Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Personal Learning Plan: Goal Setting to Be Future Ready

Part 3 of the 3 Part Series on Using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage, and Express

Just imagine learners turning challenges they have into strengths! Consider those same learners enhancing their strengths so they are self-confident in what and how they learn. Wouldn’t it be great if your learners were able to set their own goals to explore careers and determine what experiences they need to be college and career ready?

This post is the last part of the three part process for all learners of any age to build agency so they become independent and self-directed learners.

We want all learners to realize their hopes and dreams and want to help them get there.

Your learners shared with you how they learn best using the Learner Profile (LP). Your conversations with your learners when using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) lens of Access, Engage and Express™ describing their strengths, challenges, preferences and needs in how they learn helped them decide what to include in their Personal Learning Backpack (PLB). You collaborated with your learners to choose the skills, tools and apps that can enhance their strengths and support their challenges they have in accessing and processing information, engaging with content and expressing what they know and understand.

The next step in the process is to help each learner develop the skills to be an independent, self-directed learner with agency. The Personal Learning Plan is where the learner defines goals, describes actions steps, and indicates a way to measure progress and achievement.

Introducing the Personal Learning Plan

The purpose of a Personal Learning Plan (PLP) is to assist learners to develop goals with a set of actionable steps to achieve those goals. The PLP has four specific focuses:

  • Learning Goals (Access, Engage and Express) to develop independent skills to support their own learning; 
  • Personal Goals to explore their interests, talents, or passions; 
  • College and Career Goals to gain first-hand experiences in career areas where they have strong interests; and
  • Citizenship Goals to become an active citizen in the local or global community.

Learning Goals for Skill Development

In Part 1 (LP) and Part 2 (PLB) of this series, the learner shared one of her Express challenges was that she found it difficult to put her thoughts on paper, and that she needed a speech-to-text (STT) tool to help her write her thoughts down. She has seen that tool being used by other learners but would like to learn how to use it on her own. She works with her teacher to describe the Express Learning Goal along with a set of action steps to learn the speech-to-text tool and evidence in reaching her goal.

Express Goal
I want to learn to how to use a speech-to-text (STT) tool so I can complete my writing assignments.
Evidence of reaching my goal:

  • Create an outline for my writing using the STT tool.
  • Write and edit a one-page writing assignment.

Date Achieved:

Date added:
Action steps that will help meet my goal:
  1. Schedule to meet with a peer tutor twice a week to show me how to use the STT tool features for writing.
  2. Practice with the STT tool daily at school or home for short writing assignments for 2-3 weeks.
  3. Write an outline for a one-page writing assignment with the STT tool.
Other supports I will need for my Express Goal: Coordinate time to work with my peer tutor who will show me how to use the different features of the STT tool. Access to the STT tool at school and home so I can practice using it for my writing.
Set of apps/tools that could support my Express Goal: Dragon Dictation, Voice Dream Writer.
Reflection on Achieving my Express Goal: Learning how to use a STT tool gave me the skills to write on my own. Now I am getting my writing assignments done on time.

On reflection, she has taken a challenge she has had for a while and has now learned new skills so she can independently write her assignments. What a great feeling she has in achieving a goal she set for herself! Her next focus is on a personal goal. Let’s take a look back at how she described her interests, talents and passions to illustrate what a personal goal would be.

Personal Goals to Explore Interests, Talents, and Passions

For this learner, having a personal goal that she can focus on gives her an opportunity to explore what she has only dreamed about doing.

Interests, talents, and passions: I love drawing and want to take more art classes in different mediums. I am interested in helping others and maybe can see myself as a teacher or a business leader when I grow up. I am starting to learn about social media and may even look at starting to create a logo and website to showcase my artwork.

