[For over ten years I’ve done research and shared my thoughts in graduate level courses at Carnegie Mellon University and in talks at conferences on Personalized Learning. Finally, we’re beginning to see some traction. At the Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference in Pittsburgh this November there were several events that tapped into the Personalized Learning theme. Here’s an article from Remake Learning that outlined some of the national and local examples for Personalized Learning.]
A middle school math program implemented in some New York City classrooms is called Teach to One—originally School of One—and at first glance, that’s a major misnomer. Enter a school where Teach to One is in progress, and you’ll see not one, but nearly 200 students participating in the experience simultaneously.
The “One” refers to the individualized learning plans each student follows. An online system continually assesses the students’ work, drawing up daily lesson plans tailored to each person’s needs and skills. Some students in the massive class are sent to work in small groups, while others go listen to a lecture or work alone on a computer. Teachers are stationed throughout the space, working in different ways with the students.
Studies on the effectiveness of the unusual math class have yielded inconclusive results, reports EdWeek.
Teach to One is an attempt at personalized learning, an approach whose definition can be as hazy as the results of its evaluations. Generally, it refers to teaching and learning that empowers students to learn at their own pace and in styles that make sense for them. Typically, technology is used to customize lessons for individual students, or to allow learners to progress through the work as quickly or as slowly as they need to.
Despite the nebulous definition, personalized learning has garnered plenty of practitioners and fans in recent years. In fact, some educators have long practiced what has been called “differentiated instruction”—teaching that attempts to correspond to students’ diverse learning styles. The advent of educational technology has earned the approach new fans who see more opportunities for implementation. They are working hard to figure out exactly how to make learning a personalized experience—and what resources and pedagogy that requires.
[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.]
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.
[Blended learning continues to evolve. In this District Administration article schools are moving towards greater personalization of learning using technology resources and tools. I’ve always wondered how teachers can combine a personalized approach with deeper learning through projects. Summit Schools provides an excellent model and as this article indicates provides a free tool to help teachers / schools manage a more personalized approach.]
Third-grader studying the Spanish settlement of California found a virtual tour online and shared the trip with her classmates by slipping a smartphone into a Google Cardboard viewing device.
Such limitless online resources represent a big, blended leap beyond the essays students in Coalinga-Huron USD in Central California used to write. Blended learning for the district’s 4,400 students began three years ago, and in the past year has gravitated to blended 2.0, says Joe Casarez, associate superintendent for instructional services.
“If you define blended learning in the first iteration as a combination of technology and print,” Casarez says, “then what we are seeing when you marry 2.0 personalization with the Common Core standards are more authentic activities in the classroom.”
A survey of 1,381 students in the district showed nearly 74 percent were more engaged, and 89 percent agreed they could solve problems or create presentations by researching online, he adds.
Across the country in New York, all 7,300 students in the Middletown City School District engage in variations of blended 2.0. Students begin researching topics online at home and then get guidance from teachers in the classroom, says Superintendent Kenneth Eastwood.
“Kids go online, watch films and view PowerPoints in preparation for a deeper conversation in the classroom,” Eastwood says. “This flips the lecture piece to the outside of class. The class itself is for clarification and expansion of concepts.”