Wednesday, December 17, 2014

10 Trends to Personalize Learning in 2015

2015 is the year the focus will finally turn the corner by organizations in education and the business world to get it right: it is about the learner. It is not about calling it “Personalized Instruction” or “Personalized Education.” It is not about the technology, the curriculum, or instruction. It is about the learner making learning personal for his or herself. It is about teacher and learner roles changing. It is about calling students “learners.” It is about transforming the system because now is the time to change the system. The current system is broken. It isn’t working for most of our learners. The current system of content delivery and focusing on performance instead of learning is not making positive changes for our children and their future. So we put together four large concepts that encompass the 10 trends that you will see impacting learning starting this coming year: Learning Culture, Learning Environments, Deeper Learning, and Partners in Learning.

        Learning Culture
  1. Belief System
    Culture in a school and our understanding of teaching and learning does not change unless we have a shared belief system. All stakeholders have a set of beliefs around teaching and learning yet they may not come together around a belief system they all agree with. Schools have to start off with a shared belief system to create the change. Most of us only know about teaching and learning from when we went through the system as a student where we learned to be compliant and follow the rules. It’s easier to keep the status quo going and doing what we are used to be doing than changing how we teach. Change is hard, but change is necessary now for our kids and their future. 2015 is the year. Expect to see more stories about belief systems and the change happening in schools.

  2. Competency-based System
    Competency-based pathways (sometimes referred to as “proficiency-based” or “performance-based”) are a re-engineering of our education system around learning where failure is no longer an option. Learners may move at their own pace, reading at one level and working on a math digital badge at another level. Competency education is rooted in the notion that education is about mastering a set of skills and knowledge, not just moving through a curriculum. Currently, 42 states have adopted policies that give schools different ways to award credit to learners including waivers from time-based requirements. In 2015, schools will be held accountable to demonstrate how their learners progress in a competency-based system where time is a variable. We will see more research and case studies around competency-based systems that move from teacher-centered to learner-centered.

  3. Self-Sustainable Personalized Learning Systems
    A Personalized Learning System is a culture shift and a change in process that impacts the entire school community. Moving to learner-centered environments is more than just handing over the keys to the learner so they drive their own learning right away. As more schools build a shared belief system, more districts will need to support the transformation to learner-centered environments. So the system is self-sustainable, it will be important to build capacity with your own staff. Just like we want learners to own their learning, we want schools to take ownership for their personalized learning system. Teachers are learners too, so they will need coaching support. Teachers will develop Personal Professional Learning Plans based on learning goals developed with the teacher and coach. In 2015, we will see an increase in Personal Professional Learning Plans with coaching programs where schools use their coaches to support teachers in building self-sustainable Personalized Learning Systems.

    Learning Environments
  4. Flexible Learning Spaces
    The twenty-first century is challenging old notions of learning spaces. The idea that learners must be seated at desks in rows is becoming archaic. Why? Because the world is changing. Technology and the move to personalizing learning, collaborative work and projects is changing the classroom. Teachers no longer have to stand up and deliver “sit and get” curriculum. Some may call these spaces blended learning, but they need to be learner-centered not teacher-centered. Flexible learning spaces are designed to give learners options to learn so they can invite curiosity, creativity and collaboration. Hundreds of teachers who participated in our 5 Ws of Personalized Learning eCourse® have transformed and shared their classrooms. Everyday we are getting new stories. So in 2015, expect pictures and videos of flexible learning spaces along with some great stories and reflections about their journeys.

  5. Multi-Age Co-Teaching Classrooms
    Multi-age classrooms are when one or more teachers teach multiple grade levels. Schools have accommodated multi-age classes when there were smaller classes in some grades and they needed to fill space. Now since we are moving to competency-based systems, schools are realizing that grouping by age isn’t working. When you group one, two or more grade levels together, then it is perfect for teachers to co-teach in one large learning environment. For too long, teachers have been working in isolation behind closed doors. What co-teaching does is not only open those doors but it develops a professional relationship where two or more teachers collaborate to support learners more effectively. Consider what can happen in these multi-age co-teaching classrooms where learners are flexibly grouped throughout the day based on the activity, subject, work habits, level of independent and content knowledge. Sometimes the learners are grouped heterogeneously in exploratory learning in science and social studies but are grouped by skill, ability or goals when involved with math or literacy learning. These multi-age co-teaching models allow for looping so learners stay with the same teachers for more than one year. In 2015, we will see more multi-age co-teaching models that are what KM Explore in Wales, WI states are "ageless and gradeless."

    Deeper Learning

  6. Inquiry-based Project-based Learning (PBL)
    Project-based learning is a form of inquiry-based learning that is contextual, creative and shared, where learners collaborate on projects that require critical thinking and communication.  Learners can do projects to demonstrate mastery and apply what they learned about a problem. Yet, there is a difference between doing projects and project-based learning activities. A project that a teacher designed may have all learners create the same product instead of focusing on the process. The greatest potential for PBL is that it calls for authentic assessment and presenting what you learned to a real audience. Inquiry-based means encouraging learner voice and choice where they ask the questions around their interests and what they are passionate about. When this happens, learners are motivated, engaged, and own their learning. In 2015, we will see more showcases and exhibitions of PBL demonstrating mastery with evidence of learning and reflections on the process.

  7. Play-based Learning
    Purposeful play should be the central learning experience in early learning classrooms. It is a natural way of learning that supports creativity and imagination. But why should play be limited to primary classrooms only? It doesn't matter what age we are; we all like to play. This is where technology and pedagogy can intersect. Consider each learner has a Personal Learning Backpack that supports learning and instructional strategies. Play is actually about social and emotional learning and how people learn in a social context. When you play, you can challenge yourself in meaningful tasks that have a purpose. In 2015, we will share research around play-based and game-based learning. We will see research that focuses on the pedagogy around play and the use of technology based on how learners learn best.

