Monday, August 29, 2016

Tips to Build a Culture of Learning

The idea of school is changing and becoming more of a community for learners of all ages. Every learner comes to school with their strengths, challenges, background, and concerns. For learners to grow and flourish, we need to create learning environments where every child is recognized as a learner.

A culture that values every learner will empower them to discover the joy of learning. The idea of creating environments that are learner-centered sounds attractive. Building a culture of learning based on trust and respect doesn't happen overnight. We had a #plearnchat a year ago on Changing and Building Culture where some of the same and many new participants joined us in today's chat. Everyone agrees that culture is all about building relationships but it goes deeper than that when you are a teacher or administrator. So we decided to reach out to our PLN and ask what tips they have to build a culture of learning.

Here are the questions posed to educators tonight:

  1. Why is it important for learners to feel they belong and are accepted? 
  2. How do you build relationships with each of your learners? 
  3. How do you collaborate with your learners to simplify rules and build consensus? 
  4. How do you recognize contributions of individuals and celebrate accomplishments? 
  5. How do you build an environment that encourages equity and social justice? 
  6. How do you build a culture of learning that values each learner?

There were so many good quotes in this chat that we decided to choose just a few people and share several of their quotes this post:

    Trish Donlin @donlin_trish has joined us several #plearnchats, and we love this quote on the left that she shared. Every learner deserves respect including the different cultures all of us come from. Here are two more quotes she shared about showcasing work and learners collaborating:

    "Showcase their work. Let them decide what is good. Have conversations with the whole group with shoutouts if the learner is okay with it."

    "Share passions, team building, reading "Oh the places you'll go!" Being honest."

    Mark Levine @LevineWrites always keeps the conversations lively in many of our #plearnchats. Here's a few more on culture from Mark:

    "The culture needs to exist daily, not only on special occasions. It truly needs to be THE culture. Value!"

    "I believe in guiding my students towards reflective self-pride. Help to see the worth of their journey and success."

    "I may be weird, but I find being REAL with students builds the quickest relationships and readiness to learn."

    Jen Hegna @jenhegna jumped in and shared not only great quotes and graphics. Here's a few of her quotes:

    "I am learning that listening is a critical communication skill! Find strengths and build upon them."

    "I like to have my learners reflect/share out things they have done, progress they are making, challenges that have overcome!"

    "We are implementing K-12 ePortfolios where students choose artifacts based on 21st century competencies. "

    Congratulations to Nancy Gajewski who won our book, Make Learning Personal

    Nancy Gajewski, @ngajewski, has been teaching at D.C. Everest Senior High in Weston, Wisconsin since 1984. She loves teaching 8th grade American History and states that 8th graders are just the perfect students! Nancy is project manager for their Oral History Program with authentic student projects and primary sources.

    "So important for kids to know they matter."

    Nancy's blogs: 
    Mrs. Gajewski's Blog
    Mrs. Gajewski's AAP Blog
    Intech 2011 Gajewski
    Historical Reading

    Our new book, How to Personalize Learning, coming out this October, 2016 shares how to go deeper in Chapter 9 on Building Culture. We share examples from educators who we met in #plearnchat. You can pre-order our new book at a discount right now until it is released on October 18th.


    Save the Date: Monday, September 12th

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

    Our next #plearnchat: Personal Learning Backpack

    Big Question: How can learners support their own learning?

    We archived the entire #plearnchat about Tips to Build a Culture of Learning below for your convenience and as a resource.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    The Learner Profile: Get Up Close and Personal Using the UDL Lens

    The excitement in starting a new school year is happening across the country. Educators have spent the summer preparing for the beginning of the school year, attending workshops on new curriculum, understanding how to use data with their new learners or getting acquainted with competency-based report cards. But stop there! What about the information that tells you how to engage and motivate your learners? How do you discover the learner in each child from the beginning of the school year so this is the best year yet? What about how each learner learns best and how to develop agency with each of them?

    Introducing the Process to Develop Learner Agency

    This post is part one of a three part series using the UDL lens to make learning personal for all learners.

    Part One: The Learner Profile (LP) helps learners discover how they learn best.

    Part Two: The Personal Learning Backpack (PLB) identifies tools, apps, resources, skills, and strategies to support learning.

    Part Three: The Personal Learning Plan (PLP) guides learners to achieve the goals and skills they need to be self-directed and independent.

    The UDL Lens: Access, Engage and Express

    Universal Design for Learning® (UDL) is a researched-based set of principles developed by CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) in the 1990's to help guide the design of instruction and learning environments. The idea behind UDL is to reduce barriers to learning and optimize the level of support and challenges to meet the needs and interests of all learners in the classroom.

    UDL is the lens to understand how learners learn as it is based on the research in the neurosciences in how we actually learn. The three principles of UDL are:
    • Multiple Means of Representation
    • Multiple Means of Engagement
    • Multiple Means of Expression and Action
      Educators asked us to provide a clearer and more practical way to apply these three principles in daily teaching and learning practices.

      In early 2012, we decided on these three terms: Access, Engage and Express™ to provide the lens for understanding how every learner learns best. All learners are unique and have variability in how they access and process information, engage with content, and express what they know and understand.  Access, Engage, and Express is the UDL lens to understand how learners learn best and help teachers in designing instruction.

      Discover the Learner Using the Learner Profile

      Each learner comes to school with strengths and challenges along with a set of interests, talents and aspirations. We often discover some of these qualities through the course of the year by having conversations, by how each learner responds in class or through a set of data that has been collected from standardized testing. But what if you could discover the learner in every child at the beginning of the school year using the UDL lens of Access, Engage and Express?

      Every learner can benefit from creating a Learner Profile. It tells us about a learner that learning styles or an Individual Education Plan (IEP) does not tell us. Here is an example of a learner that may have similar challenges as some of your learners, but we want you to look closely at this learner's strengths along with her interests, talents, passions and aspirations.

