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Thought Leaders

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Studio-Based Learning (Interview: Pat Donohue)

After learning about Studio-Based Learning (SBL) from Pat Donohue, I interviewed her to learn about the benefits of this approach and why and how SBL personalizes learning. Pat is inspired by a passion to create engaging environments for learning.

“There is a fundamental problem with public school as it has come to be defined. Confining young adults away from the world has created environments loaded with discipline problems and excruciating boredom. The challenge of the classroom teacher to engage young minds in the real subject matters of life while students are stuck in their chairs was clearly a losing task (see Gatto, 1992).

 

If you watch children or young adults in the natural world, it will not take long to notice two things: they will soon be engaged in some kind of learning borne out of their own curiosity and/or they will be engaged in making fun – usually both. To this day I cannot fathom why education cannot be a replication of this natural tendency of human beings to learn about the life they lead.”

What is Studio-Based Learning?
Studio-based learning in America can be traced back to John Dewey’s Laboratory School in Chicago in the late 1800’s (Lackney, 1999). It was later adopted by North American architectural education and showed up in the University of Oregon Architectural School in 1914. Lackney describes the design studio as, “A type of professional education, traditional in schools of architecture, in which students undertake a design project under the supervision of a master designer. Its setting is the loft-like studio space in which anywhere from twelve to as many as twenty students arrange their own drawing tables, papers, books, pictures, drawings and models. In this space, students spend much of their working lives, at times talking together, but mostly engaged in private, parallel pursuits of the common design task (quoting Schon, 1983).”

Primary concepts that drive studio-based learning include:

  • Students work like apprentices in a common space under the tutelage of a “master.”
  • Students interact when needed with each other on their designs.
  • Students undergo periodic critiques, known as “crits,” of their designs, projects, or products. Crits are for gaining knowledge about your work. They occur student-to-master first and then evolve self-learning crits between peers.
  • It is driven by the pragmatic. The idea is to get your hands in your work, get it done, revise it to perfect it, and self-evaluate the results.
  • Final work or products are presented publicly.

 

Studio-based learning methods were picked up in various iterations in K-12 programs and in universities throughout the 20th Century. The use of SBL educational laboratories died down in 1970s and 1980s but never died-out. Today, SBL is experiencing a revival. The originators of the SBL model we pursue run the Intelligent and Interactive Systems Lab at Auburn University and partners at Washington State University have launched the Online Studio-Based Learning Environment (OSBLE) where instructors from around the country can share their experiences and growing knowledge about the model’s effectiveness.

In 2006, John Seely Brown published a short but hard-hitting article, “Exploring the edge: New Learning Environments for the 21st Century” on the architectural studio model as a foundation for current trends in learning. He explains:

In the architecture studio, for example, all work in progress is made public. As a consequence, every student can see what every other student is doing; every student witnesses the strategies that others use to develop their designs. And there is public critique, typically by the master and perhaps several outside practitioners.

The students not only hear each other’s critiques, but because they were in some sense peripheral participants in the evolution of each other’s work, they also have a moderately nuanced understanding of the design choices and constraints that led to the final result … If you look at the learning outcomes for the architecture studio and Professor Belcher’s physics classes, it is evident that in both environments, students move from ‘learning about’ something to ‘learning to be’ something—a crucial distinction.

I believe studio learning is a preferred environment for our educational system, ideas about: situated learning, collaborative learning, personal learning networks and personal learning environments, mobile computing and its ability to deliver an SBL environment into a learner’s hands, and authentic instruction.

How did you build this passion for experiential learning approaches?
Fifteen years ago, I set out with a Master’s degree in Instructional Technologies to a new professional life, inspired by a passion to create engaging environments for learning. I had been a high school science and English teacher in a central urban school district (Oakland, CA) and a highly rural school district (Lake County, CA).  I set out in 1997 on a path that led me to one year of science and mathematics software production for an educational technology publisher, followed by eight years in STEM education grants – six years as Principle Investigator for a U.S. Department of Education grant serving schools in rural North Dakota and two years as Project Director on a similar National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for rural schools in the six Hawaiian Islands. The North Dakota grant was housed in a Science Center and that experience cemented my love of informal education approaches to learning.

