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8

Kevin McLaughlin shares PJs: Personal Journeys


  “It’s never been a better time to be a teacher/learner.”

Kevin McLaughlin is an ICT Coordinator / Primary Teacher at Old Mill Primary School, Broughton Astley, Leics, UK who transformed his classroom to a personalized learning environment.  He is a Google Certified Teacher, an Apple Distinguished Educator, and Google Apps Certified Trainer. His students create PJs or what he calls their Personal Journeys. Kathleen McClaskey and I had to interview Kevin so he can share with our readers the why and how he changed his teaching and how his students learn now.

 

“My name is Kevin McLaughlin and I am a teacher. I also use technology, a lot, although it isn’t always about the technology. I am passionate in my role as an educator, and I use my website to offer advice to others as well as detail my use of a wide variety of teaching and learning approaches.”

Why personalize learning?
If you are going to consider personalised learning as an approach in your classroom then you should first understand that every learner is unique. Learners may appear to be similar and at times we can teach learners in the same fashion but to use this whole class approach for every lesson you teach then you run the risk of leaving learners behind. Learning requires more than a teaching plan that focuses on teaching. As educators we need to focus on the learning that is going to occur and the learning that is to come. We can do this by using a personalised learning approach.

What is your vision of personalizing learning?
I have envisaged personalised learning in my classroom as one that involves every learner in the development of their learning journey, that includes their own learning themes as well as those that the curriculum requires of them and allows them the opportunity to explore this learning in any way they see fit to achieve it.

Describe the first steps that you took to create a personalized learning environment in your classroom?
I began developing my approach when I realised that the three step teaching approach – introduction, main activity and plenary was hindering many of the learners in my class. Those that understood the learning focus would grow bored very quickly waiting for the opportunity to show off their learning. Those that required additional teaching had to sit through introductions and main activity demonstrations before getting the opportunity to be guided in their learning. A personalized approach gave me the time to focus on the needs of every learner from the onset.

How did you decide on the new design of your classroom?  
I came up with the design after trial and error. I knew the traditional classroom layout would deter a personalized learning approach so it had to be changed. This requires a good understanding of your learners, how they interact with each other and the development of trust and respect from the start of the academic year as a personalized learning approach will be daunting for any teacher at first. You need to be prepared to allow the learners to move around, to interact with their peers, to sit anywhere with anyone, to use the floor space as well as a table and not to use groupings of any sort unless there is a specific reason for it.

The room is now our Learning Zone and there are no pre-seating arrangements. My class are free to move around, sit with whomever they wish at any time and, if they so wish, pop outdoors for some fresh air and a quick ‘chill out’ session if needed. The Learning Zone is divided into 5 areas:

  1. Discussion and Thinking Zone – Learners can drop in whenever they wish to talk about their learning, find solutions, help each other and just to think and chill out. It’s also still the area where my class gathers for a whole group focus or an additional Creation/Show Off zone.
  2. Discovery Zone – There are 2 of these although one is missed off the top of the image. These contain laptops, pc’s and other technology that the learners can use to guide them on their learning, discover answers, investigate and solve problems, collaborate on projects and create presentations.
  3. Show Off Zone – This is where the learners focus on discoveries they have made and demonstrate their understanding through writing, presentation, art work, display whatever medium they wish to present their work.
  4. Repeat Level – This has evolved from my use of Gamification of learning and an approach that my class enjoy. Whenever any learner requires help, advice, explanations and is ‘stuck’ this is the area they come to repeat the learning so they can move to the next level.
  5. Creation Zone – Creating content for use in their learning, creating presentations to demonstrate learning, blogging, refining, editing. It happens here and it’s usually very busy.

 

Read more about this on my website.

How does it contribute to personalizing learning for your students?
The classroom layout allows my class the freedom to explore their learning in a way that would not be possible if they were grouped by ability and had specified seating arranged for them.  You can watch a video about this here.

 

Do you believe that your classroom model can be scaled?
Any educator would find it very straightforward to arrange their own classroom according to my layout. It’s a simple matter of stepping back as the teacher at the front and giving your class over to learning.

How does your school determine how students learn best?
I am quite fortunate in that my school respect and trust the staff to teach in the way they see best for their class. My headteacher has been very positive in my use of this approach and after 8 weeks has seen the proof through improved results in Maths and English.

How do your students understand how they learn best?
My class and I discussed this approach on the first day back in January. We talked about when they considered the best ways to learn, how they liked to move around to discuss learning with others in the class, how when they were at home they could take a break when they needed one, how they could sit on the floor as well as at their desk. I valued their responses to help develop our classroom layout and the personalized learning approach that they would use.

