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

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

Karly Moura @KarlyMoura Tips, resources and more on #makerspaces

Knol Infos @knolinfos
Please check <===> … <===> #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 ( 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,, where he uploaded over 150 of his articles, handouts, presentations and publications on learning. Watkins’ 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 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 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, or connect with them via Facebook or Pinterest.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Future Ready in a Personalized Learning Environment

With so many discussions around being Future Ready from the USDOE Department of Educational Technology, we wanted to jump into the discussions with a focus on personalized learning. 

We had questions about what Future Ready means for teachers and learners. Several of our friends reached out to us to question the focus on technology and to investigate where and how did personalized learning fit. So we decided to ask you in this #plearnchat. 

Here's three definitions from our chat:
Staci Mckee @my4ccoa
"Future Ready means school is preparing learners for jobs that have not yet been created." 
Shelly Vohra @raspberryberet3
"Skills over content, process over product, learning over performance."
April Wa @AprilWathen
"We need teachers and learners who are ready to implement technology in a meaningful way."
From those who jumped into #plearnchat and even a few that popped in from other chats, everyone agreed that technology is just a tool and the relationship between the teacher and learners is the most important. We pulled together questions around the big question "How can we ensure that Future Ready schools are learner-centered?"


Here are a few resources that were shared in the chat:

What do Future Ready Schools look like? from Edutopia 
FutureReady Toolkit for Empowering Educators

Congratulations to Angelo Truglio, @a_truglio, who won our book, Make Learning Personal

Angelo Truglio currently presents and leads workshops in Act Two of his education career. During Act One, he enjoyed 33 years as a public school music teacher in New York and taught elementary, middle school and high school. Angelo was Adjunct Professor at New York University (1988-1994) helping prepare young adults for the rigors of teaching in a middle and high school setting. He is recipient of the U.S. Department of Education Christa McAuliffe Grant, "Parents & Teachers as Partners." 

Angelo is founder of of "I Can Do That! Kids" where they strive to provide children with the tools they need to work smarter and have fun help them feel capable and ready for everyday challenges -- in school, at home or anywhere. 

I believe children are born “pros” at learning – watch those toddlers as they learn to walk! It’s up to all of us to sustain that innate drive they have to discover, try and try again, and to create learning experiences that lead to: “Look what I can do!” or, “I did it all by myself!”


Next #plearnchat Topic is "Transforming Spaces to Makerspaces"
Join us with mystery moderators

 In 3 weeks on Monday, November 30 
7pm ET, 6pm CT, 5pm MT, 4pm PT


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Choice is More than a Menu of Options

Continuum of Choice TM

Creative Commons License

Continuum of Choice by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on work at

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.

The teacher or a computer program provides a menu of options for learners. These options are choices for learners to learn content through images, videos, text-based resources, audio, hands-on activities, or interactions with peers. These options allow learners to access information, engage with content, and express what they know and understand. The choices offered provide learners opportunities to showcase what they know from writing a paper to creating a performance.

The teacher provides learning possibilities and then gets out of the way for learners to go on their own journey (via Jackie Gerstein). They invite input from learners to add to options of choices on how they would prefer or need to access information, engage with content, and express what they know. The teacher collaborates with the learner to brainstorm ideas for lesson design, assessment strategies and types of tools and resources to use with activities. Teachers and learners review and collaborate how to give more choice as they learn and demonstrate evidence of learning.

The learner chooses topics and direction for what they plan to design based on personal interests. They research topics based on questions generated individually or with peers. The learner acquires the skills they need to choose the appropriate tools and resources for developing and creating their design. Learners, individually or with peers, brainstorm and choose ideas using the design thinking process to create change or design new products:
  1. Empathize is where they talk to people and reflect on what they see.
  2. Define is where learners become aware of needs and how to make changes to meet needs.
  3. Ideate is where learners brainstorm ideas and questions around changes.
  4. Prototype can be a sketch or model that conveys the product or idea for change.
  5. Test is to determine what works, what doesn’t work and then modifies the prototype.
The learner can be part of a pathways program that guides the design of their learning. They find an advisor or mentor who can guide them as they explore their interests, talents and passions to discover their purpose. They can choose extended learning opportunities such as internships or apprenticeship to take their aspirations to another level.

The learner chooses a challenge or problem that they are passionate about. This is where the learner wants to make a difference and perseveres to choose what will be their purpose of learning. When they identify the challenge or problem they then own an authentic voice with a clear purpose for the choices they will make to advocate for what they believe. They employ strategies and build a network of others who want to solve the challenge or problem to advocate for change. The group works strategically to develop an action plan to shape the change. When the learner has the experiences of advocacy working toward something they believe in, they are using the power of democracy and understand their part in the system.

The learner self-regulates, adjusts, and determines learning based on what they want to do with their lives. They take their ideas and passion to pursue an idea and possibly to create a business. Even young learners may invent or come up with an idea that improves a product or invent something that has never been done before. This is the driving force that becomes their purpose. They take the lead by driving the design process and advocating for what they believe is an important product or idea. They build a support system as their personal learning network (PLN) that helps guide them on their journey to learn, build, design, create, develop, and promote an idea or product. The learner understands the importance of being connected, branding who they are and pursuing their purpose for learning.

Image Free for commercial use / No attribution required

The goal to move from participant to a self-regulated learner takes time and a process for both teachers and learners. 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. 

A big Thank You to Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth from Crescent School, Toronto, Canada for designing the graphic of the Continuum of Choice 11/2015.

This page including the chart was created by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey 11/2105 of Personalize Learning, LLC (c). For permission to distribute copies, to adapt or to use in a publication, contact Personalize Learning, LLC at

Links to other Continuums
Continuum of Engagement
Continuum of Voice