In Hawaii, I left the grant position on the advice of my university colleagues to enter into their Ph.D. program in Communication and Information Sciences. That program introduced me to new research colleagues whom I work with today. Our research focused on instructional models that integrated technology to raise the learning bar in science, mathematics, and computer science. I eventually came to see the most important part of STEM learning is the “E.” Engineering is, more often than not, where the other three fields come together in hands-on applications. We began to look at instructional models that would situate student learning in practice. My colleagues joined with two other universities in a grant to develop and test a model of Studio-Based Learning (SBL). They are now in their second implementation grant of the SBL program through NSF. Multiple universities and instructors around the country have been involved in one or both of the SBL grant work and the results are showing that, in college undergraduate computer science courses,

SBL shows improvement gains for students compared to those in non-SBL courses. I extended the SBL protocol to a pilot program for high school and am now investigating a revision of the model into a “Design Studio” approach that integrates SBL methods into a more robust laboratory of learning experiences.

Cityscape

Designed by Consuelo

What are the findings from neuroscience?
Findings from neuroscience has expanded the picture of what is happening in the studio when learning is occurring. Something I now tell my students that makes them sit up with new attention is,

“every moment we talk here; every day you leave this classroom, you have a new brain.”

The point is, from neuroscience research (c.f., John Medina’s Brain Rules at www.brainrules.net), we know that the neurons in our brain form networks of connections that are in some mysterious way we still don’t understand how we store our learning. That learning is individual and based on the numerous factors that shape our individual connections. We learn constantly. In fact, tell yourself to “stop learning.” It can’t be done. This means that every moment of our lives we are re-forming our connections with every new or evolving thought. New thought; new connections; new brain. I find that brain boggling! And, of course, I want to know more.

Currently, we are designing an evolution of our Instructional Technology department to embrace a studio environment using SBL principles. I am working with colleagues in the Education departments to reformulate our SBL model into a more rigorous approach for all grade levels and all disciplines to personalize learning in educational contexts. That will involve development of mobile learning approaches to the studio experience and it will involve creating physical laboratory spaces on campus where we implement and research this evolving method of instruction.

 

Pat donohuePatricia (Pat) Donohue, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Instructional Technologies
Graduate College of Education, San Francisco State University
President and CEO, Community Learning Research LLC

Pat Donohue teaches instructional design and technologies in the Department of Instructional Technologies at San Francisco State University’s Graduate College of Education. She is also President and CEO of Community Learning Research, LLC, a private educational research company located in the Napa Valley, California. She holds a doctorate degree in Communication and Information Sciences from the University of Hawai`i at Manoa and her Master’s in Education: Instructional Technologies degree from San Francisco State University where she currently teaches courses in Foundations of Instructional Design Theory, Learning with Emerging Technologies, and Usability Testing and Formative Evaluation.

Pat worked as a professional development specialist in new technologies and learning for 20 years prior to her current position, eight of which were on federal teacher development grants in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. Pat was Principal Investigator for NatureShift, a U.S. Department of Education Technology Innovation Challenge Grant (6.5 yrs.) and interim Project Director for Hawai`i Networked Learning Communities, a National Science Foundation Rural Systemic Initiative grant for the Hawai`i Department of Education (1.5 yrs.). Both grants involved technology integration in cultural contexts into curriculum and instruction and teacher professional development in STEM, history, and language literacy for rurally isolated schools in the Northern plains states and the six Hawaiian Islands. Pat taught high school science and English for six years and has taught several university education courses prior to her current position. She held administrative positions at the University of Hawai`i and at San Francisco State and Sonoma State Universities. For a brief period, she published the Middletown Times Star, a small newspaper in Northern California.

With a lifelong interest in the learning sciences, Pat’s research has covered technology innovations for learning, cultural implications and impacts on learning, and advanced technology environments for collaborative learning. She is currently researching a new pedagogical model based on traditions of Studio-Based Learning and investigating the implementation of that model into mobile learning environments.

