So Kathleen McClaskey and I did some research on what personalization is and the differences between differentiation and individualization. We found very little information on the differences. And what we did find, we disagreed with many of the points. That lead us to create this chart:
The term “Personalized Learning” is a buzz word educators use to be an alternative to “one size fits all” teaching. Unfortunately, the message is confusing. Ed.gov’s archive as part of the National Technology Plan lays out the definition of Individualized, Personalized, and Differentiated Instruction:
Individualization refers to instruction that is paced to the learning needs of different learners. Learning goals are the same for all students, but students can progress through the material at different speeds according to their learning needs. For example, students might take longer to progress through a given topic, skip topics that cover information they already know, or repeat topics they need more help on.
Differentiation refers to instruction that is tailored to the learning preferences of different learners. Learning goals are the same for all students, but the method or approach of instruction varies according to the preferences of each student or what research has found works best for students like them.
Personalization refers to instruction that is paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to the specific interests of different learners. In an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives and content as well as the method and pace may all vary (so personalization encompasses differentiation and individualization).
Personalized learning is NOT “Personalized Instruction.”
Personalizing learning means…
students know how they learn so they are prepared for today and their future as global citizens.
students are co-learners and co-designers of the curriculum and the learning environment.
students own and drive their learning.
Each learner is unique and learns in different ways. Differentiating instruction means that the teacher adapts the existing curriculum to meet the different needs of each student in their classroom. The teacher becomes the hardest working person in the classroom. Individualizing means that the teacher and textbook companies create multiple levels of curriculum to meet the different needs of all students. This means that you pay more to textbook companies to prepare the curriculum or you find multiple ways to teach a content area that meets the varied learning styles and reading levels in their classroom.
Differentiating and individualizing instruction is teacher-centric, grade-level, and standards-based. Teachers can use these techniques to present content. However, he student needs to be the hardest working people in the classroom. Teachers need to teach their students how to fish and not fish for them. In a personalized learning environment, the teacher doesn’t have to be the only expert. The advantage of technology is that students can use the content and be the experts with their teacher. They can become experts on specific content areas, technology, and even create content.
Check out Mathtrain.tv where Eric Marcos realized that students learn best from other students.” target=”_blank”>
Schools are using Khan Academy to personalize learning. Students are finding the resources and sharing them with each other. Students are flipping the classroom with their teachers. You can take university classes from MIT Open Courseware and Stanford is offering 15 free online courses.
Personalizing learning starts with the learner. It is not personalized instruction. The teacher, the school, and textbook companies can individualize instruction for the different types of learners. Personalized learning means the students drive their learning and the teacher IS the guide on the side, the co-designer of their learning, and more of a facilitator to make sure the students are meeting their learning goals.
Something is happening in education. Do you see it? Education is changing. Textbook companies realized they have to change. Everything is going digital. Many online courses are now open and free. Educating children is different than it was a few years ago. But what does that mean for schools and teaching? Learners are different. Learners are demanding to learn when they want to learn wherever they are and in anyway that works for them. They use new tools that are not allowed in most classrooms. They do it anyway. They are dropping out of school or taking classes online. Parents are looking for alternatives. Learning matters!
Maybe you noticed that students are taking responsibility for learning how to do this or that on their own…that is, mostly outside of school. They need to know something so they google it or ask others. The teacher is no longer the only expert in the class. Teachers have less professional development or access to resources so they are trying to figure things out and still teach to the test. That part has to change. Teachers may not want to change because they only know what they were taught — to be the expert in the class. They are being evaluated by test scores so the pressure is on them. But, even with that, teachers are asking other teachers for help in the next classroom, going online or figuring out things on their own. Some teachers are realizing that their students have the expertise they need especially when it comes to technology. As a coach working with teachers I realized that I had to see how and why everything was changing. I cannot assume that professional development, curriculum design, and instruction will be the same so I had to rethink my coaching and how I support teachers and schools.
In doing this, I thought I’d make several predictions on what education could look like and what I’d like to see in 2012:
Teachers understand how each student learns. They use different methods of assessing how each student learns best and along with each learner keep track of their learning.
Assessment is ongoing since learning is not a constant. Learners are collecting evidence of their learning and reflecting on their learning.
Teachers collaborate with teachers that teach the same subject or grade to design or adapt instruction that is individualized. This means instruction is paced to the learning needs of their students so students can pace through the content at different levels based on their learning needs.
Teachers share content and lessons online and realize that it’s not that important to reinvent the wheel or keep content to themselves anymore.
Teachers are no longer the hardest working people in the classroom. They are appreciated as a facilitator or “guide on the side” instead of the only content expert. Teachers are more like a coach encouraging students to find their strengths and go with them.