What types of technologies are you and your students using to support their learning?
In my class the learners have access to desktop computers, laptops, 5 iPad devices and the school PC suite whenever it has open spaces. My class can use these technologies in their learning when they know it will be an effective tool for their learning. This approach to choosing the right tool for the job is an essential skill that takes time to instill. This is a recent example of a PJ, a Personal Journey that every learner in my class receives at the start of each week.

The Numeracy and Literacy targets include those required by the school curriculum but the rest is created by the learner and what they deem important to their own learning. Personalising the curriculum for every child in my class has been an inspiring journey for me. I have watched in awe at children working their way through their learning, solving problems in pairs, discussing and thinking, coming up with solutions, offering suggestions and advice to their peers. It has confirmed my belief that if we give learners opportunities to follow a personalised approach they will fly. After the very first week of using PJ’s in my class I found the following outcomes.

  • Every child preferred this approach to their learning
  • Every child was on task every day without having to be told
  • Every learner made progress in Numeracy and achieved at least two targets that I had set them
  • Every learner achieved at least 1 of their own targets
  • Every learner told me they were looking forward to the next week of learning in their Personalised Journeys

 

What have you learned and what changes have you made from your initial steps?
I quickly learned that using a personalised learning approach meant standing back more as a teacher and giving the learners more opportunities to develop their learning. I found that I had to stop myself from merely giving the process at the start to provoking a question that would inspire the learners to discover solutions for themselves. My planning had to adapt very quickly and I found a daily planner created by Doug Belshaw to be the catalyst for the development of our ‘Personal Journey’ that every child is now using weekly for their learning experiences. The ‘PJ’ has changed from its initial conception after discussions with the learners about what worked and what could be left out. We have now agreed on a format that every learner is happy with.

What would you change in the future?
At the moment I am happy with how the use of the PJ is going. Our PJ’s are on paper as we have found this is the best media for quickly changing plans on the go. I recently came across your chart on ‘Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization’ and it has sharpened my thinking and I will no doubt refer to it during the next few weeks to develop my approach further.

Read more here.

Readers can contact Kevin using any of the following:

kevindmclaughlin@gmail.com
http://ictsteps.com
@kvnmcl

9

Dave Truss on the Inquiry Hub (Thought Leader Interview)

Dave Truss

Dave Truss is an educator (Vice Principal) with the Learning Innovations Network, Coquitlam Open Learning (COL), School District #43 in BC, Canada. Dave shared his thoughts and writes about Inquiry in a way that makes it easy to understand. Kathleen McClaskey and I asked Dave some questions about the Inquiry Hub and personalized learning. He shares how his school will fit well with the BCedplan and the future of education in their Province. It fits well with Coquitlam’s School District’s collaborative work on “Learning Without Boundaries”.

 

Q. What is The Inquiry Hub? Can you tell us how and why it was developed?

The Inquiry Hub was inspired by conversations around our district vision of “Learning Without Boundaries”.  Coquitlam District Principal Stephen Whiffin envisioned the Inquiry Hub as a natural extension of our program. Stephen is Principal, and I am Vice Principal, of Coquitlam Open Learning, which offers online and blended courses for high school students, as well as to adults looking to graduate or upgrade courses. As part of the student population of Coquitlam Open Learning, Stephen noticed that we were getting more and more school-aged students that were moving away from their day schools and choosing to take full online course loads. However, this wasn’t necessarily an ideal situation, but rather a choice not to attend a local high school.. The Inquiry Hub was born out of the idea that there are students who don’t necessarily ‘fit’ in a traditional high school, but would benefit from having a school to go to daily, rather than just choosing to take courses online.

The Inquiry Hub will offer Grade 8-12 students whom chose to come to this school:

  • Instruction which blends classroom and online experiences in a hybrid model
  • A student-driven inquiry approach to learning
  • Significant reduction of formally structured class time and emphasis on a learning commons where students do daily group project work and individual, computer-based learning
  • Class environments which group students around interests and project focus rather than grade levels
  • Extensive use of peer mentorship in cross-grade project work
  • Core, inquiry-based program offerings which are extended through the extensive list of COL online courses

 

Q. Can you explain the student-driven inquiry approach to learning?

We are working on the simple premise that if we help students develop meaningful and engaging questions around their own interests, passions and ideas that matter to them, then the learning will be rich and meaningful to our entire learning community. By helping students connect, create and learn together, we will encourage them to look outside of their box and seek a world of potential.

