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Tag: transformation

25

This Time It's Personal and Dangerous

2013 has been an interesting year. Education is being juggled more than ever between pedagogy and corporate control AND it is personal — for you — for me — for our children.

The marketing strategy of adaptive learning systems is that of 24/7 services that you can access at any time, in any place and at any pace. Education has adopted this language to reduce costs with business-like customization and streamlined productivity. The expectation is for a flexible education system that will also be more efficient and cost effective.
[Source: Rebirth of the Teaching Machine Through the Seduction of Data Analytics: This Time It's Personal by Phil McRae]

“The adaptive learning system crusade in schools is organized, growing in power and well-funded by venture capitalists and corporations. Many companies are looking to profit from student and teacher data that can be easily collected, stored, processed, customized, analyzed, and then ultimately resold”.

There’s money in it, but not for the right reasons nor for the right people: our children. I read this research by Phil McRae and it all made sense. This time it is personal. Corporations are taking our educational system, shaking it up and spitting out children who cannot think for themselves. They are calling it cost-effective but actually, adaptive learning systems are more costly than we know. It is all about the data this time. This is so dangerous for our society that I have to speak up and hope you speak up about this also. We need to fight for our children and their future and their data.

Framing adaptive learning systems as “personalized learning” has to stop.  This image “At School in the Year 2000” – a futuristic image of learning as depicted on a postcard from the World’s Fair in Paris, Circa 1899 predicting what learning will be like in France in the year 2000. It is scary that this depiction is becoming true in the US and other parts of the world because we are being sold a bill of goods. Corporations and politicians are really good at framing what they believe we want to hear around a philosophy or concept that markets something they want to sell or use.

Teaching Machine

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The idea of children having their own personal choice how they will learn is being redesigned as increasingly data driven, standardized, and mechanized learning systems. Children should not be treated like automated teller machines or credit reward cards where  companies can take their valuable data. It is all about control and saving money. But who’s money? Yes, technology can help personalize learning, but what technology and how? And who’s data?

Let’s be real: adaptive learning systems are for those things that can be easily digitized and tested like math problems and reading passages. They do not recognize or encourage high quality learning environments that are creative, inquiry-based, active, relevant, collaborative, and what our children need to be global citizens who are critical thinkers and problem-solvers.

We did this before. McRae reviews the history of using technology to control learning. It was all about feeding information to kids and controlling what they learned. B.F. Skinner did this in the 1950s where learning was about measurability, uniformity, and control of the student.

I grew up then and remember having problems understanding some concepts. That was mainly because everyone in the class was supposed to learn the same content at the same pace — too much content — too fast for most of us. I was provided an “intelligent tutor” outside of the classroom and sat in front of a screen answering multiple choice questions about what I read. I felt stupid and ashamed. It still didn’t make sense, but the teacher didn’t have extra time to spend with students falling behind.

I know I’m smart, but I felt stupid in many of my classes. If I went through that then, how many others felt like me? I wanted to give up, but one teacher and my parents believed in me. They spent time with me figuring out why I didn’t get it. That’s all I wanted — time with a real person who cared. We didn’t have all the technology then that we have now or I would have googled it and figured it out by myself. The problem with the technology then was that it wasn’t personal for me. It was the same worksheet I didn’t understand in the first place now on a screen.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) became the next big thing. Programs like PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations)and Computer Curriculum Corporation (CCC) were building labs for schools for large numbers of at-risk children paid with Title I money and categorical funds. I remember these because I was asked as technology coordinator and professional developer to help set them up. Schools put these labs in any area that would fit. Some high poverty schools had them set up next to heaters and most were managed by a parent or para-professional. Teachers would rotate their classes in and out every week. Kids were so excited at first to play the games that supposedly taught concepts they needed to learn.

After about six months, kids got bored with the games and clicked on any keys just to get through the games. There was nothing relevant or made sense for them to be there. Kids are so much smarter than we give them credit. When they were in their classes, they felt like they could maybe ask questions about their learning. But, in the lab, there was no one or no way to question what or if that was the one right answer. After a few years, the labs were dismantled or used for other purposes. But all the money was gone so there was no one left to run the labs or train the teachers.

