Didn't we do this already?It's Sunday and a great time to reflect on the last week. All I can say is that it was a whirlwind. Working 12-14 hours every day on Race to the Top proposals, refining our process, talking to different groups about what is and what isn't personalized learning. The talk always goes back to technology.
It's not about the technology. It's about the philosophy you embrace around personalizing learning.If it's all about the learner and starting with them, then everything about teaching and learning changes. Technology supports personalizing learning but should not be the focus. Just putting technology in teachers' and learners' hands doesn't mean they know how to personalize learning. I remember the early days of technology in schools. I believe the late 80s and early 90s, schools built labs called CAI (Computer Assisted Instruction) such as Computer Curriculum Corporation, Success Maker and others. As a technology consultant during those times, I was asked to help build those labs. Most of these labs were built in high poverty schools in rooms that weren't made for computers. Even the electricity in some of these older buildings couldn't handle the capacity. They would string together extension cords from other classrooms and hold them in place with duct tape. In some rooms, we had to step over the cord that was 2 feet high. There were some rooms where they moved the computers next to the heaters. Actually, that didn't matter, because the heaters didn't work. I needed the work at that time, and that's where all the money was going. One lab with 50 computers and the software took all the technology budget. There was no money left for training. Only enough to train a paraprofessional who managed the lab. There was no integration with any curriculum in the classrooms. I observed these labs. Kids loved them in the beginning because it was new, interactive, and included games. They loved the idea of playing in school. The paraprofessionals collected the data and shared with the administration. Scores were going up. The kids rotated through the lab once or twice a week. But after about six months, kids started talking about how boring it was. One third grade told me that it didn't matter how he answered the questions so he just hit any key to make it go to the next screen. Scores were at a plateau then dropping. Dropping all over. All the labs. Everywhere. Few years later, the labs were changed. They took off the headphones and brought in technology teachers. Teachers with credentials. Only issue I saw was that they were prep teachers. This meant that there tended to be very little integration of what was happening in the classroom to what was happening in the labs. I know so many of these fantastic computer teachers who did amazing projects. When I was asked to come in, work with the computer teachers, and help integrate technology into the classrooms. Classroom teachers were so busy teaching the curriculum that they didn't have time or the energy to take the work in the lab and connect it to the classroom. So once again, the work in the labs stood alone and was mostly focused on building isolated technology skills. But there were some amazing computer teachers and librarians who found ways to integrate the skills with projects happening in the classroom. So now fast forward to today and learning labs to support blended learning rotations. The labs look similar to the CAI of the past and, yes, the scores are improving. But the real learning that is needed seems to be lost. In some of these environments, the student to teacher ratio has increased because the computers "individualize" the student's learning and they don't need as many teachers. Maybe that's how or why schools are looking at this solution -- to save money. Based on algorithms and data, teachers keep track of performance and work with individual students to respond to intervention -- to increase scores based on standardized tests. This may sound good to some people, however, to prepare our children for the global workforce, they need different skills then they acquire sitting in front of computers like this. It just cannot be about the scores. The skills needed for today's jobs include:
- collaboration and teamwork
- creativity and innovative thinking
- choosing and using the appropriate resources for a task
- building a network of learners locally and globally
- learning how to learn, unlearn, and relearn
UDL Guides Personalizing Learning to Meet the Common Coreby Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is used to design curriculum, lessons and instruction based on the diversity of the learners in their classroom. The three principles of UDL are:
- multiple means of representation
- multiple means of expression and action
- multiple means of engagement
- is an avid reader, likes to write descriptively, and enjoys drawing.
- is anxious when she speaks in front of others.
- forgets the sequence, moral and message of the story.
- wants to ask questions but is uncomfortable voicing her concerns.
- works better individually or in a small group.
- reads and writes at a third grade level.
- requires projects to be broken down into smaller segments.
- has a difficult time organizing and little ability to interpret concepts.
- needs to know purpose behind reading assignments.
- loves to draw and is interested in multimedia.