 

“The power of an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning is its potential to increase intellectual engagement and foster deep understanding through the development of a hands-on, minds-on and ‘research-based disposition’ towards teaching and learning. Inquiry honours the complex, interconnected nature of knowledge construction, striving to provide opportunities for both teachers and students to collaboratively build, test and reflect on their learning.” Neil Stephenson http://teachinquiry.com/
 Q. How do you help students understand how they learn best?
Thinking about thinking (metacognition) will be something all students explore at the Inquiry Hub. We are currently developing two ‘requisite’ courses that we’ll have every student take when they join us, regardless of the grade they come to us. One of these courses will be “Principles of Inquiry” which will look at domains of inquiry, question development and research design. The other course will be “Applications of Digital Learning” which will explore social networking (and creating a positive digital footprint), learning management systems, search & research, and principles of digital presentation. We will be working with expert educators in these fields to develop these courses over the coming months.
Also, we won’t be having traditional styled classes but instead we will have workshops on specific topics and a significant part of the day that will be designed by students in collaboration with teachers and other students. We will have two larger learning commons areas and also smaller conference rooms that groups of students can work in. Students are empowered to work with other students, meet with their teachers or use their time working independently. We will work with students to figure out a balance of freedom in their schedule with effective use of time, with more freedom provided for students that are self-directed and more guidance for students that work best with that kind of support.
Q. How do you design learning paths for each student? How do students pursue their own interests and have a voice in the direction of their learning?
At the Inquiry Hub we will encourage students to explore their own questions from key themes:
  • Community and global issues
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Media Art, design and technology

 

In the spring we will be working with teachers to examine the key learning outcomes in the BC curriculum and determine which ones can be incorporated into student driven inquiry and which ones we will support through workshops and online resources. Our goal is to maximize how much of the required curriculum can be covered and uncovered through student inquiry. As students develop and answer their own inquiry questions, teachers will consult and advise students as to how they can incorporate curricular outcomes into their projects.
We also want to provide students with a voice that extends beyond the school, and we are looking for creative ways to involve parent and community groups/members in extending inquiry questions beyond the scope of the school. We hope to foster relationships such that the Hub is just a launch pad for projects that involve doing things in the community that matter and make a difference.

 

Q. What technology will students access and use to demonstrate evidence of learning?

Every student will be expected to bring their own laptop, (which we can supply if there are financial issues), and students are also welcome to bring any other devices they wish to use to connect and network as well as share what they are doing online.  We are currently looking at different kinds of digital portfolios and learning management systems that would best work within our school district and also serve as an online learning hub for all of our students and staff.

 Here’s a presentation about The Inquiry Hub’s website:

Introducing the Inquiry Hub

View more PowerPoint from David Truss
We are going to follow up with Dave with a podcast asking him about  Truly Questioning Everything. Thanks Dave for sharing your thoughts and helping us define why we need to question everything.
Contact information for Dave:
14

Personal Learner Profiles and Common Core

Kathleen McClaskey and Barbara BrayKathleen McClaskey and I realize that moving to a personalized learning environment where learners drive their learning takes time over several phases. The first phase is starting with the teacher so they understand Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and how to teach and support all learners in their class. Kathleen co-authored this post with me.

 

Let’s look at three 3rd grade students with three different learner profiles and how they can meet one English/Language Arts Common Core Standard:

Third Grade Literature > Key Ideas and Details
ELA-RL.3.1. Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

Each Learner is Unique
CAST www.cast.org/ (Center for Applied Special Technology) states that common sense tells us that each learner is unique. Neuroscience takes into account how individuals bring a huge variety of skills, needs, and interests to learning. [www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/whatisudl] Three primary brain networks come into play:

  • The “what” of learning: how we gather facts and categorize what we see, hear, and read. Identifying letters, words, or an author’s style are recognition tasks.
  • The “how” of learning: planning and performing tasks. How we organize and express our ideas. Writing an essay or solving a math problem are strategic tasks.
  • The “why” of learning: How learners get engaged and stay motivated. How they are challenged, excited, or interested.

 

You can determine each learner’s needs by using the UDL (Universal Design for Learning) Class Learning Profile where you can understand their strengths, weaknesses, aptitudes, interests, talents and, yes, aspirations. Using the Class Learning Profile, teachers discover how learners can best:

  • access content information and what format that would include;
  • express what they know and how they could express it; and
  • engage with content.

 

The UDLClass Learning Profile is mostly used in a individualized learning environment where there may be one teacher to about six students instead of a traditional classroom with 20-30 or more students. However, the design of the Class Learning Profile provides more information about how each learner learns and when used with the combination of other assessments, a clearer picture of the learners in any classroom can be realized and be used for UDL lesson design in any learning environment.

Personal Learner Profile

Three Learner Profiles
The following profiles are about three fictitious students we created to emphasize how learner profiles can support different types of learners and help drive their learning.

John has a difficult time focusing on the text, is not able to write or speak descriptively, and is frustrated when writing his ideas down on paper. He is very comfortable with computers. He is good in math, is able to visualize numbers and patterns, but cannot sequence what is happening in a story. He does not know how to formulate a good question.