Community Learning Research LLC
http://communitylearningresearch.com
Patricia Donohue, PhD, CEO
pjdonohue@gmail.com
011.925.451.7820 (M/SMS)

References

  • Gatto, J. T. (1992) Dumbing Us Down.
  • Lackney, J. A. (1999) A History of the Studio-Based Learning Model.
  • Report of a Workshop on The Scope and Nature of Computational Thinking, Committee for the Workshops on Computational Thinking; National Research Council (2010).
  • Mitchell Resnick (2002) Rethinking Learning in the Digital Age. Chapter 3: pp32-37.
  • Mitchell Resnick (2007) Sowing seeds for a more creative society. ISTE
  • Stephen Cooper, Lance C. Pérez, and Daphne Rainey (2010) K–12 Computational Learning: Enhancing student learning and understanding by combining theories of learning with the computer’s unique attributes. Education, v.53(11) pp 27-29.
  • Hundhausen, C., Narayanan, N., and Crosby, M. (2008) Exploring Studio-Based Instructional Models for Computing Education
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Personalized Learning @ Colorado Springs SD11

District 11, Colorado Springs

Thought Leader Interview:
Greg Wilborn, Personalized Learning Coordinator

Kathleen McClaskey interviewed Greg Wilborn about District 11, Colorado Springs in Colorado and their journey to personalize learning.

Q. Why personalize learning?

Because we finally CAN!

For the first time in our history, we have the tools and access to resources to allow individual learners the flexibility and freedom to pursue an education centered around their own interests and aptitudes. Educators and philosophers for centuries have yearned for education that is learner centered and molded by the learner as opposed to the factory system. While the desire has been there, the methods have been shackled by the restrictions of human interaction and delivery methods. There is only so much that can be personalized with one facilitator, 20 to 40 learners, and print media and production methods.

Technology is the lever that can move learning to heights yet unseen and now is the time to evolve the approaches and systems to support each and every learner anytime, anywhere.

Personalized learning allows learners to have a wide choice of what they learn, how they learn, when, where, and how they demonstrate their learning. Imagine how many ways learners can approach the subject of civil rights if given the right direction, resources, and coaching. Instead of limiting the subject to the content perspective of a certain time period and location, (i.e. the southern United States from 1960 to 1970) learners can research civil rights globally or locally, related to their own family tree, a historic figure, or throughout history. The research can be done on one of several devices, from many locations, and results can be displayed in a variety of engaging formats and even published for the world to see. Creating (verb) is now the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy and learners can now spend much more time in the act of creating something significant from appropriate content that is of interest to them.

Every learner in every corner of the globe with connectivity can now take courses from the finest learning institutions in the world, collaborate with others, compete for the best jobs, or start their own global business. All with just an inexpensive connected computer device. Those who opt out or are left out may find themselves unable to recover therefore it is morally imperative that leaders transform education and make it accessible to all.

Q. What is your school district’s vision of personalizing learning?

At the heart of the District’s Personalized Learning Vision is the desire to provide all learners with a personalized learning experience enabled by universal access to education through technology, wherever and whenever they choose. The provision of a personalized experience for each individual will drive students’ motivation to learn. They will have the opportunity to work individually, in groups, or as a whole class, locally, nationally and internationally.

The entire district will maximize opportunities for promoting learning and engaging students in exciting and innovative ways. Access to technology resources will be far broader than classrooms; schools’ social areas and the external environments will utilize technology through interactive displays, challenges, streaming information and celebrations of achievement that enhance the academic culture of the district.

The development of a learning platform will allow the learning environment to extend beyond school buildings and traditional opening hours. It will give access to resources, individualized plans, targets, communication tools and achievements for all learners. Online access to schemes of work will allow our learners to plan and think ahead, seeing the progression and connectedness of their learning.

Our digital learning environment will allow learners to engage and collaborate with a wide variety of mentors from global industry and education. This collaboration will enhance the quality of resources available and provide an ‘on demand’ approach that helps build personalized learning pathways.