CAI is now back as “adaptive learning systems.” Some of the old programs have been repurposed with more interactivity. McRae states it as “adaptive learning systems still promote the notion of the isolated individual, in front of a technology platform, being delivered concrete and sequential content for mastery. However, the re-branding is that of personalization (individual), flexible and customized (technology platform) delivering 21st century competencies (content).” [Source: McRae's research]

CCC’s SuccessMaker is now Pearson’s adaptive learning system. Other adaptive systems have repurposed content but they still promote building mastery with sequential content. It is similar to the old worksheets repurposed using new technology. Dreambox refers to Skinner’s teaching machine and “adaptive learning as a computer-based and/or online educational system that modifies the presentation of material in response to student performance. Best-of-breed systems capture fine-grained data and use learning analytics to enable human tailoring of responses. The associated learning management systems (LMS) provide comprehensive administration, documentation, tracking and reporting progress, and user management.” [Source: http://www.dreambox.com/adaptive-learning]

Source: U.S. Department of Education , Office of Educational Technology, Enhancing Teaching and Learning Through Educational Data Mining and Learning Analytics: An Issue Brief October 2012, page 30

Dreambox is now framing their system as “Intelligent Adaptive Learning” and others are starting to use the term “Intelligent Tutors.” Companies are creating hundreds of white papers and studies to prove that adaptive learning systems benefit our children. Be careful! Read them closely for the messages being delivered. We need to be critical consumers for our children’s sake.

McRae writes why we are so seduced for adaptive learning systems:

“First, it is seen as opening up possibilities for greater access to data that can be used to hyper-individualize learning and in turn diagnose the challenges facing entire school systems. Second, the modern teaching machines, and the growing reach and power of technologies, promises to (re)shape students into powerful knowledge workers of the 21st Century.”

 As I said in my own situation, all I needed was time and someone who cared and listened to me. Today the technology is at our fingertips and children are using technology at younger and younger ages. We don’t need to spend millions on these systems. Information is available when we need it now. We just need to teach our children how to acquire the skills that help them access, evaluate, and use the information they find. We cannot feed information to children from “Teaching Machines” like what was in the 1899 postcard and what Skinner projected. It didn’t work in the 50s or the 90s. It won’t work now. This is dangerous for our children and our society.

Our children need caring and compassionate classrooms that encourage independent, creative and collaborative work. Technology is changing rapidly. We don’t need to go backwards and plug our children into machines. They will do that on their own but they need guidance in a different way. They need to know what is happening with their data. Schools protect student data, but adaptive learning systems sell the data to third party companies. Consider all the free social media and other programs available that collect data from you. You probably are aware when you sign in to certain programs, they know you and your data. But you might not have known that your child’s data including social security numbers and health concerns are being sold to third parties. This is dangerous! It will get even more dangerous if the government funds it and encourages the use of adaptive learning systems without some oversight.

Teachers need to know how to facilitate a different kind of learning environment that is flexible, personal, and creative. Personalized learning means that learners own and drive their learning not the technology using algorithms based on performance that controls learning. Learners need to learn how to think on their own. This will not happen if adaptive learning systems control how and what they learn.

It is personal now! Let’s all work together and do the right thing for our children. Teach them to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Show them that they can drive their learning so they can reach their fullest potential.

7

Building Community in your Classroom

School starts soon for many. Some have started already. If you think of your classroom as a community of learners right away, then the culture changes. What is the culture of your classroom? Do you…

  • spend hours and hours getting your classroom ready?
  • buy lots of posters and materials to put on bulletin boards?
  • arrange all the furniture just the right way?

 

If so, you have set the culture of your classroom where you are in control, you manage what happens in your classroom, and your classroom is teacher-centered from the start. I’m not saying you have to take everything down and start over, but think about what it might look like to your learners if you…

  • left the bulletin boards and walls empty so the room was an empty canvas ready for the community to design?
  • had all the furniture in the middle of the classroom and had each learner help arrange the desks or tables together?

 

This sounds like chaos and you may not be ready to do something like this. So start slow. The classroom is where your learners will be part of for almost 9 months. It is their home with you. Consider your life as a learner. What was it like? Did you have any say in how you would learn or contribute to the classroom?

Communities work if there is trust and respect. I remember sitting at desks in rows. Fear was one way to control the class in the classes I attended. Was it yours? Did it work? I didn’t feel much respect in many of my years as a learner – even in college. I felt I knew a lot but was not given many opportunities to share what I knew or dreamed about or wanted to know. I was tested on facts that were not relevant to me. I remember an art class where the teacher scolded me because I went outside the lines. I came from a home of artists where there were no lines. What about you? What was it like in school when you grew up?

Some of you probably hear ” if it was good for me, it’s good for my child.” Remember your experience and what it might feel like for your learners in your classroom. Their lives and experiences are connected and different than many of their teachers. Their experiences include the Internet, mobile devices, and have everything at their fingertips.

If you already set up your classroom or that’s just too out there for you. Then take a chance to arrange your furniture in an unconventional way. Then ask your students for feedback. Keep some of the walls or bulletin boards empty and ask your students to submit ideas on what to put on them. Have ways to hang student work or questions from your students from the ceiling.

Some more ideas for the first few days of school:

  • meet and greet each student at the door with a smile and a handshake.
  • invite everyone to contribute to the class rules — include some off the wall, funny rules.
  • use an icebreaker or have them tell a story so everyone has a voice the first few days.
  • share what the expectations are for the year and ask for feedback.