_____

Mary is a good storyteller who understands the moral and message of her own stories. She loves to write stories but has long term memory problems which affects how she recounts stories, characters, and plots of a story that she reads. She has trouble in math with visualizing numbers and patterns. Mary likes to talk, raises her hand even though she may not know the answer, and asks lots of questions yet many do not pertain to the story.

_____

Suzie is an avid reader and loves to write. She can write descriptively, likes to draw but is anxious when she speaks in front of others. She forgets the sequence, moral and message of the story when she is put on the spot. She has trouble in math with patterns and sequencing. Susie wants to ask questions but is uncomfortable voicing her concerns. She works better individually or in a small group and enjoys writing in her journal.

In a traditional classroom, third graders read or listen to the same literature and usually are asked to respond the same way to the text as everyone else in the class according to ELA-RL.3.1 standard.

In a personalized learning environment, each third grader knows how they learn best and the best way that works for them to demonstrate what they know. To meet the standard ELA-RL.3.1, the teacher presents a story and offers multiple ways to read, listen, and respond to the story. To personalize the classroom, it can be set up with multiple stations so learners have choices how to learn and demonstrate understanding of a concept:

  • Station 1: laptop computers
  • Station 2: 2-3 tables grouped for collaborative work
  • Station 3: teacher area with places for students to sit (rug or bean bag chairs)
  • Station 4: individual area for privacy or journalling with mobile devices
  • Station 5: standing or pacing area (desks could be high without chairs)

 

The teacher reads the story to the whole class, invites students to read different sections, and/or includes the book in digital interactive format on the laptops or on mobile devices for students to read on their own during reading time. For this example, we will use the book, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. Here’s a summary of the book from Carol Hurst’s Children Literature Site:

This beautiful picture book tells of the life of the author’s great aunt Alice, now called The Lupine Lady. When she was little, Alice told her grandfather that she wanted to do as he did: go to far away places and live in a house by the sea. He told her that she must also do something to make the world more beautiful.

She accomplishes all she set out to do: traveling to tropical islands, climbing mountains before she hurts her back falling from a camel and decides to live by the sea. Her need to make the world more beautiful is a source of consternation to her.

Her solution of spreading lupine seeds wherever she walks is at first inadvertent – birds and the wind disperse lupine seeds from some she had planted in her garden before her bad back forced her into a semi-invalided life. When she sees new plants growing on nearby hillsides and cliffs, she spreads the seed herself after she feels better.

 

After reading the story, the teacher asks students to brainstorm questions that she writes on her interactive whiteboard using a mindmap like Inspiration. She asks students to pair with another student to come up with even more questions and then prioritize the questions so they eventually choose a question to write a response.

The moral behind Miss Rumphius is about values and making the world more beautiful. Each student may perceive values different based on their family and background. On her website Teaching Children Philosophy, Jenna Caputo provides guidelines for philosophical discussions and examples of questions about Miss Rumphius. The teacher can use some of these questions as examples:

Topic: Making the World More Beautiful
Miss Rumphius’ grandfather tells her that she must make the world more beautiful.

  1. What does Miss Rumphius’ grandfather do to make the world more beautiful?
  2. What does Miss Rumphius do to make the world more beautiful?
  3. Is there a right or wrong way to make the world more beautiful?
  4. Does making something more beautiful make it better?
  5. Can you make a person more beautiful? Does that make a better person?

 

Now let’s go back to our fictitious students: John, Mary, and Susie and how they may develop questions and respond to them based on how they learn best.

John reviewed his learner profile with his teacher where they determined that he needed help focusing and how to come up with questions or responses. The teacher paired him with another student, David, who really knows how to focus on a topic. David is not as comfortable with computers as John. They both signed up for the laptop station where John typed on Google Docs while David focused prioritizing the different questions until they came up with one question: “what would we do to make the world more beautiful?” Then each of them shared what would they do. John wasn’t sure but David nudged him to think about his concerns about pollution, climate change, and too much stuff. John thought about this and his response led to planning a recycling center at school.

______

Mary and her teacher went over her learner profile. They both decided for her to go to the teacher station. Her teacher could help her focus on the characters and setting of the story. The teacher set up a digital storyboard that included a set of visuals about the story. She then guided Mary to sequence the story visually so she was able to understand the story and generate good questions. Mary used a mobile device with the app, AudioNote to write and/or record her questions. She then shared the questions with two other students who helped her prioritize them. With their help, she came up with the question “how can I make our school more beautiful?” and her response was to design a butterfly garden outside of their classroom.