Essential or Anchor Standard
> Key Ideas and Details (Informational Text)
RI.8.3. Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).After determining the essential standard, the teacher and learners identified supporting standards for the history topic: Civil War. The power of using historical information such as primary and secondary sources is that learners can use visual information in multiple forms to understand the concept. They also were going to choose one subtopic to do a short project.
> Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (Integration of History)
RH.6-8.7. Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts
> Comprehension and Collaboration (Speaking and Listening)
SL.8.1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
> Research to Build and Present Knowledge (Writing)
W.8.7. Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
> Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas (Speaking and Listening)
SL.8.5. Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.After the teacher and learners chose the standards, they brainstormed questions about the Civil War. They worked in pairs to prioritize questions until they chose one essential question.
What are the causes of the Civil War?Learners then paired with another learner to come up with supporting questions. The pairs prioritize those questions until they came up with one question that they will research and answer for their project.
- Why did southern states secede from the union?
- What events or publications sparked the start of the Civil War?
- Was slavery the main issue for the war’s beginning?
- What other factors contributed to the civil war beginning?
- If slavery began in 1619, why did it take 200 years for it to become an issue?
- Why did the South believe that they needed to continue slavery?
10 Steps to Encourage Student Voice and ChoiceTo transform a classroom to a personalized learning environment is challenging. First, you need to know what personalized learning means. Last night I was fortunate to be part of a panel on personalized learning for the Future of Education hosted by Steve Hargadon with Kathleen McClaskey, Lisa Nielsen, and Shannon Miller. All of us are in agreement that it is all about the learner and that student voice and choice is necessary to personalize learning. Personalized learning is all about the learner, starts with the learner, and means the student drives their learning.
What does Student Voice and Choice mean?
Student voice is difficult to hear in a traditional classroom where the teacher provides direct instruction and curriculum that is either provided for the teacher, adapted by the teacher, or designed by the teacher. Student choice means students choose how they learn something and, possibly, what they learn. This chart (Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization) shows how personalized learning is different than differentiated and individualized instruction. In the latter two approaches, the teacher adapts or customizes the instruction to meet the needs of either a group of students (differentiation) or for an individual student (individualization).
In these situations, there is little or no student voice. These are mostly teacher-directed. Students may participate in projects and take responsibility for specific roles within a project, but, in most cases, the teacher determines the topics, roles, and responsibilities. Project-based learning (PBL) has students collaborate and produce an end product together. However, to personalize PBL, the student has a voice in the design of the project and possibly, the process.
What if you take one topic that you love to teach but you just cannot get your students motivated to learn about it? What if they just don't seem to understand the topic no matter how many times you've taught it? Some get it. Some don't. So what can you do to motivate students so they are engaged in learning and want to explore the topic?
The answer: Student Voice and Choice
Ten Steps to Encourage Student Voice and Choice
- Introduce the topic and share the standards that are normally met with typical instruction.
- Determine prior knowledge by using a poll, then having students share what they know in small groups, and then sharing out to the whole group one thing they learned about the topic they didn't know before.
- Show a video or other type of media presentation about the topic. If you know a personal story that might hook your students, share it.
- Share how you normally taught that topic and invite them to help you redesign how you teach the topic. Tell them you want them to have a say in redesigning how they learn, what the classroom will look like, and your role as a teacher. Let them know that for this topic, your going to need their help in coming up with the questions, that they will be able have a place in the class and online to ask questions, ask for help, give feedback, and maybe help others in the classroom.
- Brainstorm questions about the topic with the whole group. You can project your computer and use programs like Google Docs or a mindmapping tool like Inspiration or Mindmeister. The more questions, the better. Encourage students to use "how" and "why" questions. If they come up with one big question like "why is there war?", ask them to be more specific and come up with 2 to 5 more questions that take that big question deeper. Be sure to tell them that there are no stupid questions.
- Ask students to work in pairs or small groups to select a big question about the topic they want to explore. Students can choose a group based on the question they want to investigate.
- Ask groups to design how they want to answer the question(s) and demonstrate understanding of the topic and question they chose. Have them choose up to five supporting questions that they will also explore to learn more about their topic.
- Invite each group to write a proposal on how they plan to demonstrate understanding, what resources they will use, how they will present what they learned, and how they will measure if they are successful. Each group can design a rubric to assess teamwork, research, presentation, and other criteria they determine necessary for success.
