok, because other students have different routes they can take, such as building projects, listening to lectures, doing independent research, reading information, watching information, etc. No Global student is limited to just one thing, and that’s what makes my education interesting. I am free to take it where I want it to go, and when I have control over what I’m doing every day, it makes my day so much more enjoyable. I’ve noticed too that when I’m enjoying my learning, I learn better. What I learn in a day is more etched into my mind than what it might’ve been had I been learning in a generic format in the traditional high school. It’s also easier to make personal connections to what you learn, when you’re the one in control of learning it, and we all know that personally connecting to what you’re learning cements it more in your mind, and gives you a better understanding of it. I am more confident in my studies this year than I ever have been, and look forward to using the tricks and tools I’ve learned for myself next year when I go on to the college level.
For some students, the current system works really well. For others, small changes and creative ideas (whether in Charter schools or elsewhere) could be of great benefit. By no means is our traditional system a failure, or ‘wrong’-the fact of the matter is there is no right or wrong answer for all students. Every student is different, and each one needs different things. Every school in the US has the potential to deliver personalized learning to each of its students-it will just take some creativity, some time, and some dedicated students, administrators, and teachers. Charter schools like KM Global are an amazing and wonderful opportunity, but we can take what works in the charter schools and create new ideas that we can implement in traditional schools as well. I hope giving you an idea of what my experience has been like in the charter schools has given you some ideas of what we can do in every school, and for every student. I am optimistic about the future of education in the US. Together, we can create systems that allow each student to learn and grow in the best way possible.