Monday, October 10, 2016

Foster Purpose for a Meaningful Life

We focused the #plearnchat for 10/10/16 on the elements of the Continuum of Purpose, and it was trending on Twitter with great conversations.

The purpose of learning is about learners being prepared for their future and reaching their fullest potential as lifelong learners. This means that they have a voice with the confidence to express their ideas and opinions so they are heard and taken into account in any situation.

The whole sense of purpose is bigger than self. When you have a purpose, it has a broader reach, is self-fulfilling, and gives you a meaningful and purposeful life. But this doesn't happen right away, so we created questions that explored each of the elements in the continuum under the big question:

How can we foster purpose so learners have a meaningful life?

We followed the Q1, A1 format with the following questions:

Discussions started off with a bang about learners expressing what they know and believe to gain confidence.

Christine Baker ‏@CMBPensacola

"Opportunity. Start small with safe zone and expand to global. Model this and let them assist in school setting."

Noa Daniel ‏@noasbobs

"By creating a culture for risk taking and a community of learners who listen to and support each other under Teacher guidance."

The conversations really expanded when we asked to move learners beyond conformity around grades and groupthink.

Mark Levine ‏@LevineWrites

"Students need to celebrate growth and new learning. It’s about the excitement of new knowledge that matters!"

Carolyn Foote ‏@technolibrary

"Use the library as a space/resource for students to explore their passions w/genius hour or passion projects "

Starr Sackstein‏@mssackstein

"We must stop grading and teach students to talk about their learning in a meaningful way."

Lisa Murray ‏@LMurray_

"Fill their day with opportunities. Let them shine and celebrate their successes. Push when they need it."

Then we were on a roll talking about self-awareness, empathy, curiosity and passions. The conversations went by so fast.

Dylan Smith ‏@applePulp

"Students exercise and develop empathy when learning is other-centred, e.g., design thinking, issues-based inquiry, service, etc."

White Educator ‏@whiteeducator

"Model asking questions, tell your story, expose student to different speakers, careers, places. Help them to see the world."

Congratulations to Dylan Smith who won our book, Make Learning Personal.

Dylan Smith, @applepulp, is a long-time public educator in Ottawa, Ontario. He has been a classroom teacher, a school learning support teacher, and a district-wide differentiation coach for grades 4-8 teachers of very able students. 
Dylan’s professional interests include equity and inclusive education, motivating underachievers, school improvement, and professional learning. He has enjoyed delivering presentations on differentiated instruction to staffs at more than 30 schools.

"Ensure student products embody voice, choice, and creativity are displayed and celebrated."

Our new book, How to Personalize Learning, is to be released really soon: October 18th, 2016. Yeah! This book is your practical guide to getting started and going deeper with personalized learning. Chapter Three is all about learner agency and goes into more details with all of the continuums including the Continuum of Purpose. 

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

Save the Date: Monday, October 24th

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

Our next #plearnchat Topic: Launching How to Personalize Learning

Big Question:
How can teachers create an environment that personalizes learning for all learners?

We archived the entire #plearnchat about Continuum of Purpose below for your convenience and as a resource.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How can Learners become Future Ready?

Since Personal Learning Plans was part 3 of the three part blog series, we decided to focus our #plearnchat on this topic. When learners turn challenges they have into strengths, then they can enhance their strengths so they are self-confident in what and how they learn.

To do this, learners learn how to set their own goals to explore careers and determine what experiences they need to be college and career ready. Learners first need to understand how they learn best and realize the skills they need to become future ready. The conversations in #plearnchat were around our big question:

 How can we support all learners to become future ready?

We use the Q1, A1 format and asked the following questions:

In our discussion of Personal Learning Plans, here is what future ready means to our PLN.


Carol Frey Reinagel @MrsReinagel

Know how to learn, your strengths, be an advocate. Be kind, Care.

Lisa Murray @LMurray_

Future ready is providing students skills to open doors and make options limitless.

Bonnie Schuh @teacherSchuh

It means you have to take risks and accept mistakes as learning.

Todd Russo @MrRussoRH

Prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities for a time yet to come.

Lisa Westman @lisa_westman

Future-ready schools stop using the term "future-ready". Actions speak louder than words.

Kathy Kramer @kramerkathy

In addition to much of what’s been said, a sense of self awareness is so important to being “future ready”

Sean Russell @seanrussell311

Presently, future ready translates to supreme flexibility.

Congratulations to Dr. Michael Vose, Ed.D who won our book, Make Learning Personal. 

Dr. Vose, @KHS_AP, is Bethel Public Schools Director of Instructional Technology. He recently received his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Connecticut. His dissertation focused on teacher roles and human capital needs in secondary personalized blended learning models. 

Dr. Vose has presented across New England on topics such as technology integration, intervention programs, enhancing 21st Century learning, and teacher evaluation in competency based schools.

[Information via the Bethel Public Schools website:]

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

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

Save the Date: Monday, October 10th

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

Our next #plearnchat Topic: Curriculum of Purpose

Big Question: 
How can we foster purpose with our learners?

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

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