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.