Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Year in Review: 10 Top Posts from Personalize Learning

1. Choice is More than a Menu of Options

The continuum of choice was developed to provide a guide and strategies for teachers and learners who follow this process. When you move to learner-centered and eventually learn-driven environments, learners take more responsibility for their learning. The more choices learners make on their own will challenge them to advocate for what they believe is their purpose for learning. Visual from @sylviaduckworth

2. Creating Personalized Learning for Everyone

Katherine Prince @katprince from  @KnowledgeWorks believes that every child deserves high-quality personalized learning that adapts to his or her needs and interests. But there’s a significant risk that the expanding learning ecosystem could fracture, leaving even more children behind than the education system does today.  “Innovating toward Vibrant Learning Ecosystems: Ten Pathways for Transforming Learning” highlights education stakeholders’ tremendous opportunity to reinvent learning for a new era and to create new systemic structures that can help all learners succeed.

3. Focus on the Learner Not Technology

Technology in the form of adaptive learning systems and most test prep programs put the focus on performance. In a personalized learning environment, learners actively participate in their learning. They have a voice in what they are learning based on how they learn best. Learners have a choice in how they demonstrate what they know, what paths they take to learn, and provide evidence of their learning.

4.  Discover EPiC - Re-Imagine Education

EPiC Elementary in Liberty Public Schools, Missouri is an innovative, personalized, project-based learning community infused with technology designed to inspire learners to be creative and think big! Learners use real tools and real materials to collaboratively construct real world applications of their knowledge. Guest post by Michelle Schmitz @mschmitz_1 and Susan Maynor @shmaynor from @epicelementary

5. Why is Change and Transforming Education So Complex?

Changing or transforming any system especially in education is not an easy thing to do. If you are part of a system that most of us grew up in and are used to, it doesn't take much to keep your school or district from moving to a successful Personalized Learning System. The change process is so complex that even if you agree and are working on transforming the system, there may be one piece of the puzzle that is missing that keeps change from happening. Visual from @sylviaduckworth

6. Personalize Learning in a High School Math Class

Rik Rowe @RoweRikW shares how learners start building a strong culture of learning (#COLchat) in the #1st5Days that enables them to respect each other, depend on each other, challenge each other and value each other’s contributions. "We also aim to develop skills like prioritizing, scheduling, public speaking, coping, exhibiting confidence and working through vulnerabilities. ."

7. The Story Behind My Passion to Personalize Learning

http://www.personalizelearning.com/2014/12/access-engage-and-express-lens-for.htmlKathleen McClaskey, @khmmc, writes about her passion to discover the learner in every child. "I look back now on this experience with my son and know that he is one of virtually millions of children who stop seeing themselves as learners and who often feel stupid in school. So how do we begin to discover the learner in every child? Most importantly, how do we have every learner understand how they learn best? You decide. With labels or through UDL lens of Access, Engage and Express?"

8. Learning Can and Should be Natural and Engaging

Jackie Gerstein, @jackiegerstein, shares that the more you can apply what you're learning to your every day, the more it'll stick in your head. The reason is simple. When you're learning by doing, you're implementing everything that makes our memory work. When you're able to connect what you're learning with a real world task, that forms the bonds in your brain, and subsequently the skills you're learning will stick around. We learn best when we have context, and that applies to new skills as much as it does random facts in school. 

9. Put the "Person" in "Personalization

It's not about technology. It's not about the tests or improving test scores. It's really not about school. It's all about the learner, how they learn best and that what they learn is meaningful and for a purpose. It is all about the relationships that learners make and need to support their learning. It is also about the teacher - a valuable person in the relationship. Barbara Bray, @bbray27, first wrote this post on Rethinking Learning and cross-posted it on our site. We also decided we needed to bring back the phrase that Elliot Washor, @Elliot_Washor, coined in April 2014 and use it as the title of this post.

10. Learner Agency: The Missing Link

This was the first blog in the collaborative blog series by Personalize Learning, LLC and the Institute for Personalized Learning of six posts. Learner agency often gets missed in conversations on transforming the educational system. We have a sense of ‘agency’ when we feel in control of things that happen around us; when we feel that we can influence events. We would like to thank Jim Rickabaugh,  @drrickabaugh, Jean Garrity, @jeangarrity, and the team @Institute4PL for collaborating with us on this series.

Even though our post 10 Trends to Personalized Learning in 2016 was just released, it already has had enough hits to be one of the top posts of 2015. So keep checking in with us. 2016 will be The Year of Learner Agency so look for posts around each of the trends, guest posts from awesome educators, and #plearnchat around the trends.

Happy New Year!

Barbara @bbray27   •  Kathleen @khmmc   •   Pam @prlowe91  •  Linda @Linda_Ullah

Thursday, December 17, 2015

10 Trends to Personalized Learning in 2016

Personalized learning is happening now and will expand significantly worldwide in 2016. Yet there are still different definitions for personalized learning and even some have concerns about what it means for kids. We know the main focus of personalized learning is our kids. So we are focusing on three main concepts for these trends we see for 2016 starting with learners, the teachers, and pulling together everything with culture and community that encompass the 10 Trends.


1. Discover the Learner in Every Child 
More educators will be using the neurosciences and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) instead of learning styles to understand how learners learn best. UDL when used as the lens of Access, Engage and Express helps the teacher better design instruction and for the learner to share how they learn which validates them as a learner.