I’m sure some of you are thinking “this is an open classroom and I saw it before.” I’m talking about learner voice and choice. This is a classroom where everyone is part of the community and sharing in decisions. There is a feeling that each voice matters. I am only touching on a few points and know there are so many wonderful teachers out there who can share more.

How would you build a community of learners where there is trust and respect?

2

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

7

How Personalized Learning is Being Framed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

5

Blended Learning for Each Learner

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

Blended Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Stop Hitting Rewind!

Stop RewindingDo you ever feel like we’ve done this before? That’s what it feels like now with all the new educational reform models. We find one thing that works and do it for a few years. Then we don’t have enough data to keep it going so we throw it out and find another new model to try for another few years. Except most of these models are just reworked old models.

How about trying a new way to look at the problem? The main problem is that we are not meeting the needs of most learners. We definitely “left more children behind” now than ever before. [Drop out rate in California is almost 20%]

The only reason to look at past educational models is to choose the pieces that work toward a shared vision of meeting the needs of each learner. Each learner means any age at any time in their life. Schools were designed around age levels to meet the needs of the school, managers and teachers. Every student at that age level was going to be taught the same thing at the same time. Forget customization or individualization. If you were 6 years old, you were supposed to be able to do specific skills and know information by that age. It didn’t matter if in the class you were way ahead of the other students or years behind. The class was set up to handle the Bell curve with so many at the top and so many at the bottom with most everyone else in the middle.
Large Bell Curve
When I saw this, it brought back icky memories of falling in the below average area for math. I wasn’t average in math. It made me feel bad, stupid, wrong. What was wrong with me? I get it now that I was at where I was supposed to be for me.

What if… I was identified as a math learner with some strengths and some weaknesses. As part of a team, I was given an advisor and math coach (another student who knew a little more than me) and we worked together on activities. My advisor guided me to understand the problems and math activities. The advisor learned more by teaching me how to do the math to solve the problem we were given.

Teacher-directed instruction means the teacher uses existing curriculum (for the average student) or spends time adapting the curriculum to meet the needs of all students. Personalized learning starts with the learner. So when you review the learning theories, B.F. Skinner ideas on Operant Conditioning that contributed to Behaviorism to Constructivism (Piaget, Bruner, Papert) that represents generative learning, discovery learning, and situated learning, teacher-centric learning is still in place. (Source: Instructional Development Timeline)

Schools are looking at trying to embed personalized learning into existing systems that focus on Behaviorism and build projects, Constructivism. It may work for that project, but what happens to that classroom? Is it still teacher-centric with a little student voice thrown in here and there? To personalize learning and meet the needs of each learner, how about rethinking if we use Behaviorist theories in a student-centered environment? This may mean we need to completely redesign everything. Now I have to look for examples of learning environments where the students use their voice and choose the best strategies for their learning path.

I’m going to focus on personalized learning, student voice and choice, and to re-evaluate what learner-centered means.

5

Constructivism vs Connectivism

I believe in connecting and building your Personal Learning Network (PLN). I never really thought about collaboration and Constructivism being in a closed environment. Steven Downes provided a keynote today on Connectivism and Personal Learning.

I see the move to Open Education Resources (OER) where all the content is there, available, free, at your fingertips. Connectivism is a learning theory that

“emphasizes the learner’s ability to navigate information: the pipe is more important than the content within the pipe.” (Siemens, 2005)

Why this is important now is that with social media, OER, and the Internet, knowledge is distributed available anytime anywhere. Constructivism (Papert, Piaget, Vygotsky) interpretted the higher-thinking skills of Bloom’s to encourage making and producing. In Constructivism, the classroom is still teacher-centric with the teacher managing and coordinating projects. I know we call it student-centered, but the teacher is still designing who does what. It’s a beginning. It’s learning to let go.

Personalized Learning starts with the learner and where they are. If we are moving to Connectivism, then the learner is the center of a network of resources, people, ideas, etc. The learner decides what they need with the help of all the other people in their network. The teacher could be one of the nodes that links the connections. I see this happening by the learner – some are ready now – some may never be ready. There are a lot of questions on how to transition to this type of environment. Traditional school is so embedded in teacher-directed instruction. Maybe we’ll use this piece of teaching and that from learning something new.
Maybe the teacher is the coach on the sidelines guiding the learner on their learning path. Instead of standardized tests, the learner is monitoring their progress, collecting evidence of learning, asking for feedback from their PLN.

  • How do you measure achievement?
  • What are you measuring now?
  • How do you design assessment around each learner?
  • When do you start building a learner’s network?
  • What components are in their network?
  • Is there a physical place or places for learning and connecting?
  • Do age and grade levels matter in this environment?

We are moving in this direction. The world is changing, getting smaller and flatter. I have changed since my PLN has grown and become a richer part of my life. I am learning something new almost every day. So if we move to a more Connectivist model, how do we transition and make it work within our current system or do we just start completely over?

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