There will be no single mode of learning throughout District 11; technology will provide flexibility to meet the needs of learners working in different ways. This will be supported by an imaginative approach to school usage, providing a variety of physical learning environments.

A combination of fixed and mobile technologies throughout our schools will be necessary to support this vision but possibly the biggest challenge will be providing access at home in terms of both device and connectivity.

Throughout District 11, technology will be used to deliver a ‘wow’ factor to ignite and stimulate learning. The use of technology across all subjects will become a seamlessly integrated part of the learning experience promoting independent working, creativity, enterprise and lifelong success for our students.

Q. What steps have your principals and teachers taken to create personalized learning environments in their school(s)?

We have launched a comprehensive plan to move all of our schools and classrooms towards personalized learning environments. This enormous endeavor is strategically planned and aligned to the Knoster Model for Change to ensure the greatest chance of success.

Managing Complex Change

Upon completion of the district vision we set up meetings with every principal, walk throughs of their building, administered a School Self Review (http://www.gregorydenby.com/self- review.html) for their leadership team, set up training sessions for team planning and offered planning support along the way. Each school now has a strategic plan created by them, for them and aligned to the district’s vision.

It was crucial to meet each school where they were and to coach them to the creation of a plan that meets the uniqueness of their environment and their journey. With this approach, we were met with mostly enthusiastic involvement and a sense of ownership by the school leadership teams. We have organized our schools (scores of 1-3) based on their own School Self Reviews to determine how ready they are to begin personalizing learning; Due to the role that technology plays in the ability to deliver personalization, schools that are farthest behind are grouped as 1’s. These schools need basic technology upgrades and professional development and lack resources at this time. Schools that have better resources but lack effective utilization are grouped as 2’s, and the schools that are resource rich and just need better understanding and more focused professional development are 3’s. By identifying where schools are in a journey towards personalization, we can then plan accordingly and meet the needs they have to move up a continuum of progress. We utilize Hooper and Rieber’s model of technology adoption in the classroom as a guide to progress.

Evolution

Hooper, S., & Rieber, L. P. (1995). Teaching with technology. In A. C. Ornstein (Ed.), Teaching: Theory into practice, (pp. 154-170). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Given 52 schools one can only imagine the diversity of paths that exist and progress is measured by ensuring small steps are taken each quarter, this is truly a case of eating the elephant one bite at a time. Projects that are in progress now include 1:1 pilots, establishment of standardized teacher tool kits, experimentation with learning platforms, bring your own device initiatives, flipped classrooms, international student to student collaboration, distance learning courses, and a group of Personalized Learning Lead Educators with representation from every school. As a district, we are creating student and teacher skills ladders for the use of technology, a teacher self review, baseline teacher expectations, online professional development, standardized collaborative tools, and a robotic partridge in a pear tree.

Q. How are you preparing and training teachers to move to a learner-centric personalized learning environment?

Teacher ToolsEverything we do is tied back to our Personalized Learning Vision which states that professional development across the District will be a key element in transforming education. As we promote a personalized approach to our students’ education, we will create a system that delivers the same for our teachers. At the center of the system will be integrated self-appraisal. We are in the process of creating an online self review for teachers which they can take as often as they like. This will enable teachers to assess their knowledge and skills online and then link directly through to interactive training and development resources that can be accessed anywhere anytime, as often as needed. Our online professional development system will provide the most effective resources from the highest quality providers, many of whom will be District 11 educators.

The District will develop a Personalized Learning Lead Educator Group that will continuously investigate and promote personalized learning and the integration of the best educational technologies into our classrooms. The areas chosen for development through leading educators will be informed by the needs of the District and individual school’s planning. The Personalized Learning Lead Educator Group will be instrumental in the development of exemplar lessons, demonstration classrooms and ultimately demonstration schools which will be specific to leveled tiers ensuring appropriate differentiation.