  8. Assessment AS Learning
    Assessment as learning is where learners monitor their progress and reflect on their own learning. It is based on research about how learning happens and is characterized by monitoring their progress and making adjustments to their learning as they learn so they achieve deeper understanding. In the world of standardized tests and teacher-directed environments, teachers tend to be accountable for all the learning, not the learners. When you move to assessment as learning, the types of assessments change. Learners are not only more responsible for their learning, they are more accountable as they monitor and reflect on their progress. This is what personalizing learning is all about. It is about meta-learning and learning about learning. In 2015, you will see assessment changing and adopting more assessment as learning strategies.

    Partners in Learning

  9. Partnerships between Teacher and Learners
    Personalized learning is all about building relationships. The partnership between teacher and learner is about understanding how they learn best using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express. The conversations are all about the learning, their interests, aspirations, hopes along with their strengths and challenges a learner may have in their Personal Learning Plans. This partnership says to the learner how much the teacher cares about them, their learning and their future. 32 states have begun to use Personal Learning Plans (PLP) or Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) with 21 states mandating for use with all learners. In 2015, expect to see more information and research about PLPs or ILPs happening and growing in the middle and high school level.

  10. Advisories
    Each learner can be assigned to at least one advisor over several years. An advisor can be any adult in the building. In fact, each learner can have several advisors that could include another learner. The idea around advisories is that there has to be a purpose for the advisory program, and it is important to start each advisory with a clear structure. There are advisories where there is no structure or purpose other than meeting on a regular basis. The heart of the advisory is the reflection on the learner's work and learning goals referring to their Personal Learning Plans. It is important to get advisories right and build these relationships around a purpose on a regular basis. In 2015, expect to see examples and models of advisory programs where learners meet with advisors everyday and in some cases twice a day. We will see an increase in advisory programs across the country.

Throughout 2015, we will be taking each one of these trends and elaborating on them in future posts. So expect some interesting posts around each of these concepts sprinkled with stories, examples and models. We encourage input from you and maybe can share some of your stories and journey. Contact us at and comment below. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Top 10 Blog Posts in 2014

What a year for us! Not only were we really busy writing our new book, Make Learning Personal, but you let us know what posts worked and what you would like to hear from us next. We listened. Some of our blog posts have gone viral because of you. In fact, the feedback we received helped us revise and update our PDI chart and Stages of PLEs to version 3. 

Here's a list of the top 10 posts in 2014:

1. 10 Trends to Personalize Learning in 2015
   (we just added this post even though it is about 2015)

2. Stages of Personalized Learning Environments (v3)

6.  Schools without Classrooms

7.  Re-Imagined Learning Spaces for Media Centers

8.  UDL for All Learners

10. Continuum to Develop Expert Learners

Several of our most popular posts were guest posts. We realize there is so much to learn about personalized learning. We keep learning from you. So expect some interesting and insightful guest posts this coming year. 

Thank you for sharing your ideas and providing us feedback!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Access, Engage, and Express: The Lens for Teaching and Learning

Access, Engage, and Express (TM) is the lens for understanding how anyone learns best. The reason we came up with these three words was to help educators easily understand their learners using this lens. We want Access, Engage, and Express to be an integral part of their daily approach to teaching and learning.  Using Access, Engage and Express was developed from the Universal Design for Learning® (UDL) principles that are based on neuroscience and how we learn.

"UDL is the framework for Personalized Learning."

The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) developed UDL based on how each learner is unique and has variability in their learning. Neuroscience takes into account how individuals bring a variety of skills, needs, and interests to learning. 

The three UDL principles:

We highly recommend you visit UDL Guidelines 2.0 and review the checkpoints. You will find extensive resources with each checkpoint that support each of the principles. After we reviewed and shared the principles with teachers, they got it and were appreciative for the rich resources. However, we realized teachers needed a clearer and practical way of applying the UDL principles in understanding their learners and, in turn, in designing their instruction the meet the needs of all learners. So, over two years ago, we came up with...
Access for Multiple Means of Representation
Engage for Multiple Means of Engagement
Express for Multiple Means of Action and Expressions
The biggest point we wanted to make was that this lens is for all learners. It is about teachers understanding how learners access information, engage with content, and express what they know and understand. We also used this lens for the learner to understand how they learn best. This lens validates the learner and it prompts conversations about their learning between the teacher and learner.

Think about yourself and how you access and process information. How do you transform information into useable knowledge? When we asked teachers this question, their answers were all different. Some told us they needed pictures that illustrated the text or written step-by-step instructions. Some said they needed to do their own research online. What about you? What about your learners? How do you think they best access information?

Next think about how you best engage with content. We are all different when it comes to how we are comfortable engaging with content. Some teachers told us they learned best by doing hands-on activities. Others stated they learned best by working alone and reflecting on their learning. Others needed to collaborate with others. What about you? Again think about your learners and how they best engage with content.

Now think how you express what you know and understand. Some people felt better writing down what they learned. Others felt better creating and building things that demonstrated what they learned. Even others stated they felt more comfortable presenting in front of others. What about you? How do you best express what you understand? 

All of this made it clear to us if we broke it down to practical terms, it would make sense to educators and learners as the lens. Easy to understand. Clear to use.  

Access, Engage, and Express (TM) 

Universal Design for Learning is a registered trademark of CAST.
Access, Engage, and Express is a trademark of Personalize Learning, LLC
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