The idea of goal setting and achievement is a real motivator for kids. During 2016, we will see more learners developing Personal Learner Profiles, Personal Learning Backpacks, and Personal Learning Plans. The Personal Learning Plan is not just about career and college goals; it helps kids set goals and develop skills to become self-directed learners. [Source]

2. Learner Agency Leads to Effective Learners
During our collaborative blog series with the Institute for Personalized Learning, we found there is a growing demand for learners to be able to do more than receive instruction, follow a learning path designed by educators and complete problems and assignments presented to them by an adult. We realized that learner agency is the missing link and often gets missed in conversations on transforming the educational system. It is about having a sense of 'agency' when we feel in control of things that happen around us; when we feel that we can influence events. This happens when teachers focus on learning as the goal by allowing flexibility in the pace at which learners are expected to learn. You will definitely be hearing more about "agency" in 2016.

3. Competency-based Education
The idea of moving to a system built on demonstration of mastery, rather than a required amount of time in a classroom, is drawing renewed interest from educators and policymakers alike. Competency education is rooted in the notion that education is about mastering a set of skills and knowledge, not just moving through a curriculum. In competency education, learners keep working on specific skills or knowledge until they can demonstrate their understanding and ability to apply them; they then move to the next material while continuing to use what they have already learned. [Making Mastery Works, Nellie Mae Foundation]. Assessments will change for competency-based education with a new accountability strategy called PACE (Performance-Assessment of Competency Education) that was piloted this past year by New Hampshire.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed in to law on December 10, 2015 will offer flexibility for states to develop statewide competency-based education systems and new assessments for learner-centered models. Funding to states and districts is included to implement personalized learning and update professional learning for educators to support personalized, learner-centered teaching. Because of ESSA, we are going to see competency-based education (CBE) growing exponentially. What we are going to be sharing in 2016 are the examples and models of CBE and personalized learning.

4. Kids Hacking School
Kids tend to be smarter than we give them credit. Since the system was created to encourage compliancy, many kids learn right from kindergarten to follow orders and do what the teacher tells them to do. However, because of the access to information on social media and conversations with their peers, they are learning to question, be curious, and even skeptical about “school”. They also are realizing with all that is available at their fingertips, they can teach themselves what they want to learn. Many kids and their parents who are Millenials are not accessing information from traditional methods anymore. They are moving from cable to streaming video like Netflix or from news on TV or newspapers to the Internet and social media. There are examples now of kids who are designing their own learning like Logan LaPlante in Reno, Nevada who learned math through extreme sports where he is Hacking School or Adora Svitak who shares what adults can learn from kids or Jacob Barnett who was identified as autistic who taught himself quantum mechanics.

We need to pay attention and listen to our kids. We need to be open to transforming learning for all of our kids because it is their future not ours. When teachers change the learning environments to focus on the learner and give them voice and choice, more learners will present what and how they want to learn. 2016 is the year where we will see the door to creativity, curiosity, and innovation open for more kids.


5. Educator Competencies and Learner-Centered Teaching
The development of Educator Competencies for Personalized, Learner-Centered Teaching identifies the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that educators need in order to create and thrive in effective personalized, learner-centered environments. We will be writing about the Competencies that are organized into four domains—Cognitive, Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, and Instructional along with the guiding principles developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Jobs for the Future with the interactive version at Students at the Center Hub.

Digital Promise offers micro-credentials to provide competency-based recognition for professional learning that provides teachers with the opportunity to gain recognition for skills they master throughout their careers. The micro-credentials provide teachers a new way of demonstrating evidence of learning through the eyes of their learners. They share examples of work and reflections from learners along with their own reflections.
2016 will be the year where teachers will be reviewing the competencies for their own professional learning and demonstrating evidence of learning. We will also see a change in teacher evaluations moving from teachers being accountable of test scores to a collaborative community of learners based on these competencies. ESSA that we mentioned in #3 eliminated test scores for evaluations. We definitely will be writing more about this and what it means for our learners and their future.

6. Delve Deeper into Learning with Voice and Choice
continuum-choice-duckworth.jpegLearner voice gives learners a chance to share their opinions about something they believe in. There are so many aspects of "school" and "learning" where learners have not been given the opportunity to be active participants. Some learners, especially those that are concerned about extrinsic factors like grades, may not feel comfortable expressing their own opinions. Giving learners voice encourages them to participate in and eventually to own and drive their learning.

Providing choice can be confusing. If learners are choosing from a set of pre-planned choices from a computer program or a list of options from the teacher, then the teacher is ultimately the one responsible for the learning not the learner. As learners increase responsibility around voice, teachers can also provide a process that builds ownership as learners move toward agency with choice. 2016 will be the year we see more examples and strategies of learner voice and choice along the continuum around the world.

7. Blended Learning under the Personalized Learning Umbrella
There has been confusion around Blended Learning AS Personalized Learning where technology actually is key to supporting moving to and implementation of personalized learning. Blended learning alone may not be personalized or learner-centered. Technology will expand tremendously over the next few years around the world and how technology will be used is going to change. When learners take more responsibility for their learning, you will see less use of adaptive learning systems driving the learning. Learners will start realizing that they can “google” for information. But what they need to do is acquire the skills to be able to research what is “non-googleable” -- to determine if the information is authentic, valid, and relevant.

We will see more schools using social media, allowing smartphones and developing BYOD programs in 2016. We will also see Makerspaces and STEAM grow as an integral part of the curriculum. 2016 will be the year that defines how blended learning and technology supports the implementation and growth of personalized learning ecosystems.

Culture and Community

8. Common Language
Personalized Learning is a culture shift. It is about transforming teaching and learning. To move a school or district to Personalized Learning Environments, all stakeholders need to have a common language and understanding around personalized learning in conversations inside and outside of school. Just like the phrase “It takes a village,” it takes the whole school community and key stakeholders to develop a shared vision and belief system to transform teaching and learning. We will see more examples like RSU2 in Maine that invite communities to build the common language across their district.

