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It's not Personal. It's Business.

Anyone and any company can say the words "Personalized Learning" even if it isn't personalizing learning. It's how you frame it. It's about business. It's not personal. I think I've heard this before. Yes - it's a quote from the first Godfather movie 1972.

Michael Corleone:Where does it say that you can't kill a cop? Tom Hagen: Come on, Mikey... Michael Corleone: Tom, wait a minute. I'm talking about a cop that's mixed up in drugs. I'm talking about a - a - a dishonest cop - a crooked cop who got mixed up in the rackets and got what was coming to him. That's a terrific story. And we have newspaper people on the payroll, don't we, Tom? [Tom nods] Michael Corleone: And they might like a story like that. Tom Hagen: They might, they just might. Michael Corleone: [to Sonny] It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business.

Quote from IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068646/quotes?qt=qt0361860

So why am I talking about this now? Okay - I'm not saying that companies that are using the term "Personalized Learning" are like the Godfather. I used this because this quote talked about stories and taking something personal. It's all about the stories we tell and how we frame things. If you frame "Personalized Learning" that it is all about demonstrating success by increasing test scores, the story you are telling is not about the learner.  It is not Personalized Learning. Personalized learning is all about the learner,  how they learn best, taking what they know and using their talents to guide them along their learning path. Adaptive instruction is about using data and designing lessons that ultimately increase student achievement and test scores. Personalized learning is about learners setting their own goals to direct their learning. Adaptive, individualized, and differentiated instruction is teacher-directed instruction. I am not saying that we don't need the teacher or direct instruction. Teachers need to understand the learners so they develop effective instruction for all learners. Personalized learning means that learners understand how they learn best. It also means that teachers use whatever means and data they can to understand how each of their learners learn best. Then they can develop better instruction for each and every learner in their class. Kathleen McClaskey has shared with me how Universal Design of Learning (UDL) based on neuroscience can be used to design lessons that are intentional and informed to reach the maximum amount of learners in the classroom. Teachers who use UDL understand how they can engage students and  provide access to the content in addition to understanding how students can express what they know. This becomes personal from the learners' perspective. With this type of understanding of each student in the class, a teacher then can be an advisor, guide, and co-learner to help the learner guide their learning path. Kathleen and I are asking educators to be critical reviewers and curators of the information that they read on personalized learning. Both of us have been curating the topic for some time. We started Scoopits on Personalized Learning that you can follow:   I trademarked "Making Learning Personal" over ten years ago before the standardized movement became so big.  Then education moved away from what I believed learners needed and the emphasis became teaching to the masses with standardized tests using "one size fits all" instruction. This became big business for textbook companies who created curriculum that needed to be approved by each state; it was more about being proficient at grade level and less about the learner. Teaching moved to direct instruction and mostly recall of information. That's where the standardized test movement grew. My focus on personalizing learning moved from project-based learning to direct instruction and creating lesson plans that taught to the test. It became about the tools, the tests, and the data. It didn't start with the learner or how they learned best.

"I took it personal. Now I know it was just business."

I just want to encourage businesses and educators to frame the term "Personalized Learning" correctly. If you adapt the curriculum, you are not personalizing it. The stories Kathleen and I will be telling in our book, on our blogs, sharing in Scoopit, and on social media will be about personalized learning models and how learners can personalize their own learning. Teachers ARE a critical component in personalizing the learning for each learner. We will share research how Finland, British Columbia, models in the US, and around the world are personalizing learning. I ask you as you research personalized learning that you:

  • are a critical reviewer of information on personalized learning.
  • investigate who is writing the material about personalized learning.
  • ask what their purpose is in using the term "Personalized Learning."
  • develop appropriate goals in personalizing learning for your school based around the learner first.
  • share how you are personalizing learning with Kathleen and I so we can tell your story.
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