______

Suzie’s personal learner profile made it clear that she best works alone. The teacher showed her Notability that has the ability to draw, write, bring in pictures and create audio notes. She discovered that drawing first helped her write her questions in more detail. The teacher came by as Suzie was writing her questions and showed her how she could record her questions using Notability as a way to share her voice. Suzie felt uncomfortable speaking into the device so the teacher asked another student, Jane, to work with Suzie. They worked in a private area in the classroom with the mobile device and practiced going over the questions. Jane’s strength was listening and repeating back what she heard. This was just what Suzie needed to hear: her questions and help with prioritizing them. She decided on the question “Does making something more beautiful make it better?” and to write a response to the question in the form of a story.

__________
When each learner and their teacher understands how they learn best, the learner is more involved in the learning process. The teacher designs a supportive learning environment that allows for each student to personalize how they access and engage with the content as well as how they demonstrate their understanding. This does not imply that students are grouped or taken out of the classroom. A personalized learning environment means redesigning the physical nature of the classroom and the teacher is more of a “guide on the side.”

Universal Design for Learning is a registered trademark of Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). Personal Learner Profile is a trademark of Kathleen McClaskey and Barbara Bray of Personalize Learning.

0

Making Thinking Visible

How can classrooms become places of intellectual stimulation where learning is viewed not as test scores but in the development of individuals who can think, plan, create, question, and engage independently as learners?

Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners offers educators research-based solutions for creating just such cultures of thinking. This innovative book unravels the mysteries of thinking and its connection to understanding and engagement. It then takes readers inside diverse learning environments to show how thinking can be made visible at any grade level and across all subject areas through the use of effective questioning, listening, documentation, and facilitative structures called thinking routines. These routines, designed by researchers at Project Zero at Harvard, scaffold and support one’s thinking. By applying these processes, thinking becomes visible as learners’ ideas are expressed, discussed, and reflected upon.



The authors, Ron Ritchard, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison, ask “As we shared our research and classroom tested ideas about how to make thinking visible, be it in a classroom or with a group of adult learners, people kept asking us where they could read more about them. How could they learn more about how others were using them? How could they ensure that they and their students weren’t just using the thinking routines as activities? To answer those questions we put together this book with help from educators around the world.”

Watch a video from co-author Ron Richard about the Importance of Thinking.

1

The Filter Bubble Disguised as Personalization

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You by Eli Pariser is a book I recommend reading since most of us are online, searching for information probably not aware of what is happening with our data while we click away.

“The primary purpose of an editor [is] to extend the horizon of what people are interested in and what people know. Giving people what they think they want is easy, but it’s also not very satisfying: the same stuff, over and over again. Great editors are like great matchmakers: they introduce people to whole new ways of thinking, and they fall in love.” ~ Eli Pariser


Pariser shares “Your filter bubble is the personal universe of information that you live in online — unique and constructed just for you by the array of personalized filters that now power the web. Facebook contributes things to read and friends’ status updates, Google personally tailors your search queries, and Yahoo News and Google News tailor your news.”

The filter bubble is populated by the things that most compel you to click. Think about what you are looking for when you search and click around the Internet. You may be looking for medical information, want to know about a celebrity, or just want to shop. These may be highly personal to you but they may not be the same things you need to know or want to learn.

Google declares that search is personalized for everyone, and tailors its search results on an individual basis. When you search a topic, your results will be different than someone else’s search results. The reason companies like Google and Facebook use algorithms is that, once you’ve got them going, they cost much less than hiring humans to edit the news feed or find relevant information for you. Unfortunately, you may get results based on past searches, text in email messages, chats, and just clicking on different pages while trying to find what you are looking for. Each click is captured. Each time you “like” a friend or post, that is captured as “personalized” for you.

I have several gmail accounts so Google keeps all of my email received or sent so it knows who I’m connected to and all of their information. Google knows what I’ve searched for over so many years, and how much time it took me to search for something and how long I took to click a link or stay on a page. Are you aware that there are 57 signals that Google tracks about each user even if you’re not logged in?

This is not personal. It’s business. It is another way to push products, services, people, and other items to you based on their algorithms. I receive ads for coach products because of my company, My eCoach. This has nothing to do with wanting or needing any coach products. It’s just seems relevant to the algorithms.  I also get trends and news sent to me even though I’m not interested in what is sent to me. I learn about different stars breaking up and other not so interesting news. I really don’t need that either.

Why is this happening? Google, Facebook, and many online companies use and sell your data to third parties. They give your information to the government if they are asked for it. This is your information — information about you — that they are manipulating and giving to others without your knowledge. We use products like Google and Facebook, putting up private information about ourselves, because it’s free and seems like the privacy policies will protect you. I recommend reading the terms of use and privacy statements. The double talk and legalese is difficult to understand. Just know that if a program is FREE, they are using your data. Nothing is free. Every time you click on a link or type in an email, your information is being collected.