Personalizing learning that changes how teachers teach and learners learn affects everyone in the community. Change is hard, but change is necessary now for our kids and their future. Watch for more stories in 2016 about how schools and districts are developing their common language around personalized learning.

9. Building Citizenship
Democratic societies need active, informed and responsible citizens; citizens who are willing and able to take responsibility for themselves and their communities. Learners of all ages can learn to become active citizens or change agents when they become aware of how they can contribute and make change in their own communities or even the larger global community. Citizenship activities at any age often results in personal pride that they made a difference and that their lives truly have a purpose. Democracies thrive when citizens are actively involved in their communities.

Kids want to make a difference. They can choose a challenge or problem they decide to investigate by going out into the community and asking what the problems are. We will also see more projects like the Center for Place-Based Education or Place-based education where learners are immersed in experiences through participation in service projects for the local school and/or community. In 2016, we will see a growth in local, national and global projects where learners investigate the places where they live, discover ways to contribute to society and to build citizenship.

10. Community as School
School is starting to look different. Society is based on learning, communities are held together by learning, and people construct identities through learning. [Eckert, Goldman & Wenger] When you think of school, you may think of bell schedules, tests, curriculum and a teacher directing the learning. School is becoming more a learning community for learners and teachers. Now the community is becoming school. There are community service learning projects that are required for graduation. The community offers opportunities to bridge learning with meaningful, authentic, real world activities.

Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) are a core component of community schools and seek to use the school as a vehicle for increasing learning opportunities for learners through the acquisition of knowledge and skills outside of traditional classroom instruction that includes apprenticeships, internships, mentors, community service, independent study, online courses, performing groups, and private instruction.

2016 will see more programs like the 10,000 Mentors that Fred Bramante launched in New Hampshire, and activities where learners can challenge a course with work experience or community service.  You will see more communities sharing how learning is changing locally and globally.


Throughout 2016, we will be taking each one of these trends and elaborating on them in future posts. So expect some interesting posts and maybe even #plearnchats around most of these concepts sprinkled with stories, examples and models. We encourage input from you and maybe we can share some of your stories and journeys on our site. Contact us at personalizelearn@gmail.com and comments are very welcome below.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

It Takes a Village to Personalize Learning in Maine and in Oz

Guest Post by Virgel Hammonds, Chief Learning Officer, Knowledgeworks, and former Superintendent, RSU 2, Maine
“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” *

When the Maine school consolidation law passed, many communities expressed Dorothy’s sentiments. In 2007, the Maine legislature passed LD 2323, An Act to Remove Barriers to the Reorganization of School Administrative Units. The law was established to “ensure learning opportunities, rigorous academic programs, uniformity in delivering programs, a greater uniformity in tax rates, more efficient and effective use of limited resources, preservation of school choice and maximum opportunity to deliver services in an efficient manner.” With this passage, the State of Maine was able to save $66 million annually, but it also forced highly independent school districts into shotgun weddings and forced marriages. A tornado of anxiety tore through the state.

Regional School Unit Two (RSU2), comprised of the towns of Dresden, Farmingdale, Hallowell, Monmouth, and Richmond saw it as an opportunity to think differently about how they could collectively support the unique needs of its 2400 children living within this new, extended family. Countless meetings were held in schools, homes, churches, town halls, farms, theaters, and any location where people congregated within each community. Everyone, from children to the senior town spokesmen, was invited to the table to discuss how all RSU2 community members could support each child in meeting their desired personal and professional goals. 
RSU2 educators asked its learning community:
  1. What is our ultimate commitment to each child?
  2. What are we preparing our children for?
  3. How may each community member be a part of the solution?
  4. How will the support of our learning community accelerate the growth of our children and our five towns?
Over the course of a year, the RSU2 towns evolved from five, independent communities to one learning community that was focused on putting children at the center of all learning decisions. The RSU2 learning community desired to establish a learning ecosystem that embraced learner voice and choice through varied learning opportunities that occur year-round and can take place inside, as well as outside of schools. The RSU2 learning community would work collaboratively to support highly personalized, competency-based learning opportunities via community projects that needed new solutions, internships with community and state partners, experiential learning engagements nurtured by educators and community members alike, and through learning opportunities driven by children themselves. RSU2 parents and business leaders wanted their high school graduates to be able to analyze and think critically, write and speak effectively, and collaboratively solve complex problems today and in the future. Equally important, the learning community requested children also be given the opportunity to learn at different paces based on the individual learning needs of each child.

Educators in RSU2, and throughout the world, work tirelessly to support the needs of each child. To establish a highly personalized learning ecosystem, we cannot continue to solely depend on the miraculous measures of our educators. RSU2’s engagement of the community at large allowed for the exponential growth of learning supports and opportunities available to children, educators, and families through community alignment and commitment. Though the consolidation law forced RSU2 communities to collaborate, it also allowed them to think differently about its schools, children, and commitment to regional prosperity. 

Tin Woodsman: What have you learned, Dorothy? 

Dorothy: If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with!


virgel-hammonds_1.jpgVirgel Hammonds is the former superintendent (Regional School Unit Two (Central Maine) and high school principal (Lindsay, CA). In both roles, he supported each learning community in the transition from a traditional model to one that is highly personalized for each child and based on mastery not seat time.

Now, Virgel is serving competency-education, personalized learning world in his new role as Chief Learning Officer for KnowledgeWorks. He collaborates with thought leaders throughout the country to make the vision of an equitable, personalized, rigorous, and viable learning model possible for each child. Virgel is a graduate of UMASS Lowell (BA Political Science/Economics and Fresno Pacifc University (M.Ed. Education Leadership and Teaching).