Learners determine their strengths and weaknesses and share their expertise with other students and teachers.
More instruction is flipped where teachers and/or students find or create and upload lessons as videos or on websites to the Internet so learners learn the content out of school and then do the real work in the classroom.
The classroom can be anywhere at anytime. Learning can happen anywhere. Everyone is a learner and a teacher. More learning is mobile and on mobile devices.
Students have access to what they need when they need it. If a school or district does not have the resources, the learner brings their own device to school. The school represents the real-world and all devices are allowed. Everyone is responsible and trusted.
Homework is different. Learners watch videos and lessons, learn about content, and learn from each other out of school. They take more control of their learning. No more busywork.
Forward thinking IT departments allow YouTube Education, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media so students can use real-world tools in school.
Schools and universities accept prior knowledge, realize that experience matters and students are open to challenge a course or test.
Assessment is not just about test scores. Learners collect and reflect on evidence of learning. Assessment is ongoing and everyone is part of a feedback loop and supporting each other.
Teachers are not evaluated by test scores. They have a coach or mentor and are part of a team that supports each other. Teachers collect evidence of learning in their classroom as an ePortfolio.
Students lead parent conferences with their teachers. They own how they are learning and ask for feedback and help in monitoring their progress.
Teachers, parents, and other learners are part of each learner’s learning team.
Professional development involves more collaboration and support for teachers based on their own needs. Coaching teachers and students involves designing assessment strategies, facilitating collaborative planning sessions and redesigning learning environments, guiding student experts who flip the classroom and create websites for the classroom, and helping behind the scenes with ePortfolio design.
Learning is personalized. Creativity and curiosity is back in the classroom. Learning is passion-driven and joy matters. Learners drive and own their learning.
These predictions may seem like dreams to you, but I really believe they can happen. It is all about our children — right? We need to teach less so everyone can learn more.
A learner is going to find a way to learn what they need to know no matter how much they are tested, scolded, and herded from grade to grade, teacher to teacher. The world is changing. People are changing. I am seeing how more and more learners are finding their own way — to figure out who they are. Some are working through the system to get a degree and maybe find a job that may last a few years. They may retire with a pension, but, in more cases, they will move from job to job and not know if they will ever be able to retire. Many cannot find a job in their field. The system is broken and there’s a whole generation of workers discouraged and wondering why they spent their hard earned money on a degree that doesn’t get them a job or work that is something they are passionate about. A few start their own businesses but being an entrepreneur is something they were not prepared for in school.
Schools were designed around the factory model which has been in place for over 100 years. After years of teaching the same thing to all children — the “one size fits all” model, learners are demanding that their education meets their needs. Each person is unique and different and they are reaching out to get what they need wherever they can find it. Even the theorist John Dewey wrote in 1897:
“The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these influences."
How come Dewey knew this that long ago and the teacher still is the expert and the hardest working person in the classroom? Why is it taking so long to change?
There are a lot of factors in place that are impacting how schools are run. US schools are focused on teaching to the test and raising test scores. Textbook companies design curriculum and most teachers teach from the prescriptive script. That’s how they were taught and, basically, it is easier since the tests come from the same sources as the textbooks. Teachers are not supposed to be creative and innovative or take risks with the curriculum. It’s been tested, tried and true according the adoption process. But is it working?
Most textbooks are broken down into separate objectives that work if you are a high-achieving linguistic learner from New York or Texas. Everything is teacher-directed with examples and tips. However, each child is different in each classroom. Each teacher is different also. They may even have a mind of their own, background experiences that they can bring to the topic.
Personalizing learning will help your students do more than increase their scores because they will own their learning and use higher-order thinking skills that they will need to be global citizens and marketable. The world is different and more and more of our children are falling behind. We cannot teach out-dated strategies that will not prepare them for their future. The learner needs guidance to break out of the dependent role and drive their own learning. Students are leaving traditional school environments for online courses, home schools, and/or dropping out. Schools are closing. Teachers are being laid off. Communities are suffering. Change will happen if learners have anything to say about it.
So I say: Occupy Learning!!
Find a way to learn what you want when you want it. I use social media and curation tools to find resources around topics. I ask and search through my PLN (Personal Learning Network) for new ideas. We’re all learners together. You can find free online courses and webinars and even find a coach to guide you along your learning path. Learn who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Find your passion and go for it. Use whatever works for you. Don’t let anyone stop you from realizing your hopes and dreams.
