Innovation: Education

4 educators reflect on personalized learning

Setting goals for summer learning and beyond

reflections by middle school educators
Welcome, Mill River Union! We are very curious as to what you guys are up to.

It’s Day 3 of the 2015 Middle Grades Institute, a gathering of more than 200 Vermont educators all passionately invested in technology-rich, student-centered educational change. And with the Act 77 deadline requiring a Personal Learning Plan for every student in Vermont grades 7-12 coming up in November, talk around personalizing learning and capturing evidence of personalized learning are at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Let’s hear from four schools attending MGI about their engagement with the personalized learning process, as they spend their first week of summer planning for the coming year.

1. Creating physical space for personalized learning

One of the workshops offered at the Institute centered around how the physical classroom space can be transformed into student-centered areas that directly support personalized learning. Amy Jamieson, at Fayston Elementary School, writes of it:

Today I attended a choice session on creating space for personalized learning.

Here are some questions that were posed during this session:
  • What does it mean to have a learner centered environment?
  • How is space used?
  • What choices do students have about how/where they learn?

2. Rolling out a 1:1 program

A strong component of personalizing learning is a 1:1 device program. One attendee from the Waitsfield School reflected:

In stark contrast to Ricky Bobby’s need for speed, when it comes to implementing a 1:1 initiative it is ok to go slow. That was one of the the opening sentiments in a workshop at this morning about rolling out a 1:1 program. But there were bigger takeaways than this.

Transparency in curriculum and professional development were touted as a way to ensure stakeholders understand there is intention in the initiative. Providing support for parents was recommended to ensure that the communication channels are open in both directions.

But perhaps the best advice was that rolling out a 1:1 initiative is an opportunity to re-up on the fundamentals that we value most. While there were parts of the conversation that felt vague, or generalized, they had to be, and I am glad. My team was not with me during the workshop and explicit direction on how to roll out 1:1 would have been tempting to simply adopt. However the need to have deep conversation as a team about what we value most or how we will best leverage student learning has to be home grown for our unique learning community.

3. Personalized learning vs “personal learning”

reflections by middle school educators
“We worked with some representatives from Fayston to flush out our goals and the road map to get there.” –Emily Wood, Moretown School

Sarah Baker at the Moretown School is setting goals around personalizing learning for students with disabilities.

My goal, which is to explore how to best serve students with disabilities and support them in their work with PLP’s along with supporting the general education population, fits into the concept of personalized learning because though I am at a conference with a majority of general educators, I am going to need to seek out expertise/knowledge/resources that pertain to my specific need as a learning specialist. At the same time, I will also need to keep in mind the “big picture” of personalized learning. I will be learning how to apply larger ideas around self selection, goal setting and “learning how to learn”, to my specific type of teaching/student while still supporting students within the larger sphere of their general education.Within this context, I am also trying to fathom other big ideas such as:How do IEP’s and the processes (both legal and best practices) fit into a PLP philosophy/system? How can I support students/teachers in this system and maintain my sanity/good humor?How can we approach the evaluation and program development of students with learning challenges so that it seamlessly includes goals that might have typically been isolated in an IEP? Is this possible? Is it even preferable? How about legal?

 

4. Why do we do professional development during summer?

Let’s hear from Christ the King School principal Angela Pohlen on why exactly educators spend a perfectly good week of their precious summer vacation at a sleepaway camp for personalized learning in the middle grades:

 

Just testing my blogging with a thought:
I’m so impressed with what’s already been done thanks to the hard work of our Tarrant Leadership Team, and with the enthusiasm of our entire Middle School Team. Everyone’s willingness to step out of their comfort zones and put themselves out there for the benefit of our students is inspiring, and fills me with gratitude for the privilege of working with you all. With God’s grace, and copious amounts of coffee, this is going to be incredible! Go, CKS!

 

What are your plans for summer learning?

Author

Audrey Homan

Audrey Homan is a Vermont-based digital media producer, and producer of The 21st Century Classroom podcast. She's worked in non-profit communications for more than a decade, and in her spare time writes tiny video games and mucks about with augmented reality and arduinos, ably assisted by five dogs.

Interviewing students and yelling in PHP are the best parts of her job.

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