*Permission to use Image: Bray, Andrew. Wizard of Oz. andrew-scarecrow.jpg. My eCoach eLibrary. Online Available. 6 December 2015 <http://my-ecoach.com>

Monday, December 14, 2015

Building Learner Agency Conversations

We thought we would start this post about the conversations on Learner Agency with an excerpt from our first post in our blog series on Learner Agency that we developed with the Institute for Personalized Learning.

"Learner Agency often gets missed in conversations on transforming the educational system. We have a sense of ‘agency’ when we feel in control of things that happen around us; when we feel that we can influence events.

They must develop the capacity to engage strategically in their learning without waiting to be directed."

"When learners say, I struggle to know when to stop my learning, they have agency."
Dr. James Rickabaugh

After we completed the blog series, we asked Dr. James Rickabaugh @drrickabaugh to co-moderate #plearnchat on Learner Agency and share with #plrnchat. Jim is Director of the Institute for Personalized Learning @institute4pl and former Superintendent of Whitefish Bay Schools in Whitefish Bay, WI. He served as Midwest Regional President for Voyager Expanded Learning of Dallas, TX. He also served as Superintendent of Schools for the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District in Burnsville, MN. More about Jim and a few quotes from Jim from the chat:
"Ownership/independence: outgrowth of agency-lets learners see learning as something they do for selves."
"Voice conveys respect and inclusion. Invitation to invest, take responsibility & own learning."
"Get to know the learner. Look for talent. Believe it is there and you will find it."
"Agency provides a reason to commit, risk and persist in the face of challenges and setbacks."
We also want to recognize and thank the team at The Institute for Personalized Learning for collaborating with us on the blog series on Learner Agency.

We designed the questions with Jim Rickabaugh that we pulled together from our collaborative blog series. 

We realized that there is so much to know about building Learner Agency that we asked our friends in both of our PLNs (#plearnchat and #plrnchat). This was a real active #plearnchat with amazing educators from around the world. We wanted to list so many more of the posts from the chat but we had to choose a few to share with you:
Rose Colby @rose_rosecolby
"To me, agency is beyond choice and voice. It is more about a kid making decisions--develops over time to independence."  
Charity Dodd @Charity Dodd
"Ownership and independence leads to confidence for learners to set goals and take steps towards reaching their goals. " 
Chris Quinn @ChrisQuinn64
"Learners see themselves as capable, empowered learners with limitless possibilities for growth and learning." 
Derek Doucet @DerekDoucet
"If learners don't own their learning it's just something they do to avoid consequences but when they own it, they learn to learn." 
Mike Mohammad @Mo_physics
"agency = I can make choices and act on these choices to make difference in my life" from a student reflection."
Jobs for the Future @jfftweets
"Learner Agency is the initiative and capacity to act in a way that produces meaningful change in oneself or the environment."
Jason Ellingson @jasonellingson
"Learning should be FOR them, not TO them."

We archive the entire chat below using #storify


A few resources for you from the chat:

Defining Learner Agency: The Missing Link
Does Student Voice Lead to Student Agency? by@chrkennedy
Learning Independence Continuum (whitepaper) by @drrickabuagh


Congratulations to Lisa Brennan from Richmond, VA who won our book, Make Learning Personal

Lisa Brennan, @noveltalk, currently serves as librarian at St. Christophers, an all-boys middle school, prior to that I taught 6th grade Language Arts, Reading Resource and even 1st grade. Being a librarian allows me to collaborate with all learners and teachers in the school community to focus on literacy, inquiry and learning. Lisa and her husband, Charlie, have two teenage sons, John and Joe.

"By fostering agency, we are opening doors - inviting inquiry,
empowering ownership, prep-ing Ss for authentic future success."

Check out learner-led magazine that Lisa helped launch and #books4teenboys that she promotes.


Next #plearnchat Topic is "Moving from Standardization" with Tom Whitford

will be after the holidays on Monday, January 11th
7pm ET, 6pm CT, 5pm MT, 4pm PT


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Unleashing the Power of Mindset

Guest post by Gabrielle Marquette, special educator, Enosburg Falls High School, Vermont

As a leader in a district trying to transform a school and a district, it has become apparent that mindset is key. Without all stakeholders on board with the right mindset, change will not last and it may not even get started.

As Vermont moves toward more personal and proficiency based learning, having a growth mindset will be central to our success with these efforts. A growth mindset refers to the idea that intelligence is something that can change over time with effort and a commitment to improve. There is a connection between this idea and the change process, especially when the changes are as drastic as Act 77, Vermont’s legislation requiring personal learning plans for all students and proficiency based graduation requirements starting with the class of 2020. Having a growth mindset requires a special set of skills. If you believe learning happens because of effort, then persistence is required. It requires the ability to take risks and try new things. Those with a growth mindset embrace failure as a natural part of the growth process. These are the same skills schools need as they make the move to more personal learning and proficiency based graduation requirements.

It isn’t enough to understand this idea on the surface. We must be thinking about how a growth mindset looks in a moment of frustration, disillusionment, fear, or in the face of obstacles as we make these changes. Consider these questions as you think about developing a growth mindset:
  • What would a growth mindset response be during a lesson that is falling apart? 
  • What would a growth mindset look like during a difficult parent conversation about why we are eliminating class rank? 
  • What does a growth mindset look like in our grading practices? 
  • What does it look like in our assessments? 

