Monday, February 27, 2012

Jim Rickabaugh on the Institute @ CESA #1

Thought Leader Interview
Jim Rickabaugh, Director of the Institute @ CESA #1, shared with us their region’s journey for the Personalized Learning Initiative. Southeastern Wisconsin is mobilizing as a region to transform public education through personalized learning for all students.
The Institute @ CESA #1 was established to work with 45 member school districts on a unique regional approach to transform public education in Southeastern Wisconsin into a system that is student-centered and personalized for each learner.
Almost three years ago, a group of superintendents in CESA 1 (Southeaster Wisconsin) discussed the combination of tight money, schools being blamed for things out of their control, and accountability that didn’t seem to make a difference. They all agreed “there’s got to be a better way.”
Jim Rickabaugh explained, “It seems like we were dismantling the systems we were charged to protect and the children we were supposed to develop. We then started on a journey on what could be done with a system.”
Turning from victim to action  – we have to save our system.
They did a lot of research and concluded:
  1. That the system we have educating our children is not designed to do what we need to do for our children. Our teachers are working harder than ever.  It is a design problem.
  2. As tight as money seems, there is a lot of money, yet it is tied up in a system that does not allow for flexibility.
Transforming Public Education

“We wrote a white paper that laid out the arguments that gave us hope how a system can be redesigned instead of reform work tweaking the old system. Our initial inclination that the cavalry was not going to save us. The states are so tied to national accountability programs.”
Excerpts adapted from the Institute @ CESA #1 blog:
When significant changes are made to learning and teaching, the roles of students and teachers change. Organizations feel pressure as new ways of learning “bump up” against existing structures such as schedule, calendar, student groupings or grading practices.  Stakeholders involved in personalized learning clamor for the flexibility necessary to truly transform public education into a student-centered environment. Conversations about changing existing structures then begin to take place.
These conversations may be difficult because changes to the status quo can be uncomfortable for those involved. However, because the models of innovation were fully explored and tested in the first two phases of change, a solid foundation has been laid. Those involved understand that structural changes are necessary in order to make the vision of getting learning right for all students a reality.
Generally it is after structural issues have been addressed that policies are changed, since the strength and purpose of policy is to stabilize a system and practices. In this last phase we will see an innovative system, fully transformed. To help frame the work, the Institute has developed a change strategy to guide our districts as they participate in the Personalized Learning Initiative, based on our honeycomb model. This strategy is based on change in three areas: learning and teaching, relationships and roles; and structures and policies, to be addressed in three subsequent phases.
The model started with the honeycomb system with a variety of iterations where they invited small teams, designed seminars, and developed informal coaching with rubrics and tools to think about the work. There were 3 waves. Wave 1 started with 10 projects. Each group pulled pieces of the model together to take partial parts of the honeycomb. They are now on Wave 3.
They created a virtual conference center for districts to collaborate around similar work, on demand video or audio conferencing, collaborative work on documents, face-to-face opportunities, and hosted convenings all around Personalized Learning.
Thank you Jim Rickabaugh! We will be following you and looking forward to sharing the stories from your region and the Institute @ CESA #1.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Personal Journeys in Kindergarten

Transforming classrooms where learning is more personalized takes time. After we created the chart "Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization" we have been receiving comments and stories from around the world about personalizing learning for their students. The personal journeys many of these teachers and students are traveling are exciting. So we decided to start sharing some of these journeys with you.

Lisa Welch's and Wanda Richardson’s Personal Journeys
Their team email: rwteam@kmsd.edu
Wales Elementary School, Wales, Wisconsin,
Kettle Morain School District

Lisa shared their story here:
We team teach in a classroom with 43 kindergarten students. We have two classrooms that have been opened up using an 8 ft. doorway. This year, as part of the Kettle Moraine School District initiative along with NxGL and CESA 1, we were given the opportunity to facilitate a transformation in education via Personalized Learning.


Our goal is to help personalized learning become scalable throughout our district. Our classroom is a 1 to 1 environment through the use of netbooks. We have spent a good chunk of the year trying new things and finding new ways to engage the kids while at the same time making sure that we are meeting the kids’ needs both academically as well as socially/emotionally. It has been quite a journey!

We started the year with a learning plan where there were approximately 8-9 activities that fit into a specific theme and used the multiple intelligences as the basis of each activity. The students’ task was to complete each activity on the plan, but they could decide in which order they worked. After trying this model for approximately 4 weeks, we found that we weren’t getting the engagement that we had hoped. We were also finding that the kids weren’t as independent as we had hoped.

Upon reflection, we found that really, we were “missing the boat” when it came to truly personalizing learning.

We went back to square one and really started putting our thinking caps on. Some of the questions we were grappling with were:
  • How can you personalize learning for students who are not yet able to read?
  • How can you help student’s become independent learners at this young age?
  • How can the 4 c’s of 21st Century Learning make their way into everything we do?
  • How can we impart that core knowledge that is vital at this age?
We don’t have all the answers by any means, but we are certainly finding that we are on an exciting path at this time! Currently, every child in our classroom has a PERSONALIZED Learning Plan. These plans are created according to the child’s interests in learning styles as well as in subject areas. For example, one child is studying the subway and is interested in creating on the computer, math and music/dancing.

