Thursday, December 29, 2016

Top 15 Posts from Personalize Learning in 2016

Happy New Year!

2016 has been an amazing year for us. Not only did we just release our second book, How to Personalize Learning in October 2016, many of our posts during this year have had over 10,000 hits each. All of the continuums we created with Sylvia Duckworth (@sylviaduckworth - ( in 2016 were in our top 15 along with some awesome guest posts. We really appreciate you, our readers of our posts and our followers on social media, so we decided to pull together the top 15 posts from this year and share them with you.

#15 - Personal Learning Backpack

Once a learner has indicated their strengths, challenges, and interests along with their preferences and needs in the Learner Profile (LP), then the teacher can work with the learner to develop a Personal Learning Backpack (PLB). This process is all about the conversations that you have with your learners. The PLB is the place to include what you both discover to support learning.

#14 - Putting the Power of Question in the Learners Hands

Starr Sackstein, @mssackstein, high school English teacher and author, shared in a guest post strategies from her book, The Power of Questioning and many other books that she has authored including her latest, Hacking Homework. A quote from Starr says it all: “If I had tried to plans this lesson the way I did earlier in my career, we probably would have missed out on a deeper level of learner inquiry that continued for several days.”

#13 - Learner Profile

Each learner comes to school with strengths and challenges along with a set of interests, talents and aspirations. All learners are unique and have variability in how they access and process information, engage with content, and express what they know and understand. Every learner can benefit from creating a Learner Profile using the the UDL lens of Access, Engage, and Express to understand how learners learn best and help teachers in designing instruction.

#12 - Continuum of Purpose: Fostering a Meaningful Life 

The purpose of learning is about learners being prepared for their future and reaching their fullest potential as lifelong learners. This means that they have a voice with the confidence to express their ideas and opinions so they are heard and taken into account in any situation. Establishing a clear purpose for learning encourages a desire to increase a deeper understanding of that purpose.

#11 - My Transformation as a Teacher

Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp, a 7th grade teacher, from Oregon School District, WI and author shared her story in a guest post about her transformation from traditional teacher to personalized learning. “Almost six years into my transformation as a teacher who embraces personalizing learning as much as possible, The drastic changes I made back then have now become insignificant in the best possible way; they are no longer terrifying, nor are they dramatic, but instead they are woven into the very tapestry of the way we function as a learning community.”

#10 - Continuum of Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy holds significant implications both for learners and educators in the journey to nurture high levels of skill and knowledge. Learners with a strong sense of self-efficacy approach complex and challenging learning tasks with a sense of confidence that if they use good strategies, practice smart persistence and utilize the full range of resources available to them, they can and will succeed.

#9 - Making the Shift to Our Classroom 

532002.jpgBrian Anton, @FHS_Anton, is a high school social studies teacher in Missouri who focuses on Project-Based Learning and shared his experiences in a guest post. “One of the most difficult parts of our jobs as educators is to create a learning environment where our learners are engaged and meet content and curriculum goals. From my experience, the single most important challenge that needs to be addressed to earn engagement in our classrooms is to develop a culture of learner autonomy--allowing and encouraging learners to take control of their own learning.”

#8 - Continuum of Ownership: Developing Autonomy

Having choices allows children to feel that they have control or ownership over their own learning. When learners feel a sense of ownership, they want to engage in academic tasks and persist in learning. If teachers and learners are learners first, then responsibility comes with being a learner. Learners of all ages become responsible for their learning when they own and drive their learning so they can be more independent and eventually self-directed learners.

#7 - Project-Based Learning gives Kindergarteners Agency

Paula Ford @prford5 is a kindergarten teacher at Manuel De Vargas Elementary School in Cupertino, CA and shared how her kids took ownership of their learning in a guest post. “We have a global partnership with the Cheery Education Center in Kenya. The kids’ plan was to send books which they found that was not possible so they realized that it costs $50 for 2 children to attend school with meals for a month in Africa. So the kids decided to collect coins and came up with the collection jars called “Change for Change.”

#6 - Continuum of Engagement: From Compliant to Flow

The Continuum of Engagement provides the characteristics of a learner as they move from being passive about learning to being in the flow. Step up the ladder to see how a learner moves from compliant to flow so you can picture what it looks and sounds like in a classroom when learners start engaging in the learning process. If you walk in a classroom, you might be able to see and hear engagement or the lack of it.

