Using Playlists to Personalize Learning

[This Edsurge article highlights Merit Prep’s use of a tool called Spark. I have not personally viewed Spark in action, but the concept of personalized playlists for students has been an area of interest for me for close to 10 years. Technology is allowing educators to get closer to a true personalized learning environment where students take ownership of their learning by setting goals and teachers provide resources and support to allow learners to progress at their own pace, anywhere, anytime.]

By Karen Johnson  Oct 25, 2016

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

To get up to grade level in science, Amarachi Onyemaobi knew she needed to understand the systems of the human body. Just as importantly, she knew how long it would take and what she needed to do to master the concept.

A freshman at  Merit Preparatory Charter School in Newark, New Jersey, Onyemaobi has access to Spark, Matchbook Learning’s online information platform that uses data to help students and teachers track exactly what skills they need to master—and to set goals and find resources to help them get there. “It’s easier for me to do my work because the teacher knows where I’m at, and I know how to move forward,” Onyemaobi says.

Following testing at the beginning of the year, Merit Prep students work with teachers to identify the standards they need to master and set goals to meet them; they then track them using Spark. In Onyemaobi’s case, Spark generated a learning document that estimated how long it would take her to learn about body systems and helped her teacher develop a customized “playlist” of online and paper resources she could work on individually.

Once Onyemaobi completed her playlist, she had a one-on-one conference with her teacher, who assigned her a project to create a PowerPoint demonstrating how each body system corresponds with a real-world counterpart—the immune system as a hospital, the urinary system as the sewers, and so on. A formal assessment on key terms then closed the loop, but Onyemaobi’s presentation could now become part of the playlists her teacher puts together for future students. “If anyone’s having difficulties, the teacher can show it to them,” Onyemaobi says.

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