Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Personalized Learning

We are constantly looking to provide classroom environments that are active, constructive, collaborative in nature,  authentic and goal directed in which students own their learning and are pivotal members of the classroom community.  Shifting teaching practices away from teacher directed learning toward student facilitated learning is becoming an expectation of all teachers because it places the focus on learning where it should always be - on the student.  The information age is here, in the hands of students, 24/7.  As teachers, we need to understand and embrace the fact that content is no longer confined to those who have studied at university.  The learning opportunities are immense and available for everyone who knows where to find the information.  We will capture learners by providing engaging learning opportunities that are personalized to meet each learner's individual needs.

So, how do we begin to create these personalized learning environments in our classrooms?
  1. Have learners develop Personal Learning Profiles, a concept developed by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClasky.  An important first step is understanding how each and everyone learns.  Learning is broken down into the what, how and and why of learning.  We all employ different methods and techniques to access, engage and demonstrate our understanding of new information. 
  2. Unpack the standards with your students every year.  It is just as important for learners to know and understand what is expected of them.
  3. With the learner, customize a learning plan to suit interests, needs and prior knowledge. This is where the learner can form essential questions.
  4. Document the journey transparently.  Learners should document their progress in a collaborative manner to make  to monitor and share progress as well as to solicit feedback.  Blogs, google sheets, and online spaces are excellent tools.  Teachers, too, should have a public space for expectations, communications and suggested resources. Learners should be documenting action steps for acquiring new knowledge, the practice opportunities they employ and their methods of demonstrating new knowledge. 
  5. Share excellence.  Students need to have anchors for competencies.  Moonshots here!
  6. Remember to teach strategies for learning new information.
If you're not ready to completely transform your classroom to a personalized environment, try approaching personalized learning from one of the following:
  • Innovation Day- Take a day on your team, department or school and designate it "Innovation Day," and let students choose what they want to learn that day.
  • Genius Hour aka 20% Time (View Examples) - Employ a similar strategy to our Summer Institute course by designating 20% of the time, either daily or once a week, to allow students to work on their personalized learning goals.
Most importantly, try something new.  Transforming educational practices isn't about doing what we've always done.  It's about employing practices that shift the ownership of learning from the teacher to the student, by creating classroom environments that are alive with conversation and discussion around authentic and engaging topics and by empowering learners to pursue their passions, interests and their future.

The time for a moonshot is now!

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