Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Updated Personalization vs. Differentiation vs. Individualization Chart Version 3

Personalization v Differentiation v Individualization (PDI) Chart (Version 3) 

The PDI chart was created for a reason: to clarify the differences in these terms. In 2010, the National Ed Tech Plan defined all three of these terms as they are related to instruction. We needed to emphasize the differences: Personalization is learner-centered. The other two, Differentiation and Individualization are teacher-centered. Personalization or Personalized Learning means the learner is driving their learning. When the learner takes responsibility for their learning, teaching and learning changes. The roles of the teacher and learner change. We welcome you to share the PDI chart and use it for action research, professional learning, and to go deeper and clarify the terms so learning is deeper, relevant, and engaging.

It has been sometime since we initially published the PDI Chart in January 2012. Version 2 was a revision nine months ago about the differences of these three terms distinguishing that personalization begins with the learner who drives and owns their learning. The other terms are teacher-centered where the teacher provides the instruction, support and assessments for the learners.

We updated the chart again to version 3 from your feedback. Through discussions in our 5 W's of Personalized Learning eCourse and the Six Steps to Personalize Learning workshop, participants helped us realize that we were not clear in the chart about assessment. We needed to focus on Assessment AS, FOR, and OF Learning.
  • Individualization involves assessment OF learning. This is where summative assessment is grade-based and involves testing to confirm what learners know and do not know.
  • Differentiation involves assessment FOR learning and OF learning. This is assessment that involves time-based testing where teachers provide feedback to advance learning.
  • Personalization involves assessment AS learning, FOR learning, and a minimal OF learning. This is where teachers develop capacity so learners become independent learners who set goals, monitor progress, and reflect on learning. Assessments are based on mastery.

You can download this chart at and our other free resources and will be asked to subscribe to our newsletter. For anyone who has already subscribed, we will be sending you a new url to download version 3. We ask if you plan to make multiple copies of this chart or use it in a publication that you ask us permission via our email at

Please spread the word about our new version of this chart. Share the ways you are using this chart in the comments below and in social media. Our Twitter hashtag is #plearnchat.

The more we learn from you, the more we learn and then want to share back with you.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Schools without Classrooms

Vittra: International Schools in Sweden
Vittra is more than a model; it is a design that is being used around Sweden.

Vittra gives every individual the opportunity…
  • to find the best approach for them Children play and learn on the basis of their needs, curiosity and inclination in the best ways possible.
  • to learn based on experience
    Children’s learning is based on their experience which increases motivation and inspires creativity.
  • to understand their own learning
    Children are equipped with the tools to acquire new knowledge and increase understanding of ‘How I learn’, which enables them to learn more easily and effectively in the future.
  • to have faith in themselves and their abilities
    Children become more self-aware, aware of their strengths and potential for development which means they dare and like to be challenged.
  • to develop their ability to communicate and engage in respectful interaction with others
    Children understand and are considerate to the needs and interests of others, they can express and stand for their own views as well as take responsibility for their actions.
  • to be equipped for study and work in an international environmentChildren develop effective bilingualism in English and Swedish while experiencing and creating international contacts through networks and exchange programs abroad.
Architect Rosan Bosch designed the school to encourage both independent and collaborative work such as group projects and PBL. Even the furniture is meant to encourage learning. Bosch says each piece is meant to “aid students in engaging” while working.

