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First Steps to Personalized Learning

posted Jan 25, 2016, 8:05 AM by wafflem@calhounisd.org

Submitted by Jan Harding,

Macomb ISD - REMC 18S

There is a common denominator that motivates all of the educators I know: the desire to bring the joy of learning to students. Personalized learning is a term being used to describe those classrooms where engagement and purpose are part of the fabric of the classroom. The School Improvement Network identifies several key components of a “Personalized Classroom.” These include:

  • Creating learner profiles

  • Personal learning paths for each student

  • Individual mastery against clear goals and standards

  • Flexible learning environments

  • Student agency

Technology can play an important role in supporting each of these components.

Building Learner Profiles

To find the strengths, weaknesses, and interests of your students, use a survey tool such as Survey Monkey or Google forms to find out what learning preferences exist in your classroom. There are also many tools online (including this one) that ask questions designed to help you understand the learning styles of your students.

Personal Learning Paths for Each Student

While developing an Individualized Learning Plan for each student can seem daunting, take some first steps by asking your students to personalize the learning objectives or targets you set for them. Students can post what they know or want to know when you share the learning goal, and use the results to help personalize their learning choices. A resource such as Padlet or Lino can be used to collect class responses. Using a discussion board on Edmodo or a backchat space such as Today’s Meet can also help build enthusiasm for a topic of study.

Individual Mastery Against Clear Goals And Standards

In a personalized classroom, the teacher uses multiple checkpoints to see what students understand and find out where they are struggling. Use resources such as Edpuzzle, Socrative, Kahoot, Quizziz, or an assessment tool within a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Moodle or Blackboard to get instant feedback about progress toward a standard or goal.

Flexible Learning Environments

Provide different options and approaches to your instruction. Examples include websites with text and pictures, podcasts for auditory learning, text-to-speech for those needing reading supports, images and video for visual learners, and game like sequences and online simulations for a slightly more kinesthetic style.  Blending your classroom with a variety of face to face and online options for learning will help capture interest and support learners of various levels.

Student Agency

Giving students a choice of performance-based products promotes student agency. Providing student choice where appropriate for pacing, projects, and products also acknowledges student interests. You might reach out to some newer technology tools to support this kind of work, such as Microsoft Sway, Canva for online posters, Prezi, or digital storytelling tools such as those described in 21things4teachers. Sketchup can be used to help draw products, while Audacity (PC) or Garage Band (Mac/iPad) are tried and true podcasting tools for producing interviews, soundtracks, etc. Creating videos or screencasts are another way to demonstrate mastery.  Make the work even more meaningful by asking students to publish work to a blog, share with another class or audience through a video call, or write for a local news site.

Building a personalized learning environment for your students takes time, but the payoff for you and your students is huge. By taking advantage of the technology available to your classroom and leveraging it to provide personalized learning, students will become enthusiastic partners in their education and develop ownership of their learning journey.

Pipkin, Cameron. "Five Key Elements of Personalized Learning (EdSurge News)." Weblog post. EdSurge. School Improvement Network, 01 Apr. 2015. Web. 07 Jan. 2016. <https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-04-01-five-key-elements-of-personalized-learning>.