- Ask groups to share their proposals with another group who can give them feedback. Then ask another group for feedback and approval. Your job is as guide and facilitator.
- Give them enough time and resources to do the work they need to do. Watch the excitement of students immersed in the topic.
Watching students take responsibility by giving them their own voice so they are able to choose how they learn can be scary for teachers. But if you take a chance and try it, you will be amazed what happens. Just be open to some things not working the way you think they will work. You are giving up some control and letting students have more responsibility for their learning. Just watch and enjoy!
Skills and Values Employers WantWhen you do a search for “What Employers Want” you do not see high test scores anywhere on any job descriptions. We are training our kids for the types of jobs that are not there anymore. If you look at the world now, everything is changing: business, government, banking, and education. We are in a transitional period with many of us kicking and screaming afraid to go where we have to go. The world is going to change if we like it or not.
I still hear “if it was good for me, it’s good for my kid.”This is unbelievable! That kid is going to be living on that parent’s couch when they are in their 30’s because there will not be any jobs for them. Wait a minute! That’s happening now. Read this article "Is there a doctor in the house?" So what are the skills employers are looking for? Skills most sought after by employers according to Randall Hansen, Ph.D and Katherine Hansen, Ph.D are:
- Communications Skills (listening, verbal, written)
- Analytical/Research Skills
- Computer/Technical Literacy
- Flexibility/Adaptability/Managing Multiple Priorities
- Interpersonal Abilities
- Leadership/Management Skills
- Multicultural Sensitivity/Awareness
No test scores here!Kelly Services listed the same skills. Everywhere I looked the same skills. Check out the 12 Hot buttons from Salary.com
- Results - they are less concerned with your past experience and responsibilities. What did you accomplish?
- Figures and numbers - did you increase revenue at your last job? did you underpromise and overdeliver even if you worked at a non-profit or volunteered?
- Awards and accolades - share if you have received any awards or been recognized for excellence.
- Blog or website - this shows you have good communication skills, but make sure your website looks professional.
- Staying Power - be careful of changing jobs that don’t last two years or less.
- Up-to-date skills and education - be on top of all the latest technology and innovations in your field.
- Ideas and initiative - Be ready to hit the ground running and solve problems without waiting for someone to tell you what to do.
- Attitude - be enthusiastic, flexible, and postitive.
- Leadership skills - be willing to take on more responsibility to improve a product or process.
- Growth potential - go beyond the job description.
- Creativity - ability to think outside the box and solve problems.
- Hobbies - be passionate about something outside of work.
No test scores here!I’m still looking. If universities base their admissions on high test scores, then maybe we need to rethink higher ed. Uh oh! I’m touching on something here that could get very messy.
How do you teach creativity and passion?Found an article on Ambition: The Fire in the Belly Employers Want by Jane Genova.
"Those hiring and promoting learned from the downturn and intense economic volatility that's it's no longer enough to do 'just a job,'" says Michael Francoeur, Dale Carnegie Training instructor and executive coach. "Employers now know that what kept their business growing or even saved it were the employees who saw beyond their job description. They pushed to do whatever was needed at the time. Often their most important contribution is persistence. The ambitious stay with a project, no matter how bad things seem. That's usually because they have the confidence to believe in themselves. The less ambitious would have become discouraged."I see that ambition similar to finding someone’s passion. When you are passionate about something, you fight for it. There are no punching time clocks. I’ve watched game designers work way into the night so excited about this or that. Maybe there is that passion about finding a cure for a terrible disease or a new type of transportation that is economical and safe for the environment. Maybe we need this type of passion to come up with strategies to fix our economy or climate change. So I decided to look for top personal values employers look for in employees:
- Strong work ethics
- Dependability and responsibility
- Possessing a positive attitude
- Honesty and integrity
- Motivated to grow and learn
- Strong self-confidence
No test scores again!I’m putting this out there to you -- teachers, parents, professors, administrators, students. Maybe our whole system needs shaking up. Are we teaching these skills and values? Students will need to graduate with these skills:
- The ability to act independently and solve problems on their own.
