What If Education Worked Like IKEA?  

What if education worked like IKEA?  

Every time I go to IKEA, no matter which country I’ve done it in, I start with the knowledge that there will be a soft serve ice cream cone waiting for me at the finish line.  That’s what gets me through.  IKEA is insane, it is overwhelming, and there is way too much stuff for me to buy.  No matter what I’ve needed for a house or apartment I’ve been able to find it there.  Whether in Italy, China, Indonesia, or Oak Creek, I know that I’m getting a consistent product with lots of options for personalization.  

On the surface IKEA seems like a giant, one-size fits all operation.  However, it’s much more than that.  Yes, the basics are consistent and rather generically styled so as to fit many different tastes.  Yet there are options to add-on, change colors, supplement, and combine products to make them your own.  So, what if education worked like IKEA?

What if we were able to start with the same basic goals and objectives for each student?  We could even start with the same general learning materials for everyone.  Then we could supplement, add-on, change contexts, or combine objectives to create a personalized learning environment that suited the needs of all learners.  But wait, don’t we do that already?  Kind of…

IKEA is consistent, the same general lines of furniture, flatware, and bed sheets that I got there 15 years ago in Italy can still be found on their showroom floors (don’t get lost!)  They don’t change their entire line every couple of years.  Additions happen, some things get phased out, but the best products have staying power and they form the backbone of IKEA’s success.  So, what do we do then as we face an overhaul of curriculum materials for so many of the content areas we teach?  

This is where the other part of IKEA’s success comes into play.  IKEA has the same general store layout, products, and even food items all across the world.  However, things at each location get done in different ways to meet the needs of the local customers.  In Italy, carts required a 2 Euro deposit so they got returned (they had a HUGE parking structure).  In China, there were dozens of small delivery trucks on hand to hire like a taxi at the end of your shopping experience (most people don’t own cars), and in Indonesia (a majority muslim country) the hotdogs at the concession stand were replaced with chicken dogs.  The experience of entering IKEA is largely the same but the user experience is shifted just enough to meet the needs of the individual store’s patrons.  

With such large grade level teams at Gifford, you can create a similar experience for your grade levels and students.  Working together you can share the work of planning, creating, and implementing on a large scale.  Then, as you look at the particular needs of your classroom, you can slightly alter the experience of implementation to meet the needs of all learners as well as your personal style as a teacher.  As a large school with such tremendous professional knowledge, the opportunity to work with the other members of your team to create a better overall experience for your students is a real gift.  Don’t let it slip away!  

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