Setting a personal goal and taking actions to meet that goal ignites engagement and encourages ownership to learning. Her personal goal is to create a logo and website to feature her artwork. The action steps to help meet this goal can include:
  • Consult with art/design teacher on personal goal. 
  • Create several logo designs. 
  • Invite art/design teacher to help her choose the best design.
  • Prepare artwork to display on the website.
  • Locate low or no cost websites and review features and specs to display artwork.
She decided with her teacher that her evidence in reaching this goal would be featuring her artwork with written and audio narratives on a website with her self-designed logo. Next, she wants to focus on her college and career goals.

College and Career Goals to Pursue Opportunities

The high school where this learner attends offers Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs). She is excited to have an opportunity to teach art with younger learners in her town. She meets with her ELO Coordinator and begins outlining the action steps that include:
  • Discover who are the elementary art teachers in the local and adjacent schools.
  • Develop a proposal outlining her goals for an art teacher mentorship.
  • Decide on two art teachers and set up a time for an interview to share goals of the mentorship.
  • Begin mentorship with art teacher and coordinate a schedule.

This experience of being mentored by two art teachers helps this learner make college and career decisions about going into this profession. During the mentorships, she created a visual portfolio of her experiences in the classrooms on her website with audio to show evidence of reaching her goal for college and career.

Realizing that she enjoys working with younger children and learning from her mentors, she was inspired to look at ways to give back to the community since she received so much help from others.

Citizenship Goals to Contribute to our Democracy

A Citizenship Goal contributes to a learner’s understanding that a democracy thrives when you are an active citizen in the community. This learner meets with her teacher/advisor to discuss how she would like to give back to the community by being actively involved with the local food pantry. Now that she has decided on the goal, she discusses what her action steps could be.
  • Meet with the food pantry coordinator to discuss how she could contribute and the time she could commit.
  • Make up signs to post at local businesses and schools.
  • Collect non-perishable food for the food pantry.
  • Organize food at the pantry for distribution.

She decides that one of the best ways to show that she has reached her goal is to share her experiences on her website and invite her peers to join her in working with her at the food pantry.

Learner Agency and Future Ready

Learner Agency means that someone has developed the skills to become an independent, self-directed learner. This learner has created her Learner Profile (LP) using the UDL Lens to identify her strengths, challenges, interests, talents, and passions. The Personal Learning Backpack (PLB) defines the skills. strategies, tools, and apps that will help her become an independent learner.

Future Ready means that the learner knows how to set her own goals, develop action steps and show evidence in achieving these goals. The Personal Learning Plan (PLP) guides the learner in gaining the skills and experiences she needs to support her learning and make choices for college and career. This post provided one example using an older learner who turned her challenges into strengths and enhanced her strengths so she developed the self-confidence to follow her passion for art and in helping others.

“A Learner with Agency is a Learner that is Future Ready.”
- Kathleen McClaskey

We want you to know that you can build a learner with agency at any age by using this three step process. We provide an example of an older child only as a model for you. Consider building a relationship right away with young children by starting with a Learner Profile. Get to know your kids and how they learn best using the UDL lens. Have them share with you their preferences and needs and build a Personal Learning Backpack with them. Then encourage them to choose and set goals with your guidance. Just imagine what your kids can do when they have the confidence in how they learn and that they know how to set goals for themselves. This is the Wow! of learning that we all want for our kids.


Part One defined how the UDL lens of Access, Engage and Express and introduced the Learner Profile (LP) and how it can be used by both teacher and learner to discover the learner.

Part Two explained how to take the Learner Profile and develop a Personal Learning Backpack (PLB) that includes tools, apps, resources and the skills the learner needs to become an independent, self-directed learner.

Part Three describes how you can take the Learner Profile and Personal Learning Backpack to to develop goals an effective Personal Learning Plan (PLP) so that each learner can develop agency and gain the personal experiences make decisions for college and career and to be future ready.

All of this along with similar templates are in our new publication, How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper, premiering on October 18th, 2016.

Images included in post

Monday, September 12, 2016

How can Learners support their own Learning?

Now that Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is referenced throughout the Every Student Success Act (ESSA) bill, states are encouraged to design learning strategies and assessments using UDL principles. The Learner Profile (LP) uses the UDL lens to help discover the learner in every child.