#5 - Personalized Learning through the Eyes of a Child

Pam Lowe @prlowe91 is a graphic designer, social media marketing specialist, and coach who lives in Arkansas who wrote a guest post for us about her young niece and personalized learning. “We’re learners even before the moment we are born. Nearly every observation made as babies is tucked away as a memory of a lesson learned. We all begin as learners naturally making our own discoveries. We are curious about how things work, and experiment with our own ideas. Our inner spirited learner says, “Get out of my way!” as we yearn to take command of our learning.”

#4 - Continuum of Motivation: Moving from Extrinsic to Intrinsic

Motivation has a great impact on the learning process. While some people learn more by outside influences, others may achieve more by their personal aspirations. Extrinsic motivation occurs when we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment. Intrinsic motivation involves engaging in behavior because it is personally rewarding; essentially, performing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward.

#3 - Updated Stages of Personalized Learning Environments v5

We updated the Stages of Personalized Learning Environments (PLE) to version 5. While finishing our next book, How to Personalize Learning to be published Fall 2016, we realized that we had to make even more changes to the Stages of PLE. When we shared version 4 with several groups of teachers, they gave us great feedback including moving some of the rows so they were in different order. We wanted to share how the teacher and learner roles change through the stages using specific tools and strategies.

#2 - Continuum of Voice: What it Means for the Learner

There are so many aspects of “school” where learners have not been given the opportunity to be active participants in their learning. 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 learning, to own and drive their learning, and eventually to discover their purpose for learning.

#1 - The most hits this year and over time has been our Personalization vs. Differentiation vs. Individualization (PDI) version 3 chart

The PDI chart was created for a reason: to clarify the differences in these terms. In 2010, the National Ed Tech Plan defined all three of these terms as they are related to instruction. We needed to emphasize the differences: Personalization is learner-centered. The other two, Differentiation and Individualization are teacher-centered. Personalization or Personalized Learning means the learner is driving their learning. When the learner takes responsibility for their learning, teaching and learning changes. The roles of the teacher and learner change.


We want to thank all the educators who are passionate about teaching and making a difference for each child. Look for the 10 Trends of Personalized Learning in January 2017 along with more chats in #plearnchat. We are honored and humbled when you find our ideas helpful.

We wish you a very happy and safe new year!
Barbara and Kathleen

Monday, December 5, 2016

Innovation and Creativity Matters

We chose to discuss "Innovation and Creativity" for our December 5th #plearnchat, because we believe it is time for teaching and learning to change. George Couros' (@gcouros) book "The Innovator's Mindset" and Sir Ken Robinson's (@SirKenRobinson) book "Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That's Transforming Education" opened our eyes about the importance of innovation and creativity.

So we invited educators from all over to join us to discuss why teaching needs to be more innovative, why we need to create innovators, and why creativity can transform education.

We put together questions around Innovation and Creativity that stretched the conversations out of everyone's comfort zone using the Q1, A1 format:

The holidays are almost here so we know how busy educators at this time of year. But that didn't keep people away. Just read from a few of the amazing educators who were innovative and creative with their tweets they shared:

Carol Frey Reinagel @MrsReinagel

As George Couros said, "Never hold a learner back based on what you don't know." from @gcouros' book: The Innovator's Mindset.

Michael Vose Ed.D @KHS_AP

"Lead learners (teachers) as equitable learning design engineers and not data driven automatons in standards driven compliance."

Kathy Renfrew @KRScienceLady

"Characteristics of innovation: open-minded, curious,willing to grapple with new ideas, persistent, risk-taker, understands tech is accelerator not the driver."

Meredith Johnson @mjjohnson1216

"Creativity blooms quickly when learners collaborate and work closely together."

Greg Gazanian @GregGazanian

"Foster innovation and creativity by applauding exploration. Offer space to learn and grow and resources to support."

Kory Graham @korytellers

"I would like to think that many educators already have had an Innovator's Mindset. Now we just need to get everyone on board."

Darren Ellwein @dellwein

"Creativity with makerspace philosophy of freedom to create; combine @YongZhaoEd entrepreneurial model and BOOM!"

Lisa Murray @LMurray_

"I think that teachers are more likely to change & grow. Try new things. Helps create environment that fosters creativity."

David Truss @datruss

"Creativity itself won't transform education. I see COLLABORATION and SHARING transforming technology by fostering creativity."

Susan Zanti @SusZanti5

"The more teachers think not just outside the box but outside the book; the more creativity in teaching and learning."