- Strong interpersonal written, oral, and social skills to collaborate with colleagues.
- Strong global literacy to understand people around the world.
- The ability to acquire the information they need to do the job.
- The ability to learn new skills as corporations change strategies to stay competitive.
Personalize Learning with 20% TimePersonalized learning means that learning is centered around the students. The students drive their learning around their passion, something they are interested in. Teachers guide the process. Sounds easy but it is a big shift in thinking for educators. Maybe the process can slowly evolve by transforming your classroom by using 20% of the time for passion-driven learning.
Sir Ken Robinson said in an interview for the Vancouver Sun last week, “It isn’t that everyone has to learn different things, although eventually our interests will take us in different directions,” he continued. “But in terms of the things we want all people to learn ... personalized learning is finding the best ways to engage with people with different interests, passions and ways of thinking. It’s what good teachers have always known, he added. “That their job is not to teach subjects, but to teach students.”
20% Time at Google
One concept Google is where employees work 80% of their time on Google projects and the other 20% of their time they can devote to any project they want. Google found this to be very successful both in employee satisfaction, but also their workers have come up with projects that have made a difference in peoples lives! They can use the time to develop something new, or if they see something that's broken, they can use the time to fix it. During the 20 percent time, engineers developed features in the labs and other very popular tools. Google teachers realized the idea of using 20% of your time on something your passionate about seemed like a good idea for schools.
Projects of Interest
Brian Van Dyck (vandyck.brian@gmail) from Buchser Middle School in Santa Clara, California implemented 20% time in both his 6th grade Math class and 7th Grade Technology classes. Brian fashioned the 20% guidelines much in the same manner they are implemented at Google. Students choose their own projects of interest based on the scope of the course outline. For instance, in Math 6, students can pursue any project directly related to the content standards of the course. One Math 6 student chose the construction of 3 dimensional models of geometrical shapes to explore the connection with ratio and scale. This student went one step further and explored computer based interactive models that allowed for the manipulation of size, volume, surface area etc.... As a result there is a fabulous collection of wooden 3D geometrical shapes for use in Brian's own instruction. In his technology courses, students explored self paced independent learning of some introductory computer programming languages. These "Self Taught" projects included ALICE, SCRATCH, BYOB, Processing (to control robotics), Android App Inventor, and JES (Python). As it is related to the course standards, these students took it upon themselves to learn these tools and create some fantastic projects.
To help manage the 20% time project work, students follow a course syllabus outlining the required learning activities/projects and course standards. This syllabus acts as a checklist of sorts. Students check in with Brian during guided practice and independent student work time to show him artifacts and evidence that they are on track for the completion of their required tasks. Any student that has successfully demonstrated that they are on track to complete these requirements may use guided practice and independent student work time to pursue their 20% projects.
At most Google sites they have something called "Beer and Demos" where Googlers share their completed and often uncompleted work over beers during their presentations. Brian has a "Rootbeer and Demos" day scheduled every 2 weeks for students to showcase their 20% project progress.
Break Through Time
Gemma Rennie (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Georgie Hamilton (email@example.com) from Learning Hub 2 at Stonefields School, Auckland, New Zealand (http://www.stonefields.school.nz/) have their 20% time as Breakthrough time. This is where all the children from Yr 1-8 choose what interests them and organise their learning time for one day a week. is a learning organization that designs learning to cause learning for each learner. Stonefield develops each learner holistically to create curious individuals who relate well to others. The four rocks in the Stonefield’s logo represent the four elements of the learner. Breakthrough time encourages students to pursue their passion. Here’s an example of Savannah performing a concert for the other students. She learned how to play the guitar, organize a concert, and promoted the concert herself. http://stonefieldsrocks.blogspot.com/2011/07/savannah-performing-rockin-robin.html
This is just the beginning of my posts on 20% time. I used to do iSearches with students in the early 1990s. I talked to teachers in Orinda USD who did Magic Boxes where students chose a topic to study once a week. I believe we are going to see more focus on student-centered learning and personalizing learning. This is one aspect that is very interesting and could be adopted by teachers even if they are concerned about keeping test scores up. Motivation and engagement really matter.