The UDL lens is about making learning personal for all learners and building the relationship between teacher and learner.  Recently, we wrote the post "The Learner Profile: Get Up Close and Personal Using the UDL Lens" to provide a background on UDL as the lens.

Because of ESSA and the requests from schools and districts around the world about the Learner Profile and UDL, we decided to share how the Learner Profile guides the design of the Personal Learning Backpack (PLB) to empower learners using the UDL Lens in #plearnchat.

We had awesome educators who joined us to discuss the LP and PLB provided great responses to these questions. Here's a few of the great quotes from today's #plearnchat:

The last question we asked was about the resources and strategies in your Personal Learning Backpack so we thought we'd share a few ideas from the chat:

Michael Vose Ed.D ‏@KHS_AP

"Google Form playlist 3 sections Access Engage Express with choice playlist in each section."

Jodi Moskowitz @JodiMos

"I organize it all on @SymbalooEDU webmixes!"

Lee Araoz @LeeAraoz

"The more control students have, the more enthusiastic they'll be!"


Congratulations to Rhianon E. Gutierrez who won our book, Make Learning Personal

Rhianon E. Gutierrez is an educator, multimedia producer, and consultant. Her varied background includes instructional design, media production, and disability advocacy. As a Digital Learning Specialist in the Boston Public Schools, she builds district-wide partnerships around inclusive uses of technology and leads and supports blended professional learning for teachers and school and district leaders.

Follow Rhianon on Twitter @RhianonElan 
Visit her website at .

"Learning styles only gives you one lens...UDL gives you multiple lenses."

Our new book, How to Personalize Learning, is to be released October 18th, 2016. This book is walks the reader through how learners can create Learner Profiles and Personal Learning Backpacks with the teacher as a partner in learning.

How to Personalize Learning is now available for pre-order at a discount.

Save the Date: Monday, August 29th

4pm PST, 5pm MST, 6pm CST and 7pm EST

Our next #plearnchat Topic: Personal Learning Plan
Big Question: How can kids set their own goals to drive their learning?

We archived the entire #plearnchat about Learner Profiles and Personal Learning Backpacks below for your convenience and as a resource.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Personal Learning Backpack: Empower Learners using UDL Lens

Part 2 of the 3 Part Series on Using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage, and Express

Once a learner has indicated their strengths, challenges, and interests along with their preferences and needs in the Learner Profile (LP), then the teacher can work with the learner to develop a Personal Learning Backpack (PLB).

The UDL Lens: Access, Engage, and Express

The PLB using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) lens is for all learners. It is about teachers understanding how learners access information, engage with content, and express what they know and understand. This lens is also for the learner to understand how they learn best. It validates the learner and prompts conversations about their learning between the teacher and learner. To understand this process and how tools, resources, strategies and skills can support learning, we created this table as prompts to use for the learner to apply access, engage, and express.

By transforming information into useable knowledge through:
  • Digital media
  • Touch
  • Audio
  • Visual media
With content using:
  • Interactives
  • Video
  • Problem-solving
  • Designing
  • Self-assessment
  • Reflection
Actions through:
  • Writing
  • Presenting
  • Storytelling
  • Multimedia
  • Building
  • Making sense of learning

When you identify how you learn best using the Learner Profile (LP), the next step is to determine what you prefer or need to do or use to support your learning using the PLB.

The PLB Process using Preferences and Needs

The PLB includes the tools, apps and resources that can be used to support learning plus the learning strategies and skills that he or she can develop to become an independent expert learner.

This process is all about the conversations that you have with your learners. The PLB is the place to include what you both discover to support learning. If a learner has indicated in the LP that he or she would like to learn how to use a tool or app to support a challenge or a strength, then this can be included in the PLB. Let’s first review the learner and her preferences and needs for Access, Engage, and Express that we described in Part 1 on the Learner Profile.