The Personalized Learning Lead Educator Group will:

  • Share research.
  • Develop learning resources around their area of expertise.
  • Deliver exemplar lessons that can be viewed by other teachers (live and/or recorded).
  • Explore new and existing technologies.
  • Produce and/or find guidance notes (podcasts, video etc.) in their area of expertise.
  • Develop resources that promote an ‘on demand’ approach to professional development.
  • Use technology to increase the flexibility of professional development e.g., webinars.

 

There are many smaller projects that will support teacher growth throughout the district. Skills ladders for the use of technology are being created for students and teachers. We will shine the spotlight and camera upon exemplar lessons and learning environments and share them via our online professional development system. We are also working hard to provide an equitable teacher tool kit for every learning space while we continue to refine digital collaborative tools for all learners.

Greg WilbornGreg Wilborn
Personalized Learning Coordinator
Colorado Springs SD 11
Twitter: @gwilborn
LinkedIN: Greg Wilborn
3

UDL and Transforming Schools: Stephen Petrucci (Thought Leader Interview)

Kathleen McClaskeyKathleen McClaskey interviewed Stephen Petrucci because he was the first British Columbia administrator discussing UDL (Universal Design for Learning) in relation to a personalized learning environment. Stephen is Director of Instruction in School District 60  - Fort St. John, BC.

1.  What is your vision of personalizing learning?

Personalizing learning is education through the eyes and brain of the individual learner.  This entails building a relationship with the learner and creating a profile that reveals personal interests, strengths and prior learning, as well as academic needs.  It involves determining and getting a learner’s input on how they learn best, using a framework such as UDL to collaboratively design instruction and finally, employing the vehicles of technology and the arts to drive that personal learning forward.

**  My vision of personalizing learning has been developing over the past couple of years through our own professional development and through initiatives from the BC Ministry of Education.  Just over a year ago, we took a close look at the report from the Premier’s Technology Council that outlined a vision for 21C education. In addition the ministry put out a call for input from the public through it’s collaborative BC Ed Plan. The ensuing discussions we had at a district level were around the shift from the 3 Rs (reading, writing, arithmetic) to the 7 Cs:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving.
  • Creativity and innovation.
  • Collaboration, teamwork and leadership.
  • Cross-cultural understanding.
  • Communications, computing and ICT (information, communications and technology) literacy.
  • Career and learning self-reliance.
  • Caring for personal health and planet earth.

Flexible Path

 

The above graphics are from the Technology Council Report.

As a school district, we continue to reframe our educational practices to try and reflect this shift, particularly as we are beginning to encompass all these new understandings under the umbrella of Personalized Learning.

For myself, I recently attended the UDL course at Harvard in July 2011, which has inspired me to frame our Professional Development using UDL as the filter for Instructional Design.   This is at the very beginning stages and has been complicated by a teacher job action that has been in place since September (no meetings, pro-d, etc.).  A big part of my growing understanding of Personalized Learning has been through a Personal Learning Network (PLN) that includes my blog, twitter, conferences, webinars, collaborative nings (like UDL Connect).

2.  What steps have you taken to create personalized learning environments in your schools?

As I am new to my position (August, 2011 but have been in the district since 1995), I have not personally initiated these projects but as a district, we have done the following:

  • Provided coaching and collaboration time to redesign classroom instruction around Project-Based Learning.  This process allows for learning based on student interest and input.  It is based on the philosopy of High Tech High in San Diego, as envisioned by Larry Rosenstock.
  • About 3 years ago, the district initiated an Appreciative Inquiry process called “world café”, where the community, students and staff gave input and developed a vision for a positive learning experience.   This culminated in a new school built in a hockey rink!  Please see the Youtube video on this here:  Energetic Learning Campus Overview
  • Through professional development of Assessment for Learning on a district-wide level, teachers have collaborated and executed a different approach to assessment.  Rather than relying heavily on summative assessments, we have introduced assessment as learning and assessment for learning as a more common and student-centered practice.  This is particularly evident in one of the criteria of AFL, which is feedback both from the students and the teacher.  Students use peer-feedback as well as give their own reflections on their learning and performance
  • Through the use of BC Performance Standards,  we are able to use descriptive rubrics that allow educators and students to establish a more personalized learning journey.  This includes input from the students as far as self-assessing their progress based on the criteria provided.
  • Specific interventions such as the Reading Recover program for grade 1 students who are struggling with reading.  This is a very comprehensive 1:1 program that works on increasing reading and writing levels based on the individual needs/results of a student.