      Now think about the learners in your class and in your life. What are their strengths and challenges in how they Access, Engage and Express? How do they need or prefer or need to access information, engage with content and express what they know and understand? What are their talents, interests, passions, and aspirations? Who are you as a learner?

      Using the UDL lens of Access, Engage and Express to understand learners can not only help a teacher to better design instruction and learner materials, but it can also offer learners a way to tell their story and how they learn best.

      Your Learner's Story Leads to a Partnership in Learning
      This learner has reading, writing and organizational challenges. Children with this profile often do not see themselves as learners. In this case, when this learner uses the Learner Profile, she can now tell her story and have a conversation with her teacher about who she is and what she may prefer or need to support her challenges and enhance her strengths. She can also share what her interest and talents are, what she is passionate about and what she aspires to be. It is really clear from her LP, that art and drawing means a lot to her.

      Let's take a closer look at her strengths where she visualizes what she hears, likes to teach her peers and present in class. Now we understand this learner's strengths and challenges, preferences and needs including what engages her about being an artist. With this first conversation, the relationship between teacher and learner begins.

      When learners use the UDL lens of Access, Engage and Express to share how they learns, it helps them tell their story of who they are as learners. Above all, it validates them as learners and listening to them says how much you care. Telling their story helps them advocate for themselves and ultimately it builds a strong partnership in learning between the teacher and learners.

      What a great way to start of the school year! It is going to be the best year yet!


      This is Part One of a three part series on using the UDL lens of Access, Engage and Express to develop a learner with agency. In Part 1, we introduce you to the Learner Profile (LP) and how it can be used by both teacher and learner to discover the learner. 

      In Part Two, we will take the Learner Profile and develop a Personal Learning Backpack (PLB) that includes tools, apps, resources and the skills the learner needs to become an independent, self-directed learner. 

      In Part Three, we will take the PL and PLB and demonstrate how to help learners develop agency with an effective Personal Learning Plan (PLP). In the PLP, learning goals with action steps to develop independent learning skills will be illustrated along with college, career, personal and citizenship goals. 

      All of this along with templates are in our new publication, How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper, premiering on October 18th.

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

      We used an image from Flickr that is copyright-free to represent our learner:

      Monday, August 15, 2016

      How can Kids Own the Learning?

      Ownership of learning is the ultimate goal in grooming learners to engage in academic tasks and be persistent in learning. Learners need to develop the capacity to shape and manage their learning without over-reliance on the direction and control of others. We created our Continuums to demonstrate how you can develop agency to become a self-regulated learner.

      The Continuum of Ownership shows how learners can develop the skills to be self-directed, self-regulated learners who are able to monitor their progress and make connections with prior learning. These learners can choose and use the appropriate technologies for the task and are motivated by mastering their own learning. If learners continue to learn in these environments, the anticipated results will be learners with agency who are truly prepared for their future, college, career, and life.

      We use the Q1, A1 format. One pertinent question we asked tonight of our PLN was,

      How do we help learners realize the value in owning their learning?”

      Tsisana Palmer @TechTeacherCent

      "By starting asking about their passions, dreams, inspirations - and taking from there! Motivation & Relevance are key."

      Shelly V. PhD @raspberryberet3

      "Reflection is essential; have students blog once a week; assessment as learning is also important."

      Kate P @k8_believe

      "Start with their questions and curiosity. Explore. Design thinking. Embrace new and unknown."

      Carol Frey Reinagel @MrsReinagel

      "Show them! Teachers need to walk them through process as a coach, not their problem solver. They see their success and pride."

      Each question brought amazing discussions that pushed the conversations deeper. Here's a few more quotes:

      Kelly Christopherson @kwhobbes

      "For too long great ideas/insights been ignored/overlooked because they didn't 'fit' with system initiatives." 

      Spiri Howard @itsmeSpiri

      "Encourage goal setting and reflection, provide opport. for ongoing self-evaluation and constructive, specific feedback." 

      Trish Donlin @donlin_trish

      "We coach them to the edge of their learn, sharing the mindset of growth."

      Congratulations to Renee White who won our book, Make Learning Personal

      Renee White, @RaRaPenguin, is a first grade teacher at Laurel Park Elementary School in Apex, NC. She has taught many grades for 15 years, is AIG certified and has a Master's Degree in Reading. She lives in Raleigh with her amazing son, daughter, husband, and dog. 

      "Give students the chance to value their learning and teach them to reflect on it."

      Renee enjoys seeing children learn, explore, create and problem solve. She is a big fan of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics), genius hour, makerspaces, innovation, learning from failures and creator of #TootingTuesday. Renee wants to prepare her students for the future and is excited to connect them to the world through Buncee Buddies, Seesaw student blogs, and other global opportunities. Renee desires for students to share the positive in education through these media by "tooting" on each other. 

      Twitter: Mrs. White @RaRaPenguin
      School hashtag: #lpeswake
      Class Website:
      ​Class Twitter: @Whites1stGrade
      ​Class hashtag: #livLAP

      Our new book, How to Personalize Learning, is to be released Fall 2016. We discuss how to encourage voice and choice by having learners create Learner Profiles, Personal Learning Backpacks, and Personal Learning Plans with the teacher as a partner in learning. We delve into deeper learning around learner agency and bring in the Continuums including the Continuum of Ownership. How to Personalize Learning is now available for pre-order at a discount.

      Both of our books are available with a 20% discount from Corwin before August 31st with this code N167B9.

      Save the Date: Monday, August 29th

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

      Our next #plearnchat: Tips to Build a Culture of Learning

      We archived the entire #plearnchat about Continuum of Ownership below for your convenience and as a resource.