“Companies like Yahoo have turned over massive amounts of data to the US government without so much as a subpoena.” ~ Eli Pariser

There’s a basic problem with a system where Google makes billions off of the data we give it without giving us much control over how it’s used or even what it is.

Pariser states a profound concern “Personalization is sort of privacy turned inside out: it’s not the problem of controlling what the world knows about you, it’s the problem of what you get to see of the world. We ought to have more control over that — one of the most pernicious things about the filter bubble is that mostly it’s happening invisibly — and we should demand it of the companies we use.”

Go ahead and click the image below to get the book:

7

How Personalized Learning is Being Framed

The term “Personalized Learning” is huge and controversial. Technology offers incredible potential for education. The concern I have is how educational technology companies are framing how technology can personalize learning. I attended the keynote of NYU professor Diane Ravitch on March 16, 2012 at the Computer-Using Educators (CUE) conference in Palm Springs, California who started with “for a century, educators have dreamed about student-centered learning, and now technology has the potential to make it real.” Ravitch explains this in more detail in her latest book: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education

“Educational technology helps students rise to a level of engagement and learning “far beyond” what a textbook can offer,” Ravitch said, “adding that textbooks often avoid sensitive or difficult topics from the past because publishers and those with a stake in adoption want the textbooks to be approved for student use. Textbooks have been plagued by a regime of silence and censorship, and for years, educators have wondered how to expose students to true versions of the events they read about in their textbooks. So what do you do?”

“ The answer is technology,” Ravitch said. “For instance, educators can show videos depicting historical events or portraying scientific phenomena without editing. Technology is too big, too various, too wide open, and far too much for them to monitor,” she said. “It’s free, and they can’t make you edit out the controversial stuff—they can try, but I think it might be too hard.”

Ed tech has, in fact, helped spur new kinds of freedom. Teachers aren’t the only ones who see technology’s potential in the classroom—entrepreneurs see it as a way to make money, and policy makers see it as a way to cut costs and, in some cases, eliminate teachers.

“Some advocates of online instruction say it will make possible reductions of 30 percent of today’s teaching staff,” Ravitch said. “The bottom line for some is profits, not students.”

Technology adapts curriculum, analyzes data, stores content, allows anonymity, and produces vast amounts of information. In many of these cases, companies frame what they do with technology as personalized learning.

Ravitch added “no machine can judge nuance, or irony, or tone, or some amazing bursts of creativity. I fear the use of these programs will inevitably reduce student work. … I fear a loss of thoughtfulness” as students write papers to satisfy a computer. This is the thinking of a world too flat for me. … Don’t let them flatten you,” Ravitch said. “Don’t let them give you a number—we are not cattle; we should not be branded. Let us dare to use technology as it should be used—to dream, create, explore, and learn without boundaries. Let us use the power of technology to say ‘No’ to those who want to standardize our minds and the minds of our students.”

Diane RavitchDiane Ravitch is an historian of education at New York University. Her best-selling book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, has made her one of the nation’s most sought after speakers on current issues. She is a graduate of Houston public schools, Wellesley College, and holds a PhD from Columbia University. She has received nine honorary doctorates and many awards for her scholarship.  She served as Assistant Secretary of Education for Research and Improvement in the administration of President George H.W. Bush and was appointed to two terms on the National Assessment Governing Board by the Clinton administration.  She lives in New York City.

 

Educational companies are framing personalized learning to adapt what you learn. Their software adapts to your learning so learners sit in front of a computer half a day.  It is also being framed as a way to make learning cost-effective and guarantees increasing scores. They are promoting that computers can take over the work of a teacher. This is what I say: “A computer cannot personalize learning like a teacher and a student can.” It is all about the learner not the software, the textbook, or the tools. Personalized learning starts with the learner.

For more information on Personalized Learning, go to Personalize Learning.

1

Inquiry Circles in Action

Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action
by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels

Comprehension and Collaboration is a guide for teachers who want to realize the benefits of well-structured, engaging, cross-curricular projects. Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels lay the foundation for inquiry circles:

  • explain 10 fundamental classroom conditions needed for active, small group learning;
  • profile 19 small-group inquiry circles that bring strategies and principles to life;
  • provide 27 practical lessons in comprehension, collaboration, and inquiry;
  • offer how-to instruction for four types of inquiry circles – mini inquiries, cross curricular inquiries, literature circle inquiries, and open inquiries; and
  • address characteristic management concerns.

 

The authors Harvey and Daniels stress the importance of student collaboration and using inquiry as a vehicle to increase comprehension and deepen understanding.