3.  How do your schools determine how students learn best?

Good question…

  • I’m afraid I can’t say that this is done in any systemic kind of way.  At the Elementary level, there would certainly be more feedback from the students than at the secondary level.  This usually entails activities that are related to Gardner’s multiple intelligences.
  • Where it is done in a more formal way is for special needs students through their IEP (Individualized Education Plan).  Ideally, the classroom teacher along with the learning assistant teacher, specialist teacher and administrator, collaborate on a plan that reflects the learning styles and needs of the student.  Of course, the UDL model teaches us that we should be going through this collaborative process for the entire class…  Unfortunately, this process has had mixed results, particularly when the classroom teacher does not take ownership for the IEP..


4.  How do your students understand how they learn best?

  • We’re not there yet…


5.  How do you see UDL principles working to create personalized learning environments? How are your teachers implementing the principles of UDL in their daily practice to create a personalized learning environment? Please give examples, share photos and/ or tell a story.

See also the responses from question #2, particularly the Energetic Learning Campus video.

  • We are at the beginning stages of telling the story of UDL.  Nevertheless, whether they are aware of it or not, many of the practices our teachers employ fit in the UDL framework.  This is clearly the case with our school and regional science fair.  It is also the case in our environments and classes immersed in the arts such as at our fine arts elementary school – Ecole Central Elementary.  At this school, students are given options for fine arts modules, based upon their interests.
  • As we broaden our understanding and use of assessment in the classroom, we are seeing teachers adjust to the learning needs of their students in a much more timely and effective manner.  All our schools/teachers have had in-service on the Assessment For Learning program
  • We have a 1:1 wireless writing program whereby every grade 6 and 7 student in our district is given a macbook for the year.  They use it at school and can bring it home.  What’s important about this initiative is that the focus is on improving student writing, not on the technology of the laptop.  We have seen our writing results improve over the last few years – particularly with our boys.  Each of the computers is imaged in the same way and include the writing performance standards rubrics for their grade levels.  Students constantly refer to this rubric when writing and most importantly, articulate where they using the assessment language.  The other benefit of this program is of course the spinoff uses for the laptop and the personalization that the students accomplish with it.


All the reports we have on this program are located here:  Wireless Writing

  • Several teachers/students are using technology tools such as Prezi, YouTube, Livebinder, Moodle, etc. to make a more personalized learning environment.  These tools fit well in the UDL framework.


The UDL framework is the ultimate tool for Instructional Design and professional reflection.  It will enable us to move away from content towards process and learning how to learn.  We are a long ways from this but fortunately in our educational jurisdiction of British Columbia, the ministry of Education is allowing us to take the risks necessary to make it happen.  I can’t emphasize enough the power of a Personal Learning Network and how it has helped construct my approach to education.

 

Stephen Petrucci’s Bio

Stephen Petrucci

  • Grew up in central British Columbia, Canada
  • Bachelor of Arts in French Literature from University of Victoria, BC.  Language Diploma from Université de Caen, France.  Teacher’s training from Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC.   Masters in Ed. Leadership from University of Calgary, Alberta.
  • Started off as French Immersion and Leadership teacher at the secondary level in 1995.
  • Taught Grade 7 French Immersion
  • Vice-principal at the Fine Arts dual-track school (English/French Immersion)
  • Principal of Fine Arts school
  • Principal of K-10 rural school
  • Presently Director of Instruction in School District 60  - Fort St. John, BC.  Since August, 2011.  Responsible for Professional Development, Fine Arts, French Immersion, District Band, Assessment and Evaluation.  And lots of other stuff…

 

Stephen’s Contact info:

spetrucci@prn.bc.ca
s1petrucci (twitter)
http://www.petruccidoi.blogspot.com

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:
0

Personalized Learning Initiative in Wisconsin

CESA 1

Thought Leader Interview: Jim Rickabaugh

 

Jim Rickabaugh, Director of the Institute @ CESA #1, shared with me their region’s journey for the Personalized Learning Initiative. Southeastern Wisconsin is mobilizing as a region to transform public education through personalized learning for all students.