Curation is helping me find resources and learn new ideas from people I never knew. Like so many others, I am getting caught up in curation. I go to my Scoopit daily to find new resources from reputable sources that I am following. I never would have found the article from Joe Pulizzi unless I checked my dashboard.
But I agree about the main concept of his post. “There is no curation without original content.” His website is about content marketing and shares a graph about brand awareness that is pretty cool.
If you want to brand yourself or a concept, you need to write about it. My focus is on personalizing learning and articles and resources that appear on that topic are all over the place. I am following content curators and finding original content creators on personalized learning. I need to find good content creators that have original ideas, research, and resources to help my research.
Some companies are using the term “personalized learning” when actually they are designing courses or platforms where the teacher can control who accesses particular content or quizzes based on their answers. To me that’s customized and still teacher-directed. There is a difference between personalization and differentiation. One is learner-centered; the other is teacher-centered.
Teachers are confused about the term “personalized learning” because they only know how to teach they way they were taught. So when I come in and talk about student-centered learning and starting with the learner, it just doesn’t happen right away. There are teachers that are posting lessons using the term “personalized learning” but have all control. I say “maybe this is the first step” to moving to student-centered learning, but it is not there yet.
If you are curating content about personalizing learning, don’t just rescoop it without commenting on it. Curation needs your take on the article especially if the direction is different than yours. Explain why.
Creating content is important. The Internet is full of biased information and, in some cases, wrong information. We need your content and we need you to curate by adding your own comments and opinions. Be aware of buzz words and anyone using terms just to get work.
Check out my 11 Tips to Personalize Learning. It starts with the learner and determining how they learn best. They own and drive their learning. Much of the content I am finding still has the teacher working harder than their students. We need to start with each learner and have them figure out how they learn best. They are all unique just like their fingerprints.
Seth Godin latest article, entitled “the trap of social media noise“, touches on one of the hot issues about the Internet. I curated this article from Seth which was reviewed eloquently from Robin Good who asked:
Are we creating and leveraging these tools to regurgitate and spit out more noise, or are we working to build tools and to help others understand the value of distilling and making sense of the information wave surrounding us?
Curation can also be an easy way to repost someone else’s information without doing much work yourself. You can share to multiple social networks and RSS feeds. This creates even more noise and confusion. Who was the original author and what is the intention of the curator?
Seth writes that “…either be better at pump and dump than anyone else, get your numbers into the millions, outmass those that choose to use mass and always dance at the edge of spam (in which the number of those you offend or turn off forever keep increasing)… or Relentlessly focus.
Prune your message and your list and build a reputation that’s worth owning and an audience that cares. Only one of these strategies builds an asset of value.”
Howard Reingold interviewed Robin Good about Curation in the video below. I have been following Robin on Scoopit and am learning how to be a curator from him. People can be gateways to the information we need instead of relying on digital robots using algorhythms that produce millions of resources in a search — millions that are not relevant.
I am enjoying building my Scoopits and gathering resources that will help me write and learn. But I do have some concerns similar to what Seth was writing about and Robin was talking about. Just getting your numbers up with followers, hits, comments, and others rescooping your scoops isn’t enough. The Internet is like drinking from a firehose. We need humans to filter now — not just put up lists to links and more links. Building a curated ecosystem means that each curator is customizing the flow of information for their audience. I am learning as I go. I’m following people with similar interests and finding and collecting sources that I would have missed in a basic search.
I am just dipping my toes in this new world and anxious to see where it ends up. Robin mentioned one thing that stuck out to me: “Are you a Mixed Tape or a Live DJ?” A live DJ finds information and distributes it the way his/her audience would enjoy it. A live DJ will talk about the music and personalize it. That’s what a curator can do with the resources they find.
“I am starting this blog to help people who are now asking the bigger questions in life – Who am I? Why am I here? What’s my purpose?
I often hear people talking about how important it is to be real and authentic. So how do you be authentic when you don’t even know who you are? I asked myself these questions several months ago. I tried very hard to be the upbeat, positive person that everyone seemed to like. Was that really me? Or was I trying to cover up some things about me that I knew people wouldn’t like? Was I just pretending to be someone else just so they’d like me?”
This made me think about what the authentic self is for each of us and what that means as a learner. Each of us learns in different ways depending on our background, our parents, our environment, and so much else. I looked at these questions on Be Authentic and Self-Empowerment and thought “why aren’t we using these same tools to determine who each learner is?”
Here’s a few questions I would look at using or adapting to determine who each child is and their authentic self:
Who am I?
What is my story?
Am I ‘my story’?
What is my potential?
Where am I stuck?
What is my identity?
What are my fears?
What are my hopes and dreams?
What do you enjoy doing most?
What concerns do you have about your story now?