“Comprehension is about understanding…Reading is about thinking.” (p. 27)

Inquiry is a process of learning that encourages kids to ask questions, to work together to solve problems, to discover knowledge, and to construct their own meaning, with guidance, rather than lectures, from teachers. The inquiry approach has three key strands (p. 56-57):

  1. “framing school study around questions developed and shaped by kids” which means allowing students’ genuine curiosity about curriculum topics to form the center of teaching;
  2. “handing the brainwork of learning back to the kids” meaning that instead of sitting quietly and receiving the information presented by a teacher, students actively work to construct their own learning experiences and take responsibility for the outcomes; and ultimately,
  3. “focusing on the development of kids’ thinking, first, foremost, and always.”

 

“The Gradual Release of Responsibility” has different stages (p.112):

  • Teacher Modeling: Teacher explains and models a new strategy, thinking aloud in order to demonstrate their thought-process behind the strategy use.
  • Guided Practice: Teacher and students practice the strategy together in shared contexts, constructing meaning through interchange; students gradually take more responsibility for task engagement and completion.
  • Collaborative Practice: Students share thinking process with one another or work in small groups and pairs and reason through text together; the teacher moves between groups, checking in on how things are going.
  • Independent Practice: Students practice using the strategy independently of teacher and other students; students receive regular feedback on their progress.
  • Application of Strategy: Students use the strategy in authentic situations, across a variety of settings, contexts, and disciplines.

“Kids’ questions really matter.” (p. 228)

I recommend this book as prompts for discussions about bringing inquiry-based learning into your classroom and as part of your professional learning communities.

The authors also created DVDs that support their work:

5

Blended Learning for Each Learner

Blended learning refers to any time a student learns, at least in part, at a brick-and-mortar facility and through online delivery with student control over time, place, path, or pace. [source: infographic] This sounds like personalizing learning to me. Yet, something’s happening how schools are using the blended learning approach.

Blended Learning

Blended learning environments are growing especially in the charter school movement. According to Michael Horn and Heather Staker on Innosight:

Online learning is sweeping across America. In the year 2000, roughly 45,000 K–12 students took an online course. In 2009, more than 3 million K–12 students did. What was originally a distance- learning phenomenon no longer is. Most of the growth is occurring in blended-learning environments, in which students learn online in an adult-supervised environment at least part of the time. As this happens, online learning has the potential to transform America’s education system by serving as the backbone of a system that offers more personalized learning approaches for all students.

They continue with a concern about the numbers of students who will have access to o online learning opportunities. There is a limit, however, to the number of students in America who have the ability to be home-schooled or attend a full-time virtual school. The same analysis that shows that 50 percent of all high school courses will be delivered online by 2019 reveals that home schooling and full-time virtual schooling will not substitute for mainstream schooling, as their rapid growth flattens out at around 10 percent of the K–12 schooling population.

There is a limit, however, to the number of students in America who have the ability to be home-schooled or attend a full-time virtual school. The same analysis that shows that 50 percent of all high school courses will be delivered online by 2019 reveals that home schooling and full-time virtual schooling will not substitute for mainstream schooling, as their rapid growth flattens out at around 10 percent of the K–12 schooling population.

Blended learning means something different to different groups depending on the ages of students, access to resources, teacher support and training, integrating digital literacy, assessment strategies, and amount of collaborative planning time.

Allison Littlejohn, director of the Caledonian Academy, Glasgow Caledonian University wrote 20 Tips and Resources for using Technology in Higher Education where she shared about blended learning:

Blended learning should transform learning, not just replicate teaching: Companies want graduates who can source, filter and use existing knowledge to create new knowledge, and the university is key to equipping students with these skills. Yet we seldom see technology  tools being used in radically new ways in Higher Ed. They are usually used to replicate lectures – think of websites or podcasts – rather than enabling students to learn in new ways.

Littlejohn makes a point that the relationship between blended learning and digital literacy is important, yet often overlooked. There are few well-defined ideas on how learners make connections across distributed networks and how they chart their learning pathways.Most of the blended learning models that I’m finding in my research so far talk about learning pathways and students’ personalizing their learning, but, in most of the models, the schools “personalize” students’ learning and adapt their students’ learning paths based on test scores and the level they reach on some online activities. Teachers may differentiate activities that they post on their website or “flip the classroom.” I like the idea of flipping the classroom so the real work in the classroom is meaningful and relevant. However, these activities are so much work for teachers. Teachers are working after-school taking up much of their own time to develop materials, lesson plans, and websites. Teachers spend time compiling data to determine how to teach to the different groups of students in their classroom. They assume that if they differentiate instruction, then each student in their classroom will understand the content.
Teachers should not be the hardest working people in the classroom.
When you look at the blended learning model for Higher Ed [Blended Learning Toolkit], teaching is teacher-directed either on-site and online and self-directed. With the availability of iTunes University, Open Education Resources [How to create your own textbook] and digital textbooks or Flexbooks [CK12/flexbooks], teachers from K-20 are picking and choosing resources to customize instruction. In all these cases, are we as teachers understanding how our students learn best? Are we taking into account each learner is not only different but they may learn in a different way? That’s a lot to think about.

