Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Personalized Learning Umbrella

Personalized Learning is the "umbrella" or the big picture of transforming teaching and learning. Schools and districts are confused about all the initiatives and how they fit with personalizing learning. Many of the initiatives and programs that are implemented in a school or district can contribute to personalized learning.

The term "Personalized Learning" is confusing. Personalized learning is all about the learner and starts with the learner. It is about the learner self-directing and driving their own learning. A teacher can flip the classroom, provide 1:1 mobile devices for each learner and this can still not be characterized as personalizing learning. If the class is still teacher-centered and learners have no voice and choice how they learn, it is not personalizing learning. If learners are using mobile devices with adaptive curriculum, the technology is personalizing learning for the learner. There is no stake in learning for the learner. Adaptive curriculum can support a personalized learning path, but it is not personalizing learning for the learner.

Personalized learning means learners...
  • know how they learn best.
  • self-direct and self-regulate their learning.
  • design their own learning path.
  • have a voice in and choice about their learning.
  • are co-designers of the curriculum and the learning environment.
  • have flexible learning anytime and anywhere.
  • have quality teachers who guide their learning.
  • use a competency-based model to demonstrate mastery.
  • are motivated and engaged in the learning process.

So when you consider different approaches that have been labeled as Personalized Learning, they may be right, somewhat. Here are some initiatives or school or district based programs that fall under the umbrella of Personalized Learning:

Blended learning means combining face-to-face with online learning opportunities or a hybrid model. This contributes to personalizing learning. Learners can take advantage of multiple opportunities to meet their learning goals by choosing online courses that might not be available on campus.

Competency-based education (CBE) is an initiative that changes assessment strategies so the learner advances by demonstrating mastery instead of relying on time-based systems or grade levels. There is a movement toward CBE around the country. For more information, go to Competency Works.

RTI (Response to Intervention) is a method of academic intervention to provide early, systematic assistance to children who are having difficulty learning. When you personalize learning using UDL principles, you and the learner are identifying learning difficulties and developing strategies for intervention.

Flipped Classrooms are when the teacher posts the instructional material in the form of videos, text, links, and resources for learners to review outside of the classroom. Providing access to the curriculum for all learners is at the core of personalizing learning.

1:1 means that each learner has some type of device for learning. Just putting a device in a learner's hands doesn't mean they own their learning. However, if a learner knows how they learn best and owns their learning, they need access to the apps and tools that support their learning.

Project-Based Learning (PBL) involves learners in engaging activities. However, in most cases, the teacher is designing the project, the roles, the responsibilities, outcomes, and products. To personalize PBL for all learners, the learners can co-design the project, offer a voice in how it is designed, and choose how they will demonstrate mastery.


All of these and more fit under the Personalized Learning Umbrella. It is important to connect the dots of all initiatives and programs under this umbrella of Personalized Learning instead of adding one more initiative. You will find that it flows, it works, and they fit. All of these elements described above, in the end, will support all learners to help them reach their fullest potential and to be fully prepared for college and career.

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