It isn’t enough to say we have a growth mindset. Our learners are intelligent enough to see the hypocrisy when what we do doesn’t match what we say. In fact, many of them see it as their personal mission to look for these gaps and call us on them. These disconnects can take away from the power of growth mindset so we need to be very thoughtful as we make these changes.

Approaching these changes with a growth mindset may mean acknowledging to stakeholders that we are charting new territory and we don’t know what it is going to look like. Many parents may be hesitant to offer their kids up as guinea pigs. So, how can we demonstrate a growth mindset and at the same time reassure parents and board members that these changes, and the mistakes that come with the process will be worthwhile? It is important to think about how you will answer the questions that come up while maintaining a mindset that promotes failure as a way to learn. Consider ways that mindset can be communicated to the community and other stakeholders; not just stated but how might they be able to experience the power that mindset can have on learning so they can become invested in the struggle that will come with innovation. Can exhibition, classroom videos and other documentations help support these efforts in a way that honors the risk taking and failure required by a growth mindset?

Having a growth mindset means approaching these changes as an ongoing process and communicating that to all stakeholders.

At Enosburg Falls High School (EFHS), we have provided learners training on how to communicate the idea of growth mindset through Up for Learning, an organization that works to increase learner voice in educational change. We also gave them opportunities to engage in discussions with community members, parents and their peers.

Case for the Missing R: Responsibility

The video below is a story about youth and adults working together for school change. One learner starts out this video with "teachers should not be teaching kids how to pass a test, but how to pass life." This video is about teachers and learners together shaping the full potential so all resources in the school are then realized. This video is a must see to understand how schools can transform teaching and learning.

Traditional grading systems are probably the most obvious inconsistency and they also will probably be the slowest to change. They are also bringing up the most resistance. People simply cannot envision what school without grades will look like. They cannot imagine a college admissions process that doesn’t include class rank, valedictorians and grades. These are all reasonable concerns given that most of us have never experienced anything but traditional grading. Many of us may be ready for this move, but we need to be sensitive to the fact that in order for people to learn and change, they must be a little uncomfortable but not too uncomfortable. Creating opportunities for teachers and parents to increase their level of comfort incrementally is key.

Just like knowing your learners is the key to personalizing their learning experience, knowing your stakeholders is essential in leading this transformation. Many teachers at EFHS have begun to play around with their grading practices. Some are simply allowing retakes while others are exploring more drastic and controversial changes.  Our chemistry teacher is using mastery charts and requiring learners to attain mastery before a grade gets entered in grade book.

These charts are up on the wall for everyone to view. When I saw this, I had an immediate reaction but then I put on my growth mindset hat. He has worked hard to create a culture of learning in his classroom so this public display isn’t a big deal. He is also playing around with not grading homework at all. The eleventh grade English teacher is only grading standards based assessments and learners are required to “almost meet” the standard or they receive an incomplete. As a school, we are not storing grades until the semester in order to allow for more flexibility as we “play”. Our principal and many of these visionary teachers are fielding many inquiries from parents. We are approaching these difficult conversations as an opportunity to begin to communicate some of the philosophical changes that these new laws will require.

It is difficult to address the inconsistencies that exist, but there are things we can do that increase transparency and begin necessary conversations. Involving learners in the decision-making process that we are using to make the changes in the school; involving them in communication with community and parents; teaching them about the changes that are coming and teaching them how to communicate to their peers, to parents, and to the community can help them understand the complexity of the changes and how much of a process it really is. It is not enough to have token learners participating on committees. Learners need to begin to have a real say in what courses are offered, how they learn, what they learn, where they learn and even when they learn. Involving students has been the slowest of all the actions. At the start, we have the fewest systems in place for this kind of involvement. Developing these systems has been the most challenging so far.

As all of us make these radical and necessary changes, we need to constantly consider whether we are reflecting a growth mindset in the actions we take and our communication with stakeholders, especially those that may be resistant.

Gabrielle Marquette, Special Educator/ Consulting Teacher, received her M.Ed. from Saint Michael's College in 2003 and her C.A.G.S. through Southern New Hampshire University with a focus on collaborative leadership. She is a practicing special educator/ consulting teacher and has been co-teaching American Literature for thirteen years at Enosburg High School. She has been teaching at The Community College of Vermont for ten years and offers original graduate courses through Castleton University. She was awarded a Rowland fellowship in 2015 to pursue research on implementing personal learning.

“I am committed to helping educators transform learning 
environments in public school settings so meaningful 

learning is accessible to all students.”

12815_90240_0.pngGabrielle's website: Fearless Teachers: fearlessteachers.com
Email: fearlessteachers@gmail.com, gmarquette@enosburgk12.net
Twitter: @Gabster4500

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Partnership with One-to-One Institute

Press Release 
December 2, 2015

Personalize Learning, LLC is partnering with the non-profit  One-to-One Institute to help teachers create learner-centered 1:1 environments. One-to-One Institute COO, Dr. Michael Gielniak identifies personalized learning as the next big advancement needed to realize the full potential of education technology. "We are hearing from our well implemented 1:1 districts that the transformation to a student-centered pedagogy continues to be one of the biggest challenges. We believe our new course provides districts with an important foundation for their journey to personalize learning."

Bray and McClaskey expressed their excitement about the new partnership. "We are honored to work with One-to-One Institute in creating a customized standalone course based on our 5W's of Personalized Learning eCourse. Our partnership with One-to-One Institute demonstrates how learner voice and choice encourages the learner to acquire the skills they need to choose and use the appropriate tools and resources for any task. Working together to adapt the course has been an exciting experience. We look forward to our continued partnership and journey to help transform 1:1 learning environments."

