One of JumpRope’s many appealing traits is its capacity to support and ease stakeholders’ (students, parents, teachers, etc.) transition to proficiency-based teaching and learning. In my own teaching career I was able to be a part of this transition and the related growing pains for a large district. We were always on the lookout for a tool that would enhance our practice rather than hinder it. So it was my pleasure to help represent JumpRope at the 2014 Northwest Proficiency/Competency Conference hosted by the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA) and the Business Education Compact (BEC) in my home state. Like many states, Oregon has come a long way down the proficiency road in the past decade, and it was inspiring to see the work of so many at this gathering.
The conference was a fantastic venue to showcase the work that many educators are doing in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest to address the barriers that they face when it comes to proficiency education. Session topics ranged from intervention models to overcoming obstacles to implementation and policy issues.
At the pre-conference on Thursday afternoon, Jenna and I attended a session called “Are You Ready? Is Oregon Ready?” Lillian Pace and Jesse Moyer, colleagues from the Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks, shared how, from a policy perspective, different states compare with Oregon when tackling standards-based practices. They also facilitated an interesting panel discussion, with representatives from Oregon state organizations and school districts, on the barriers that Oregon faces as the state moves forward with standards-based grading policy. The most lively part of the panel’s discussion concerned barriers to progress and relevant next steps for a state like Oregon. It was not surprising that funding, professional development, and the growing pains of this paradigm shift were the primary topics.
The main conference began on Friday with a keynote address sponsored by none other than JumpRope! Educator, author, and researcher Bea McGarvey started the conference off with a look at her vision of mass customized learning. Bea is a former teacher and school administrator from Maine, an associate with the Marzano Research Laboratory, and the author of Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning. The vision she presented of mass customized learning - see also this site - has its roots in two main thoughts: (1) That society is no longer in the Industrial Age but rather the Information Age and (2) that current technologies have the capacity to support mass customization.
Bea argued that our current education system is designed around Industrial Age constraints of time and purpose and that it is inevitable that this system will need to transform to fit the technology-driven information that can readily meet the needs of today’s learner. She went on to state that learning should be the constant, with time as the variable, and that time-based systems of learning, assessing, and teaching are becoming more and more irrelevant as our society progresses technologically. Bea drew thought-provoking parallels between the customizable features and technologies of iTunes, Amazon, and Google with what can be customized for the modern student’s needs; some of her suggestions included tracking and predicting student interests, as iTunes does with favorite songs, and flexible scheduling, much like what Google Calendar offers.
The rest of the day was a truly cooperative effort by educators from the Northwest, as they shared their ideas, their successes, and their challenges within the realm of proficiency-based teaching and learning. Jenna and I were fortunate to have the chance to listen to many stories from these educators about their various paths to proficiency-based learning and teaching. And we were also happy that we had the chance to share JumpRope with these educators, knowing that it can solve some of their challenges. I’m very glad to be a part of a team that values this work so highly - and the educators who are making it happen.