Personalized Learning – Part 2

You may wonder – where is Part 1? You can see the first part of this series of articles on the Questeq website. In Part 1 I looked at the role of 1:1 and Bring Your Own (BYO) initiatives.  For Part 2 I’ll turn to Project-based Learning, Flipped Learning, and Connected Learning.

Key to any form of personalized learning is making the learner the center of the teaching and learning equation. Project-based, Flipped, or Connected are strategies that help make this happen. Each strategy adds a different element. Project-based includes an authentic project that incorporates collaborative problem-solving. Flipped Learning brings in multimedia and Internet resources that shift the preliminary learning focus to what happens outside the classroom. Connected incorporates the “out-of-school” resources. Let’s look at some examples for each strategy.

Project-based Learning 

Larry Rosenstock, the CEO of High Tech High in San Diego, California, wanted to bridge the worlds of science, technology, engineering, and technology with the arts and design. The program that started in California has spread across the country. High Tech High provides a project-based programs building on student interests and passions. Students work in teams to create original  products to demonstrate their knowledge. The Pearson Foundation funded a series of documentaries to showcase best practices like High Tech High. 

Often programs at special schools like High Tech High do not always work for other schools. The George Lucas Foundation through its website, Edutopia, has shared how other schools successfully followed the PBL model from High Tech High. According to Edutopia:

…the core design principles that shaped High Tech High — such as personalization, adult-world connections, a common intellectual mission, and teachers as designers — apply anywhere, and these are what guide the schools’ replication efforts.

Flipped Learning

Some of the earliest work in this field was done by Eric Mazur at Harvard, who developed Peer Instruction in the 1990s. Professor Mazur found that computer aided instruction allowed him to coach instead of lecture.  He wrote, “As a result, my teaching assistants and I can address several common misconceptions that would otherwise go undetected.” Key to Mazur’s focus was to provide a greater focus on the personal learning. Mazur’s approach to flipped learning intended to clarify and expand student understanding on a personal basis. Traditional lecture-style teaching did not meet this need.

In 2007 Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams, two science teachers at that time in Colorado, wanted to increase the engagement of their students. They decided to try to have students view videos at home or outside the normal class time and use the class time to clarify student understanding and provide more opportunities to apply their knowledge. Today Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams provide a network for Flipped Learning that trains teachers to rethink their teaching and refocus the learning on the individual student. Here’s an example of a TED-Ed Flipped Learning lesson created by Aaron Sams for Chemical Reactions:

How to Speed Up Chemical Reactions (and Get a Date) by Aaron Sams and Andrew Park

According to a 2012 report on Flipped Learning in eSchool News:

Differentiation is key, because each student has an opportunity for one-on-one attention nearly every day from his or her classroom teacher. We meet face to face with our students and converse about the lesson, as well as life. We guide students to the counselor if needed, but we listen, don’t judge, and expect our students to master the subject. The proof is in increased formative and summative assessment scores, but more importantly with our students telling us they “get it!”

Connected Learning

Beginning in 2006 a group of researchers with funds from the MacArthur Foundation begin to explore how young people are connected to learning using digital media and what are the implications for schools and education. After several years working with schools and out-of-school providers, the MacArthur Foundation shared their findings. Connie Yowell, the Director of the Educational at the MacArthur Foundation, explained in an article in the Huffington Post:

Connected learning harnesses the powerful new connection to ideas, knowledge, expertise, culture, friends, peers and mentors we have through the internet, digital media and social networking. It’s dedicated to helping kids pursue knowledge and expertise in subjects they care deeply about, and doing it in a way in which they are supported by peers, friends, and caring adults working in educational institutions.

The Essence of Connected Learning

Key to each strategy is a move away from teaching to the needs of a group of students to addressing the needs of each individual learner using tools, such as digital media. The learner becomes an active partner in his/her pursuit of knowledge. Learners pursue their interests and to find a purpose for their academic pursuits. Ultimately it’s the inherent motivation that drives learning. Learners need to be connected and teachers need to become guides or mentors to make this type of learning happen. The learning occurs not just during the designated class time, but at home, in libraries, in outside environments that provide new networks for learners. Learners become tinkerers, makers, creative producers, or designers, as they work with peers to share their knowledge with an outside audience.

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