The Institute @ CESA #1 was established to work with 45 member school districts on a unique regional approach to transform public education in Southeastern Wisconsin into a system that is student-centered and personalized for each learner.

Almost three years ago, a group of superintendents in CESA 1 (Southeaster Wisconsin) discussed the combination of tight money, schools being blamed for things out of their control, and accountability that didn’t seem to make a difference. They all agreed “there’s got to be a better way.”

Jim Rickabaugh explained, “It seems like we were dismantling the systems we were charged to protect and the children we were supposed to develop. We then started on a journey on what could be done with a system.”

Turning from victim to action  – we have to save our system.

They did a lot of research and concluded:

  1. That the system we have educating our children is not designed to do what we need to do for our children. Our teachers are working harder than ever.  It is a design problem.
  2. As tight as money seems, there is a lot of money, yet it is tied up in a system that does not allow for flexibility.

Transforming Public Education

 

“We wrote a white paper that laid out the arguments that gave us hope how a system can be redesigned instead of reform work tweaking the old system. Our initial inclination that the cavalry was not going to save us. The states are so tied to national accountability programs.”

Read the white paper here.

Excerpts adapted from the Institute @ CESA #1 blog:

When significant changes are made to learning and teaching, the roles of students and teachers change. Organizations feel pressure as new ways of learning “bump up” against existing structures such as schedule, calendar, student groupings or grading practices.  Stakeholders involved in personalized learning clamor for the flexibility necessary to truly transform public education into a student-centered environment. Conversations about changing existing structures then begin to take place.

These conversations may be difficult because changes to the status quo can be uncomfortable for those involved. However, because the models of innovation were fully explored and tested in the first two phases of change, a solid foundation has been laid. Those involved understand that structural changes are necessary in order to make the vision of getting learning right for all students a reality.

Generally it is after structural issues have been addressed that policies are changed, since the strength and purpose of policy is to stabilize a system and practices. In this last phase we will see an innovative system, fully transformed. To help frame the work, the Institute has developed a change strategy to guide our districts as they participate in the Personalized Learning Initiative, based on our honeycomb model. This strategy is based on change in three areas: learning and teaching, relationships and roles; and structures and policies, to be addressed in three subsequent phases.

The model started with the honeycomb system with a variety of iterations where they invited small teams, designed seminars, and developed informal coaching with rubrics and tools to think about the work. There were 3 waves. Wave 1 started with 10 projects. Each group pulled pieces of the model together to take partial parts of the honeycomb. They are now on Wave 3.

They created a virtual conference center for districts to collaborate around similar work, on demand video or audio conferencing, collaborative work on documents, face-to-face opportunities, and hosted convenings all around Personalized Learning.

Thank you Jim Rickabaugh! We will be following you and looking forward to sharing the stories from your region and the Institute @ CESA #1.

0

UDL and Personalized Learning

Thought Leaders about Personalized Learning Interview #1
Kathleen McClaskey

Universal Design in Learning (UDL) is about providing instruction and the appropriate tools to all learners so they are successful in meeting their learning goals. Personalized learning is all about the learner and starts with the learner. There seems to be some confusion about what UDL is from the perspective of personalized learning.

I am very lucky to have met Kathleen McClaskey who adopted UDL principles in her professional development programs. She envisions using the UDL principles to help learners understand how they learn and how to personalize their learning. We have been doing research together on personalized learning, and I realized how much I don’t know about UDL. Kathleen has opened my eyes to Universal Design for Learning so it just seemed obvious to me to interview Kathleen as the first Thought Leader in this series.