His learning plan includes researching various books for different examples of the subway, after looking through the books, he will use Post-It notes to mark and take notes on these pages. His next task is to use Microsoft Word to access clipart that he can transfer to another program (Promethean ActivInspire) and create a story using the pictures. Finally he will listen to different sound waves of a subway passing that we embedded into a computer program for him and drew and wrote what the sound inspired from him.
My Learning Plan
Each child’s plan has my voice recording the words (this is possible through ActivInspire) so that while the kids still cannot read, they can be independent in working with the plan. When all the activities are completed, they can choose to extend their earning on the same subject. For example, this particular child who is learning about subways went home and made a subway using recyclables. This prompted us to talk with the kids about Anytime/Anywhere learning. We explained to the kids that learning can happen everywhere they go; in the store, at dinner, right before bed, on trips, etc. They are starting to extend all of their learning and parents are becoming more involved in this process.

We even have some kids (three as of now) who are interested and started creating some of their own learning plans with our coaching. Right now, along with following certain district goals, we are using the Common Core Standards to assess and frame our student’s learning. It is working quite nicely. Also, we have been using DreamBox math and RAZ-Kids to supplement our math and reading work.

Finally, we have changed our classroom environment so that we have more areas where smaller learning communities can take place. We have replaced many of our tables with coffee tables, pub tables, and comfortable, chairs. I have attached pictures of this environment. Since creating this type of environment, we have seen more opportunity for communication and collaboration.
Wales Elementary Kindergarten tables




















Wales Elementary Kindergarten














As previously stated, "we have much to learn, but we are on our way to creating a truly personalized experience for those who count the most; our students!"

Thursday, February 2, 2012

10 Tips to Encourage Voice and Choice


To transform a classroom to a personalized learning environment is challenging. First, you need to know what personalized learning means. Last night I was fortunate to be part of a panel on personalized learning for the Future of Education hosted by Steve Hargadon with Kathleen McClaskey, Lisa Nielsen, and Shannon Miller. All of us are in agreement that it is all about the learner and that student voice and choice is necessary to personalize learning. Personalized learning is all about the learner, starts with the learner, and means the student drives their learning.
What does Student Voice and Choice mean?
Student voice is difficult to hear in a traditional classroom where the teacher provides direct instruction and curriculum that is either provided for the teacher, adapted by the teacher, or designed by the teacher. Student choice means students choose how they learn something and, possibly, what they learn. This chart (Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization) shows how personalized learning is different than differentiated and individualized instruction. In the latter two approaches, the teacher adapts or customizes the instruction to meet the needs of either a group of students (differentiation) or for an individual student (individualization).
In these situations, there is little or no student voice. These are mostly teacher-directed. Students may participate in projects and take responsibility for specific roles within a project, but, in most cases, the teacher determines the topics, roles, and responsibilities. Project-based learning (PBL) has students collaborate and produce an end product together. However, to personalize PBL, the student has a voice in the design of the project and possibly, the process.
Student Voice and Choice
What if you take one topic that you love to teach but you just cannot get your students motivated to learn about it? What if they just don’t seem to understand the topic no matter how many times you’ve taught it? Some get it. Some don’t. So what can you do to motivate students so they are engaged in learning and want to explore the topic?
Ten Steps to Encourage Student Voice and Choice
  1. Introduce the topic and share the standards that are normally met with typical instruction.
  2. Determine prior knowledge by using a poll, then having students share what they know in small groups, and then sharing out to the whole group one thing they learned about the topic they didn’t know before.
  3. Show a video or other type of media presentation about the topic. If you know a personal story that might hook your students, share it.
  4. Share how you normally taught that topic and invite them to help you redesign how you teach the topic. Tell them you want them to have a say in redesigning how they learn, what the classroom will look like, and your role as a teacher. Let them know that for this topic, your going to need their help in coming up with the questions, that they will be able have a place in the class and online to ask questions, ask for help, give feedback, and maybe help others in the classroom.
  5. Brainstorm questions about the topic with the whole group. You can project your computer and use programs like Google Docs or a mindmapping tool like Inspiration or Mindmeister. The more questions, the better. Encourage students to use “how” and “why” questions. If they come up with one big question like “why is there war?”, ask them to be more specific and come up with 2 to 5 more questions that take that big question deeper. Be sure to tell them that there are no stupid questions.
  6. Ask students to work in pairs or small groups to select a big question about the topic they want to explore. Students can choose a group based on the question they want to investigate.
  7. Ask groups to design how they want to answer the question(s) and demonstrate understanding of the topic and question they chose. Have them choose up to five supporting questions that they will also explore to learn more about their topic.
  8. Invite each group to write a proposal on how they plan to demonstrate understanding, what resources they will use, how they will present what they learned, and how they will measure if they are successful. Each group can design a rubric to assess teamwork, research, presentation, and other criteria they determine necessary for success.
  9. Ask groups to share their proposals with another group who can give them feedback. Then ask another group for feedback and approval. Your job is as guide and facilitator.
  10. Give them enough time and resources to do the work they need to do. Watch the excitement of students immersed in the topic.

Watching students take responsibility by giving them their own voice so they are able to choose how they learn can be scary for teachers. But if you take a chance and try it, you will be amazed what happens. Just be open to some things not working the way you think they will work. You are giving up some control and letting students have more responsibility for their learning. Just watch and enjoy!