Is your story really your story or someone else’s?
Young children may not know how to answer these. Their parents may be directing what they need and want without being aware of it. There are other ways to determine how each child learns best: Multiple Intelligences, Universal Design Learning strategies, Learning Styles, etc. I’m not even sure who my authentic self is. I know I love to write and learn from others. I do know that I learn best by doing my own research, brainstorming with others, and taking a chance to try something new. What about you?
If each learner understands who they are and how they learn best, then they can help drive their learning with their teacher. The teacher shouldn’t be the hardest working person in the classroom. That’s what it is now. I coach teachers around the country and see how hard they work. Many teachers work too hard where students should be the ones working the hardest. Learning needs to be hard. Learning means you are learning something new that you don’t know yet. It means you are challenging yourself to reach out of your comfort zone. When you learn that something you didn’t know yet, it is rewarding and powerful.
So what if we spent more time in the early years working with parents and guardians to help students figure out who their authentic self is so they know their authentic learner?
When I think about engaging students, I think about Flow. Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.
In 1997, Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi published this graph that depicts the relationship between the challenges of a task and skills. Flow only occurs when the activity is a higher-than-average challenge and requires above-average skills.
Graph of Flow from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_%28psychology%29
The center of this graph (where the sectors meet) represents one’s average levels of challenge and skill. The further from the center an experience is, the greater the intensity of that state of being (whether it is flow or anxiety or boredom or relaxation). Flow only occurs when the activity is a higher-than-average challenge and requires above-average skills.
Kindergarteners spend more time learning how to take a test than learning how to socialize. Watch children play and challenge themselves. You can see how they are engaged. Play and learning needs to go hand-in-hand. If play is purposeful and challenges the learner, any learner of any age will want to learn.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” — George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Conditions of FLOW
Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi identified ten factors one may experience with FLOW:
Clear goals and expectations
A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness
Distorted sense of time
Direct and immediate feedback
Balance between ability level and challenge
A sense of personal control over the situation or activity
Intrinsically rewarding activity
A lack of awareness of bodily needs
Absorbed and focused only on activity
How are you experiencing FLOW?
Think about an activity that gets you excited and are passionate about. If you love mountain biking, you probably cannot wait for that time to jump on your bike and take off. If you are working on a project that you are really interested in, you might work right through your lunch and not even know it. If you are part of a team and are valued, it makes you feel important. If the project you are working on is something you want to do or want to learn, then you spend even more time on it than you would in a traditional classroom setting.
How are your students experiencing FLOW in the classroom? Are they? If so, when?
I am a coach. I work with teachers to facilitate moving teaching and learning to student-centered classrooms. This isn’t easy for teachers especially with everything else on their plates. When teachers develop an activity that is student-centered and their students drive and own their learning, the environment changes. The noise level in the classroom gets louder. For some teachers this is bothersome, but that’s just because they are not used to it.
I call it controlled chaos and purposeful play. There’s a buzz going on in the room. When students are working in groups and fully engaged, they enjoy working as a team. Especially if each member of that team has a role and is valued in that role. I’ve seen middle school classrooms change from a group of at-risk students who are not interested in anything to learners who are excited about learning. I’ve seen them stay during lunch or after school to continue to work on projects. Now that’s FLOW!
You can see FLOW happen when students are working in groups or doing individual work. FLOW is personal. Learning needs to be personal. It really is all about the learner.
“Whatever it takes” is an attitude that drives most of Finland’s 62,000 educators in 3,500 schools from Lapland to Turku—professionals selected from the top 10 percent of the nation’s graduates to earn a required master’s degree in education. Many schools are small enough so that teachers know every student. If one method fails, teachers consult with colleagues to try something else. They seem to relish the challenges. Nearly 30 percent of Finland’s children receive some kind of special help during their first nine years of school. Read more about Finnish Education
“Whatever it takes” should be education’s manifesto everywhere. Every child is unique, special, and gifted. Finland values good teachers, expects them to be highly trained (Master degrees), pays them what they are worth, and provides them ongoing support. Children start school at seven and stay with the same teacher for at least six years. At least 30% of Finnish children may be identified with special needs and are given additional support. All teachers are mentored and coached. No one is allowed to be left behind. So how can we adopt or adapt some of these strategies so schools in the US do “whatever it takes?”
Here’s some ideas to throw around…
Study the Finnish model in teacher education programs.
Set up weekly study groups (on-site or online) for teachers to discuss this model.
Compare and contrast US and Finnish curriculum.
Facilitate the design of personal learner profiles for students and teachers.
Personalize learning so it is about the learner so they drive their own learning.