Trevor Bryan @trevorabryan

"Allowing room for creativity creates space for all learners voice; their voice builds community."

We wish we could share tweets from everyone who joined us. But there were so many educators with great ideas that we had to choose just a few. Make sure you read the archive below so you don't miss any of the tweets and resources shared. 

Here's one more that is so sweet from Lemarr Treadwell M.Ed @lemarrtreadwell
"Boy, is our janitor going to be surprised when he receives over 100 thank you notes."

We decided to give 2 books away for this chat because of the holidays and that our next #plearnchat is not until 5 weeks from now: January 16, 2017. 

Congratulations to Beth Topinka and Evan Brudney who both won signed copies of How to Personalize Learning.

Beth Topinka @BTopink

Beth Topinka is the S.T.E.A.M. lab teacher for grades 2-5 at Millstone Township School District in central New Jersey. She’s a vocal advocate for interdisciplinary, problem-based learning, and was recently selected as a state finalist for the 2016 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

She taught middle school science for 12 years, earning a Gifted Education Certificate from Rutgers along the way. On her mission to “be the change,” she moved to Millstone’s elementary school to help teachers transition to the Next Generation Science Standards.

Memorable classroom activities include training Madagascar hissing cockroaches to prefer peppermint over vanilla (the students proudly shared their results with an expert in Japan), and an investigation exploring the design possibilities of the invasive Phragmites plant. Check out Beth’s resource on hydrophobicity here and more about Beth at the Science Friday Educator Collaborative

Living in a comfort zone "mold" is so stifling and confining. How can we make risk-taking thrilling rather than scary? My students are so joyful when they have a chance to create. We need to start with our youngest learners.

Beth Topinka @BTopink

Evan Brudney @The BrudneyBunch

Evan Brudney,, is a 4th grade literacy teacher at Lynn Road Elementary School in Raleigh, NC.  Evan attended Syracuse University in New York and then went to graduate school for his teaching license at North Carolina State University. Evan is in his second year as a 4th grade literacy/social studies teacher and serves on the media/technology and advisory committees. As a beginning teacher last year, he was nominated for Wake County's prestigious Dian Kent Parker Beginning Teacher award.

Evan allows students time to collaborate during whole class lessons to discuss concepts and process their learning with each other. Recently, he was awarded a private grant and received 7 iPad minis to be used to enhance literacy instruction and to promote more collaboration. Evan is a big proponent of flexible seating within his room for part of the week- bean bags, yoga balls, stools, etc. during Daily 5. His goal is to create a literacy-rich environment with 21st century facets and the 4C's.

Evan's class website:

Now more than ever, students need creativity and
critical thinking to succeed in the 21st century. 

Evan Brudney @TheBrudneyBunch

How to Personalize Learning is your practical guide to getting started and going deeper with personalized learning. Corwin has offered our followers a 20% discount code. Go to Corwin Press and use the discount code N169O6 for your own copy.

Save the Date, Monday, January 16th (5 weeks) for our next #plearnchat

4pm PST, 5pm MST, 6pm CST, and 7pm EST

Topic: Equity and Social Justice

We archived the entire #plearnchat about Innovation and Creativity below for your convenience and as a resource.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Importance of Self-Advocacy

Self-advocacy is about learners of any age having a voice about what they believe in and to speak up for themselves. This aligns with our goals for personalizing learning. So we decided to focus on self-advocacy skills for our November 21st #plearnchat topic.

We believe that every learner at any age needs self-advocacy skills. They need to find out about their rights and to know how to get the help they need when they need it. They also need to know how to find the information that will give them the background knowledge of a topic so they can defend any position.

We put together questions around self-advocacy that stretched the conversations using the Q1, A1 format:

Just read how some of the educators who joined us in #plearnchat were able to advocate for their positions about these questions from the tweets they shared: 

Travis Lape @travislape

We need to get learners away from compliance and competition in school. It is about what is best for their learning.

Colleen @bergincolleen

Teaches learners how to stand on their own two feet - no greater pride than knowing you did it on your own without help!

Brian Rozinsky @brianrozinsky

Those self-evident truths (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness) -- nobody's serving them up on a platter; they demand agency.

Carol Frey Reinagel @MrsReinagel

Goal-setting and accomplishing. Have them self-evaluate. Give them a voice, no matter how soft it may be. Give them choices.