One-to-One Institute CEO, Leslie Wilson, emphasizes the importance of this new offering. "Learner voice and choice are paramount to personalizing the learning process. One-to-One Institute embeds these strategies in a new and exciting online course. We are honored to be working with the "Personalize Learning" authors, Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey, in the development of the program. Their extensive expertise has inspired us and provided the foundation for this course."

One-to-One Institute will provide the course, Creating a Learner-Centered 1:1 Environment, asynchronously for individual teacher enrollment, or in more customized and facilitated forms for district groups. The course provides the "look fors," (or characteristics), and a graduated, step by step introduction to the elements of a learner-centered 1:1 environment. Upon completion teachers will have a solid foundation in which to begin engaging with students in more powerful and authentic ways. 


About One-to-One Institute
One-to-One Institute is a national non-profit committed to igniting 21st century education through the implementation of one-to-one technology in K-12 education environments. OTO is the only organization in the world to design a comprehensive approach to 1:1 implementation based on their Project RED and OTO research. The design includes professional development and consultancies to schools, districts and states that lead to successful and sustainable 1:1 programs. For more information, contact info@one-to-oneinstitute.org or connect via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+

For more information contact One-to-One Institute at laurac@one-to-oneinstitute.org, or call (517) 978-0006.

About Personalize Learning
Personalize Learning, LLC (@plearnchat) works with school districts and organizations to transform teaching and learning for all learners. Their model is based on transformation in three areas: changing teacher and learner roles, using Universal Design for Learning® as the lens to personalize learning, and developing a culture of learning based on a shared belief system. Barbara and Kathleen co-authored the book, Make Learning Personal to provide the What, Who, Wow, Where and Why of Personalized Learning that expands on their eCourse, the 5W's of Personalized Learning. They now offer a standalone course of our 5W's course that is different than the course One-to-One Institute is offering.

For more information, contact us using our contact form, email us via personalizelearn@gmail.com or connect with us via Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What Learners Think about Agency

Final post in series by the Institute for Personalized Learning
Collaborative Blog Series on Learner Agency with Personalize Learning, LLC

It’s hard to believe, but our six-part collaborative blog series with Jim Rickabaugh, Jean Garrity, and The Institute for Personalized Learning at CESA #1 on Learner Agency is nearing an end! For this last post, we all felt it was crucial to get perspectives on learner agency from learners themselves. The Institute for Personalized Learning asked some middle and high school students from their member districts to reflect on what learner agency means to them and to answer a few questions on the topic. Below are a few of their insightful and thoughtful responses below with links to the full responses on this page on Institute for Personalized Learning.

Q1: Why is agency important to you?

[Deadlines] were never set in stone, but worked around the class’ comprehension of topics. Personally, in class I appreciated the flexible due dates because I was often ahead of the class. All assignments for the unit would be posted at the beginning of it, so when I finished quickly I could move on. ~ High School Learner, Elmbrook School District

We were given more choices on how we wanted to learn. If someone didn't want to do the practice problems on canvas, then they could complete them on paper and get them checked in. If someone didn't like using the remotes for the quizzes, then they could write the answer down on their whiteboard or desk. There was also a choice of taking a test or doing an alternative summative assessment. These choices made learning lean towards my preference while other classmates around me didn't have to compromise their comforts. We could all learn in ways that were easier for us but still take in the same amount of material. Also, I am a horrible test-taker so having the alternative assessment was a better choice for me. I could use one of my strengths (writing) and use it to show what I learned in the unit. ~ High School Learner, Elmbrook School District

I have accelerated very much in the math department and feel like I am challenged, which isn't a feeling that I have had in a long time. ~ Middle School Learner, Muskego-Norway School District

Q2: How are you able to demonstrate agency in your classroom?

[Our teacher] would frequently ask us how he could make learning better for everyone, and modified his teaching accordingly. One example of this is how he adjusted goal setting when some students said it was almost absent or not thought of in the daily routine. He modified it so that everyone is aware of their goals and notes their progress in them daily through a survey. This is hugely important; in this classroom everyone gets a say, and everyone is heard. ~ High School Learner, Elmbrook School District

[I]n algebra class, and we were learning about how to graph equations in slope-intercept form. I had already learned about this last year because I was in a high math class, and class began to become boring. I talked to my algebra teacher, and she allowed me to take the test for the unit before my peers, and I got every question right. My algebra teacher allowed me to continue to work ahead, letting me learn from online videos instead of regular classes. I accepted the challenge and continued to work faster than my peers. Currently, two months after I felt my voice really mattered, I am four units ahead of my classmates and continue to work at my own pace. I used my voice to reach my full potential as a learner, and continue to work harder everyday. ~ Middle School Learner, School District of Waukesha

I like how I can work at my own pace and pick how I wanna lay out my schedule. If in the morning one day I decide to read I can do that. Or if another day I chose to work on a project in the morning I can also do that. ~ Middle School Learner, Muskego-Norway School District

Q3: How is it different now than what you’ve experienced in the past?