Preferences and Needs
I need step-by-step instructions for better understanding.
I prefer to use video to learn concepts.
I need tasks to be broken down into smaller tasks.
I prefer to work with a partner but love to do my artwork alone.
I need to be able to take notes using sketching and drawing tools.
I need to use a speech-to-text tool for writing.

When the teacher and the learner sit down together to review the preferences and needs, they build a story around how her strengths, challenges and interests impact how she learns from their conversations. This is where they can design the PLB based on her talents as an artist and her passion for drawing along with her aspirations to become a teacher or business leader when she grows up. She also mentioned that she would like to learn about social media and create a logo to showcase her artwork. These types of conversations validate her as a learner and confirm that the teacher really listened to about her strengths and challenges and her love for art.

Empower Learners to Build their PLB

The PLB is where the teacher and learner pull together ideas for resources, tools, apps, and learning strategies and skills to support learning. Below is a chart with examples for tools, apps, learning strategies and skills that could support Access, Engage, and Express for this learner. 

Tools, Apps, Resources
Learning Strategies and Skills
Graphic organizer

Video Collection
I need to understand instructions using a graphic organizer or use drawing tools on the whiteboard to collaborate with others.

I need to know how to find the right videos to help me understand the meaning of what I’m supposed to be learning.
Brainstorming Tool
(e.g., Trello)

Task Builder

Graphic Logo Design

I would like to learn how to organize and prioritize my tasks into smaller tasks that I do alone and with others.

I want to keep track of my tasks.

I am interested in how to create my own logo that I can use on my website and give out on business cards.
Note Taking Tools


Book Authoring Tool
(e.g., Book Creator)

I want to learn how to take notes using drawing tools so I can see my ideas visually and maybe even capture audio.

I feel it would be better if I can speak and my device  types for me.

I enjoy storytelling and want to combine words with my drawings in a book.

To determine what skills or strategies the learner needs to acquire, she had to really think about both her strengths and challenges. She loves to draw but needs help with taking notes. So the teacher helped her decide to use her strength (drawing) to help her visualize what she was capturing using different note taking tools. As soon as the learner started sharing what she wanted or needed to learn, she opened up about needing a speech to text tool to help her with writing. Dragon Dictation can help her write down her thoughts. This process guides the learner to determine what she wants and needs to build her skills to become successful as a learner.

Every conversation the teacher has with learners can open a new door or bring up new ideas that may reduce any barriers they may have and can maximize learning for them so they can become independent, self-directed learners with agency.

This post is one example describing a process for the LP and PLB for an older child with higher executive functioning. This same process can be adapted by changing the language for a younger child or any learner who is at-risk or been identified with learning challenges. It is all about the conversations between the teacher and learner. If there is a language barrier or confusion about the process, this is an issue that the teacher can address by revising the LP and PLB with audio options, graphics, simpler language, or even translations. A young child may need help in understanding what he or she is being asked. A teacher can invite a parent to join in the discussions.

Developing Learning Goals

The PLB is the first step in identifying learning goals. Each of the learning strategies and skills the learner wants or needs to learn can be developed into learning goals in a Personal Learning Plan (PLP).  In the PLP, learning goals with action steps to develop independent learning skills will be illustrated along with college, career, personal and citizenship goals. These steps and the PLP will be explained in more detail in Part Three of this series.


Part One defines how the UDL lens of Access, Engage and Express and introduced the Learner Profile (LP) and how it can be used by both teacher and learner to discover the learner.

Part Two explains how to take the Learner Profile and develop a Personal Learning Backpack (PLB) that includes tools, apps, resources and the skills the learner needs to become an independent, self-directed learner.

In Part Three, we will take the PL and PLB and demonstrate how to help learners develop agency with an effective Personal Learning Plan (PLP).

All of this along with similar templates are in our new publication, How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper, premiering on October 18th, 2016.

Universal Design for Learning is a registered trademark of CAST, Inc. 

Access, Engage and Express is a trademark of Personalize Learning, LLC