Vittra runs 30 schools in Sweden and wants learning to take place everywhere in its schools, so it threw out the "old-school" thinking of straight desks in a line in a four-walled classroom. They eliminated all of its classrooms in favor of an environment that fosters children’s "curiosity and creativity."
The un-schoolness doesn’t stop with the furniture and layout. 
The schools are non-traditional in every sense: there are no letter grades and learners learn in groups at their level, not necessarily by age. Admission to the school is free, as long as the child has a personal number (like a social security number) and one of the child’s parents is a Swedish taxpayer.
Vittra opened Telefonplan School, in Stockholm where Architect Rosan Bosch designed the school so children could work independently in opened-spaces while lounging, or go to "the village" to work on group projects. All of the furniture in the school, which looks like a lot of squiggles, is meant to aid learners in engaging in conversations while working on projects. 
Telefonplan has Five Learning Spaces:
  1. The Cave – a space for private concentration to concentrate and enter an introspective process of communication with yourself.
  2. The Lab – fun with experimentation and practical work where you can discover and explore colors, shapes and materials at different workshops using lab trolleys that make the labs flexible.
  3. The Camp Fire – the group process is one of the most important learning situations because learning is a social process. Children need spaces for large as well as small groups. The groups don’t have to be in a closed off area but should be a space where the group can focus.
  4. The Watering Hole – a place for encounters and impulses as a lively space full of activity where learners can drop in for a while and then move on.
  5. The Showoff – where learners can show off their progress and discoveries. A stage, a presentation, a drawing on the wall, a film or a blog – all ways of showing off their work.
Vittra schools reach kindergarten through twelfth grades. So why do we say "schools without classrooms?" One thing is clear from Vittra is that opening the walls, moving furniture or changing the furniture  and allowing flexible places encourages creativity. It works for all ages.

Have some fun visiting Telefonplan! Just watch and you will get a tour in English..

Monday, April 28, 2014

Making Sense of Learning

School is supposed to be about how learners are learning, but the conversations do not seem to be focused on “learning.”  The focus tends to be on instruction and performance. Chris Watkins participates in the Campaign for Learning’s ‘Learning to Learn’ project and wrote “Learning: a sense-makers guide”, a publication commissioned by ATL, the union for education professionals across the UK. The idea of starting with the learner is all about learning about learning and noticing how we learn.

Learning can make sense and is similar to how we make sense of other things. We do it gradually through experiences and building knowledge as we go. Talking, thinking, and reflecting about learning are the key factors to understanding. In the sense-makers guide, Watkins writes that there are four teaching practices that can help learners make sense of their learning:

  1. Notice learning
    Getting in the flow is when learners are engaged in the process. You can see them motivated and immersed in the learning. This is a great time to stop the flow. Really! Ask your learners to step back and notice what happened, what we did to make it happen, what the effects were, how it felt, what helped, how learners were persistent in making it happen, and what might they do with the learning. You might even pick up some new language by noticing the learning that just happened.
  2. Have conversations about learning
    Listen to the conversations. You can ask learners to pair or work in groups of three or four and discuss what they noticed in their learning. You can prompt them to reflect on why were doing something that maybe thing might not even know or take for granted. Some questions you can prompt them to ask could be:

    Why we did _____   yesterday?
    Did we find out anything new?
    How can we find out more?
  3. Reflect on your learning
    Reflection is personal and can be in a personal journal or shared in a blog. Reflection helps you notice your learning because you think about it when you write. When you are writing your reflections, new ideas may come to you or you may notice more about your learning you never knew before.
  4. Make learning an object of learning
    You can learn about learning while you are learning about something else. When you have your learners read and experiment to learn something, you can have them notice and reflect on what they learned and how they learned. You could have them reflect on how they handled their feelings during the learning or how they engaged with others as they learned. This is called the cycle of learning.

When you see learners noticing and reflecting on their learning during their learning, that is the Wow of learning. This is the higher-order thinking skills we want our children to adopt: learning about learning and thinking about learning. This makes learning visible. This is what shakes up the classroom dynamics, because when the teacher is lecturing, learners are supposed to be listening. Are they? When you shake up the learning so learning is visible and learners are talking about their learning, the classroom environment is different. This change is the culture shift, the change that learners want now.

Changing culture is big. Now is the time.

Chris Watkins is a researcher at The Institute of Education, London Centre for Leadership in Learning, Faculty Member. Chris has been involved in projects with a range of schools on learning about learning, effective learning, classroom learning, teachers' learn and school learning. This work culminates in the idea of classrooms as learning communities. Since 2005, Chris has been an independent consultant and project leader with a range of schools, mainly in the London area, but also way beyond London.  We highly recommend visiting Chris' Academia.u site where he uploads his work.