 

There are organizations like Rocketship Education that are using adaptive courseware for students to increase their achievement in specific content areas like math and reading. These tend to be in lab situations monitored by a para-professional or teacher. The concern I have for this model is that student learning pathways are based on algorythms calculated from the answers students choose. The student has not designed their learning path or determined how they learn best using the different games or online activities. Student test scores do go up, but are students learning critical thinking skills? Some students don’t learn well this way — some do well for a time and then plateau. In this case, the software doesn’t take in account how the learner learns best. They may move to a different level or receive intervention strategies to understand the content, but do they really “get” it? How can a computer understand how each learner learns best?
How about changing the word “Student” to “Learner?” Student implies that they can only learn from a teacher. Learner implies a different role for teacher and learner. The learning starts with the learner. The learner drives and owns their learning. How about re-evaluating how the learner learns and using that information to design their personal learning path or personal journey?

 

Maybe what we call blended is more than on-site and online. It means knowing how the learner learns best and then blending the following to help them reach their fullest potential:
  • on-site
  • online
  • interactive games
  • small groups
  • one-on-one
  • appropriate resources
  • technology
  • observations
  • collaboration
  • personal journeys
  • flipping the classroom
  • inquiry and critical thinking
  • project-based
  • problem-based
  • design-based
  • challenge-based
  • studio-based
  • and so much more…
What if…
  • learners are able to determine how they learn best?
  • teachers are co-designers of blended learning environments with learners?
  • learners have a voice and choice in the way they learn?
  • there are a variety of opportunities of blended learning approaches to choose from?

 

We will see and research more models and examples of personalizing learning. Just think we are in the middle of discovering and transforming learning.  We will have to figure out how to personalize learning for all learners of all ages. The time is now. This is very exciting to be part of this type of transformation of learning. There will be lots of tugging and pulling and pushing to get it the right way. But I don’t think there will be one right way. I’m thinking each learner’s learning path will be their way.
0

Free Report Explaining the Chart on Personalization

The chart on Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization that Kathleen McClaskey and I created has brought an enormous interest from people and organizations around the world. We also have received lots of requests for copies of the chart along with thousands of hits. So what we did was create a place to download the chart.

Now that the chart is all over, we have been getting lots of questions and requests for more information. We created a report explaining the elements of the chart in more detail and added it to the download.

Click here to learn more and download your free chart and the report

We would appreciate feedback on the report and please share with the people in your network!
0

Google's Privacy Policy: What? So What?

Google Privacy PolicyThe privacy terms at Google changed today. The goal is to streamline your experience and cut through a lot of legalese that Internet companies put together. However, as part of this process, Google is also sharing data between all of their services. When you are signed into Google, Google combines  information about users provided from one service with information from other services. The goal is to treat each user as one individual across all Google products, such as Gmail, Google Docs, YouTube and other Web services. These changes have Europe, Congress, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and others really upset. {source}

Is this personalizing what you want or actually customizing what a company can market to you?

“We can provide reminders that you’re going to be late for a meeting based on your location, your calendar and an understanding of what the traffic is like that day,” reads Google’s blog explaining the search giant’s unified policy. This works whether you’re accessing Google on your computer, tablet or cellphone, as long as you’re logged in according to Technolog on MSNBC.

“People still have to do way too much heavy lifting, and we want to do a better job of helping them out,” Google points out.

Heavy lifting??? That’s another way of saying Google knows how to find the resources for you. It’s just that the resources they find may be advertisements. Another concern is that Google is now better equipped to help out law enforcement officials and the government when it comes to finding out about you. Curious what Google can find out about you:

For some time now, Google’s been able to connect your phone with your phone number and carrier, identify your computer model and OS (right down to the serial number), collect your IP address (traceable to your real-life address), and save what you’ve searched for.

The policy states that Google will collect your location information, even if you have your GPS turned off. It says it will collect cookies data and other information about your devices. But the policy also states that Google can change your information and show information about you to others without your express consent. Did you know that?

Google’s Privacy Policy (March 1, 2012)

Google Privacy

So what if the data will be used for advertisements? That’s nothing new. The only difference is that the advertisements will be truer to your interests. Customized!  Remember — Google is free. They need to pay for their services somehow. Right?

Here’s my issue: Google’s privacy policy is NOT personalizing your search. Personalizing means you choose what you want when you want it. You drive the information to you. Remember boolean searches. Google is using your information to customize what you see and who markets to you. Your search results are different for you than someone else right now. Some of the top results get there because they pay to be promoted.

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