Project I is a classroom where you are not told to do things (it’s nothing like traditional class,) It is when you get to CHOOSE what you want to do. In Project I you are assigned work at a certain time but during that time you get to choose what you want to work on, which makes you feel less rushed and we do not get letter grades, we learn to learn, we get numbers instead, which makes you think 'Oh, I gotta work on some of that more" And you move on. ~ Middle School Learner, Muskego-Norway School District

Project based learning has helped me because unlike a regular classroom I can work at my own pace and achieve much more than a regular classroom in a shorter amount of time. For example, last year I did 7th grade, 8th grade, and 9th grade math all in one year. In a regular classroom I would not be able to do all that. ~ Middle School Learner, Muskego-Norway School District

With flexible time and space, the students don't have to have the material understood by a certain time. When we take quizzes, it's alright for us not to know the material completely, since it will help us know what we have to work on. Even with assignments, we have a one to two day flexibility of due dates to match with our busy schedules. With this flexibility, we don't have to worry about time but we can also focus more on the quality of the assignments that we turn in. ~ High School Learner, Elmbrook School District

It helps me manage my time and work on things I need to work on rather than being in a traditional class and having to relearn things that I already know or not understanding something and not being able to get help. ~ Middle School Learner, Muskego-Norway School District

Q4: How will this help you in the future?

You have to manage your time to get your work done and the work can be challenging so it helps you learn better. ~ Middle School Learner, Muskego-Norway School District

It will help you with time management, responsibility, and so many life skills. If you want to learn independently, then Project i is the place for you!! ~ Middle School Learner, Muskego-Norway School District

One of the things I love about Project i is the time management. This program is preparing you for the real world, I know I'm going to do well in high school because I have learned how to manage my time. ~ Middle School Learner, Muskego-Norway School District


Read all of the responses on this post at the Institute for Personalized Learning.


This brings our collaborative series on learner agency to a close. As we stated in the first blog post, Learner Agency: The Missing Link, “Learner agency often gets missed in conversations on transforming the educational system.” It is clear from the responses above that kids have a sense of ‘agency’ when they feel in control of things that happen around them. They want to feel like they can influence events, especially how and what they learn. They demonstrated in their answers that agency means that they understand...

  • when they need new learning and how to learn what they need
  • when they need to unlearn what will no longer serve them
  • when they need to relearn what they need to be successful
As agency is built and nurtured in learners, their capacity to be continuous, life-long, successful leaders of their learning will increase as well. When this happens, the educational experience will be transformed.

Collaborative Blog Series Learner Agency

Collaborative Blog Series Learner Agency
Post #1 Learner Agency: The Missing Link
Post #2 Self-Efficacy: Secret Sauce to Learning
Post #3 Discover the Learner in Every Child
Post #4 Learner Voice Demonstrates Commitment to Agency
Post #5 Ownership and Independence: The Key to Agency


The Institute for Personalized Learning (@Institute4PL) works with school districts through a unique action network approach to create an educational ecosystem that is student-centered and personalized for each learner. Their model is based on change in three areas: learning and teaching; relationships and roles and; structures and policies. For more information contact theinstitute@cesa1.k12.wi.us, or connect with them via Facebook or Pinterest.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Transforming Spaces to Makerspaces

Makerspaces is all about creativity and providing opportunities for learners to design, build, make, test, and experiment using a variety of tools and materials. We reached out to @DianaLRendina to co-moderate #plearnchat on makerspaces. Diana is a Media Specialist/Librarian at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, Florida.

Diana is passionate about school libraries being places for students to discover, learn, grow, create, connect and collaborate. She shares her journey on her blog, Renovated Learning: Building a Culture of Creativity and Discovery in Education.  Diana has transformed her school’s library from a quiet, dusty, cluttered room into a vibrant and active learning space where learners want to be.

The Maker Movement is big and trending in education. Some say it's a fad and can be unrealistic for regular classroom instruction. Others believe that Makerspaces are the way to bring back creativity, joy, and fun to learning and not only about the spaces. So we decided to reach out to our PLN to ask the following questions about Makerspaces and Personalized Learning:

This was a fun #plearnchat with amazing educators from around the world. Here's a few we wanted to share with you:

Laura Fleming @NMHS_lms joined in on the convos and shared her book World of Making http://goo.gl/oZQU5t

Jess Longthorne @LongthorneJess
"Use school library space. Hoping to branch out to classrooms, hallways. Any open space as our #makerspace is mobile

"MikeCan @edtechtribune
Makerspacers!! > 7 Successful Products to Emerge From San Francisco's TechShop http://buff.ly/1lqRoRH

Karly Moura @KarlyMoura Tips, resources and more on #makerspaces http://goo.gl/IHHL7z

Knol Infos @knolinfos
Please check <===> https://gustmees.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/maker-space-a-new-trend-in-education-and-a-big-responsibility/ … <===> #PLEARNChat


A few more resources for you from the chat:
Digital Makerspaces on Symbaloo via @shannonmmiller
Key Qualities for a School #Makerspace
What is a #Makerspace? Is it a Hackerspace or a Makerspace?

Congratulations to Shawna Ford, @ShawnaFord1, from Weatherford ISD, TX in winning our book, Make Learning Personal

Shawna Ford is the Future Ready Learning Coordinator in Weatherford ISD. She has over 20 years experience in education, the last four years as a teacher-librarian. Shawna believes strongly in students having a voice and playing an active role in the development of library programs. She established student advisory committees to create such things as the library makerspace and after-school programs.

Shawna recently moved from the library at Curtis Elementary (curtiselementarylibrary.blogspot.com) into her new position at the district. 

"Put things out there and let them figure it out! 
I try to stay a step or two behind learners and let them teach me."


Next #plearnchat Topic is "Learner Agency: the Missing Link"

In 2 weeks on Monday, December 14
7pm ET, 6pm CT, 5pm MT, 4pm PT


Monday, November 23, 2015

Are Schools Designed to Help Children Learn?