Mike Mohammed @Mo_physics

Self-advocacy is all about knowing what you want and what you need to get there. Or simply put: LIFE

Lisa Murray @LMurray_

I wish I snapped a picture of the learner I met with today who met her goal for the week. Her smile was priceless.

Evan Brudney @TheBrudneyBunch

Self-advocacy helps learners tailor their learning to fit the best way possible. Increases their motivation to learn!

Darren Ellwein @dellwein

Our group building/mindset activities in the first four weeks help learners develop the skills of self-advocacy. Learning inventories are a must to understand how they learn.

Susan Zanti @SusZanti5

Celebrate attempts at learning, show them as opportunities for growth, Listen to understand, and encourage effort.

Mark Levine @LevineWrites

We need to let them have voice and unlearn that we are the Master Minds...we are guides and they are the voice! 

Lemarr Treadwell M.Ed @LemarTreadwell

Opportunities to allow learners to Make Their Thinking Visible.

Congratulations to Meredith Johnson for winning our book, How to Personalize Learning

Meredith Johnson, @mjjohnson1216, is an Intervention Support Specialist at Collier County Public Schools in Marco Island, Florida. She seeks out others to work collaboratively with in the integration of 21st Century Learning skills.  Meredith participates in annual self-assessment monitoring of student records in compliance with all requirements of IDEA and its regulations; Florida Statutes related to Special programs for Exceptional students; and Exceptional Student Education/Florida Education Finance Program (ESE/FEFP). She assists district and school-based administrators with F.T.E., student projections, compliance monitoring, and federal, state and local reports.

"Self-advocating increases joy, motivation, ownership in success
and is a choice we all make each day."

Meredith loves working with children, guiding them in developing their academic achievement and using technology as a tool to help them achieve their goals. She is a passionate educator who has loved every minute of the past four decades working with teams of teachers to improve the educational process for children. Meredith is looking forward to adventures with future innovations that will help students become well prepared for the future ahead of them.

"How about holding discussions with learners about what these
self care ideas mean to them? Beginning steps in self advocacy."

How to Personalize Learning is your practical guide to getting started and going deeper with personalized learning. Corwin has offered our followers a 20% discount code. Go to Corwin Press and use the discount code N169O6 for your own copy.

Save the Date, Monday, December 5th for our next #plearnchat

4pm PST, 5pm MST, 6pm CST, and 7pm EST

We archived the entire #plearnchat about Self-Advocacy below for your convenience and as a resource.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Getting Started and Going Deeper When Personalizing Learning

Our new book, How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide to Getting Started and Going Deeper, was just released on October 18th, 2016. We have been getting amazing feedback from so many that we decided to share our excitement with fantastic educators who joined us in our #plearnchat on 11/7/16.  We went through our book and came up with some general questions using the Q1, A1 format:

We wanted to share a few of the insightful tweets from the conversations around personalizing learning with you.

Brian Anton ‏@FHS_Anton

"Common beliefs/language allow for all stakeholders to understand expectations and common goals."

Jay Eitner @Jay_Eitner

"A common language is paramount for every learner, parent, and student. It keeps everyone focused and on the same page!"

Pam Hubler ‏@specialtechie

"The what, how and why of learning. The only way to create buy-in and ownership of learning. Best practices work for all."

Shelly Vohra PhD @raspberryberet3

"Learners need to know 'why'; why do I need to learn this? Why should I learn this?"

Lisa Murray @LMurray_

"Learning styles may limit students by relying on one mode. Different activities/skills may require different strategies."

Andrea Kornowski @andreakornowski

"Agency helps to build college and career readiness skills and success later in life. More agency = increased engagement."

Carol Frey Reinagel @MrsReinagel

"Agency is about being purposeful, which gives them buy-in and motives learners to learn more deeply."

Colleen Bergin @bergincolleen

"Choice boards, allowing learners to choose how to demonstrate mastery of skill, give feedback on activities to improve."

Rachel Murat @MrsMurat

In inquiry learning ask learners to compare responses to non Googleable questions. Why did they answer that way? What's different?"

David Truss @datruss

"We need students and educators to Care, Share, and Dare!"

Congratulations to Charity Dodd, @CharityDodd, for winning our book, How to Personalize Learning

Charity Dodd @CharityDodd, Specialist in Learning and Leading for Battelle for Kids, leads the Professional Learning work stream to engage with twenty-seven school districts in Ohio to help increase student achievement.

