Personalized Learning

The great debate in education, particularly where I live in British Columbia, seems to be Personalized Learning or Personalized Education. There was an #edchat chat this Tuesday with this as the topic.

The focus for the chat was based on the following question,

“What do we mean by the personalization of education & is it desirable & achievable today?”

Of course, the people participating in the chat are already believers in life-long learning, engagement, and motivation of students.  As a result, the conversation was a little skewed and one-sided.  Some people did, however, make some very important points about personalized learning.

First, I’d like to share some initial thoughts on the meaning of Personalized Learning…

davidwees ‏@davidwees tweeted, Personalized learning for me means that the student is required to do more of the thinking in the classroom.”

Top Hat Monocle ‏@TopHatMonocle tweeted, Personalization of learning means education is student-centered, a systematic change from the common industrial-age model.”

Cale Birk ‏@birklearns continued by saying, “Personalization is finding multiple ways for students to demonstrate their learning rather than a simple standardized test.”Cale Birk ‏@birklearns wrote, “To me personalization means connecting concepts in such a way that it is engaging and meaningful for students.”  and, Cale also wrote…

@cybraryman1 tweeted, “Would love to see personalized learning so children could follow their passions, have more choices, collaborate more & learn globally.”

To me, personalized learning is really about choice: choice in topics (or strand of a topic), choice in how students want to learn about a topic, and choice in how students want to demonstrate their learning.

Why is personalized learning important in today’s schools?

@CTuckerEnglish tweeted, “When kids are at center of learning, they learn to question, find resources, & prob solv, instead of waiting 4 “right answer”.”

I loved this tweet by @stephe1234 

“Student engagement increases when goal setting, passion based learning, making a contribution, and ownership are high.”

If we are going to see students more engaged in their education,  I believe strongly that students need to have more choice in their learning. They need to become more involved in their education and the education process. This is of utmost importance for our struggling learners or those who are “checking-out” of school. We need to find a way to reach all of our students in a meaningful way. Personalizing their learning is a way to do this.

There are some changes that need to be made in order for learning to become more personal for our students.

@tgrant14 wrote: “To personalize learning students need to know its okay to try, fail sometimes, try again. Seems like there’s no room for mistakes”

I believe that TEACHERS need to know it is okay to try, fail, and try again.  In order for this to happen, we need to cultivate a culture that encourages and celebrates risk-taking by all members: students, teachers, parents, and administrators.

@ktenkely tweeted, “they are willing to try and keep trying when they know they are supported and not judged.” 

To do this, though, relationships are at the heart of all we do.  Relationships are what enable learning to actually take place. If the relationship is a meaningful one, the students and teachers will be more willing to take risks in their own learning. For some students, this may take longer to build that relationship or for the students to be comfortable taking risks, but it will happen. The following tweets support my belief about the power of relationships:

@drjolly: “True Master-Teachers can personalize their learner-centered lessons, because of their relationship w/their students.”

@cybraryman1: “Must start w/ letting students know #youmatter and let them teach us & each othr”

@CTuckerEnglish@RentonL “Students need to struggle a bit in learning process, but so many are uncomfortable in the space cuz unfamiliar.”

Teachers need to struggle as well.  This is new thought-processes for most. We all need to become comfortable with the uncomfortable and unknown.  It is the world we live in.  It is the world we are educating in now. It is important that we model how we deal with this uncertainty with our students (and parents).  We need to have an open mind and a positive attitude.

@IOEDU said, “Teachers have to role model personalized learning.”

@RentonL wrote, “Agreed – good to struggle together 2 = they need to see learning as messy – not a straight line.”

But, what about the curriculum?

@davidwees tweeted: “Is overloaded curriculum the death of personalized learning? Any useful exploration by students takes time.”

@S__Blankenship tweeted, “Too many times teachers give students answers to remember rather than problems to solve. There’s no personalization in that!”

So often, the teachers feel that the curriculum (prescribed learning outcomes) focusses on students remembering facts, instead of solving problems.  Does the curriculum need to change in order to encourage change in teaching practises?

But, as @davidwees pointed out,

“One of the objectives of a liberal arts style education is to expose students to thinking outside of their known realms.”

I agreed with David when he said,

“I would like to see a balance between students exploring their interests, and learning a wide variety of things.”

I agreed with David when he proposed,

“Yeah, I’d like to see balance. Google’s 20% time for example, would be an excellent addition to most schools.”

It IS important that students have some direction. I don’t think we can give them free-reign, if we want them to become well-rounded citizens when they leave school.  We also want them to develop a sense of community and build those relationships that are so important for their growth and future resilience and success.  Much of these community-building activities, you together, not independently. This relationship-building is so very important and essential for the future growth and development of many of our students who may come from challenging home environments.

To tie into this Personalized Learning conversation, an important and timely blog post was posted recently entitled, “Teaching and Type Two Ignorance: They don’t know what they don’t know” written by Brian Beairsto for CEA: Canadian Education Association. In his blog post, Brian points out some very important things to consider when we ponder what personalized education will/should look like for our students.

To me, for real change to happen and be sustained, I believe, Leaders need to be Learners.  George Couros (@gcouros on Twitter) expressed this very well in a recent interview.  You can see the interview here.  This is something I feel very strongly about. How can we, as leaders, expect our teachers (and, in turn, our students) to do things, be innovators, lead innovation, be willing to “change” and take risks in their own learning, if we are not willing to do the same? We need to lead by example, and this is no exception.

In close, we need to really consider this tweet and realize that nothing is really holding us back. Change takes time, commitment, perseverance, difficult conversations, and leadership by all.

As @ktenkely wrote,

“We aren’t as stuck in systems as we convince ourselves”

I really enjoyed this chat and look forward to participating in more this summer.  Thank you to @cybraryman1 for moderating the chat for us. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Some questions for you….

What does Personalized (or personal) learning mean to you?

What is necessary to make this a reality in today’s schools?

What about the curriculum?

Some resources shared during the chat:

Cybraryman’s page on Personalized Education Plans

Cybraryman’s You Matter Page

Cybraryman’s Student-Centred Classrooms Page

Problem-Based Learning

What Inquiry is Not

“We Are Superman” Trailer

What Does Engagement Mean to You?

Changing Education Paradigms Video

Learning Management Systems – Episode 17 – (i.e. Edmodo, Moodle, Blackboard, etc…) Video Podcast

Published by Tia M. Dawson

There are many things that define who I am as a person. First of all, I am a mother of 3 wonderful children! I can not express how fortunate we are to have our children in our life! Secondly, I am an elementary educator who recently returned to the classroom after 12+ years as an elementary school administrator. Lastly, I am passionate about helping others, learning about abuse, helping others in abusive relationships, and helping others understand their worth.

14 thoughts on “Personalized Learning

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