Q1.What is UDL?

UDL is a curriculum model that provides a framework for teaching
and learning. The design of the curriculum includes the three UDL principles: multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression and multiple means of engagement.

Q2.What isn’t UDL? What are the misperceptions?

UDL is often misperceived as a curriculum model for special education students only. UDL is more about designing curriculum and lessons so that the maximum of students will learn and understand. First and foremost, it is intended to support the diversity of learners in the classroom, often with the use of a variety of technologies.

Q3. What are the UDL principles?

The three principles of Universal Design for Learning are
• Multiple Means of Representation
• Multiple Means of Action and Expression
• Multiple Means of Engagement

To learn more about these three principles, the UDL Guidelines and the tools that can support these principles, go to The National Center for Universal Design for Learning (www.udlcenter.org/).

Q4. How can a teacher apply UDL principles in the classroom and for all learners?

Universal design for learning is often used around curriculum, lesson design and instruction where teachers look who the learners are in their classroom and then decide how to design the lesson considering the three principles of UDL: multiple means of representation multiple means of expression and multiple means of engagement. When lessons are designed using the UDL model, the lesson includes goals, methods, materials and tools to reach and support the maximum amount of learners in the classroom.

So what if we took this model and we looked at each student through the UDL lens, we could help them personalize their own learning experience? Students can use this model to help them understand how they learn best and what learning path they can take to become an independent expert learner, leveraging their natural abilities in the process. This would create a personal learning profile that is understood by both teacher and student.

Q5. Can you give an example on how a teacher can personalize learning using the principles of UDL?

With the understanding how his or her students learn, a teacher can then intentionally select instructional strategies and materials that will not engage the maximum number of students in the class, but provide access to the curriculum to all students. By understanding each student’s strengths, weaknesses and aptitudes/talents, teachers can design lessons that are engaging to more learners but also understand the options that can extend students expressing their understanding of any content or topic.

Q6. How can a student understand how they learn best using these principles?

Let’s look at the three UDL principles and how students can use these principles for them to understand how they learn.

The first UDL principle is multiple means of representation. A student can ask himself/herself, “How do I like to access information including books, handouts” and “What can help me understand information that the teacher is introducing?” This self-assessment can help students examine their strengths and weaknesses in learning and understanding.

The second UDL principle is multiple means of expression and action. A student can ask himself/herself, “What ways could I let my teachers know what I understand?” This self-assessment can help students look closely on ways they can best express themselves.

The third UDL principle is multiple means of engagement. A student can ask himself/herself, “What am I good at?”, “What do I love to do?”, and “What interests me the most? This self-assessment can help students better understand their aptitudes, interests and overall talents.

Q7. Why is UDL necessary for all learners?

When any student understands how they learn, they are empowered to take ownership of their learning. This opens doors in having tools and resources that can help them become independent learners and motivated in learning, in and out of school. It also opens up windows of opportunities for learners to appreciate their aptitudes, talents and gifts and for teachers to guide and nurture them in the learning activities and projects.

UDL Principles

Kathleen and I were interviewed January 18, 2012 for Virtual Staff Room by Chris Betcher. Check out Episode 46 “This is Personal

Kathleen McClaskeyKathleen H. McClaskey, President of Ed Tech Associates, is a recognized UDL and Digital Learning Consultant with 28 years experience in using technology in the classroom. Kathleen is a frequent international, national and regional workshop presenter on topics that include Universal Design for Learning, Technology for Diverse Learners, Math and Technology: Bringing Research to Practice and Built in Moodle. In 2007, she was awarded a three-year NH Math and Science Partnership grant for the “Science4All” project, applying UDL principles in the science classroom. In 2009, Kathleen designed and directed the Tools for Learning Math Intervention Project where tools were applied to UDL researched-based instruction in math. In late 2009, she became the professional development director of three ARRA technology funded projects in NH to create 21st Century Classrooms. In all of these projects, Kathleen developed a UDL lesson design structure for project teachers to support the learning of all students.