She has over 15 years experience in education at all levels. Her goal is to improve teacher effectiveness to college and career readiness for students, and encourage collaboration among school districts in Ohio.

Charity accelerates college and career readiness within schools by providing professional development in career pathways, teacher leadership, improving teacher effectiveness, formative instructional practices, student motivation.

"Schools (teachers, administrators, students, parents, community) must know the goals and how personalized learning supports them."

"Agency is such an important life skill! We cannot "spoon feed" students. They need to be empowered...all students!!" 

Our new book, How to Personalize Learning, has launched. Yeah! This book is your practical guide to getting started and going deeper with personalized learning.  Corwin has offered our followers a 20% discount code. Go to Corwin Press and use the discount code N169O6 for your own copy.

Save the Date, Monday, November 14th for our next #plearnchat

4pm PST, 5pm MST, 6pm CST, and 7pm EST

We archived the entire #plearnchat about Getting Started and Going Deeper into Personalized Learning below for your convenience and as a resource.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dipping Your Toes into Personalized Learning

The focus of #plearnchat folded in the season of haunted houses and Halloween. When we first introduced our Personalization vs. Differentiation vs. Individualization (PDI) chart, some teachers were fearful of jumping in. Personalized Learning looked too scary. So this chat was about not being afraid to transform teaching and learning, because you can start small by dipping your toes into personalized learning using the Stages of Personalized Learning Environments.

"Start Small to Dream Big"
Bryan Bronn @bronnb

We thought of Bryan's quote when we came up with the big question:

We used the Q1, A1, format with the following questions:

The conversations were streaming by in this chat so fast that the hour just flew by. What an amazing group of educators from all over the world shared so much. We chose a few quotes from the chat to share with you. We do encourage you to check out the storify archive at the bottom of this page.

Nellie Mae Ed. Foundation @NellieMaieEdFdn

"We see #personalizedlearning as one of four tenants of #studentcentered learning. Learn more at"

Mike Mohammed @Mo_Physics

"Many think Personalized Learning is the process of removing challenge and rigor from instruction. But actually it is about removing systemic obstacles."

Noa Daniel @noasbobs

"Sharing is the best way to help embed a learning culture. Instead of "another" way, it can become THE way." 

Kevin Foley ‏@FoleyKev

"In my school STEAM Room learning is often pupil led. Dont underestimate the power of pupil led learning."

Lisa Murray ‏@LMurray_

"Build relationships. Talk with students. Check progress and talk about what they are doing well. Get to know them."

Brian Anton @FHS_Anton

"Allowing teachers the freedom to tinker and experiment within reason. Encourage them to build on what works with small changes."

Gabrielle Marquette @fearlessteachrs

"We are doing #efhsinnovationhour instead of faculty meetings. Teachers need to experience personal learning."

Colleen @bergincolleen

"Encouraging voice and choice in learning is easy with research papers in my class. Wish we weren't restricted to books."

Congratulations to Dr. Lynell Powell, @drjoy77, for winning our book, Make Learning Personal

Dr. Lynell Powell currently serves as a professional learning specialist in the Office of Professional Growth and Innovation in Virginia Beach City Public Schools. Her primary role is supporting a group of teachers, called Design Fellows, in exemplifying what personalized learning could look like in a variety of classrooms. She is most grateful to the leadership in Virginia Beach City Public Schools who has given her an opportunity to work with such an amazing group of teachers. She is also passionate about joy in schools and writes her own blog .

Personalized Learning in Virginia Beach City Public Schools: 
Follow the hashtag #vbplearn to see examples of personalized learning in action from the design fellows.

Design Fellows Up Close and Personal
Domain 1 Education Competencies for Personalized Teaching

Lynell Powell, Ed.D.

Professional Learning Specialist
Office of Professional Growth and Innovation

"Allow students opportunities to reflect. Give them space."
"Gathering student feedback is essential."
Dr. Lynell Powell

Our new book, How to Personalize Learning, has launched. Yeah! This book is your practical guide to getting started and going deeper with personalized learning. Chapter Eight is all about learner agency across the Stages of Personalized Learning Environments.

How to Personalize Learning is now available.

Save the Date: Monday, November 7th

4pm PST, 5pm MST, 6pm CST and 7pm EST

Our next #plearnchat Topic: Launching How to Personalize Learning

Big Question:
How can teachers create an environment that personalizes learning for all learners?

We archived the entire #plearnchat about the Stages of Personalized Learning below for your convenience and as a resource.