Be flexible to include all children in learning AND be flexible in how children learn.
Each student is unique. I remember studying Lev Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development and thinking how much sense this made. He developed this in 1928 and it is so needed now. In the zone of proximal development, Vygotsky saw the need
for an adult mentor, a guide who could help the learner connect new
information to older ideas and take on new challenges.
It is time for people to think about personalizing learning NOW. It is truly about the learner.
Intelligence is forming and developing throughout our lives. The concept is called neuroplasticity, a theory that was developed in the mid-1800s and researched in the 1990s. Kurt Fischer, education professor and director of the Mind, Brain, and Education Program at Harvard University explains “The brain is remarkably plastic. Even in middle or old age, it’s still adapting very actively to its environment.” Sara Bernard supports this in her article for Edutopia Neuroplasticity: Learning Physically Changes the Brain “All those little brains in your classroom are physically growing and changing every time they learn something. And there are ways to keep that happening.”
Cells that fire together, wire together
Neuroplasticity means that if you perform a task or recall some information, that causes different neurons to fire in concert. It strengthens the connections between those cells. Researcher and middle school teacher Judy Willis, in this same article, wrote that she saw that her students were more motivated when they knew that they were all fully physically capable of building knowledge and changing their brains. She provided a few tips to create a learning environment that encourages students to learn:
Practice, practice, practice. When students learn content in different ways, repeat an activity and then retrieve that memory they build thicker, stronger, more hard-wired connections in the brain.
Put information in context. Tap into already-existing pathways by recognizing that learning is the formation of new or stronger neural connections. Stop rote memorization of isolated facts. Facilitate students connecting the dots and how the concept they are learning is related to past experiences and the real-world.
Let students know that this is how the brain works. Intelligence is not predetermined especially for students who believe they are ‘not smart.’ If students realize they have the power to change their brains, they will be empowered to learn more and in different ways.
Brain remodels itself on experiences
Use it or Lose it
A 1998 landmark study found that the human brain had the ability to develop new brain cells. This research challenged the prevailing theory that the human brain was a rigid system with no ability to generate new brain cells. Neurologist Arne May and colleagues at the University of Regensburg asked 12 people in their early 20s to learn a classic three-ball juggling trick over three months until they could sustain a performance for at least a minute. Another 12 were in a ‘control’ group who were not asked to learn how to juggle.
The jugglers showed a significant increase of gray matter in brain area V5 that is an area implicated in the processing of visual movement. In order to investigate what happens when newly acquired skills are allowed to stagnate, the participants were asked not to practice their juggling skills and were scanned for a third time after another three-month period. The amount of gray matter in V5 had reduced, supporting the idea that the brain operates in a use-it-or-lose-it fashion.
Draganski and colleagues showed that extensive learning of abstract information can also trigger some plastic changes in the brain. They imaged the brains of German medical students three months before their medical exam and right after the exam and compared them to brains of students who were not studying for the exam at this time. Medical students’ brains showed learning-induced changes in regions of the parietal cortex as well as in the posterior hippocampus. These regions of the brains are known to be involved in memory retrieval and learning.
Learning and brain exercises slow age-related mental declines. New information and new branching increases the volume and thickness of the brain that would otherwise decline with age. So read, play games, challenge yourself no matter what age.
Physical exercise promotes the creation of new neurons in the brain. Walk, exercise and get physical education back in schools.
Specifically designed brain exercises have been shown to improve brain function in children and adults with learning disabilities.
The brain undergoes measurable, physical changes as we go through the thinking and learning process. Computer technology can now use these measurements and changes to allow paralyzed people to moves objects with their thoughts. This is where research is going to find ways to utilize our thoughts with technology.
Researchers at UCSD have used imagination and illusion to restructure brain maps and ‘trick” the brain into managing phantom pain and some forms of chronic pain.
Performance can be improved through visualization because action and imagination can activate the same parts of the brain. People have learned to play the piano or achieve greater results in athletic endeavors through mental practice. To lose weight, visualize yourself eating instead of eating.
Neuroplasticity, School, and Learning
The idea that brains are plastic and can change means that students can drive their own learning. If students are passionate about learning something like how to play a guitar and then are given the freedom to experiment, practice, get feedback from others, play, take risks, practice some more, they will want to learn. They will want to learn. The learning environment plays a large role. Schools today assume everyone in the classroom learns at the same time and at the same rate. If we take the idea that brains can change and students all come into a class at different levels, then it is important to change the learning environment to encourage experimentation, risk-taking, and learning from each other.
I am looking for research on neuroplasticity with school children similar to the other research studies. How are they learning? What is happening to their brains on CT scans? Has anyone done this?