In trying to wrap our hands around learning about learning, we continue to look to Chris Watkins, an independent consultant and leading authority on meta-learning in the UK and former reader at The Institute of Education, London Centre for Leadership in Learning. Chris’ research has helped us understand how to personalize learning by focusing on the learner first. He launched a new site, http://chriswatkins.net, where he uploaded over 150 of his articles, handouts, presentations and publications on learning. Watkins’ Key Issues http://chriswatkins.net/key-issues/ shows that learning is rarely a focus on classroom life. He identified three sources he calls “space invaders” that take up the space as teaching, performance and work instead of what they should be focusing on: LEARNING.

Space Invader #1: Teaching

“Teaching and Learning Policies”, “Teaching and Learning Strategies”, and so on would be better if called Teaching and Teaching Policies! The real attention given to learning is minimal, and just because a teacher is teaching, does not mean students are learning. Chris emphasizes that we need a better articulation between teaching and learning, so it becomes clear that we need a richer articulation between teaching and learning. This means separating the two before articulating their connection more effectively. Sometimes this is interestingly started by discussing the question “which do you think happens more often: teaching without learning or learning without teaching?”

Space Invader #2: Performance

When policy-makers make schools focus on measurable outcomes of a limited sort, performance comes to be a poor proxy for learning. When schools are placed under performance pressure, the risk is that teachers just pass it on into the classroom culture. But performance is not learning, though it may develop from learning. Performance tests, performance tables, and performance management are inventions that influenced the culture of schools in a way that often creates pressure to perform. But this does not get the best performance: learners with a learning orientation do better than those with a performance orientation and the biggest single variable underlying current patterns of school performance is whether students are self-regulating learners. Look at this previous post on our site from Chris on Proving Performance vs. IMproving Learning.

Understanding the connection between performance and learning is crucial. In a review of 100 classroom studies (Watkins 2010), one of the key messages is “a focus on learning can enhance performance, a focus on performance can depress performance”.

Space Invader #3: Work

Be cautious of the word “work.” You probably heard statements like this: “Get on with your work”, “Have you finished your work?”, “Stop copying my work”, and so on. Chris suggests substituting the word “work” with the word “learning” so the tensions are clear. The discourse of “work” shifts the locus of agency.  As Harrison, an 8 year old said to Chris: “When you work, you work for someone  else and when you learn, you learn for yourself."

So let's rethink learning and listen to Harrison so learners are the ones learning for themselves.

School changes what kids believe what they are supposed to learn. If you ask kids around 3rd or 4th grade what they are learning in school, you might hear answers around how to behave, be a good listener, or how to do well on a test. We learned how to be compliant and follow the rules. Is this really what we want as the focus of school?

The idea of starting with the learner is all about learning and noticing how we learn. We previously shared Chris' publication “Learning: a sense-makers guide”, commissioned by ATL, in a post on the union for education professionals across the UK some time ago but it is definitely relevant now. He brings up four concepts:
  1. Notice Learning
  2. Have Conversations about Learning
  3. Reflect on your Learning
  4. Make Learning an Object of Learning
When you see learners noticing and reflecting on their learning during their learning, that is the Wow of learning. This is the higher-order thinking skills we want our children to adopt: learning about learning and thinking about learning. This makes learning visible. This is what shakes up the classroom dynamics, because when the teacher is lecturing, learners are supposed to be listening. Are they? When you shake up the learning so learning is visible and learners are talking about their learning, the classroom environment is different. This change is the culture shift, the change that learners want now. 

We encourage you to check out Chris Watkins' new site http://chriswatkins.net/. We highly recommend that you download and read his publications, handouts, and presentations. We are looking forward to his new Handbook on Life in Schools and Classrooms: Past, present and future visions coming out Spring, 2016.


Chris Watkins' Bio

Chris Watkins is an Emeritus Reader in Education at the University of London Institute of Education and an independent project leader with schools. In 1999 he founded the MA in Effective Learning and since that time has been involved in projects with a range of schools and local authorities on developing learning-centered classrooms and schools.

Publications at http://chriswatkins.net/ include:
  • Learning, Performance and Improvement (2010, International Network for School Improvement) Effective Learning in Classrooms (2007, Paul Chapman/Sage, with Eileen Carnell and Caroline Lodge) 
  • Classrooms as Learning Communities: what’s in it for schools? (2005 Routledge) 
  • Learning and Leading (2004, National College for School Leadership) 
  • Learning: a sense-maker’s guide (2003, Association of Teachers and Lecturers)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Ownership and Independence – The Keys to Learner Agency

by Jean Garrity, Associate Director, the Institute for Personalized Learning

Collaborative Blog Series on Learner Agency

As the fifth post in our blog series on Learner Agency, Jean Garrity shares about a visit to an elementary classroom in an urban district in southeast Wisconsin where she was drawn to an eight year old boy named William. William and his teacher decided the he wasn't very good at understanding informational text so he created his own informational text. Jean explains when learners move from teacher-directed activities to a position of ownership, they begin to see the real value of their work.

Jean reflected and provided strategies for teachers on the following questions:
  • How can educators support learners like William and increase their sense of ownership? 
  • How can educators help learners become more independent? 
Read Jean's entire post: Ownership and Independence – The Keys to Learner Agency on the Institute for Personalized Learning's website.


Collaborative Blog Series Learner Agency
Post #1 Learner Agency: The Missing Link
Post #2 Self-Efficacy: Secret Sauce to Learning
Post #3 Discover the Learner in Every Child
Post #4 Learner Voice Demonstrates Commitment to Agency


The Institute for Personalized Learning (@Institute4PL) works with school districts through a unique action network approach to create an educational ecosystem that is student-centered and personalized for each learner. Their model is based on change in three areas: learning and teaching; relationships and roles and; structures and policies. For more information contact theinstitute@cesa1.k12.wi.us, or connect with them via Facebook or Pinterest.