Monday, January 7, 2013

OMG! Teacher Roles are Changing

When you create an environment where learning is personal for each learner, your role as a teacher changes.
So what does personalized learning really mean? 
Personalized learning means it starts with learners having a voice and choice in how they learn. They create their Personal Learner Profile using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) lens determining how they learn best indicating their strengths, challenges, aspirations, interests, and talents. They know how they prefer to access resources, engage with content, and then choose the best ways to express what they know. They self-regulate their learning. They own and drive their learning. It is does not mean technology personalizes the learning for learners. It does not mean that your role as teacher is no longer needed. Your role changes in a personalized learning environment more than ever as a partner in learning with your learners.

Teachers only know what they know -- right? For hundreds of years, teachers were and continue to be trained in traditional teaching strategies. It started over 120 years ago with Charles Eliot, President of Harvard who chaired the Committee of Ten who developed the Carnegie Unit and structured time-based schedules that we have today. This is all most of us know. Schools are set up as institutions where learning is the only place it is supposed to happen. Actually, that is where the teaching happens, and it doesn't mean that all learners are learning.

It is not that easy to start personalizing learning in a traditional system. Yet, there are teachers all over the world who take risks and try new strategies. They transform lessons to interactive real-world projects. You know who we're talking about. It might be you. It could be the teacher next door or those you know in your PLN (Personal Learning Network). You might be in a school where your administrators encourage risk-taking, flexibility and creativity. We know we are leaving out some very important people here, but we want to share a few of the  transformational teachers who are on their own journeys to personalize learning:

Lisa Welch and Wanda Richardson are co-teachers in a K-2 team from Kettle Moraine School District in Wales, Wisconsin who shared their journey:
Upon reflection, we found that really, we were “missing the boat” when it came to truly personalizing learning. 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.

Kevin McLaughlin is an ICT Coordinator / Primary Teacher at Old Mill Primary School, Broughton Astley, Leics, UK who shared his journey:
I  envisaged personalised learning in my classroom as one that involves every learner in the development of their learning journey, that includes their own learning themes as well as those that the curriculum requires of them and allows them the opportunity to explore this learning in any way they see fit to achieve it.

We recently interviewed Shelley Wright, a high school educator in Moose Jaw, SK, Canada who shared some of her journey and about what she used to think. We will be writing more about Shelley soon:
The most important skill I can model for my students is how to learn and how to talk about learning. Instead of seeing my students as empty vessels, I believe they are reflexive learners, capable of change, who have much to offer to my own learning. My students have proven themselves to be competent researchers.

It is not about teaching subjects, curriculum, or standards. It is about learners learning how to learn -- how to think for themselves -- to problem solve. The teachers we talk to who are letting go and encouraging learner voice and choice have changed their learning environment and role as teacher. They see and share how learners are taking responsibilities and ownership for their learning. These teachers are finding that they will never go back to traditional teaching methods. 

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