Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Make your classroom more like Wawa

Those of us who live in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey love our Wawa. For those of you who have never been to a Wawa, it’s like a 7-eleven, Sheetz or any convenience store/gas station... only better (in my opinion).  For more about Wawa’s business model, read here.  Although you can get just about anything you want to eat at a Wawa, they are especially known for their hoagies. If you don’t know what a hoagie is, check out this map, as you probably call it something else.
After returning from a recent trip to Florida where they only have a handful of Wawa’s, we stopped and got a hoagie for lunch. The process for ordering a hoagie at Wawa (or just about anything else made fresh) involves walking up to a touch screen and selecting a multitude of options. Do you want your whole hoagie toasted or just the roll?  How big of a hoagie do you want?  What kind of meat? What kind of cheese(s) do you want to add?  Do you want to add bacon? (ummm, yeah) What kind of condiments do you want on your hoagie (there are about 50)?   Do you want vegetables (there are about 30)? You get the point. Each hoagie is customizable and individualized as the customer wants it.
When Wawa first started using the touch screen technology years ago, no one taught me how to use the touch-screen. I walked right up and started to hit buttons. Occasionally, I would make a mistake and have to go back and make a change to my order. I learned how to use the technology to get exactly what I wanted in a hoagie. For those who are uncomfortable using the touch screen, there are pre-made hoagies and sandwiches that are not as fresh and created based on the desire of the sandwich maker, not the customer. The hoagie makers probably do their best to guess what customers might want to buy, but when you walk into most Wawa’s, few customers buy these pre-made hoagies. They would rather order a hoagie their way and wait a few extra minutes to get it exactly they way they want it.

So why does a customer at a convenience store get more customization, choice, and individualization than the students in our classrooms and schools? Why are many of our students left with the “choice” of  a pre-made, one-size-fits-all education in which we,  the sandwich makers, determine the best type of hoagie for our students to eat.  One doesn’t need touch screen technology, laptops, or other “technologies” (although it helps to give more choices and options) to individualize learning. The truth is, learning should ALWAYS be about the learner, not the teacher.  Learning by nature,  is an individual act.  Our classrooms need to provide more choices, options, and decisions so that our students can make the best decisions for THEIR learning.

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